May 31, 2022

Steel vs. Aluminium vs. Brass Cased Ammo

Ammo, ammo, ammo it’s all about the ammo. If you shoot you might think guns are the primary expense, if you shoot a lot you know better. Guns are the cheap con to get you into a life of buying more and more ammo. Today we are going to examine the three most popular types of ammunition casings, brass cased ammo, steel cased ammo, and aluminum cased ammo.

Each type offers its own advantages and disadvantages that should make shooter’s selective. Today we are going to cover the pros and cons of all three types of ammo so you can make an informed decision when it comes time to feed the beast.

Brass Cased Ammo

Brass cased ammo is the old stand-by and what small arms ammunition has used for well over a century in the American market. This metal has numerous strengths and it’s arguably the best casing for modern ammunition, and also the most expensive.

Brass is the route to take if you plan on getting into reloading. It can be used a multitude of times before it’s too worn out to function. Other case types can’t be reused. When a round is fired brass cases expand temporarily in the chamber, forming a seal. This helps maximize the velocity of the round fired.

The expansion then reverses and the cases reset back to normal size for proper extraction and ejection. Brass cased ammunition is also more corrosion resistant than other types, and can be nickel coated to rescue corrosion even more.

Brass cased ammo provides the most reliable form of ammunition. It’s simply the most reliable ammo on the market and if you are choosing ammunition for self-defense purposes brass cased or nickel plated brass cased is the way to go.

In terms of accuracy brass ammunition is often loaded more consistently and with higher quality control. The brass case doesn’t necessarily make the cartridge more accurate, but the attention paid to the loading process results in better ammo.

The biggest downside to brass cased ammo will be the price. It’s the most expensive of the three options on the market. In the reloading process, the brass cased cartridges tend to be the most expensive portion of the equation.

Aluminum Cased Ammo

Aluminum cased ammo is the least common of the three ammo types. I only know of two companies using aluminum cased ammo, CCI and Federal. Aluminum cased ammo has a gray-like finish that makes it visually easy to identify it’s easy to tell the difference between brass cased ammo and aluminum cased.

While uncommon, this type of casing has been used for years in the United States military to decrease the cost and weight of tank rounds. You get some of those same benefits as a recreational shooter. The price of the ammunition is quite low, without being as dirty or as inconsistent as steel cased.

When weight comes into play aluminum ammo is lighter. There is a noticeable difference in ammo weight, especially when it comes to loading down a chest rig of magazines or transporting an ammo can to the range.

Aluminum cased ammunition is plenty reliable and is often just as accurate as brass cased. The accuracy is due to the fact that Federal and CCI utilize high-quality control to ensure consistent loading, even with their cheaper loads.

Unlike brass cased ammo, aluminum cannot be reloaded. Once the cases are fired that’s it. Recycle them and call it a day. You could also run into the sticky case problem. Aluminum melts at a much lower point than brass. The cases won’t melt in your gun, but they will get sticky as your gun gets hotter.

This can cause issues with extraction and ejection at high round counts in short periods of time.

Steel Cased Ammo

Steel cased ammo has long been the cheap alternative to brass cased ammo. As the name implies the casings are made from steel and that encompass all the downsides and advantages of steel as a case. The primary advantage is price. Steel cased ammo can be super cheap and inexpensive.

It’s often much cheaper to purchase steel. Most steel cased ammunition comes from Eastern Europe. Brands like Wolf and Tula import steel cased ammo in the most popular calibers. In the United States, Winchester and Hornady have both produced steel ammo that’s American-made and fairly cheap.

Steel cased ammo allows you to practice on the cheap with ammo that works 99% of the time. Plus, it’s easy to clean up with a magnet!

Predictably steel cased ammo is not reloadable like brass cased ammunition. Steel cased ammo tends to be less reliable, but not significantly so to cause frustration. Steel cased ammo can also accelerate barrel and extractor wear on a firearm.

Additionally, some shooting ranges will not allow you to use steel cased ammunition. You also won’t see the same quality control with most steel cased ammo. Companies like Hornady do a great job with their steel cased ammo, but they are one of the few that seems to care.

Ammo Ammo Ammo

Ammo, you need, you love, and you have to pay for it. Hopefully, now you can approach the doors of the gunshop with a little more education on what ammo is right for you, and what ammo you need for your task at hand. Steel, aluminum, and brass cased ammo each delivers different pros and cons, and most importantly different price points. Knowing what’s what will ensure you make the right decision before you go to the range.

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