By Anthony Welsch, LuckyGunner.com
When it comes to .223 ammunition, you get what you pay for in many ways when it comes to performance but there may be more than just price to consider, according to a recent test conducted by the team at LuckyGunner Labs.
LuckyGunner’s ambitious ammo test paired 10,000 rounds of ammunition with one of four Bushmaster AR-15 rifles. Brown Bear, Federal, Tula, and Wolf were all represented in the testing. The team set out to experiment and see the impact of brass vs. steel cased ammunition while also observing other factors like the effect of lacquer coating, a trait common with the Brown Bear brand, on 223 ammo.
Federal, brass-cased ammunition that is typically the most costly of the four manufacturers tested, performed flawlessly through 10,000 rounds of grueling trigger pulls. Federal also scored best for accuracy as the testing went on.
Federal: 10,000 Rounds Fired, 0 Stoppages
Brown Bear: 10,000 Rounds Fired, 9 Stoppages
Wolf: 10,000 Rounds Fired, 15 Stoppages
Near the end of testing, experienced shooters will be interested to know Brown Bear ammunition delivered much lower muzzle velocity than Wolf and Federal.
Tula presented some unique challenges during testing.
At around the 200-round mark of testing, the AR-15 firing Tula began to see repeated reload problems. After experimenters’ best efforts to tweak the firearm to work with the ammunition, firing with a Bushmaster was abandoned in favor of a Spikes Tactical mid-length AR-15. With the new firearm, the ammunition performed much better. Andrew Tuohy, the author of the experiment believes a relatively small gas port in the Bushmaster AR-15 led to the difficulties firing Tula. Spikes firearms are equipped with a larger gas port.
Further testing indicated Tula’s gas port pressure fell 3,000 to 4,000 psi below the other manufacturers included in the test.
During testing, the weapons saw minimal cleaning, lubrication, and were shot very hot.
In terms of build-up on the weapons, the Federal carbine had the dirtiest lower receiver. The upper receiver and bolt carrier group assembly of the Federal carbine also took significantly longer to clean than carbines assigned to Brown Bear and Wolf– although it should be kept in mind that the Brown Bear carbine’s gas tube and gas key were so fouled with carbon after 5,000 rounds that it would no longer function reliably. Nearly the same level of buildup was found on the replacement key and tube after they had seen just short of 5000 rounds.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the extensive testing is this: When you consider the costs associated with each manufacturer of ammunition, steel can save you a lot of money. At the end of LuckyGunner’s testing, the barrels of both the firearm shooting Wolf and Brown Bear were completely shot out. Even with a barrel replacement every 5,000 rounds, an AR-15 shooter would save themselves money by purchasing replacement parts and ordering steel ammo.
Of course, whether that savings is worth the cost of performance is up to each individual shooter.
Editor’s note: Check out the full test results – they are extensive and profoundly interesting. Click here to get the results http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/