View Full Version : Steel Jacketed Ammo

12-13-2011, 10:26 AM

Over the past year I noticed a decided change in ammo being shot here in the range. It concerns me that just maybe some shooters out there may not know what they are shooting is damaging their firearms.

As we clean out the spent rounds from our rubber backstop we always examine what has been shot and what amount of this or that caliber was used. Not in detail, but just to see what happens to bullets. We see every kind of projectile imaginable in all the calibers up to .50BMG – we don’t allow that here.

Just by chance we swept a large magnet across the pile of bullets (see attached PDF labeled – bullets to see what +15,000 pounds looks like), and found some bullets that were magnetic. While we have seen some bullets in the past with a steel core or steel jacket, the amount we found concerned me. See attached PDF labeled Steel Ammo.

I did a complete search through all of our ammo and found that the only steel encased bullets were the Wolf and Tula brands. Nothing else we sell had a steel jacket, including our reloads. We started watching what was being shot and we did not find the supplier of the steel jacketed rounds. We did ask some of our known reloaders if they were using steel or bimetal jacketed rounds, but they all assured us they were not.

We just did a de-leading operation here and found a considerable increase in steel jacketed rounds being fired. So much so that I felt inclined to write this up and post in where I could. I know that this ammo has to be “cheaper” to purchase and is the primary reason for the increase in use.

I don’t think that shooters fully understand the damage being done to their firearm when they shoot copper flash coated, steel jacketed, lead filled rounds. No matter what, the steel will come into contact with the steel of your barrel. The very light copper flash coating of the bullet quickly burns off as it moves down the barrel. I would guess that by the time the bullet moves more than two inches the copper is gone on the sharp edges of the rifling and then you have steel to steel contact. I have looked at some of these bullets taken from the pile randomly and without exception they all have zero copper left where the edge of the rifling meets the jacket.

I cannot, nor will I, mandate someone use a specific kind of ammo in THEIR firearm. I can with our range guns and with my personal firearms. Having a background in manufacturing I know firsthand what happens when you rub steel against steel at high speed and add heat to the process. Eventually the barrel will become smooth and all sense of rifling will be gone. Then what do you have?

I know what a new barrel costs and the problems with replacing them. Shooting this steel material through your firearms is a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t think for a minute that it will hurt just to do a box or two. Even once is too many times.

Please note I am talking about PISTOL ammo in 45acp and 9mm as well as some .223. All of these are NOT bimetal jackets, but steel with a flash coating of copper.

02-20-2012, 9:32 AM

After some further investigation I have found some of the ammo and had it tested as best I could.


Nothing on the box says "Steel Jacketed Bullets" see attached PDF

Steel appears to be fairly soft alloy, and since they are from Russia we could not totally quantify the exact alloy, but it appears to be in the 1006, 1008, 1010, 1015 alloys. Low carbon and easy to cold form, and cheap to produce. Generally there is a lot of scrap metal recycled into these alloys.

Please review the attached PDF for the SAE specifics of SAE1010 alloy. All of the listed alloys are very close to the same in properties and to save time I just picked a middle of the road alloy.

NEXT, we tried to determine the copper wash/plating of the bullet. As best we could measure it and try to determine it's alloy as well, it doesn't look good for the shooters. It is a "Wash" of a copper alloy. little copper and lots of tin.

There is a VERY thin coating of a Copper/Tin "washed" onto the outside of the bullet. Thickness was measured and guessed at .0002 to .0004 thousandths of an inch.

To be a proper “safe” bullet to shoot out of any rifle or pistol there is supposed to be a copper alloy coating on the bullet of .003 to .005 thousandths of an inch. This is the lubrication and protection needed to fire bimetal or steel jacketed rounds from any firearm.

Based on our findings we can only warn shooters that they are saving money in on area that will cost them more in the end.

We are not allowed to use steel jacketed rounds on our range guns and any of the manufacturers that finds us doing so can and would yank our ability to be a certified range for their programs.

Each time you fire one of these rounds you are rubbing steel against steel under pressue and heat. It will cause permanent damage in a short period of time to your firearm. But then, like anything else, do as you want. It is your firearm and problem. We are here to help if we can.