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Magtech Steel Case Ammo: Budget Ammo Is Back?



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Steel case ammo isn’t what most of us think of when we think 9mm. But if you’re looking for the cheapest ammo on the market, steel is often what you’ll find.

Back in the days of Russian import ammo, steel case was always the cheap option. But now that isn’t an option, can the Brazilian-made Magtech steel case ammo be the new big thing in cheap range food?

Let’s find out.

This article was only made possible by AmmunitionToGo.com sending me a big pile of Magtech Steel Case to shoot and test. Big thanks to them for that!

BRASS VS. STEEL VS. ALUMINUM VS. NICKEL 

Just so we’re on the same page, this is a quick breakdown of the general pros and cons of different metals commonly used in ammo cases.

Brass

This is what we know and love as the most common metal used for cartridge cases. Specifically, C260 Cartridge Brass, this type of copper-zinc alloy has been around for a long time and has a wide range of applications outside of cartridges. For example, look closely at your home’s door hinges. Good chance they are brass. And if they are, there is a very good chance that the brass used was C260.

Great at conducting heat, resisting corrosion, and being more ductile than most other brasses — cartridge brass is great for most cartridge applications. 

C260 expands for a great gas seal, contracts for extraction from the chamber, and is reusable. The downside is that because of the amount of copper used to make the brass alloy, brass is generally not cheap.

Steel

While technically slightly less weight than brass, steel case ammo is often used because it’s cheap. Very roughly speaking, the raw materials needed for steel cases are about a third of the price of brass.

That’s all that steel is best at. The expansion rate of steel isn’t amazing so you don’t get as good of a gas seal, contraction rate, and friction coefficient are both worse than brass so extracting the case is harder and that can lead to more wear or even breaking the extractor. 

Steel is also just bad for the chamber, period. This is more of a many thousands of rounds problem, but it does add up. For pistols, it is less of an issue but it is still more wear and your barrel will become “shot out” much sooner than if you use brass.

Aluminum

Another metal used in “cheap” ammo when brass prices are on the rise, Aluminum is surprisingly good at being cartridge cases.

Aluminum makes an outstanding gas seal, is highly corrosion resistant, is about a 1/3rd the weight of brass, and extracts wonderfully from the chamber due to a great friction coefficient. 

But Aluminum doesn’t reload well and tends to crack with repeated use, making it poorly suited for reloading. 

Nickel

This is normally used as a plating metal over brass. More corrosion-resistant than brass and easier to extract from a chamber, Nickel is almost exclusively used in defensive ammo designed to sit in your mag or gun for months or even years at a time while also being exposed to things like salt from sweat.

Hornady’s Critical Duty with a Nickle coating

Expensive to use, expensive to plate on brass, and really only offers benefits in a niche application — Nickel is great at what it does but isn’t ideal for other applications simply due to price.

ON THE RANGE: MAGTECH STEEL CASE AMMO

After almost 1,000 rounds of the stuff, I don’t have anything negative to say about this ammo — other than the normal drawbacks of steel-cased ammo.

Everything was reliable. I shot this ammo in a SIG P320, MAC 2011, Tisas 1911, PSA Dagger, PSA AK-V, and my KE Arms PCC with a Faxon barrel. Everything ate it, nothing had an issue. I have a total of zero malfunctions of any kind.

Honestly, that is exactly what you should expect from ammo that is made fairly well, and Magtech has always run reliably for me in their brass lines.

The only thing I noticed was in an indoor pistol range, the ammo tended to spark out of the barrel more than I was expecting. I’m not sure why I observed this in that range and nowhere else, but it was a little odd. Maybe it was the lighting, or maybe it was the extra stuff already in the air making the flash more visible, can’t say for sure.

Something to its credit, the Magtech Steel Case was able to survive InRangeTV’s Handgun Brutality in St. George, Utah. If you’ve never shot in the area, it’s well known for a super fine red dusty sand that gets everywhere and can play hell on weapon reliability. 

But even with that added difficulty, the Magtech ran just fine. No feeding issues, no extraction issues. Frankly, I was a little surprised at how well it did in that environment. 

CHRONO RESULTS

Tested on a Garmin Xero C1 the Magtech Steel was about what I expected from a 4.5-inch barrel. 1,184 FPS average, 27.4 FPS STD DEV. This is a MUCH better result than what Wolf, Tula, and Red Standard steel case ammo provided back when you could get them. This goes to show that while Magtech is using steel cases, it is still loading the ammo with a much higher degree of quality than you used to get with the old steel case you may have been used to.

LOOSE ROUNDS

End of the day, Magtech Steel Case ammo is fine. It is higher quality than Russian steel case ammo used to be, but I would call it being on the lower side of par between other cheap range ammo options. Between this and Winchester, I would choose Magtech.

The main goal of steel-cased ammo is for it to be cheap, but Magtech’s steel doesn’t fulfill that like the old Tula and Wolf ammo did. Back when it was being imported, Tula and Wolf would be 12 or 13 cents per round compared to brass cases that were 17-19 cents per round.

Saving $50 or more per case was a compelling reason to suffer through Russian 9mm.

But with current ammo prices and depending on the retailer, Magtech steel might only be a penny or two different per round. 

Saving money is saving money, but I’ve always been of the opinion that spending a penny more per round for better-quality ammo is normally worth it.

That said, be on the lookout for a good deal on Magtech. If you can find it for 3 or more cents per round shipped less than comparable range-use brass-cased ammo, jump on it. 

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