I am not a big fan of steel-cased ammunition. It has never really been that much of a savings per round vs. the quality you have to deal with. Recently (Ammoman.com) was kind enough to reach out and provided some ammunition to us. One of the rounds sent to us for testing is the new Winchester USA Forged ammunition line in 9mm. The USA Forged line is Winchester’s attempt to get in on the cheap, high volume shooting steel-cased ammunition market, but offer a slightly better product than the foreign steel-cased ammunitions on the market.
There are some slight differences in the USA Forged line vs. other steel-cased ammunition. The Winchester USA Forged is 100% USA made and it uses an all lead bullet core with brass jacket (FMJ). There are no bi-metal components in the bullet. It has a non corrosive boxer primer and uses a clean burning powder, per the manufactures markings on the box.
I shot 200 rounds of Federal American Eagle 115grn FMJ before switching to the steel-cased USA Forged 115grn FMJ, just to compare how the steel functioned against a decent brass offering. I used a 19 year old Gen2 Glock 19 and a brand new H&K VP9 to test the Forged ammunition. Each firearm had 100 rounds of American Eagle though it before using the USA Forged ammunition.
I shot 450 rounds of the Winchester USA Forged 9mm. As I was loading rounds I noticed how scraped up and ruff the steel casings were. The Forged ammo does not have a lacquer coating or any kind of washed finish on it that I could see. Winchester says they have a proprietary surface treatment on the casings but the three boxes I received, most of the casings look pretty rough. The proprietary surface treatment is extremely inconsistent. It looks like plain exposed steel most of the time. In several images and videos from some of the industry magazines out there, all the rounds looked the same, with a nice even casing coating. This was definitely not the case for the boxes I received.
It took a little more elbow grease to load up magazines as they seemed to not want to slide in smoothly, due to the rough casings. Once loaded up, I quickly started dumping rounds down range at a rapid pace. I noticed a little more recoil from the Forged ammo. The steel casings were really flying out forcefully. I quickly burned through 85 rounds. On the 86th round I had a Failure to Extract (FTE) resulting in a Double Feed. I notice the casing was a quarter of the way out of the chamber and another round had fed into the back of it. I cleared the magazine and racked the slide to reengage the head of the un-extracted casing. Once the extractor and slide reengaged the lip of the casing I was unable to rack the slide to extract it. I ended up having to smack the nose of the slide against the ground several times, to unseat the stuck casing enough to rack it out. The casing looked normal but you can see where the extractor slipped of the rim of the casing.
Except for the one (1) FTE resulting in a double feed, I had no other firing function issues. There were a few things that caught my attention as far as the quality of the individual rounds. At the end of the day these did not cause actual function issues but it did make the overall use and enjoyment of the Forged ammunition not as enjoyable. They are a little nit-picky but worth mentioning.
First; This ammunition is dirty. Dirty to handle and dirty shooting. It says clean burning powder is used and I was thinking, compared to what?, sticking my hands into a bag of coal dust. I’ve been to courses where I shot 1500 rounds in a day and my hands were not this dirty. Second; There was a large noticeable powder cloud after firing each round and from time to time un-burned powder pieces would ignite in the air after firing rounds. It seemed to be as dirty shooting as any other steel-cased foreign ammo. Third; The above mentioned difficulty loading magazines. The rough, dirty and inconstantly coated shell casings just made loading more difficult.
I did not spend any time on in-depth formal accuracy testing. The USA Forged ammunition is 115grn FMJ plinking ammo and I shot it all off hand. I took my target from 7 to 25 yards and all in between. All the hits were there and the round is going to hit what you’re shooting at. At 25 yards I shot 20 rounds and they were all center mass within an extreme of 4 to 6 inches of center from each other, that’s good enough for me.
Overall the Winchester USA Forged ammo worked. It does have a slight edge over foreign/imported steel-cased ammunition as far as the FMJ bullet is concerned. The best thing the Forged ammunition has going for it is the traditional FMJ bullet construction. I don’t think it is worth shooting over any brass-cased ammunition. In checking on Blazer Brass, PMC Bronze, Speer Lawman and American Eagle, all were between .21 and .26 cents per round depending quantity. I found the USA Forged is also going for .21 to .26 cents per round. At these prices I don’t personally see that the Winchester steel-cased offering is saving any money. Thanks again to (Ammoman.com) for supplying the ammunition for the review.