The clerk in the sporting goods section of your local Wally World told you not to buy the less expensive Russian & Ukrainian manufactured, steel-case, bi-metal bullet ammunition because it is dirty and will wear out your guns. The guy working in a retail store doesn’t have any idea of what he is talking about. Or does he?
Lacquer vs. Polymer Coated Cases:
In the mid 1990s I purchased a 1000 round case of Wolf brand, Russian manufactured, steel case 9mm 115 grain FMJ ammo. The cases were lacquer coated so as to keep it water proof, protect it during long-term storage, and keep the steel cases from rusting. I bought it with the intention of shooting from my new “Gen 2.5” Glock 26. In those golden days of cheap ammunition I was known to blow through it pretty fast. My guns stayed hot. While my Glock would eat anything with a brass case, I couldn’t even make it through a single 50 round box without the lacquer melting off the cases and causing them to stick in the chamber and not eject. The only way to get the empty cases out was to lock the slide back and pop the stuck empty out with a cleaning rod inserted through the muzzle. I had to use a brass chamber brush and scrub and scrub to get the chamber clear of all of the lacquer build up so that the gun would function again. I then had 950 rounds of shitty ammo and didn’t know what to do with it. Eventually one of our other members and I ran all 950 rounds through a Class-3 H&K MP5. The sub-gun shot every round full-auto without a single hiccup. It was filthy afterwards. I didn’t have to clean it, but I’m sure that who ever had to scrub 950 rounds worth of lacquer was pissed!
Fast forward to present day: Only Russian made “Brown Bear” labeled ammunition still has a lacquer finish. You can usually only find it in 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm, both of which are Kalashnikov rounds. (AK’s don’t care what you shoot out of them and will eat most anything.) Wolf and Tula do not lacquer any more. I have fired thousands of round of the modern Wolf and Tula ammunition out of my ARs, AKs, and Glocks. It always functions in my guns and is perfect for target practice.
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Will Steel Case Ammo Damage Your AR-15 Extractor?
Below are some YouTube videos that I’ve collected on the subject of whether steel case ammunition will damage the extractor in your AR-15.
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Will Bi-Metal Bullets Damage Your Barrel?:
Below are some YouTube videos that I’ve collected on the subject of whether if bi-metal jacketed bullets (instead of traditional copper) found in some of the Russian and Ukrainian ammunition will damage your barrel.
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Real World Testing:
While these YouTube videos are insightful with just enough information to help you form your own opinion, I highly recommend that you check out:
These guys use four identical AR-15 rifles and fire 10,000 rounds of Federal brass case ammo, 10,000 rounds of Wolf steel case ammo, 10,000 of Tula steel case ammo, and 10,000 rounds of Brown Bear steel case ammo. Throughout the 10,000 rounds of each type of ammo they test for accuracy, velocity, throat erosion, and chamber pressure. Their results may further challenge your opinions.
So what if the Tulammo wares the barrel a little faster, AR-15 replacement barrels are so cheap, it far outweighs the expense of copper / brass ammunition. As far as accuracy goes, I can’t tell any difference out to 175 yards and 90% of my shooting is less than 175.