Ammo Casing Questions

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by han42solo, Nov 8, 2018.

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  1. han42solo

    han42solo
    Seattle
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    Hello Gentlemen (and Ladies),

    Hopefully I’m posting this in the correct forum…feel free to move if not.

    Some background to my question/request:
    • I’m fairly new to the firearms world
    • I’m not a mechanical person by nature, and definitely not a gunsmith or reloader
    • I have a kindergarten-level understanding of how ammo works
    • Right now, I only shoot/own 9mm
    • Right now, I only shoot/own Glock pistols
    • I also own a PCC (an FX-9 pistol-variant, it’s great!)
    QUESTION:
    Could someone give me “straight answers” on the differences or benefits/disadvantages of using Brass Cased ammo vs. Aluminum Cased vs. Steel Cased? I’m trying to save as much $$ as possible as I foray into the gun world (and specifically, competitive shooting) and I’ve determined that ammo will end up being my biggest cost.

    I’ve only shot Brass so far, because the ranges I’ve shot at require it. However, as I learn more about the world of firearms, I’m wondering if that policy exists just so they don’t have to separate the spent jackets when they resell to 3rd party reloaders (just my speculation) and not for any safety or mechanical reason.

    I’ve heard that Aluminum is fine, but Steel can wear down the firing mechanisms in the gun. I’ve also heard that Steel works fine in ARs and AKs (In case I decide to expand my caliber experience)

    Can anyone shed light on this? Thanks in advance for any imparted wisdom. I’ve learned so much skimming thru NWFA!

    PS. (Potentially Dumb Question Alert)
    Why can you only reload Brass and not Steel or Aluminum? (I'm assuming it has something to do with how the metal casing deforms or reacts after ejecting the bullet?)
     
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  2. Camelfilter

    Camelfilter
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    If your going to shoot a bunch, 9mm in particular, you should learn to reload.

    Ammo is inexpensive at the moment, it hasn’t always been, and it will not always be.

    When there’s a blight, you’ll have ammo to shoot.
     
  3. han42solo

    han42solo
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    Sadly, the tiny apartment I live in has no room for a work area...An intriguing possibility down the road, though.
     
  4. Jeedia

    Jeedia
    Tacoma, WA
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    The main reason ranges not letting you shoot steel cased ammo is exactly that. They do not want to separate it. Steel or aluminum cases are fine to shoot and will not wear your gun out. The reason you can not load them is the case will not reform around the bullet properly. Also the steal case would be very hard for the press to cycle.

    If you are getting into competitive shooting the only way to go is to reload. If you buy in bulk you can get your cost down to 7-8 cent a round. You really only need a small desk to mount the press on.
     
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  5. Reno911

    Reno911
    Hillsboro
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    So, I’ll try to be short.

    Steel cased ammo, is usually dirtier, as steel expands and retracts at different rates than brass and aluminum do. This can allow expanding gases and other fun stuff that occurs in the barrel and chamber to travel around the case and into the action. They are usually berdain primed too, which is why it is harder to reload steel cased ammunition. You can’t use a simple deprimer punch to poke the primer out. However, yes, steel cases can be reloaded. Steel has a higher friction properties as well, so cases are sometimes coated to assist with this, this stuff when heated up in a hot gun from extensive firing can melt and gunk up a firearm causing it to fail.

    Aluminum is cheap, and somewhat mailable, not nearly as mailable as brass. So most aluminum stuff is not loaded very hot. To prevent case ruptures. This leads the aluminum cased ammo to have poor reliability in semi autos. It is also more prone to its brittle nature and that is why, though you could do so, they do not recommend it be reloaded.

    Both steel cases and aluminum cases do to the metallurgy involved can be brittle. In rifle platforms this can mean rims getting ripped off during violent extractions. This can also occur in semi auto pistols.

    Some really inexpensive steel cased ammo, usually foreign manufacturers, use bimettalic projectiles. Lead core in a steel jacket with a copper coating. These projectiles are known to wear out rifling in barrels at a higher rate. It’s not too big of an issue for someone shooting less than a hundred rounds in a range session, but over time yes, if that is all you shoot, it will wear down rifling at a faster rate.

    Ranges also do not like bimetallic projectiles because they may damage or go through their backstops. This is why some ranges magnet check ammo.

    As far as a range requiring brass cased ammo, it is usually most likely to do with bimetallic projectiles and or that they want to resale the spent cases.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  6. han42solo

    han42solo
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    Thanks Reno911! That's exactly what I was looking for (although additional responses would be welcomed)

    Reno911, in your personal opinion, would you fire aluminum-cased ammo (say 200-400 rnds/month) out of Glock Gen 4 9mm pistols? (or in general?)

    I was spurred to ask the original questions because of this ammo deal I saw today @ Ammo, Optics, Bullets & More | Natchez

    CCI Independence Aluminum 9mm 115 gr FMJ 1000/ct - $143.99 after code "PO181105"

    and while I realize that I could reload for cheaper, it's just not something that is feasible for me right now.
     
  7. Reno911

    Reno911
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    I feed my Glocks any and all ammunition, they are hungry and never complain what I feed them. Steel case, aluminum case, brass case, mine have eaten it all. If it feeds, fires, extracts and ejects, I really don’t care what the case is made of.

    I’m never one to say reloading is cheaper, it’s not. It takes 4-5 years in my eyes to become cheaper as the upfront costs of everything to get into it won’t save you any money until years down the road. Unless you shoot a couple thousand rounds every weekend. Then maybe a year or two later it will start to pay for itself.
     
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  8. Retired Guy

    Retired Guy
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    First of all, I just want to say that there is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to firearms. You and anyone else should never feel embarrassed or reluctant to ask questions because the potential dangers can reach serious levels. If in doubt - ask! I've only been on this forum for a short time but there is a very deep pool of knowledge here.

    As for reloading brass, yes, brass is softer and malleable. Aluminum is rather brittle and would likely split. Steel is hard and would take a lot more effort to resize.

    I have shot a large amount of Blazer aluminum but I don't care for the steel cased ammo. But that is just my personal preference. I have not personally seen any firearms damaged by steel case ammo.

    Let me add that I have been told by guys who run indoor ranges that they ban steel case ammo because there are still a lot of ammo with steel jacketed bullets out there. The steel jacketed bullets were typically loaded in steel cases to reduce costs. Those bullets will quickly damage an indoor range backstop as well as risk ricochets. So instead of having to check everyone's ammo, it's easier to just forbid the use of steel case ammo. That's what I've heard - FWIW.

    At this time, ammo prices are incredibly low so there is not much of a price difference. But there will likely be a time in the near future that the cost savings of shooting aluminum or steel ammo will be noticeable. Having said that, even if you are not reloading now, save your brass.

    As the others have encouraged, do think about reloading. The initial cost of reloading equipment is not cheap but there is quite a lot of used equipment out there for sale at reasonable prices. I still have my first press and it's still working great after 35 years of use. Once you've recovered the cost of your equipment in savings then you're just shooting more for less money. I can reload 9mm ammo for about 9 cents per round. That is not taking in to account the cost of the reloading equipment or the brass. I have reloaded brass cases up to 10 times before discarding. I think you can see the cost savings. It's even better with rifle ammo. The biggest advantage to me is the ability to craft a load tailored to my situation. As for space, I started reloading with a single stage press "C-Clamped" to a coffee table. I had to stack books to keep it from tipping over. When I was done reloading, I could pack everything away. Good luck and have fun!
     
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  9. FordPrefect

    FordPrefect
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    Everybody else seems to have the brass/steel/aluminum covered, I'll get to reloading.

    You mention space when it comes to reloading. If you are not reloading for every single caliber under the sun, it really doesn't take that much space up. I bought this bench from Cabelas and it has been serving me well since. It's not that big, I've added some wall shelving (I own my house, not rent so I can do that). However when I first started with just doing 500 Magnum and 9mm, there was more than enough space on this and it's only 40 or 42 inches wide. I had a picture of my reloading setup, but it seems to have poofed off the cloud. If you would like to see it, when I get home I'll attach it to this thread.
     
  10. BWH

    BWH
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    steel and aluminum cases are typically drilled differently for the flash holes, brass case usually always 1 hole dead center, alum and steel...2 holes oppossed and not centered. thus standard die sets available to us wont work.
    Save your brass empties if you can, they will have value at some point, if only for scrap.
     
  11. Tilos

    Tilos
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    If shooting more is your goal here, buying cheap ammo is not the way to go.
    You are at a point most new shooters get to early on, wanting to shoot more, but not wanting to pay for the ammo or reload it.
    With 9mm being the cheapest center fire ammo available, it's usually the 1st gun choice for new shooters.
    Face it, if you shoot more, the ammo will quickly cost way more than the gun in any center fire caliper.

    If you truly want to shoot more to become a better shooter, without the expense of ammo, you need to buy a 22LR handgun to shoot/train with.
    The $ you save on ammo will quickly cover the cost of the gun.
    You can buy bulk 22LR ammo for $16/325 rounds compared to $20/100 rounds of cheap 9mm.
    You can shoot a lot more for a lot less, and leave the cases on the ground.
    Not what you wanted to here, most giving advise here probably shoot a lot of 22LR.
    jmo :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
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  12. Jeedia

    Jeedia
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    Getting a 22 is not a good option in my opinion. You can reload 9mm for about the same price as bulk 22 ammo.
     
  13. bsa1917hunter

    bsa1917hunter
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    Those were going to be my exact words. Great post^^^^
     
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  14. Tilos

    Tilos
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    Really ?
    With all the cost/expense of gearing up to reload, I don't see it.
    The way I see it, just a 9mm bullet (the projectile) costs more than a single round of 22LR ammo.
    Don't try and school about scrounging lead and casting your own, most don't want to expose themselves to it and the OP has stated he doesn't have the room for reloading.

    Many may think buying a 22LR handgun as turning in your man card, it's not, it's a money saving way to shoot more for less, reloading for 9mm is not.
    Sorry for the drift to answer an opinion that seems to be troll bait to me.
    Jeedia, I have no interest in debating the merits of reloading for cheaper ammo, and give you the chance to respond, as I'm done with it.
    again jmo,
    :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  15. Jeedia

    Jeedia
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    It has nothing to do with the perception or man card. Is purely cost and objective related. 22 is about $0.06-7 a round. And he would have to buy another pistol. Use the money to buy a simple press like a lee or square b. Buy bullets, powder, and primers in bulk. Cost comes about to about $0.07-8 a round. No smeltering required. Then he can shoot and train with the gun that he wants to compete with. A simple reloading station doesnt take that much room. It could realistically be done in a 4 ft SQ area.
     
  16. han42solo

    han42solo
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    Hey Guys-

    Thanks for all the great responses, I've learned quite a bit! As I mentioned earlier, while reloading intrigues me, it just isn't feasible right now in my sub-300 sq. ft. Seattle apartment. However, I'm most likely moving South to Tacoma soon (in an effort to get more value for my rent $$, among other things) so hopefully I will have more space in the near future.

    A few things:

    Tilos: I've considered .22 LR in the past (due to per round ammo cost) but my concern is that, while I would be able to work on trigger control and aiming, my "reaction" to recoil would be skewed due to the lightness of .22 LR. In the few competitions I've shot, I've noticed that, when the starting beep goes... I get a little "jerky" and tend to yank too hard on the trigger to compensate for the last shot's recoil. Your thoughts?

    Jeedia: In general terms, if I was just going to reload 9mm to start, what would my entry level costs roughly be? (Say, to reload my first 1000 rounds) And, if it isn't too much to ask... a brief list of basic required starting equipment?

    -- Random Question: does my work area need to be well-ventilated? (Due to gun powder, lead, etc)

    Ford Prefect: I'd love to see a pic of your setup!

    Thanks again everyone! All responses are welcome.
     
  17. Jeedia

    Jeedia
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    If you bought new a dillon square b would be around $600-700. However I would recommend finding one used. They run about $400 with dies, and a few misc accessories. Dillon comes with lifetime warranties no matter who owns them.

    Next I would also say that when reloading you need bulk. So cases of 9mm typically run in 3000-3500. Buy powder by the 4lbs or more, and primers per 1k. Group buys really help with that even if it's only 1 buddy. Brass should be picked up at the range. Both renton and Paul bunyan have tons of good brass left on the range after matches.

    Ventilation:
    As long as you arent inhaling directly over the powder drop you should be fine. The lead and powder should never get air borne. But your space should have smooth surfaces to wipe clean in case of powder/primer spills or lube getting any where.

    I live in downtown tacoma. If you want I would be more than willing to show you the process. I run a dillon 1050, but my shooting buddy runs a lee pro.
     
  18. Jeedia

    Jeedia
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    On a side note. Are you shooting competitions? Idpa or uspsa? I got I'm my mind you were, but I cant find where you mentioned it.
     
  19. warnerwh

    warnerwh
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    The most important parts of shooting a handgun can be learned on a .22. Getting used to extra recoil will come with experience. Another point in favor of a .22 is that you can concentrate on sight picture and trigger control as well as keeping a perfectly consistent grip, also very important as it affects POI. You can buy decent ammo for less than 20.00 per 500. I have been shooting for 58 years and keep a .22 Buckmark in my range bag. Not only is it good for practice but it is fun and not to mention cheap. I bet more great shots started on a .22 than any other caliber by far.

    Btw it takes a lot of ammo to get any good with a handgun.
     
  20. Jeedia

    Jeedia
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    The best way to "get good" is to practice. It doesn't take alot of ammo. But it does take alot of time and energy. I would also get ben stoegers dryfire book. You can learn almost every skill needed to shoot very well with out ammo. The only skill you cant learn is recoil control. Which is where live fire practice come into play. The ammo you do shoot should have a purpose.
     
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