by Nick Klementzos
Some folks say never shoot steel-cased ammo in your gun because doing so will ruin it.

It seems logical as steel is normally harder than brass so it must be true. Or is it?

If steel is so inferior and destructive, why do many nations use steel when producing their ammunition. Are they not as enlightened as the United States? Is it because they’re dirty rotten commies? Maybe not so much. Especially considering that during WWII, the United States made .45ACP and .30 Carbine steel cased ammunition. Back then, with the war effort, brass became increasingly scarce.

Most rumors have some measure of truth to them. While steel can be harder than brass, ammo manufacturers anneal it to soften it to something approaching that of brass. So it’s not going to wreck your chamber in your AR-15.

Using steel offers a number of advantages including the big one: price. Other advantages include greater strength to contain chamber pressure, easier cleanup of spent rounds thanks to steel’s magnetic properties. It’s also lighter. And did we mention it’s cheaper and readily abundant? Before COVID, you could buy a 1000-round case about $100 cheaper than conventional brass ammo.

If you are a casual shooter like most folks, shooting a hundred rounds or fewer a year, the savings isn’t much. However if you shoot to develop your skills or shoot competitively, then the price differential kicks in quickly. 6000 rounds of savings adds up to $600 plus taxes.

So now what are the disadvantages of steel?

Probably first and foremost, the steel jacket of the bullets will wear your barrel much more quickly than copper and brass jacketed projectiles. You’ll need to shoot 5,000 to 6,000 rounds to see the effects on accuracy. Steel cases are not as malleable as brass and therefore it may not seal the fired cartridge case as well in the chamber, nor will steel retract as readily once pressure subsides. This sometimes leads to spent cases stuck in the chamber. It’s also why it will run dirtier due to the less-than-optimal sealing of the chamber.

Some of the Soviet-inspired cartridge cases like the 7.62×39 are made with a greater taper in their design to help overcome stuck case problem quite effectively. Recall how the Kalashnikov is renowned for its reliability and it earned that reputation by shooting steel almost exclusively.

Also, steel will rust if not treated in some way. Modern steel cartridge manufactures add a polymer coating to prevent rust. No, the polymer will not melt in the chamber as some suggest. To the contrary, the polymers used actually aid in extraction.

Steel can be harder to reload, so there’s that as well. But most folks don’t reload.

Overall, the real reason I shoot steel is because it makes trigger time more affordable. What’s more, it helps me develop and maintain skills.

Guns are tools and will last a long time with proper care and feeding. And just like any other tool, if you use it enough things will wear out. Don’t worry about it. Fix them the continue doing your thing.

Train and practice. The life you save with those skill sets might even be your own someday. Just ask the Ukrainians.

8 thoughts on “Why should I shoot steel-cased ammo?”
  1. So what about steel cartridges that are plated with zinc or brass? Will they cause more wear the same as steel that is not plated?
    I’ve fired many steel rounds with almost no problems. One problem I did run into was with the steel rounds that are polymer coated. Those rounds wanted to hang up in the stagger-stacked magazine of my 9mm, and not advance to the top. Had to resort to using them only in the single stacked mags. Zinc plated steel rounds did not have a similar problem. Also did not have that problem with polymer coated 223 rounds. Don’t know why. Maybe the polymer coating was a bit different.

  2. Some of the information in this article is erroneous. You don’t reload steel cased ammo primarily because it uses Berdan primers which do not have a center flash hole that a die uses to punch out the spent primer. Most brass centerfire cartridges use Boxer primers which are the standard in the US. The two primers types are not interchangeable. Attempting to resize a steel case in a die (even a carbide die) will result in a broken primer pin and most likely a ruined resizer die as well.
    Back in the older days we reloaded everything except 7.62x39mm because you could buy 1440 round cases of Chinese ammo for $69.00 a case (this was back around 1990 or so). Now in 2023, ammo is so ridiculously overpriced that the only way most people can afford to shoot in non-reloadable steel or aluminum, or reload.
    I have been reloading for nearly 40 years now, and find it almost as much fun as shooting is itself. It’s expensive to get into, but if you like to shoot a lot it soon pays for itself. Even with the cost of primers and powder through the roof today, its still far cheaper than buying bulk ammunition. Biggest problem right now is getting the components at all.

  3. Right now on Freedom Munitions website, the difference between 50 rounds of 9mm brass and 9mm steel is 25 cents. That little bit of difference is hardly worth it, especially when the brass can be easily reused.

  4. With everything going on in the state of Illinois regarding the gun ban and you spend your time talking about what ammo to shoot!!! How about what you are doing to stop this gun bill or are you done now that you all got your money from the lawsuits

    1. BWAH HA HA “Now that you all got your money from the lawsuits”….

      Let’s take your requests in order: We’ve posted running updates on things as news appears on our website. Scroll through the articles. I’ll add that federal courts aren’t like on television. There’s a LOT happening behind the scenes, some of which involves herding cats (there are like 14+ cases, after all, and we’re trying to keep some of them from getting out of their lanes and wrecking not only their own case but others’ as well).

      Now some of the cats don’t listen any better than my German Shepherd pup did when I had him. For instance, one group with a four-letter acronym, rushed out of file a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Illinois after Pritzker signed the bill. They JUST HAD TO BE FIRST TO FILE. The only problem? It’s very similar to an existing lawsuit USING MANY OF THE SAME PLAINTIFFS that was filed in the Northern District of Illinois two or three years ago. Whoops.

      There will be another update today when I finish a couple of other GSL-related tasks. Hope to post by late afternoon.

      As for you shitty, cynical last sentence. First, it’s not a bill, it’s now a law. But that’s trivial. We’ve filed our suit. We objected to ANOTHER 30-day extension request filed by the state and the judge denied the extension request by Kwame. There’s a status hearing Friday. Again, federal courts move at the speed of smell, but we’ve already got the motion for prelim injunctive relief in and expect to argue that shortly after next Friday, Mar 3rd. Give the judge a week or two to issue his decision and that’s where we are at.

      It isn’t OUR money from the lawsuits… we forwarded every dime (and thousands more) donated during January to our Illinois legal team. We’ve got another 5-10k collected in February and we’ll do the same with that at tomorrow night’s board meeting. If you would like to attend, it will be held at CI Shooting SPorts in Bloomington. Starts at 6pm. It’s open to GSL members. If you’re not a member, you can sign up online at

    2. Mr. Times:
      How much have you contributed to the fight, or what else have you done?
      Or, are you just a complainer?

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