Can I use Steel-Cased Ammo in my AR-15?

Can I use Steel-Cased Ammo in my AR-15?

Pros and Cons of Steel-Cased Ammunition

As shooters start practicing and training more frequently, the questions around ammunition and costs become more pressing. One question I get from time to time is, “Can I use steel-cased ammo in my AR-15?” This blog post comprehensively analyzes this topic, covering the pros and cons, potential issues, and recommended guidelines when using steel-cased ammunition in your AR-15 rifle.

Understanding Steel-Cased Ammunition

Before we delve into the specifics of using steel-cased ammo in your AR-15, let’s first understand what it is and how it differs from other types of ammunition.

polymer-coated steel case Ammunition

As the name suggests, steel-cased ammunition features a steel casing instead of the more common brass casing found in traditional cartridges. The steel casing is coated with a polymer layer to improve its functionality and reduce friction during the feeding process. This type of ammunition is

often more cost-effective than brass-cased rounds, making it an attractive choice for many shooters.

Pros of Using Steel-Cased Ammo in an AR-15

Pros of Using Steel-Cased Ammo in an AR-15

  • Cost-Effectiveness: The primary advantage of steel-cased ammunition is its affordability. Compared to brass-cased rounds, steel-cased ammo tends to be significantly cheaper, allowing shooters on a budget to save money while still enjoying their time at the range.
  • Availability: Steel-cased ammo is readily available, especially in popular calibers like 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington. Its wide availability ensures that shooters can find ammunition for their AR-15 rifles even during increased demand.
  • Functionality in Most AR-15s: Contrary to popular belief, most AR-15 rifles can function with steel-cased ammunition reliably. Modern AR-15 platforms are built to handle various types of ammunition, including steel-cased rounds.

Cons of Using Steel-Cased Ammo in an AR-15

  • Steel vs. Brass: The primary disadvantage of steel-cased ammo is that steel is not as malleable as brass. Over time, this can increase wear and tear on the firearm’s chamber and extraction components. As a result, some shooters believe that using steel-cased ammunition might shorten the lifespan of their AR-15.
  • Potential Extraction Issues: Steel-cased ammo may cause extraction issues, especially if the rifle is not properly maintained. The steel casing tends to grip the chamber walls more firmly than brass, which can lead to failure-to-extract malfunctions if the gun is dirty or not lubricated adequately.
  • Non-Reloadable: Unlike brass-cased ammunition, steel-cased rounds are not reloadable. After firing, you’ll have to discard the steel casings, adding to environmental concerns. Reloaders will miss the cost-saving benefits of reloading their brass cases, which could offset the initial savings of using steel-cased ammo.

Myth Busting: Steel-Cased Ammo and Accuracy

One common myth surrounding steel-cased ammo is that it negatively affects accuracy. However, dispelling this notion and presenting a more nuanced perspective can be beneficial.

Shooting long range ar-15

While it is true that steel-cased ammunition may yield slightly lower accuracy than high-quality brass-cased ammo, the difference is often negligible for the average shooter. If you’re a competitive marksman or precision shooter, the small decrease in accuracy may be noticeable, but for most recreational shooters, the impact will be minimal.

In reality, other factors, such as shooter skill, optics, and environmental conditions, play a more significant role in determining accuracy. Steel-cased ammo should perform adequately if you use your AR-15 for casual plinking or self-defense purposes.

Potential Issues and How to Mitigate Them

AR-15 Chamber with steel casing
  • Extraction and Chamber Maintenance: To ensure proper functioning and mitigate extraction issues when using steel-cased ammo, it’s crucial to maintain your AR-15 rifle regularly. Cleaning the chamber thoroughly and using a high-quality lubricant will help reduce friction and improve the extraction process.
  • Choosing Quality Steel-Cased Ammo: Not all steel-cased ammunition is created equal. Some brands may use lower-quality steel or inconsistent manufacturing processes, which can lead to issues with feeding and extraction. Stick to reputable brands known for producing reliable steel-cased ammunition.
  • Consider a Chrome-Lined Barrel: If you extensively use steel-cased ammo, consider investing in an AR-15 with a chrome-lined barrel. Chrome-lined barrels are more resistant to wear caused by steel-cased ammunition, extending the overall lifespan of your rifle.

Can I use steel-cased ammo in my AR-15? Conclusion

Some potential drawbacks include increased wear on the firearm’s components and extraction issues; these concerns can be mitigated through regular maintenance and choosing quality steel-cased ammo.

For recreational shooters looking to save on ammunition costs, steel-cased ammo is an option to look at further with decent performance and reliability. If you decide to look at it closer, do your diligence on whether it’s a fit for your particular rifle. However, for competitive shooters and those with high precision requirements, brass-cased ammunition may still be the preferred choice.

Remember that proper firearm maintenance, understanding your rifle’s capabilities, and using quality ammunition are key to ensuring a positive shooting experience with steel-cased ammo in your AR-15.

Can I use steel-cased ammo in my AR-15? FAQ

Is steel-cased ammo safe to use in all AR-15 rifles?

In general, modern AR-15 rifles are designed to handle steel-cased ammunition safely. However, ensuring your rifle is properly maintained and cleaned regularly is essential to minimize potential extraction issues.

Can I reload steel-cased ammunition?

No, steel-cased ammo is not reloadable like brass-cased rounds. After firing, you’ll need to dispose of the steel casings properly.

Will using steel-cased ammo void my AR-15’s warranty?

Most reputable firearm manufacturers won’t void your warranty for using steel-cased ammunition. However, it’s always best to check with the specific manufacturer and read their warranty terms to be sure.

Are there any specific brands of steel-cased ammo that you recommend?

Several reputable brands produce high-quality steel-cased ammunition. Some popular options include Wolf, TulAmmo, and Barnaul. Always ensure you’re purchasing from a reliable source to guarantee the best performance and consistency.


  • Michael Hodgdon

    A firearm, shooting, outdoor, and hunting enthusiast for over 35 years. Thank you all for the suggestions on topics you would like to see; we'll keep posting as you keep sending them in. Please comment; we will try to answer all comments quickly.

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Product added to cart
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop