Everyone in the prepping world seems to have their own opinion about something.
This is especially true when it comes to firearms. I cannot tell you how many articles I have written comparing one gun or one type of ammo to another. Everyone seems to have their favorites.
One example of this is the debate between brass and steel ammunition. Both are commonly found in gun shops and online, but which one is better for preppers? Keep in mind that preppers are looking for long term solutions, not quick fixes.
In this article, we will consider the pros and cons for both brass and steel ammo in relation to its usefulness for a prepper.
Why the Debate?
Let’s just dive in and look at the most common arguments for each side.
Brass is generally going to allow a better chamber seal than a steel round. This means that you get less blowback into the receiver and chamber.
Brass bends easier than steel, so it will expand outward to create a better seal in the chamber than a rigid steel round. You will get less powder and gas moving back into the chamber, so it will stay clean longer.
Steel is a less expensive option, but with the seal being weaker it will make for a dirtier firearm. This means more time cleaning.
Debris building up in a firearm will create malfunctions making it a less reliable firearm. Is it really worth the money you save to go with steel?
Extraction Causing Ripped Brass
Most of the eastern firearms we all know and love use straight-walled cartridges that extract with a small amount of pressure.
However, there are plenty of AK’s and FAL’s rebuilt for straight-walled cartridges.
If they are not adjusted properly, they can rip heads from brass casings. These Eastern guns extract with much more force, and often the brass casing cannot handle this.
In this case, steel could function better.
Typically, firearms with shorter and more aggressive extractions are going to have more problems than guns with longer cycle times. Because of this, a delayed blowback-operated gun like a FAMAS is going to have more problems with ripped brass than an AR.
In most cases brass rounds will work fine in any of these weapons. You may fire several thousand rounds before you ever notice a difference in performance between brass and steel rounds.
There has been much discussion about Eastern European countries building rifles that worked better with steel rounds because they already had a surplus of these rounds. For someone who likes to hit the range once a month, you may never notice the difference.
However, the average prepper is going to rely on their weapon for survival. This means that they expect it to fire properly every time.
Extraction Causing Jams
Steel may be less likely to rip in certain guns, but it is more likely to jam because of it’s strength.
In addition to steel being less likely to give, the metal itself is more likely to expand and get stuck.
This could be a simple inconvenience, but for the prepper it would mean life or death.
Quality and Accuracy
Many people in the firearms community claim that steel rounds are lower quality and result in a less accurate shot.
While it may be true that the average steel round is lower quality than the average brass round, this is not by design.
Yes, steel rounds are often marketed towards a lower price point and are therefore lower quality.
However, you can buy high quality steel rounds if you do some checking.
There is absolutely no proof that brass rounds are more accurate than steel.
This one is fairly simple. Steel rounds are generally less expensive than comparable brass rounds.
In general, you will see a significant difference in price when you shop off of the shelf. This is just because most steel rounds are manufactured using less rigorous specifications so they can get to a lower price point.
This may be the biggest factor for preppers.
Brass casing can be safely reloaded, whereas steel rounds cannot.
Between target practice, hunting, and self-defense the prepper spends a lot of money on ammunition. If this can be reduced by reloading brass casings, it is hard to ignore those savings.
I read about a recent test comparing a common brass round versus a common comparable steel round.
Each round type was fired 10,000 times.
While the AR-15 with brass rounds had no jams or malfunctions, the steel rounds in an AK-47 had a 99.85% success rate.
For the average shooter, this difference is so small that you probably wouldn’t notice it.
So… Which One?
As is with most things in survival, there is not a simple answer to this question.
If you plan to reload your ammunition, then brass is the way to go. That one is easy. If you do not plan to reload, you just need to weigh the benefits of each option along with your priorities.
If you fire only western weapons and a willing to pay a little more, go with brass. If you fire eastern weapons, go with steel. If you just want the cheapest option possible, steel is your best bet.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to make a permanent decision up front. Perhaps you should try out one box of each and see if you notice a difference. Do not just look at the accuracy of the shots, but also the recoil, how clean the ejection is, if the brass is torn, and if there are any jams.
Everyone can always use a little extra target practice. In this case, it may make your decision on which type of round to use quite easy.