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Post subject: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:20 am
Now the other day I hit gunbot.net and saw that Cabela's online had 5.56 for $7 per box of 20, limit 5 boxes per customer per day. It was steel-cased Herters, but I said "I need something to plink with, and I'm not spending 85¢ a round... heck with it, it's only 100 rounds." After ordering, I decided that before I bought any more (or shot what I bought) I'd do a little more research.

First, since steel-cased ammo voids the lifetime warranty on my CMMG, I thought I'd ask them why. I called and told them I was "looking at a used CMMG" and I "wanted to know what to look for, to see if any steel-cased had been run through it, thus ruining the warranty". The very friendly rep told me it's not an issue with fouling or polymer melting or anything else, but wear. He said that there are 2 areas of concern: the barrel and the bolt face. First, the bullet is a bi-metal bullet that causes rapid wear of the rifling. Second, the steel case causes rapid wear of the bolt face, extractor, and ejector.

The steel cases wearing the bolt made sense, but I wanted to look into the bi-metal bullets. A quick search (using my new favorite search engine that doesn't track you, DuckDuckGo) found this link:

http://www.uspsa.org/front-sight-magazi ... tal-Ammo-8

So for me, the issue is settled: Causing expensive damage to a firearm to save a few bucks on ammo just isn't worth it, even if your firearm cycles it just fine. I'll run the hundred rounds through my Bushie, who's warranty is expired, then I'm done with steel-cased and cheap-o ammo, no matter the price difference.

As with everything on the 'net, YMMV.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:41 am
There was a test on ar-15's recently I believe 3 different brands of ammo was used on identical guns.

I don't remember the exact round count (I think it was 5k) but the gist of it was this.

The bi-metal jackets wore the barrel at a rate of about 2:1 compared to copper jackets.
At the end of the test the gun that had used copper jacketed ammo (I think it was Rem) the groups had opened up but was still serviceable.
The Bi-metal barrel was a wreck.

They had no issues with feeding/extraction with the copper cased ammo also so that's a plus.

The article finished up by saying that the savings on the steal cased ammo more then made up for a barrel change, So if you do go with bi-metal jacketed ammo you can probably afford another barrel or two in the long run.

Of course if you have a really expensive barrel or a gun with difficult to find parts you may want to rethink it.

Personally I do not like bi-metal bullets, or steel cased ammo.
I should point out that at least at one point Wolf DID make steel case / copper jacketed bullets.
I had a small qty of them that had sat here for a few years and I finally shot them up last year thru my Hi-point c9 without issue, they was the lacquer kind.

I don't know if they still do that, I think they have went to a bi-metal jacket exclusively.


Price wise I don't think it's cheap enough to really justify it, What do you save maybe a dollar?
I'd rather have a copper jacketed bullet better for the bore and a case that can be reloaded (even though I do not reload yet I still save brass)
So I don't buy steel case/jacket ammo as a general rule.
Any of it I do end up with I only feed my hi-points.


If your looking to some money I'd suggest cci blazer aluminum case copper jacket, but of course I don't believe they make aluminum cased rifle rounds do they?

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:48 am
I did post that study on another website, and a guy who has been very involved with true milspec testing implied that the barrels in question were probably nowhere near milspec hardness for that kind of wear to happen. BUT many guns out there are that way...even if the bore is a chrome lined bore the underlying metal may still not be to mil spec hardness.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:03 am
Joe Sixpack wrote:
There was a test on ar-15's recently I believe 3 different brands of ammo was used on identical guns.


^ willbird and Joe Sixpack, were you guys looking for this one?

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-v ... ased-ammo/

-Allen
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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:41 am
yes thats the one.
I've heard someone else claim that the barrels maynot be "milspec" yet no oen could explain to me how you could tell or what "milspec" is in this reguard.

Personally I don't care if the barrels are or are not "milspec" it's a purely apples to apples comparison since all 3 guns was identical and even if a "milspec" barrel would have held up better, assuming these are not "milspec" the wear is relative, IMO it is a valid test.


PS. Will not directing that towards you I also heard someone claim they probably wasn't milspec.
I just dismiss it as someone who probably likes steel case/jacket ammo or was one of those people who claimed the mild steel was no more damaging then a copper jacket and are suddenly having to eat crow.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:14 pm
Joe Sixpack wrote:
yes thats the one.
I've heard someone else claim that the barrels maynot be "milspec" yet no oen could explain to me how you could tell or what "milspec" is in this reguard.

Personally I don't care if the barrels are or are not "milspec" it's a purely apples to apples comparison since all 3 guns was identical and even if a "milspec" barrel would have held up better, assuming these are not "milspec" the wear is relative, IMO it is a valid test.


PS. Will not directing that towards you I also heard someone claim they probably wasn't milspec.
I just dismiss it as someone who probably likes steel case/jacket ammo or was one of those people who claimed the mild steel was no more damaging then a copper jacket and are suddenly having to eat crow.


Well the point I took from it was, unless you buy a truly milspec barrel you really have NO idea what your buying :-). And the guy in question has a very deep knowledge base about military firearms and specs....and with all kinds of the ins and outs of the testing and acceptance system for them.

The number of rounds fired in the test that I referred to far surpasses what 90% of "civilian" AR's will ever see. If I had to guess I bet the majority of AR's never even see 1000 rounds, especially in the conditions the test was conducted in :-).

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:27 pm
Joe Sixpack wrote:
I've heard someone else claim that the barrels maynot be "milspec" yet no oen could explain to me how you could tell or what "milspec" is in this reguard.


The TDP states a number of things about barrels (which in turn leads to them being deemed mil spec). Specifically relating to the barrel:
It is to be made of 4150 steel (50 refers to the carbon content, .50%)
Comply with MIL-B-11595E
Have a 1:7 twist
Gas port size of .062-.067" (carbine)

Image

Lesser quality barrels typically cannot stand up to the abuse of things like full auto fire for example. Hence the mandated grade of 4150 (some manufacturers use 4140). The majority of owners out there will never shoot out a barrel so I don't see the steel v. brass argument pertaining to many folks.

In terms of reliability and function though, in my opinion, mil spec and ammunition plays a large role. This specifically relates to the aforementioned gas port size. Current mil spec guns are made with gas ports in direct correlation to the ammunition that will be fired; XM193, XM855, MK262, etc. That said, lesser powered steel cartridges like Wolf, Tula, and the like, may fail to properly cycle the weapon.

Given this, some manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to tune gas ports to the cheaper steel ammunition, which tends to be underpowered. I've personally seen carbines with gas ports in the .08" range. This causes the user to experience an increased cyclic rate when firing anything but Russian fodder, which at best case will just result in a snappier gun with increased recoil. Worst case, this will lead to FTE (unlock occurring too soon), increased buffer spring wear, FTF (magazine follower spring cannot keep up with cyclic rate), and bolt bounce (increased bolt face and chamber wear). This is an aside from the discussion at hand but feel it is one of the most important mil spec criteria to keep in mind when buying an AR15/M4. Unfortunately, 'minutiae' like gas port diameter are often not disclosed and are hidden under cool rail systems, lights, etc., which is what sells the average buyer. But it is important, since the direct impingement system relies directly on this port and gas flow to (reliably) function the system.

Also of note is the difference in the brass and steel case itself. Brass is a much more mailable and reactive material, meaning it will reliably expand (obturate) against the chamber walls and form a good seal. Steel may do the same, but will usually not contract as quickly as brass. This can lead to the partially obturated steel casing being torn, rather than cleanly extracted, from the chamber. This means the user will over time see exacerbated extractor wear and possible FTEs.

Joe Sixpack wrote:
Personally I don't care if the barrels are or are not "milspec" it's a purely apples to apples comparison since all 3 guns was identical and even if a "milspec" barrel would have held up better, assuming these are not "milspec" the wear is relative, IMO it is a valid test.


Completely agree, barrel type doesn't matter to me as much, since they were all the same grade which served as a constant. It's definitely a valid test. Andrew knows what he's doing.
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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:18 pm
The brass case while it is "brass" is selectively work hardened in the process, and there are several anneals during the process, but the important part, the head near the back end has a very high yield point that will contain 50,000+ PSI.

And the barrel steel even within the same mfg may vary more than a milspec barrel would.

The guy I was talking to on the other board said he has witnessed things doing walk through of plants that make firearms where they do not even begin to follow FIFO (first in first out) when a bin of blanks nears being empty they mix in new parts, etc. If you do not follow FIFO you really have no traceability, no way to follow a known defect back and isolate other potentially defective parts from the same batch/heat treat number of material. Flaws in a steel billet will be rolled out into the entire bar, and many times the entire run will be defective.

I seem to recall him talking about a batch of barrels from one mfg that even within "identical" barrels there were striking differences in metallurgy/heat treat that would not be allowed in a military contract bbl.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 2:16 pm
Will did he say what mfg? that has got to be bottom of the barrel mfging.
If they can not insure the product is consistent it seems to put them selves up for law suits if one of the barrels burst due to poor QC.


Thanks for the lesson munch520 i'll have to pay attention to that next time I go to buy a barrel.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:17 am
Joe Sixpack wrote:
Will did he say what mfg? that has got to be bottom of the barrel mfging.
If they can not insure the product is consistent it seems to put them selves up for law suits if one of the barrels burst due to poor QC.


Thanks for the lesson munch520 i'll have to pay attention to that next time I go to buy a barrel.


No he did not, but FIFO is something I honestly did not learn about in mfg until just a few years ago when one job did work with GM. His point was that the test is meaningless if there is not strict control on all the elements of the test. That would mean both the ammo and the guns.

I highly doubt that any of the "good" mfg can trace a serial number of a barrel back to a heat number of steel used, and exactly when it was machined etc. And topping off a bin of parts before totally using it up and going to another is something that would not raise an eyebrow anywhere in mfg I have been involved in since the 1980's.

Possibly just one lot number of ammo did a lot of that damage for all we know.

Not sticking up for steel jacket ammo, I only used it when the ammo was mfg to be used in the gun to begin with (Mak and M44 as two examples).....just pointing out that "experiments" can be interesting....but if they are not properly constructed they are meaningless really.


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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:23 am
Re reading through the test this jumps right out at me..........two of the 4 guns were improperly assembled right out of the gate................

Quote:
Visual Inspection

Each firearm was broken down and inspected to ensure that it was within acceptable standards; this initial visual inspection did not reveal any deficiencies serious enough to be addressed prior to the beginning of the test. During the first range trip, however, serious accuracy issues were noted with two carbines – the Federal and Brown Bear weapons.

Both shot groups of over 5MOA, or over 5 inches at 100 yards, out of the box. It should be noted that ten shot groups were fired for all accuracy testing in this article, and the results are not directly comparable with three or five shot groups. Because these groups were much larger than they should have been with any factory new ammunition, the rifles were examined.

The upper receiver assemblies of the two problem carbines were completely disassembled in order to determine the cause of this issue. It was immediately apparent that the problem related to improper barrel nut torque values – the barrel nuts, which slide over a collar on the barrel and thread onto the front of the upper receiver, required less than 5 ft-lbs to break loose.

Proper torque values for this part are 30-80 ft-lbs. Once the components were properly reassembled, ten shot group sizes shrank to approximately 3.5 MOA, which is a realistic result to expect from standard carbines firing bulk ammunition.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:30 am
When I first posted this test I said if you like the steel jacket ammo the thing to do is buy FOUR barrels, and fire each one around 2,000 rounds then sell it at the gunshow for maybe even more than you paid for it if you shopped carefully when you bought your 4 barrels :-).


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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:26 pm
TSiWRX wrote:
Joe Sixpack wrote:
There was a test on ar-15's recently I believe 3 different brands of ammo was used on identical guns.


^ willbird and Joe Sixpack, were you guys looking for this one?

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-v ... ased-ammo/


Gents thanks for posting this study --- I found it very informative & comprehensive. Glad I sprung for the Spike's Tactical Upper too :wink:

Moral of the story, not too many of us will wear out an AR Barrel. Even last year of 2 gun tactical comp about once a month last year I only expended about 500 5.56 rounds with another 100 or so more at random range sessions. At that rate, it will take me 10 years to burn a barrel out. And the reality is even longer, as I haven't competed 2 gun at all this year due to the ammo shortage & I detail-clean my weapons after every usage. I bet the majority of civilian AR owners shoot way less.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:19 pm
I contacted the guy on the other board and asked him if he remembered the test and what he said about it, here are his words.

Quote:
First rule of testing is to make sure all test items are the same.

There was no way of tracking and confirming that the barrels were the same kind, type, and manufacture, so one softer barrel and one harder barrel and two average barrels could make it look like one cartridge was better at reduction of wear or performance.

I've seen barrels brought in and piled on a table by a by a guy who grabbed the top barrel and put it on an upper, hand tightened it, then set it on another table for the guy who would torque it, then put it on the third table for the gas tube guy, who did his thing, and set it on a cart. When the cart was full or it was needed it was moved to assembly, which was where the lowers and the uppers were put together by a guy who apparently was super dude because he knew how to push in the two pins and operate the mechanism for a couple strokes, then sign the sheet and set it on the next table. If the fit was too tight he tossed back the upper and tried another one, and that upper might hang around for a day or two before he found a really loose fit lower and try it.

At the next table it was checked, then it was boxed and warehoused as ready to be shipped.

Basically the same thing happened with the bolt/carrier groups and the lower assemblies, so of barrels from several manufacturers there was no way of telling what barrel wound up on what upper, how long the barrel had been hanging around, or even where it came from since most of them were unmarked.

Having seen that in more than one company's production this test made me flinch because there was no way to know anything about the actual barrels used. I have seen the gas port hole in the barrel with alignment issues, oversized, and with an oversized gas port that might mean early opening, thus function issues, and accelerated wear.

It's just good old boys playing at testing without controls.

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Post subject: Re: Steel cased ammo... a little research
Post Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:49 pm
I'd have to reread the article but I believe they said the guns was identical.. so not matched matched parts.
Frankly the guy sounds like he's trying to find as many little things to try and build up into a mountain.

under his logic you could never do a live fire test because the ammo will vary from round to round box even within a single box.

I simply don't think these things add up into invalid results.
The difference was pretty clear.. it's a pretty wide margin to try and tear down by the way he's claiming.
but of course everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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