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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

steel cases


STEEL CASE

Can a “case” be made for steel cased ammunition ( sorry, I had an uncontrollable compulsion to Spun The Pun )?  I bring this up after a thoughtful and helpful minion e-mailed me with a link to Wolf brand steel cased 303 British ammo, 38 cents each ( a smidge over 40 cents each after shipping if you bought two cases ).  I had no idea they made 303 in steel case and had never thought of it as being an option.  My usual ammunition acquisition strategy had been ( this was years in the past-the last time in the last two years I bought rifle ammo was a one time surplus find from Cheaper Than Dirt, a company I’m no where near as fond of as in decades past ) to buy the Eastern European deluxe brand of factory loaded ammo for 75 cents each from Sportsman’s Guide, with free shipping after using a coupon.  They used a brass case superior to others, it was reported to me by another minion, and at the same cost.  Hey, I’d have no problem buying American AND paying a premium for it, if I was assured that I was getting a quality product and that my dollars were going to American workers rather than a CEO, but since that hasn’t been true for a very long time I have no issue buying foreign.  It puts my money in the same pockets, but at a lower cost to me. 

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I mean, buy Ford?  Or Chevy ( that was my previous choice prior to the Detroit Bail Out, but their quality went down hill quicker than Hilary’s brain function )?  Are you friggin insane?  You are buying crap plastic construction which surrounds an unnecessary profusion of Windows OS computer chips guaranteed to start failing within the first few thousand miles.  At a higher price.  Why wouldn’t you buy a Toyota or Honda?  Patriotism?  It’s patriotic to automate out Union jobs, screw over your customers and focus your efforts on the emerging Chinese market?  I don’t think so.  What you reap, bitches.  And thanks to our recent discussion on guns ( I am certainly NOT a guru.  My minions provide me with a lot of input.  I would be an insufferable uneducated bloviater without them.  I’m happy to be corrected and taken to task by them.  Yes Men may go elsewhere ) I’m quite convinced that most American gun manufactures are not too far removed from the same quality standards of Detroit ( which isn’t even all Detroit anymore but also Italian ).  I can’t say that the ammunition makers aren’t also infected with the disease.

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Anyway, back to steel case ammunition.  In the past I was hesitant to recommend it, especially as any disruption in overseas trade made it time sensitive ( I voiced my concerns PRIOR to Obammy’s stupidity with Russian imports which jacked up the Mosin-Nagant rifles from $90 to $300 and doubled their 762x54r ammunition costs ).  Now, I view prepping time as so short that right now is the time to buy ALL stockpile items, even domestic ones such as wheat, because the oncoming economic collapse will eliminate all employment and trade.  So, your ammunition purchases are close to a One Off buy.  That leaves cost as the deciding factor.  To reload or to buy disposable ammo?  I’ve always been solidly in the camp on reloading, but I’m not sure if I can still hold that view ( unlike all these other idiots that use ten year old information to influence their views- such as “rimfire is cheap!”- I’m quite open to discarding old information and embracing new ). 

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Now, assuming steel cased ammo works just fine in the Enfield ( I have no experience, and the only gun I’m aware that actually loathes steel is the AR family ), we are left with cost.  A reload cost for the 303 is about 33 cents.   As the Enfield is infamous for shortening the life of brass cases, I only assume five reloads.  And that is WITH neck-sizing only, and annealing the tip of the case AND using the same rifle.  I could be wrong, and I’m not enough of a regular shooter to reload ( even if I have the equipment for post-collapse ) to have concrete information.  I use it as a benchmark.  So, fifteen cents for the case.  Another 15 cents for powder and three for a primer.  Without lead cost, 33 cents.  38 cents gets you a bullet and eliminates the need to reload.  And factory reloads are better for long term storage and reliability ( although not for accuracy ). 

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Reloading for pistol ammunition makes a lot of sense, with the six times powder use and the lack of pressure making case life far more robust.  But for thirty caliber rifles?  In my case, with a non-Mauser action ( I’ve talked to reloaders with Mauser actions and they don’t seem to get all that much more case life, but I’m wondering if that was because they full cased it?  But even if you had half the brass cost, it is still about 23 cents verses 38.  If you are starting out and need five thousand rounds, that price difference is a huge deal.  For others just supplementing? ) and lack of lead I’m hard pressed to care about the nickel difference.  If it is even a difference at all.  I’m wondering if the price difference isn’t eaten up with safe storage of your reloading components, not to mention eliminating ( for the most part ) component failures.  As I read the minions e-mail and did the math, I couldn’t help but wonder, What Am I Missing?  What am I overlooking here?  This article is my shout out for input to my other minions, rather than a definitive information piece.  What are your thoughts on quality and price.  I’m NOT factoring in convenience.  That is an oxymoron for survivalists.  A little extra work never hurt anyone if it saved them money.  Let the flame wars begin!

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33 comments:

  1. Only thing that I'm aware of is that the European primers are harder on firing pins. That and steel cases are much more prone to getting stuck and are harsh on ejectors.
    Ruger maintains that steel
    cased ammo is the primary cause of firing pin failures on their Mini 14, that and building causing overheated barrels thus sticking cases and being an issue for firing pin failure....dunno, I've got a Mini 14 and have had zero issues, but then I only run American brass too.
    I did buy 500 Silver Bear 5.56 at 18¢, but only plan to use them last when all the brass is gone....

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    1. Okay, now this is new info I can use! Being an old surplus gun, the Enfield could have been much better built. OR, they should be babied more and in that case you wouldn't want undue stress on the pin and ejector. Thanks-I was hesitant on the steel and I might want to stay paranoid and go "worse case" and stick with copper.

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  2. I think that the only way to know is to sit down and actually do the math. I don't think that you can reload cheaper if you're using jacketed bullets. Factor in the cost of a bullet mould, a can of powder, primers, and try to base the reloads on a cheap reloading system such as the Lee Loader if you're starting new on a budget. You should then be able to compare the cost of the reloads to the typical cost of a factory loaded box of shells. The steel cases might very well be cheaper in certain calibers.

    I've posted before that I can load over 900 .45 long colt rounds from one can of Hodgdon HP-38. I was assuming free, or very cheap lead, in which to mould my own. I also didn't factor in the cost of the primers. Still, that's a lot of loads from a can powder. Now these are Cowboy loads, meaning less than 1000 fps. But getting thumped with a 250 or 300 grain bullet at less than a 1000 fps is still going to be a rather unpleasant experience.

    If you desire the maximum amount of post apocalypse reload rounds for the cost, then perhaps it is best to concentrate on a rifle and a pistol that are chambered for the same pistol round. If you wish to reach out and touch something way off, then this is not going to work out for you. In that case, you would also wish to pick up a .22 (centerfire) to .30 caliber rifle for those occasional times when you need a gun to perform at a distance.

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    1. I may be way off here, but I seem to recall the jacketed bullets being more necessary in semi's. But, yeh, if you need the jacketed I's say steel is cheaper. IF nothing else precludes using it. If so, they may be false economics.

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    2. Not sure about that one James. I was just assuming the no semi rule.

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    3. Many semi autos with traditionally rifled barrels will digest lead bullets just fine. The caveat may have come from the GLOCK pistols whose polygonal rifling causes problems with non-jacketed bullets. From the GLOCK website: "Can I use lead bullets?
      No, we recommend the use of jacketed ammunition only." (Link: https://us.glock.com/customer-service/faq)

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    4. And I'm sure the AR's are just as finicky. They are like wives, and not the cool redneck kind.

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  3. I decided to stockpile ammo and forget about reloading. When things go sideways the last thing I'll have time for is reloading. It's going to take all my time and energy to keep everyone fed and warm -and protected.

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    1. Even with adequate time, the appeal of factory loads is the secure long term storage.

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    2. I'm not sure exactly what you mean here James, but if what you're saying is that factory loads are better sealed from moisture, you can do the same to your own handloads. I tried to find the stuff that I had, but I couldn't. Basically it just looked like a small vial of acrylic finger nail polish, so you could probably save yourself some money and just get some of that, or pay extra and get the stuff in the link below.

      Roboco Laboratories Bullet and Primer Sealer

      http://www.cabelas.com/product/shooting/reloading/case-preparation|/pc/104792580/c/104761080/sc/549388080/roboco-laboratories-bullet-and-primer-sealer/1839032.uts?destination=%2Fcatalog%2Fbrowse%2Fcase-preparation%2F_%2FN-1114305%2FNs-CATEGORY_SEQ_549388080#BVQAWidgetID

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    3. I've heard of the nail polish trick but I am of the mind that factory, if given the preference, is superior in moisture proofing. For long term storage. I don't think short term matters at all, even in inclement weather. It is just increasing your odds. Yes, reloading components are also sealed. I'm merely thinking that plastic doesn't keep out the moisture as well, after, say, ten years.

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    4. The stuff that I had wasn't nail polish James, and was meant for sealing cartridges. But it essentially looked just like a vial of nail polish, so my guess would be that it was simply a re-marketing gimmick with a label swap.

      As far as your concern for the long term, it should put your mind at ease to know that I've never had a handloaded cartridge fail at even decades old. But as with yourself, I'm in the dry west. Don't leave it outside or in your leaky $69.95 plastic Walmart garden shed and you'll be fine. Ours in stored in an uninsulated shop. Now if you lived east of the Mississippi in a humid climate, I'd take extra precautions. But for you and I, it is of little concern.

      Wayne

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    5. Okay, your points are taken-stop worrying about this non-issue. I really am trying to work on stressing over less-I have enough stomach issues ( which I know are psychosymatic-sp? ).

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  4. It is my understanding that you can, and people do, reload steel case. You just don't get as many re-uses.

    I wonder if your 303 is a military order, or possibly even a mistaken order, that someone got stuck with? Or maybe there are just more military surplus 303s out there than I thought.

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    1. No, it is "Wolf" brand, they make steel for 9mm, and 223 and a butt load of others. I can't see the appeal of reloading steel. You need Berden primers and the priming tool. Unless you drill out and jam in Boxer, but then I'd worry about the proper seal.

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  5. Rust likes steel, better figure out how to store it.
    Air is moisture so you need to eliminate the air some how.
    Short term, no problem, long term, problem.

    You rack one into the pipe and it's hard, so you lay some a$$ into it, now you can't get it back out. Hate it when that happens. Keep a 3' wooden dowel handy.

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    1. I have those broken case extractors. For $12, silly not to own a few. Wonder if they work just as good on steel.

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  6. Steel cased ammo is the best of a bad situation. The Russians had an abundance of steel, and not so much brass, so worked around their supplies.
    I believe that the jacketed bullets from almost any gun to be superior, with less lead fouling. Most well made guns will outlive their owners, even with large ammo appetites. There is a range in Nevada with some Glock 17s with 300 THOUSAND rounds through them. Only had spring changes. Their rifles usually go 10-20000 rounds before they need barrel changes, fairly universally.
    As a combat veteran, I went with a semiauto russian steelcase eater and stacked it as deep as my dollar allowed. NO Infantryman ever wished that he could shoot fewer rounds. And if my logistics fail then I am up $#!+creek paddling with my d!(k, and that is the least of my worries.

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    1. The AK's have a lot going for them, but they are meant to spray and pray.

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  7. In general, steel case ammo should be used in commie guns, brass in American. The Enfield was designed for brass (I think). You may also have issues with metal fatigue on the extractor and firing pin, causing it to fail earlier than with brass cases and softer primers depending on how much use it had before you got it. Wolf performance is spotty. I've fired US brass cased .223 and gotten 1-1/2" groups at 100 yards, put the equivalent Wolf steel cased 55 grain round in and got 8" groups at 100 yards. Yuck! Other Wolf rifle stuff has been just fine, but I'm not interested in it anymore. Some of the Wolf pistol rounds have been noticeably less accurate.

    For firearms, any recent production Winchester, Browning, FN, or CZ (rifles and pistols only) as well as some other lesser known premium manufacturers, should be top quality. Generally Savage and Ruger are good and reliable with some exceptions. Mossberg and Remington (except the Police line) have been having lots of quality control issues.

    If you intend on reloading later, you should really get started now. Not that you need to load up a bunch, but you definitely should work up an accurate load that you can keep in reference for later quick duplication. Your homemade ammo can have just as long as a storage life if you use sealant on the primer pocket and neck.
    Peace out

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    1. I'm glad I did this article and got the feedback. I'm even more disinclined towards the steel cases now.

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  8. If a person is feeding Uncle's poodle-shooter, now or soon is time to stock deep on magazines and ammo. Jim is correct on how fast a person can burn twelve 30-round magazines if behaving like a soldier with unlimited free ammo and more real-soon-on-a-truck. Folks are training using "enemy suppression by semi-directional wall-of-lead" (40 rounds per minute +, per rifle), which ONLY can work with 100x the supplies of your opponent, and maybe not then. Even "talking guns" is going to use 100 rounds per minute per team. What if each rifle has 10 rounds for the whole ambush? Different strategy, huh? It might be good to study how the VC, IRA, and Pashtun fight with stolen arms when not supported by a rich foreign nation-state. Hint: sneaky, with many operations aborted if it wasn't perfect.

    I had a solid jam (brass-cased NATO ammo) in an FAL that I cleared by grounding the butt and slamming my boot down on the side-handle. Cleared, visually-inspected bore, good.

    pdxr13

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    1. I had a solid jam in an M16 that took two instructors, a broken tree branch and five minutes to clear. Guess how much I wanted my very own after that.

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    2. Same with me Jim. By the time I went through basic and later ranger stuff....when I got to the jungle and was offered the choice of M16 or the M14 , there was no question in my mind and I went with the heavy but dependable beast of the two. The 14 sucked on auto but definitely kept their heads down and on semi mode was a damn fine brush cutting shooter.
      Course back then I was 225 lbs of lean mean and ten or fifteen pounds of load out difference didn't mean much for the fire power difference.

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    3. I was 159 lbs in basic and the final road march load was near half my body weight. That was the only time the M16 was a blessing. And, damn, you're old :)

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    4. Yup just turned 63 this week....thought you knew that I was a bit older bro....
      Standard 11B ground pounders had no choice of weapon, they all got the plastic POS.
      We in the ASA doing LRRP's had a choice. The whole idea with us wasn't to be seen, so engaging in fire fights without the chance of support just was not done. Didn't call us the Sneaky Snakes fer nothing.

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    5. Oh, I knew you were older-it just makes me feel better about all my aches and pains to point it out how others are worse :)

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  9. If a person wanted a semi-auto with a lot of tried-goodness, the Designated Marksman rifle based on old M-14's is darn good, but not cheap when you build it like Uncle does. Or, you could get a squad of strong young men and teach them how to accurately fire an Enfield (that is "theirs" as long as they play along). Same cost or less, betcha. But where do you find "a few good men"?

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    1. Exactly. Where do you find a "few adequate men" even?

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  10. Back in the mid 90's when Australians could own semi-auto's I had a mini 14.

    Using Norinco (chinese) rounds would see the bolt cease up as brass (?) would fly back into the bolt and quickly jam it up (maybe within 20 rounds from memory)



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    1. I don't think it is just the Mini-14. AR's can only eat steel with extreme wet lube. Ah, the trials and tribulations of getting affordable ammo.

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  11. Lord Bison,
    I reloaded .38 specials with bullseye powder and 158 grain SWC back in the 1970's. last year I finished shooting them. I had no misfires. they were stored in .30 ammo cans

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    1. Yes, I'm beginning to see the error in my ways. Sometimes-although VERY rarely-you can be too paranoid.

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