Cheap steel ammo will ruin your bore

Cheap steel ammo will ruin your bore.

Until I read the attached article, all I knew about damage being done by cheap ammo was the anecdotal online talk about how everyone knows this stuff is OK.

Everyone didn’t actually know what they were talking about, judging from this exhaustive test program.

Is there somebody with a verfied knowledge on the subject here and can give a short statement on the validity of the statements there?

I am not expert enough to state anything meaningful but a few points are rising my doubts.
But I shall remain silent about the details.

As far as I can remember, it’s the most scientifically independent test done on the subject matter.

In my humble opinion a scientific approach would have been to have a test with identical components, the one and only difference between the cartridges being the component to be studied, for example gilding jacket versus gilding metal clad steel.
I find it odd that irrelevant attributes (like flat dark earth or charging handles) are covered at length, but one of the core issues, method and equipment of pressure measurement is not described at all. Beyond using weapons from the same manufacturer, nothing was done to ensure identical barrel steel qualities and treatment on all weapons.
The result is in my view limited to: “Cheap ammo is probably harder on your gun.” Surprise, surprise.


Jochem, you named just a few of the points! Thanks!

In terms of using steel cased, or clad steel jacketed bullets in any gun, I have found from many a conversation with customers in my store that the cheap guns with loose tolerances are fine to use for many, many thousands of rds as one would expect. Also, Russian or Eastern Euroean guns which are accustomed to this ammo are always fine. In terms of relatively very expensive guns with tighter tolerances (a Wilson Combat $3000 AR of some sort), then these sorts of guns do not like the steel case/jacket ammo and they react poorly to it.

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I found the report interesting reading. As I understood, the difference in color was to prevent confusion over which weapon was using which ammunition. Is this a Lab Standard test? No! Is it an interesting test for the average shooter, who is unlikely to read, much less understand a Lab Standard test? Yes.

Just my opinion. For the stated purpose, I thought it was pretty good.

Thanks for posting.


An interesting read.

My first impression was that; the Direct Impingement (DI) gas system does not look particularly good when making such ammunition comparisons. The fouling looked quite dire and the stoppages were probably a reflection of the overall suitability of the ammunition for that particular DI gas system.

One of the historical comments made about DI is that ………”it sh…s where it eats.”

Perhaps, this comparison reinforces that old adage :-)

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt…

First off - the AR does not use “true” DI, it uses a variant known as the Stoner piston system. The bolt carrier itself works as a piston. Gases are not bled directly into the receiver like many “experts” claim, the gases are vented into the bolt carrier, then bled out the side. A true DI rifle will literally just shoot the gases into the receiver (Ljungman AG42 for example).

Secondly - Anyone who has shot piston and “DI” guns side by side will know that the piston guns (AK, HK416, Mini-14, etc) will foul much more in the chamber and receiver area. Especially with a suppressor! This is because of the much higher bore gas pressure during unlocking, than what the Stoner AR system has. A suppressed 416 will shoot much more gas into your eyes than a suppressed M4, especially with properly adjusted gas systems.

The cheap and low quality powder used in Barnaul and TulAmmo isn’t the same as what the AR system is made to use, and the issues with the gas port size/dwell time shows this…



This was an interesting report even with its limitations. Not scientifically rigorous as Lew said, but better than most found on the internet.

JPeelen, your point about barrel steels is a good one. The same manufacturer may even use steel from multiple sources. Unless all of the barrels came from the same melt of steel (known as a “heat”), same bar stock and heat treatment, it is likely that the properties varied and this did not appear to be captured (a simple hardness test would have been a good start). This alone may be enough to cause some of what was observed. The chromed bore also added more variables.

There is a way to test multiple changes (“multi-factor”) by using a method known as “Design of Experiments” (DOE), but it requires a good knowledge of statistics to properly set up the experiments to avoid misinterpreting the outcome.

Ole, nice write up on the gas systems. Can’t blame the gun for dirty ammo!

Ole said it again, remaining silent likely would save me from embarassment, but here a new try to entertain you all.

The whole is headlined as “steel ammo” (besides that being wrong terminology as is known, and “steel cased ammo” further down in the text makes it almost worse) what is missleading since this here is a test of different brands using soft steel jackets. In my view 2 different things.

Going by the headline and soft steel jacketed projectiles (terminology!) I would have expected that exactly all components in the test were identical but the projectiles in question.
Means same case, primer and propellant and as Jochem said same guns and there in particular same barrel material.
Only then a conclusion on what is ruining a gun can be done. In particular as propellant is not less important in this issue and as we see every cartridge tested came with a different propellant.

I am almost sure there is test reports (by the US military, available on DTIC maybe?) which have evaluated this in a scientific way as the issue must have been on the minds of generations of engineers.

I am not questioning the findings in this report at all but more the framework and technical approach.
And there must be many factors in all this which went unobserved in the report above since it is also known that there is large caliber projectiles with sintered iron driving bands which caused less barrel wear than copper bands.

Just my opinion.

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Alex - think these guys know that Geco among others use soft iron/soft iron jackets in their bullets (which are very very popular for IPSC shooters)?


Hi Ole,
Appreciate your reply.

Since the late 60’s, early 70’s, I have had the; ‘pleasure,’ of reading the DI vs Gas Piston debate.
There has, probably, been thousands of hours of heated discourse on this particular subject, by a myriad of experts, in a host of countries …to such a degree; that my comment was posted; ‘tongue-in-cheek.’

I’ll steer away from attempted levity in the future :-)

Best regards,

I note the one parameter that was not recorded in this test was barrel temperature in relation to number of shots fired. I read, once upon a time, that the flame temperature of the burning powder is the number one contributor to barrel throat erosion. In my estimation, the test does not prove that bimetal bullets are the culprit in barrel wear until barrel temperatures are examined.