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Steel Case Ammo vs. Brass Case Ammo

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If you’ve seen the movie War Dogs, then you are familiar with the story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two pot smoking friends from Miami Beach who landed a $298 million contract from the Department of Defense to supply ammunition to the Afghan military in 2007.

The way these guys got started was the Department of Defense was required by law to open up every purchase to public bidding, all of which were posted on a website known as FedBizOpps.

At the time, the U.S. government was looking to supply militias in Iraq and Afghanistan with weapons from Eastern Europe, utilizing private brokers to act as proxies for the government.

Under George W. Bush’s administration, a quota of the contracts were allotted to small businesses such as the one created by Diveroli and Packouz.

Initially, Diveroli won a $15 million contract selling old rifles made in Russia to the U.S. government, which would then pass on the weapons to the Iraqi army.

The arms dealer was only 21 when he enlisted the help of his friend Packouz to help him with his government contracts.

Together, the two holed up in a one-bedroom apartment, perusing federal contracts while smoking pot.

Diveroli would win State Department deals, only to persuade the government to substitute high end equipment for cheaply made versions in order to increase his profit margin.

The biggest contract the duo secured was a $298 million contract that called for 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition as well as massive numbers of grenades, rockets, and rifles.

In addition, the contract stated the ammunition could be ‘serviceable without qualification’, a point Diveroli and Packouz ran with.

In other words, the U.S. government failed to establish standards for the age, quality, or shipping of the ammo.

The biggest problem was Diveroli and Packouz purchased ammo from Albania, which was originally purchased from China.

The thing is the U.S. government bans the purchase of Chinese munitions.

After winning the deal, Diveroli and Packouz hired Kosta Trebicka, an Albanian businessman, whose job was to remove ammunition from wooden crates with Chinese markings and repack it into cardboard boxes before shipment to Afghanistan.

Next, the two arms dealers made a decision that would bring them down. They froze Trebicka out of money that he was owed.

The furious businessman then turned snitch, and started recording conversations about the repackaged Chinese ammo and blowing the whistle to the U.S. government.

Trebicka later met with a New York Times reporter as well, who made headlines with the story.

The reality is all ammo is not created equal. What I mean is cheap Chinese ammo may not be the highest quality, and it’s something you want to avoid.

Another thing is, there are a lot of questions about steel cased ammo vs. brass cased ammo.

With that being said, I want to share with you a few key points in the comparison of steel vs. brass.

Brass Can Be Reloaded, Steel Can’t (safely). Brass is softer and more workable so it can reliably be reshaped to its original dimensions and reloaded.

What I mean is resizing the case for reloading is simple with brass.

In comparison, steel cases can’t be resized easily, and so once they expand they typically stay expanded, meaning you get only one or two safe uses out of the case before it has to be thrown away.

Steel Needs Case Coatings. Steel is naturally less slick than brass, so most if not all steel ammo comes with a coating to help extract easier and stay free of rust.

On the other hand, brass is naturally corrosion-resistant and slicker than steel, so you don’t need to coat brass the way you do steel.

Usually, steel coatings come in two types, polymer, which is more modern and more expensive, and the cheaper lacquer.

Lacquer coatings like what you’ll find on cheaper Brown Bear steel-cased ammo are commonly believed to be less reliable than polymer coatings because the lacquer tends to melt.

Brass Seals Better. Brass ammo creates a better chamber seal than steel, meaning you have less blow-back into the chamber.

Brass is better at this sealing action because it is more moldable than steel, so it expands to more snugly fit the walls of the chamber and you have less gas that passes back into your gun every time it’s fired.

However, steel has a poor seal and creates more opportunity for malfunctions due to carbon buildup, potentially leading to a firearm using steel-cased ammo to be less reliable in the long run.

Overall, there is no question that brass cased ammo is more reliable, and will cause less wear on your firearm.

On the other hand, steel cased ammo is oftentimes half the price of similar brass ammo, so if you regularly shoot hundreds of rounds it may be more realistic financially.

In my experience I have personally seen steel ammo cause malfunctions at a higher rate compared to brass.

For this reason, I would never use steel ammo for home defense, or in your everyday carry pistol.

However, if you choose to use steel for target practice, it’s a much cheaper option.

When it comes to quality ammo I would stay with brands such as Hornady, Federal Premium, Winchester, and Remington.

I personally use Hornady in my home defense weapon, and I would never trust a steel cased ammo with my life.

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