With ammunition being scarce both at home and online, I decided to head to town and buy some locally. It was a fairly expensive trip since I wanted to both stock up on ammo, as well as try different brands of ammo.
When I got home I remembered a spot I had stashed a few boxes of Wolf HP 62Gr rounds that I had no intention of shooting right away, and one precious box of Tula. Adding those rounds to what I bought, I ended up with a grand total of 345 rounds of .223/5.56 ammunition divided not equally among 8 different “brands”.
I decided before I even tried to do any field comparison with them that I would do a physical comparison. I was surprised at how similar some of the ammo was, and how different some of the others were. I also noticed that I got bamboozled on more than one of my purchases.
Both the Brown Bear and Wolf WPA Military Classic (left) appeared to be identical (aside from the coating on the Brown Bear steel) all the way down to the stamping on the bottom of each cartridge. Both brands have “223 REM” and what appear to be 3 Russian letters stamped in identical patterns. As I dug further, I was stunned to find that the American Eagle and Federal rounds (right) were twins as well. Immediately my selection dropped from what appeared to be 8 brands to 6. I’m sure a little reading online ahead of time would’ve prevented my blunder but preparation is a fool’s game . . . moving on.
- Tula Ammo
- Wolf Performance Ammunition
- Wolf WPA Military Classic / Brown Bear
- American Eagle / Federal
- PPU Partizan
In my opinion, the brands that packaged their ammunition the best were Tula, Wolf Performance, and Winchester (below left). These were all separated by each individual cartridge. Tula and Wolf used plastic clip dividers and Winchester used more of a cardboard pocket divider.
My least favorite were the WPA and Brown Bear (above right). Both of those had their ammunition stapled in cardboard paper pouches and stuffed into a flimsy box. The box fell apart as I tried to peek inside at the store, but when I got home I found myself tearing a bit too forcefully just to open the pouches up.
PPU, Federal, and American Eagle weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either. For the bulk 100 round packaging of the Federal, there just isn’t any other way to do it besides the inversion of every other shell. Having only 20 rounds per box I felt that PPU could’ve packaged theirs better. American Eagle went the way of Tula, Wolf, and Winchester, minus the dividers. They just kind of laid there in the box, all facing the same direction.
All of the steel cased ammunition seemed to be about the same quality. I didn’t notice any blemishes or defects in any of the individual rounds. The Brown Bear was heavily coated in lacquer (I assume to protect the cases) but other than that seemed fine. Tula appeared to be a little cleaner around the primer whereas the Wolf had a lot of red material along the edge.
The brass rounds seemed to be of better quality than the steel (as they should be, since they cost more). Of the four brass options I had, I felt the PPU appeared the most consistent. I am VERY unfamiliar with brass ammo but all of them appeared to have some slight varying discoloration (I have no idea if that is important or not, it was just something I noticed upon examination) in different places. The PPU were consistent in their mystery markings while Federal and American Eagle were most inconsistent.
The second most important aspect of ammunition. The only ammunition that I purchased that I thought was overly priced was the Winchester 5.56. Having not fired it, I can’t compare price to performance (the MOST important aspect of ammunition). But paying $0.60 a round is too much for my backyard plinking, especially if this stuff acts the way Ryan’s Winchester ammo did. Tula remains undefeated in price at $0.25 a round (probably why it was sold out EVERYWHERE) but the WPA was a close second at $0.30 a round.
The Federal and American Eagle ammunition were the next highest at $0.35 each. I figured buying the 100 round box of Federal would provide a discount of SOME sort but no, it did not. The 20 round boxes of its twin, the American eagle, were priced exactly the same per unit.
Rounding off my totals, the Brown Bear came in at $0.40 per round and the PPU 5.56 came in at $0.45 each.
I was unable to test the ammunition today, but plan to very soon. I am going to try shooting all of the different brands from a clean rifle, rested on a bipod, at 50 yards to measure their grouping. I will fire large strings, probably 10-15 shots at a time, pausing to aim carefully between shots. It will be in no way a professional test, but it will provide at least SOME relevant data.
What I expect to find is that the brass ammunition performs better than the steel. I also imagine that the steel ammo will muck up my chamber and barrel a bit more (though nothing significant with under 50 rounds each). I don’t however expect the brass to perform on a level so much better than the steel that it justifies the added cost. 10 – 15 cents goes a long way when you (and probably a friend or two) start blasting through 30 round magazines full. If I were able to test out to 100 yards or farther, there would probably be a significant difference between the two types. Unfortunately, here at Backyard Shooting Range 1, we don’t have the room for that.
If anyone has a suggestion for something to include in my test to make it more thorough or more scientific, leave me a comment and I’ll do all I can to incorporate it into my plans.