Comparing Steel vs Brass Ammo [Which Is Better?]

When you walk into your local gun store, you will probably have a choice of steel cased ammunition or brass cased ammunition. But which is better – steel vs brass ammo?

Many people immediately say that brass cased ammo is much better than steel cased ammo, and they will have valid arguments of why brass cased ammunition is a better option than steel cased ammunition.

However, there are actually some cases where steel cased ammo is an option you should seriously consider.

TL;DR – Which Is Better – Steel vs Brass Ammo?

Steel cased ammunition is much cheaper than brass cased ammunition. However, due to the properties of brass as a metal, brass cased ammunition is considered more reliable, causes less wear on guns, offers better accuracy, and is easier to reload than steel cased ammunition.

Steel cased ammunition is ideal if you want to do some light target shooting with minimal cost, while brass cased ammunition is preferable when you need to use weapon in situations where reliability and accuracy is critical, for example in a self-defense situation.

What Is Steel Cased Ammunition?

Steel cased ammunition is, as the name suggests, ammunition that uses steel casings. To reduce the risk of corrosion, it is often treated with lacquer or polymer.

While there probably are not as many fans of steel cased ammunition as there would be for brass cased ammunition, there are some benefits to steel cased ammunition.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Steel Cased Ammunition?

Steel cased ammo has a bad reputation from some folks, as traditionally they have been seen as cheap ammunition that you would typically find as surplus from third-world countries’ militaries. But is steel cased ammo really so bad? Here are some of the pros and cons of steel cased ammo.

Pros

  • It is cheap – if you compare the price of steel cased ammo against brass cased ammo, you will probably pay less for steel ammo almost every time. Over the long term, this can save you a lot of money.
  • You can coat it in lacquer or polymer – this will help make the ammo resistant to corrosion.
  • Easy to clean up – if you are lazy (like me) you can easily use a magnet to pick up all your casings after you are done shooting!

Cons

  • It less malleable and creates a poorer seal compared to brass cased ammo – this can cause more opportunities for malfunctions due to carbon buildup.
  • It is not easily reloadable – if you are an amateur reloader, it will probably be better (and safer) for you to stick to brass cased ammunition.
  • It is believed to wear out a gun faster than brass cased ammo – this is due to steel cased ammo being much more rigid and less malleable, and thus causes more friction.
  • It can cause lacquer build-up in your weapon – due to the lacquer being applied to prevent corrosion, you might find a lacquer build-up in your weapon if you fire a lot of steel cased ammunition through it. This is not great for the reliability and condition of your weapon.
  • Not all gun ranges allow steel cased ammo – you might think it is a safety thing, but actually, it is a cost issue. How so you ask? Simple….some ranges actually make money back by recycling brass casings and/or reloading them to sell on to customers again.

When Should You Consider Steel Ammo?

Using steel cased ammunition will not be a good option at all times. However, there are situations where it is a good alternative to brass cased ammunition. These include:

  • You are cost-conscious.
  • You don’t plan to do a lot of shooting with it long-term.
  • You don’t need to reload your own ammo.
  • You plan to use it in non-critical situations (e.g. shooting at the range vs in a self-defense situation) due to the possibility of your gun jamming right when you need it most.

What Is Brass Ammo?

Brass cased ammunition is the better known and more acceptable form of ammunition casing. As the name suggests, it is ammunition that has a brass casing. Is brass cased ammunition the best ammunition casing though?

What Are The Pros and Cons of Brass Ammo?

A lot of folks will only consider brass cased ammunition. But is it the perfect ammunition?

Pros

  • It is more reliable – as copper is more malleable and creates a better seal.
  • Easier to reload – if you want to reload your ammo, but you aren’t necessarily an expert reloader, then you will find that brass cased ammunition will be much easier to reload than steel cased ammunition.
  • Corrosion resistance – copper is not as vulnerable to corrosion as steel is. This will make it easier and safer to store brass cased ammunition for longer periods.
  • More consistent firing – when looking at the metal properties of brass vs steel, then there are some key differences in how the metals reacts when fired. When a round of brass cased ammo is fired, the brass casing expands evenly to fill the chamber of the firearm. This results in a more consistent pressure, which leads to more consistent speed and trajectory of the round.
  • Brass is naturally smoother – this means there will be less friction when feeding the round from the magazine to the chamber, and when ejecting the spent casing.

Cons

  • It is a more expensive material – if you buy a lot of ammo, this is going to add up really fast.

When Should You Consider Brass Ammo?

When is brass cased ammunition a better option than steel cased ammunition? Scenarios where you should rather use brass cased ammo include:

  • You need reliability (e.g. your gun not jamming at an inopportune time)
  • You need accuracy
  • You intended to reload your own ammo

Which Ammo Would I Choose? Steel Ammo or Brass Ammo?

If I had to choose between steel vs brass ammo, I would probably 9 out of 10 times go for brass ammo. Overall I like that brass ammo is much more reliable, much more consistent and will not cause as much wear and tear on my weapon as steel cased ammo might.

However, if I maybe just want to go plinking and fire a few shots, then there is a case for considering steel cased ammunition.

What Do Prefer? Steel Cased Ammunition or Brass Cased Ammunition?

I would really like to hear from folks who have fired a lot of rounds with steel cased ammunition, and what your thoughts on it were? Feel free to post a comment or send me a direct note via the contact page.

Happy (and safe) shooting!

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