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Old April 13, 2013, 08:31 AM   #1
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Question about nickel-plated brass

I just bought some .40 S&W and .380 Auto nickel-plated brass "just because". Then I got to thinking, if this is "plated" brass, I assume this is standard brass that is then plated so is the overall diameter of the case technically larger? If it's still going to chamber then the plating has to be really thin. Is the inside of the case plated as well? Thanks.
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Old April 13, 2013, 08:48 AM   #2
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There's probably more variance in case size from the different manufacturers, than from the plating.
And from the reloading dies, too.
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Old April 13, 2013, 09:50 AM   #3
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I have reloaded some once fired Federal 30-06 Supreme ammo that is nickel plated with no problem. I necked sized them only and seated the bullet a little closer to the lands and was able to make them more accurate than the factory ammo.
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Old April 13, 2013, 09:59 AM   #4
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Don't worry about the "plating". I have reloaded 45 acp with them. Gotten 3 reloadings so far with only one bad case.....and that one was my fault for stepping on it.
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Old April 13, 2013, 10:19 AM   #5
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Not much difference to me...

A buddy of mine gave me a bunch of 357 Mag cases a while back...some nickel plated, some not. They loaded in my Dillon just fine, and they fit in my Smiths, just fine. I didn't notice any difference between plated and non-plated. I think maybe in a semi-auto, the nickel-plating would be a little more...slippery--that they might feed more smoothly than brass.

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Old April 13, 2013, 10:21 AM   #6
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only thing I have found is that there are very slightly less loadings before the rounds are scrap. IE might get 6 reloads out of brass and only 4 or 5 out of nickel.
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Old April 13, 2013, 12:28 PM   #7
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Nickel brass is a trade off. On the plus side, they stay clean easier, they clean up easier, and they move easier when clean and when dirty. They absolutely make a positive difference in loading and unloading a revolver when compared to brass.

The trade off is that they can be premium priced and YES, it's true that they tend to not last as long. Usually it's a neck split or a longitudinal split in the brass. It's not a catastrophic failure and it likely doesn't even affect THAT shot and it doesn't hurt the firearm, but you do need to ensure that you don't try and load that piece again.

I tend to prefer nickel cases in revolver rounds -- but I don't prefer them so much that I would pay a premium for them over brass. When it comes right down to it, brass is probably worth a premium over nickel simply for it's improved longevity.
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Old April 13, 2013, 01:30 PM   #8
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More than 90% of my 357 and 44 mag brass is nickel plated. Great stuff, and it cleans up in just a fraction of the time when tumbled. I have not noticed any propensity to crack any more than non-plated brass.

On the internet, I read about nickel plated brass cases being "brittle" hundreds of times, but I have yet to see a matallurgical explanation for this claim.
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Old April 13, 2013, 01:39 PM   #9
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I've loaded a pile of nickle plated .40 and 9mm. Haven't had a bad one yet. As with any case, flare just enough to get the bullet started. They clean up great and the best part....They look Real pretty!
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Old April 13, 2013, 02:00 PM   #10
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Like most of the other posts, I've loaded hundreds of .357 and 9mm in plated cases. So far, no worries. I've not tried plared rifle cases, but you should have no problems.
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Old April 13, 2013, 02:57 PM   #11
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I'll sound the usual cautions. I've had nickel-plated cases where the plating was good and wore off gradually with reuse. I've also had nickel-plated cases that the nickel flaked off of, and some of the flakes embedded in the sizing die and caused it to start scoring cases. Nickel is less ductile than brass, and that is the main thing that's responsible. How much the cases are expanded and reduced (how hard they are worked) in resizing affects this. The flaking property causes nickel plated cases not to be recommended in fully automatic weapons as the nickel flakes can build up and cause a jam.

That said, I have run nickel-plated .308 through my M1A with no problems. Of course, I wasn't putting as many rounds through it before cleaning as a full auto shooter might.

The nickel-plated cases have to meet the same SAAMI specs as brass, so thickness of the nickel can't make it exceed that, but I doubt they start with separately made thinner cases. I expect any size reduction in the brass is due to an acid pickle used prior to applying the plating in order to activate the surface of the brass and provide better adhesion. The fact I have worn nickel off cases tells me the coating is very thin. Perhaps less than half a thousandth, so it won't thicken brass a lot.

The modulus of elasticity of nickel is almost twice that of brass, meaning it's almost twice as hard to bend an equal thickness any given degree, yet its yield point is about a third lower (the low ductility) and it's linear temperature coefficient of expansion is about a third lower, too. So the picture you get is a material on the surface of the brass that resists allowing the surface to expand as easily as the brass substrate and that cracks more easily and that is prone to cracking at the surface due to thermal expansion, too. The result, after some fatigue, I would expect is a surface with a lot of microscopic cracking of the plating that extends a little into the brass just under it. The resulting fault lines will cause the brass to stretch disproportionately along them during future reloading and resizing cycles. I assume that is what sets the plated cases up to split prematurely.

The main purpose of the nickel, AFAIK, was to help gun belts keep from developing verdis gris as easily when cases stayed in their belt loops for a long time. Once you've fired and resized it, though, I doubt the corrosion prevention is as good, the fault lines between the cracks becoming corrosion initiation sites. But if you want to make yourself some long-term storage bug-out ammo, new nickel-plated brass might not be a bad idea.

I bought 500 pieces of nickel-plated Remington bulk cases for my M1A one time (how I got experience with it in that gun) with the mistaken idea that it would be easier to recover all my brass from the firing line at Camp Perry, just because everyone else's brass would be yellow. Big mistake. The white reflective surface of these cases causes them to mirror back the color of the grass so perfectly they proved much harder to find. Might as well have been painted a camouflage color. I could see nobody else was picking my cases up (because of the color), but I lost more per match than I ever did the brass colored cases. If they ever come out with a safe way to make the surface of the brass fluorescent orange, I'll be on board.
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Old April 13, 2013, 09:02 PM   #12
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I know of a couple fellow shooting club members who exclusively use nickel-plated brass in their competition S&W PPC 9's, because they feed and extract easier in the relatively tight chambers. Brass cases simply do not work in these handguns, apparently. According to them, nickel loads a little easier in the press.

I load some nickel cases occasionally, and I find that if I use a little Hornady One Shot every 15 cases or so, they load smoothly.

I wouldn't worry too much about the plating, but just keep an eye on the cases when you go to reload them and watch for flaking, etc.

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Old April 14, 2013, 07:46 AM   #13
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I bought my first centerfire handgun, an original Colt Trooper .357, just about 40 years ago. It came with a smallish box of reloading supplies, among which were a couple hundred Super Vel nickel-plated cases. I've been reloading them regularly since then, and the plating has worn off many of the cases, but I don't think I've had more than a couple that have had neck splits. That's pretty much been my experience with nickel-plated cases in perhaps a dozen or so other calibers.

I did get a batch of new Remington .357 brass one time, and had the flaking experience that Unclenick mentioned. It started pretty much at the first resizing, so I pitched the entire lot. Other than that, no problems.
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Old April 14, 2013, 02:37 PM   #14
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I loaded 200 nickel plated .357 and 3 out of 10 cracked at the mouth. Never went back. Your mileage my very.

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Old April 14, 2013, 06:22 PM   #15
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In bottleneck rifle cases,it has been my experience they take a little more effort in the press and split necks show up early.

Sometimes nickel is a useful means to help assure staying out of trouble.

At one time,I had two 7mm Rem Mags.They had very different chamber lengths,different shoulder headspace.I chose to load one rifle with nickel brass.

Suppose you have a Garand with a nice 2600 fps 168 gr load using 4895,but you also have a 30-06 bolt rifle you load a 180 gr MK at 2800 fps with 4350 or RE-19(I'm just making up numbers)A bad load for a Garand.

It might make sense to load the bolt rifle loads in nickel cases.

Same idea if you have a Trapdoor Springfield and a Marlin 1895 guide gun.

To go along with this,of course,we can use red versus green ammo boxes,and put the load data label inside the box lid,etc.

Its another layer.Murphy's law.
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