Steel vs brass ammo is a debate that’s been going on for decades. Following WWI, many countries adopted steel-coated ammo due to brass shortages. Steel was readily available as raw material, and steel ammunition was inexpensive to mass-produce.
Steel ammo still remains the cheaper alternative. So why does brass remain popular ammo despite the higher cost?
Let’s look at the real differences between steel and brass ammo.
One of the main steel ammo benefits is the cost. Steel is much more readily available than brass, and along with the manufacturing process is cheaper to produce.
This would lead many to believe that steel ammo must be inferior to brass. However, there isn’t anything inherent to steel that makes it lower quality. But since steel-cased ammo is aimed at a lower-budget market, it tends to be produced to lower standards.
But there are plenty of brands selling high-quality products. And depending on your gun, it may function better with steel. Many guns produced in Russia and Eastern Europe were designed specifically for steel-cased ammo.
Brass ammo is generally more expensive. But if you are someone who enjoys handloading your own spent cases, that cost is offset by being able to reload brass cases. Not so with steel, though steel does have the advantage of being more easily recycled.
Brass is more malleable and will expand and then contract after firing. Steel, on the other hand, expands slightly but then stays in the expanded shape.
Why does this matter?
Well first let’s look at brass. When it expands, it forms a seal as it leaves the chamber. This prevents gas from going back into the firearm’s action, meaning you will have to clean out your rifle less often.
Additionally, brass contracts to its original shape. This means that one of the brass ammo benefits is that it can be safely and easily hand-loaded.
Because steel-cased rounds do not contract back to factory dimensions, it is difficult to reload safely. A stray steel case that makes its way into your reloading process could cause some minor damage. For example, getting a case stuck in the die or breaking a decapping pin.
And since steel ammo does not expand as much as brass, the rounds do not create as much of a seal around the chamber. This allows gasses to get back into the action, requiring more frequent cleaning.
Because steel-cased ammo is harder, it’s generally believed to cause more wear on your rifle than brass ammunition. This is more of a concern if you plan to shoot off a lot of rounds, or plan to take your rifle into a combat situation.
Steel jackets also have higher risks of ricocheting back at the firing line and of creative sparks. You may need to consider whether steel ammunition is safe to use with your rifle.
Brass ammo by contrast is produced to higher specifications and is generally safer to use in western-produced rifles. There are a lot of high-quality options that won’t put premature wear on your rifle. These ones are highly-rated and are in stock now—check it out.
So, now for the verdict. Steel vs brass ammo, which is the winner?
The truth is the best ammo is going to depend on two things:
Once you have an idea of what you want, pick up some rounds and test them out at the range. Based on what functions best with your rifle and your price range, you can decide for yourself which one you think is best. Good luck and good hunting!