2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

SHTF Ammo test...brass vs steel case in the "Rust Bowl"

The other day I talked a bit about firearm choices for some common SHTF type scenarios. I did not talk too much about ammo selection much further than caliber selection and some application. In truth, a gun is nothing but a prop without ammo. The amount of ammo you desire to stockpile is up to you. I have heard different philosophies in the past concerning this...

1000 rounds per rifle, 3 rounds per handgun
twice your basic load for each weapon
until you can't store any more..
you never have enough ammo...

The last statement is probably the closest thing to the truth as you should always be training with your weapon so that in the event you do need to rely on it to protect yourself or your family you are fully capable to do so. That being said, the average gun owner cannot afford to buy thousands and thousands of rounds constantly and still pay the mortgage and car payment, or at least THIS gun owner can't. I have a reasonable, but adequate IMHO, stockpile of ammo to get me through any emergency. Basically I have about 180 rounds of 5.56 in magazines and another 400 rounds in an ammo can, plus enough quality 9mm +P+ JHP rounds to have my G19 with 4 mags full on me and 200 rounds in the can as well. Also in the can are some modest cleaning supplies and spare parts for both my rifle and pistol. On op of this ammo that is stored and ready with desiccant packets, I always have additional training ammo ready of at least a hundred rounds or so to verify both my iron and EOTech zeros and do some additional shooting.

One way I have stretched my dollar is by buying surplus Russian ammo that generally is made with plain steel cases or steel coated with lacquer. Where US made brass ammo is sometimes as high as $40+ for 100 rounds, the Russian ammo can be bought for as little as $20 for 100 rounds online. I have found that the Russian rounds by Wolf, Brown Bear and Tula to be just as reliable and generally as accurate as brass US ammo, although it does run dirtier in my AR and requires some additional training to use.

This Russian ammo has found its way into my SHTF stockpile and into my ready mags that I have "just in case". I never paid much mind to it since the reliability was there and always figured I would pack a bore snake and extra rag with my bug out bag to use often to wipe it (the AR) down as often as I could to compensate for the extra carbon build up. I had never given much thought I guess to how this ammo would stand up to "field" conditions until I read an article last night. Then I had some serious doubts about what I was storing for an emergency.

Survival Topics: Will Your SHTF Ammo Hold Up To Field Conditions?

When I still was in the military I used to find myself in conditions “in the field” less than comfortable. Being wet and cold was part of the job and you learned to adapt..or at least cope..as best as you can. Fairly often my mags would be completely submersed in water during field training and I never really gave much thought to their condition. Of course I was issued GI brass ammo and blanks which are usually pretty good quality. I was trained that, when you could, you unloaded and wiped down your ammo the best you could and reloaded in the time you had. The thing is we always would find some reason or training scenario where we would fire up this ammo fairly quickly. In this forum article the author posts of his experiment using PMC brass ammo and steel cased Wolf ammo kept damp for extended periods. The results are quite disturbing. While the brass ammo did see some discoloration it was fully functional. The steel cased ammo, even the lacquer coated rusted heavily and would not even chamber in the authors AR. Even in an AR the steel ammo would not chamber. It is apparent the build up of rust cause the case diameter to go out of spec to where the rounds were not chambering. I would not recommend sanding off any rust from live rounds in any situation as this may be inherently dangerous.

Right now my local gun shop of mass consumption – Vances – has Lake City 55gr brass 5.56 for $280 for a 900 round box packed on 10 round stripper clips. I may just have to go down and get a box of that for my SHTF ammo and relegate the steel cased Russian I have for range use and back up ammo for SHTF if I store it in airtight containers with desiccant packets.

Just a little food for thought for my reader…


Saheim-al-Azad said...

I personally WOULD NOT EVER trust my life to steel cased ammo. It is an inferior product. Keep it strictly for range use. Steel cases are especially hard on AR extractors and firing pins, keep some extras handy. Plus you can count on stuck cases in chambers, would you like to deal with one of those in the middle of a fire fight?

Huey148 said...

Thanks for your comment.

I went through my mags last night and removed all the steel ammo and put it into a separate ammo can. Good new is I know have a crap load of dedicated training ammo if I can get to a decent range somewhere. Bad news is that now I have to go spend some $$ to get some quality brass. I will probably start with the 900 round case of the Lake City for $280 and then add a couple hundred rounds per pay period for a while until I have enough to replenish my SHTF stash.

Kevin said...

I would never trust a 5.56 AR using steel ammo in fight or in class I'm paying for, I've seen too many issues in a class I took using Wolf, but it's fine for "going to the range." If you can, buy the ammo in the Russian spam cans. Leave it sealed until you need it.

Steel ammo is only reliable in guns designed for it, like AKs or 5.45 ARs.

If you want to shoot an AR a lot without spending a fortune on ammo buy a S&W 15R (new for $840 on Gunbroker) and buy crates of surplus Soviet war reserve 7N6 ammo. $260 for 2160 at RGuns today, $240 at AIM, ammoman has it for $300 delivered. (I've seen it a bit higher and a bit lower over time.) It's corrosive due to the soviet cold-weather primers, but unlike Wolf in a 5.56 AR I've never had a misfire or FTE. Just rinse the upper and lower out with water after shooting.

James R. Rummel said...

Good post! This is an issue that is beneath the radar of most gun owners.

Huey148 said...

yes it is, many like myself buy cheap instead of good I guess...I am really not worried about steel ammo damaging my rifle per se, but the long term durability is troubling under certain conditions.

Brett said...

So what do the Russians do?

Huey148 said...

What do the Russians do?? Drink a lot from what I hear....seriously I don't know. Never came in close contact with any genuine Russian service ammo other than 7.62x54R to tell you the quality. I assume that the Russian ammo on our market is being made in old Soviet ammo factories privatized now after the fall of the iron curtain (has it really been like 20 years already?).

I do know that Russian doctrine traditionally has been of the "good enough" variety in regards to their equipment. Maybe steel was "good enough" to them and any issues that resulted in troop loss was just an acceptable compromise between cost and effectiveness.

Good question though...

Kevin said...

Wolf, Tula etc is new ammo. It uses normal non-corrosive primers. The surplus stuff is Soviet Army ammo. Unlike the United States government, Russia will sell their surplus ammo to US citizens. The stuff I have seems to have been made in 1982 and 1983. It uses corrosive primers, apparently because they are more reliable at the crazy low temps you can get in Russia in winter.

As to steel being less reliable, AK 47s and 74s have pretty much always used steel cased ammo and I don't remember many people commenting on how unreliable AKs are. The difference is they were designed to work reliably with steel cased ammo. IIRC, that's one reason the cases of both 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm are tapered. 5.56x45mm doesn't have that profile and that apparently is at least part of the problem with steel ammo in ARs.

Jake said...

So is it a safe bet that for Russian guns such as AK-47's and AK-74's, the steel cased ammo that can rust outside of the casing will still be GTG if you load it in an AK and shoot it?

I know for a FACT that Wolf 7.62x39 122 Gr. FMJ's will rust fairly easily to the most remote of moist conditions.
I once had a trip to the range on a wet and muggy day with off and on rain. I had my Wolf Ammo in a zipper duffel bag, and the bag got lightly sprinkled on by rain, although we kept it away from direct rain most of the time.

When we handled the Wolf ammo, we got some moisture on some of the rounds. After the range trip was over, I found out the next day that the loose rounds that got handled all had rust spots all over the casing.
Wasn't too serious, but it's got me thinking, how much of a rusted over steel cased round can an AK still fire without problems? This is both for 7.62 and 5.45.