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Old January 26, 2015, 09:14 AM   #1
BBush
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Cheap vs. Brand Name ammo

I was just wondering if using cheap ammo (Brown Bear, PPU, Magtech, etc.) in a firearm causes any kind of additional wear in a firearm when compared to brand name ammo (Winchester, Federal, Remington, etc.)? What I am really getting at is whether the cheap ammo contains less impure (or harder) brass that might cause additional wear when compared to brand name ammo. I know some of the cheap ammo for Ar-15's has a steel core while the name brands are brass (or copper). In other words, is using cheap ammo in a gun anything like using a cheap oil in your car....the cheap oil will keep you from burning your motor up but will probably not allow it to last as long as if you had been using a name brand oil.
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Old January 26, 2015, 10:09 AM   #2
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There is a lot of argument on this one. First, the steel case ammo does not have steel core projectiles. They are lead core with a mild steel jacket that is copper washed. They have no more penetration capabilities than copper jacketed lead core, the jacket is rather soft.
In a chromed lined barrel, there will likely not be any noticeable difference in wear. In a non chrome lined barrel, it will depend on the barrels material and how it was made. There still will not likely be a large difference in wear.
The cheaper ammo will have a lower grade powder, which will be dirtier. There is a lot of argument about extractor wear, but I have yet to see conclusive results. I believe it has as much to do with extractor quality. I have run more steel case ammo through my ars than brass, and reloaded a fair bit of steel cases, to nato specs, and I have yet to have any issues. This is with chrome lined barrels, and one ss barrel.
That said, I wouldn't stick the cheap ammo in a match grade gun myself, my ars are fighter type rifles. I don't stick cheap ammo in my bolt gun, steel or brass.
All of the ars have run fine, and I cleaned them no more than usual. In fact, I purposely did not clean a rifle for over a year, running some 1600 rds of wolf through it, and it never missed a beat. It was a parts gun with unknown parts and an oly ss barrel. Acquired a box of parts, and put a rifle together.

I am sure here soon, someone will come along and say the opposite. It's up to you. My "fighting" guns had better run anything I can locate, or I have no use for them. My "accurate" guns are treated better.
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Old January 26, 2015, 10:15 AM   #3
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It's all branded ammo. It should be given the same scrutiny as name brands you recognize. Some will work well. Some will not. Some will burn dirtier, and some will not. Same as those brands you recognize. Steel core bullets were common for a lot of 7.62 x39 milsurp ammo that people practiced with. I believe it was banned as "armour piercing" some years ago, I think during the Clinton era. You probably mean a steel case instead of brass. Some like it becuase its cheap throwaway cases. Reloaders tend to not be fond of it.

Off brands made for the comercial market like Magtech is typically safe and conforms to current industry standards. Military surplus ammo can vary a lot more, and I would do my homework on the specfic ammo before shooting it in some guns.

There are also commercial outfits that sell reloaded ammo. Some is very good. Some is not.

The most expensive component in ammo is the bullet, and buying premium hunting or self defense ammo with a special purpose bullet to get a "high tech" controlled expansion to punch holes in paper can be overkill, for example.
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Old January 26, 2015, 12:05 PM   #4
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Cheap FMJ ammo for practice and "premium" JHP for HD or carry is a good, general rule-of-thumb. Anything else is just marketing or others' personal opinions. Chances of your ammo choice damaging your pistol are extremely limited.
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Old January 26, 2015, 12:20 PM   #5
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and reloaded a fair bit of steel cases, to nato specs, and I have yet to have any issues.
???
Maybe this needs it's own thread in the handloading forum, but I thought steel classes couldn't be "worked" like brass, and also were Berdan primed making reloading nearly impossible, and certainly not worth the effort.

Another thing I have heard about steel cased ammo is that it is coated with a varnish to prevent rust that can get tacky when hot, and cause cases to stick in tighter commercial chambers. Therefore I only use it in AK's SKS's, Makarov's and other former Comm. Block guns built for it.

As far as lower cost brass cased ammo VS "name" brand, there shouldn't be any difference other than maybe a little more smoke, and residue to clean from dirtier powder.
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Old January 26, 2015, 12:22 PM   #6
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The indor range I use most of the time will not permit steel cases to be used on the range.
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Old January 26, 2015, 02:22 PM   #7
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An often overlooked point: If you practice with El Cheapo brand ammo, and carry the high priced spread, make sure you fire enough of the "good' stuff to be sure you won't be surprised when it goes off and that it works in your gun.

The first point is directed toward those who fire .38 Special wadcutters for practice in .357's, then switch to hot loads for carry. There are claims that you won't notice recoil, noise or blast in a real emergency. I have been advised otherwise by folks who have reason to know.

The second point is directed at auto pistol users. More than one shooter has practiced with cheap ammo and never fired the more expensive stuff, only to find when he did that the good stuff didn't work in his gun. You don't want that kind of surprise at the wrong time.

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Old January 26, 2015, 02:24 PM   #8
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Brown Bear, PPU, Magtech, etc. are brand names. They tend to be less expensive because of where they're made. Brown Bear is Russian, as I recall. The ruble is virtually worthless compared to a U.S. dollar. 1 ruble is worth .0147091 USD. However, less expensive ammo won't hurt a standard AR. An AR is not a target rifle. Don't think I'd want to use steel cases or steel jackets out of an HBAR or any gussied up rifle though. Steel on steel might wear a bit quicker.
"...cheap ammo for Ar-15's has a steel core..." That's the bullet, not the case.
"...thought steel cases couldn't be "worked" like brass..." They can't and usually are Berdan primed. Steel cases are mild steel. Mild steel will not resize to factory dimensions regardless of anything you try to do. Brass is elastic and will resize to factory dimensions.
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Old January 26, 2015, 02:37 PM   #9
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@BBush, you mentioned Remington as a "brand name" and for sure it is, and they make some decent stuff. But they also have a line called UMC (Union Metallic Cartridge) which they label "MC" (Metal Case) instead of FMJ. The "MC" is deceiving because it refers to the projectile jacket not the cartridge case. The case is good brass. The projectile jacket is not so good... it is bi-metal... so steel washed with copper. I agree with other comments that in HCL barrels it will not be an issue, however I see no reason to shoot it as there are better cheep brands... like PMC, Fiocchi etc.

@T. O'Heir... we're in "Handguns" here.
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Old January 26, 2015, 03:11 PM   #10
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In addition to James K's excellent points, sight in your gun to your defense ammo, or in the case of a hunting weapon, your hunting ammo, as different ammo hits in different places.
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Old January 26, 2015, 06:43 PM   #11
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"...thought steel cases couldn't be "worked" like brass..." They can't and usually are Berdan primed. Steel cases are mild steel. Mild steel will not resize to factory dimensions regardless of anything you try to do. Brass is elastic and will resize to factory dimension
That has always been the information I have had, but supposedly no according to Gunfixr in post #2
Quote:
and reloaded a fair bit of steel cases, to nato specs
That is what had me quite curious.
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Old January 26, 2015, 07:43 PM   #12
jaytothekizzay
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The only thing Ive ever noticed is that some ammo tends to be a little "dirtier" than others.

And of coarse the fact that you are not gonna get match grade accuracy out of say, WWB
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Old January 26, 2015, 08:43 PM   #13
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"Metal Case" is an old term for what we now call "full metal jacket" or FMJ. Remington may use it simply to maintain the "antique" theme of their UMC brand. In U.S. brands, it normally means gilding metal (a copper alloy), not steel or brass. A magnet will easily tell if the jacket is steel.

FWIW, steel case, steel jacket and steel core are three different things. A round of ammo may have one, two or three of them, so the statement that "steel case doesn't have steel core" is not necessarily true.

As for reloading steel cases, I have done so with WWII steel case .45 ACP with no problems; I never loaded enough to see if it caused excess wear on the loading dies, but saw no wear from the few hundred I did load. I do know the tool was harder to operate in sizing than with brass cases, but not extremely difficult.

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Old January 26, 2015, 09:14 PM   #14
Sweet Shooter
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From what I have sampled in various calibers UMC = Brass cartridge, steel jacket with a copper wash.
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Old January 26, 2015, 11:37 PM   #15
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There is no cheap ammo, only cheap guns, and lack of knowledge.


Those who complain about "cheap" ammo not working well in their firearms are not able to understand the science, physics, and mathematics involved as to "why" a particular type of ammo doesn't work in a particular type of firearm.
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Old January 27, 2015, 12:40 AM   #16
Gunfixr
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I would respectfully disagree that there is cheap ammo, just like there are cheap guns. This does not mean that cheap ammo does not work, or has no uses, only that it is assembled cheaper, with lower grade components.
A steel jacket with copper wash is cheaper to manufacture than a copper jacket. A steel case is cheaper to manufacture than a brass case. Both of these use cheaper materials to get cheaper ammo. But they do work.
Some "economy" brass cased ammo also uses steel jacket copper washed projectiles, as does some milsurp brass cased ammo. It's how they sell it cheaper. I haven't checked them all, I do know that USA brand by winchester in 7.62mm (308) has steel jacketed bullets that are copper washed.
I have yet to see any Russian 223 with steel cored projectiles, although quite a bit of steel cored 7.62x39 and 7.62x54r came in. Those were surplus, while the 223 was made to sell here.
As for reloading steel cases, it's been maybe 3 yrs now since I was loading them, and Russia has changed some things. At the time, some were Berdan, and some were boxer. The boxer was just a bit off (metric), but us primers did push right in with just a tad more pressure. Cases were lubed the same as brass. The most loadings I got from a single case was 4 before the neck split. Since steel does not like to be worked as much as brass will take, a lot has to do with the guns chamber. If fired in a large chamber, it will split sooner than if fired in a tight chamber. The rifle I had when I began loading steel had a tight, almost match chamber, and if I fired the rounds the first time, I could get 4 loadings. Pickups varied, some even splitting the first time. I don't think I loaded the lacquered cases, only polymer ed. The polymer did wear, and rusting became easier. As for getting the cases down to size, they fit in that tight chamber just fine. Press was Dillon 550b, with Dillon dies. Lube was Dillon. I loaded them to full nato velocity, with 62 gr fmjs. At 3 gun matches, I regularly got comments from the timer guy about how I seemed to have hotter wolf ammo than they could remember. I used these for days when I didn't want to chase brass, rainy days, etc. I did not have any high pressure signs, I did work up to the load I ended up with, and it was a load right out of a manual. Now, it may be that most steel cases are Berdan. I have not loaded any of the zinc cases. I did try wolf 45 cases, but could not get a tight fit of the bullet. Either the cases are thinner than brass, or maybe my dies were a little large.
As for lacquer sticking in chambers, I haven't found any real examples. I did try it myself with the rifle I mentioned I didn't clean for a year. I ran 5 30 Rd mags through the rifle at 1 Rd per second or faster, simply dropping the empty mag and inserting a full one. I then chambered a new round and let it sit for maybe 5 minutes. All rounds used were lacquered. When extracted 5 minutes later, it came right out, and inspection of the case, which was too hot to hold, could only be briefly touched, was not sticky nor had other than normal feeding marks. I had duracoat ed the rifle, and burned the duracoat brown on the barrel.
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Old January 27, 2015, 04:24 PM   #17
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Reiterate the point of running some of your SD ammo through your pistol. During the ammo drought a couple years back I bought a good deal (at the time) on Federal 147 HST. One of my 9mm's had near 10% stovepipe; the other functioned well. I've tried a few times with other Federal loads and the results are similar with this one pistol. Gold Dot and Hornady never fail. Glad I found out at the range instead of the back door.
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Old January 27, 2015, 04:51 PM   #18
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you CAN reload steel, berdan primed case. it's just ALOT of work, and your only getting 2-3 reloads before the mouths split, not to mention dealing with stuck cases. you have to pierce te primer from the outside to pry the primer out, the drill a flash hole, then resize w/o the decapper with a ton of lube(not spray on). it's not worth the effort, but during the drought, I did a few batches just to make sure I could if it was needed. I contemplated doing 54r cases recently, but final found some brass.
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Old January 27, 2015, 05:52 PM   #19
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I've worked at a lot of stores selling guns and ammo, and as such I've tried just about everything. A few things that I can add on top of the observations of the other people in this thread are that every gun seems to "like" and "dislike" certain ammo. I have people who swear by ammo that in my experience is total crap. Price point doesn't seem to be a huge factor from what I've seen (with the exception of game hunting or defensive loads, where I really believe you tend to get what you pay for).

Fiocchi, Federal/ AE, and HSM are my go-tos for just dinking around. The HSM I use are factory reloads, but some of the cleanest, most consistent ammo I've ever bought. Other cheap stuff (in particular, Blazer.... ick) is just AWFUL in my experience, totally filthy and I've had enough fliers with them that I wouldn't try it again.

I'd recommend getting one or two boxes of every brand you can get your hands on within the price point you want, and see what your gun eats the best. Most likely you'll figure out a clear winner and I don't think there's any better chance of it being the expensive stuff than some cheap stuff. Remember that just because one gun likes one brand, it doesn't mean that brand is better, and it doesn't mean that brand is going to give you the best results from another gun.
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Old January 31, 2015, 05:48 AM   #20
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Gunfixr and skizzums-thanks for the info.
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Old January 31, 2015, 05:59 AM   #21
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I have shot Blazer Brass in a variety of calibers and have been well pleased with it. Just like you said Banger357-you can find folks liking and disliking almost everything.

I bought some aluminum cased Blazer ammo once to use at an indoor range that does not allow you to pick up your cases but I out smarted myself...they don't let you shoot aluminum cased ammo at all. I did use it outdoors and didn't have any problems with it but I haven't shot enough of it to really have a strong opinion either way.
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Old January 31, 2015, 08:31 AM   #22
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I know some of the cheap ammo for Ar-15's has a steel core while the name brands are brass (or copper)

I believe this comment is incorrect. About the only "steel core" ammo is M855 type and it's generally NOT cheaper than "name brand".
There's much confusion between "steel core" and steel or "bi-metal" jackets. Bi-metal jacketed bullets usually have a lead(alloy) core but may or may not expand in the same way common gilding metal jacketed bullets do.
My experience indicates the steel cased ammo produced in foreign plants uses less efficient powder which leaves more residue. Add this to the fact that steel cases don't seal the chamber neck as well as brass and you see more chamber fouling and powder residue remaining in the bore.
I say this based on using Hornady 5.45x39 V-Max ammo(steel cases loaded with domestic powder and bullets. This ammo is far cleaner than foreign made ammo.
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Old January 31, 2015, 11:19 AM   #23
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The better brand and more exspensive will shoot more accurate, and the less expensive ammo like PPU will be less accurate, but I don't know how much it hurts the gun, it doesn't hurt the gun it hurts the barrel and it might last maybe 500 shots less at most.
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Old January 31, 2015, 02:54 PM   #24
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Quote:
I've worked at a lot of stores selling guns and ammo, and as such I've tried just about everything. A few things that I can add on top of the observations of the other people in this thread are that every gun seems to "like" and "dislike" certain ammo. I have people who swear by ammo that in my experience is total crap. Price point doesn't seem to be a huge factor from what I've seen (with the exception of game hunting or defensive loads, where I really believe you tend to get what you pay for).
I tried a lot of the "high dollar" 22 match ammo when I worked at the shop, and I never found any that would do better than plain old Winchester Super X HP's for a third of the cost
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Old January 31, 2015, 07:05 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweet Shooter
@BBush, you mentioned Remington as a "brand name" and for sure it is, and they make some decent stuff. But they also have a line called UMC (Union Metallic Cartridge) which they label "MC" (Metal Case) instead of FMJ. The "MC" is deceiving because it refers to the projectile jacket not the cartridge case. The case is good brass. The projectile jacket is not so good... it is bi-metal... so steel washed with copper.
Can you provide a source for the highlighted statement?

After reading your post, I dug out boxes of Remington UMC in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP -- both FMJ (or MC) and JHP. None of the projectiles attracted a magnet, so the jackets cannot be steel.
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