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Well, I just got a batch of 5.45x39 ammo from MilitaryShooters.com. Here's how they advertised it:
This is #1 quality, new Russian production, 5.45x39 ammo from Barnaul. Lacquered steel cases with sealed bullets and primers. This non-corrosive ammo uses a 60 gr FMJ, copper-jacketed, lead/steel cored bullet.
It appears this is not true. The ammunition I got has copper plated steel jackets.

Will these steel jacketed bullets wear out the barrel noticeably quicker then the copper jacketed stuff would?
 

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What that is (if it's the same construction as the 7.62x54R) is a steel jacketed, lead core bullet with a copper wash. The copper wash acts as a bearing surface between the steel jacket and the barrel. No one I've talked to that's used it, nor myself have noticed any adverse effect on our rifles. Don't know if it increases wear over the long run, but as long as the plating is intact when the bullet leaves the barrel, it should pose a problem. Remember those commie guns are made to shoot this kind of ammo, this isn't something new for them.
 

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Yeah, but I expect those commie guns, and the ammo, were not designed with longevity of the rifling within the barrel as the top priority.

Is the steel used harder than copper? Why use steel instead of copper in the first place?
 

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Rich Z said:
Is the steel used harder than copper? Why use steel instead of copper in the first place?

Yes, but it's mild stell, not hardened like a penetrator core. The copper was/plating protects the bore. If it was bare steel, it would burnt he bore quickly.

Like Garand said, steel is cheaper. Same reason the cases are steel and not brass, it's a LOT cheaper. I found out when I started reloading that the rbass case is about 45% of the cost of a loaded round, that's how you save so much $$ reloading the same brass, and why you really can't beat the price handloading the commie rounds over just buying new steel-cased ammo.
 
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