The End of Brass Cartridge Cases?

The End of Brass Cartridge Cases?
The bases of the new NAS3 can be anodized different colors for easy identification photo from Shooting Sports USAweb photo

Shooters of all walks, with all manner of intents and purposes, have had one thing in common for about a century and a half: their ammunition has always used brass cases.

Sure, these days some ammunition is produced using alternative case materials such as polymers, aluminum, or nickel alloys, but these cause feeding problems in some guns, usually because they aren't as flexible as brass (in the case of aluminum, it can be too soft). These attributes—along with the fact that many alternate-material cases use Berdan primers, which are difficult to extract and replace, requiring special tools—means they're also either difficult or impossible to reload.

Brass cases have been a happy medium for all that time: not too expensive, but not cheap, and pistol cases can be reloaded 10 times or more. But all that could all be a thing of the past.

A company called Shell Shock Technologies (SST) has a new two-piece, nickel-aluminum-stainless steel 9mm NAS3 case that has a list of advantages, according to the, namely that it's stronger, cheaper, and half the weight of brass. That's big for the military, law enforcement, and anyone else who carries a number of spare magazines on the regular.

It has better corrosion resistance than brass and it’s magnetic, so spent cases at the range can be picked up easily.

These points should raise the eyebrows of anyone who reloads: the NAS3 cases have more internal volume, provide more consistent ignition, develop +P velocities without +P pressures, and—ready?—the cases won't stretch, meaning there is no trimming required when reloading, and they can withstand 40 or more reloads.

Plus, they can be anodized different colors, so you can keep your loads separate and easily distinguishable, or just to make your cases easily distinguishable from other competitors at a match.

"Convenience and coolness aside, SST NAS`3 may be the most significant advance in cartridge case technology since brass replaces the paper cartridge around 1870.

The End of Brass Cartridge Cases?
The NAS3 cases are actually two pieces. photo from Shooting Sports USAweb photo

The article goes on to detail the new case attributes one by one. Here's a brief version:

Strength

The story says the manufacturer has tested the 9mm cases at more than 65,000 psi, which is really close to the 7.62 NATO (.308 Win.) proof load pressure. That's strong. SAAMI standard for 9mm ammo is 35,000 psi; 9mm +P is 38,500 psi. This is all overkill, because handguns can't handle rifle pressures even if the case could take it, but it just means the NAS3 case can take the hottest round you can run.

This strength is also why the cases can be reloaded so many times without trimming.

From the story: "The NAS3 case is a nickel-stainless steel alloy cylinder crimped to a nickel plated aluminum case head. Stainless steel does indeed have a higher tensile strength than brass, and so the case material doesn't 'flow' forward on firing and eventually need trimming, like a brass case, and it can withstand much higher chamber pressures than brass.

There has to be a downside, right? Yes, there is, when it comes to handloading:

The NAS3 is two-pieces, a head and body held together by a crimped joint. The body is like a funnel with the base of the stainless steel cylinder having a hollow tube extension that forms the primer's flash hole channel. The end protruding into the case head is flared and crimped to bond the two pieces together.

There is no stress put on this joint while the round is fired, but there would be if reloaded using standard dies that use the shellholder to pull the case out of the expanding and resizing dies, which could separate or loosen the two sections, forcing it to be discarded.

But a fix is on the way, according to SST, which said in the story that Shell Shock will soon be releasing a "simple attachment accessory to eliminate this issue and enable the use of NAS3 cases with inertia pullers."

Reliability

This story from ammoland.com says that last year "NAS3 cases passed a 1,000 round torture test with zero ammunition-related failures or malfunctions. In the torture test, Curtis Hallstrom of the VSO Gun Channel continuously fired 1,000 rounds of L-Tech 9mm FMJ with Shell Shock Technology's NAS3 cases through an Angstadt Arms UDP-9."

Price

NAS3 cases go for $60 for the first 500. That's $0.12 each, with price reductions for bigger orders. These days, new 9mm brass cases run from $0.14 to $0.17.

Weight

The story says during a test an average of 10 NAS3 cases weighed in at 29.7 grains each. A mixed batch of 10 brass cases at 58.8 grains. That's really close to half.

The End of Brass Cartridge Cases?
in this cross-section you can see how the head and body are held together by a crimped joint. photo from Shooting Sports USAweb photo

Corrosion Resistance

Most of the NAS3 case is more corrosion-resistant than brass, but not all of it. During a test performed by Shooting Sports USA, the nickel-stainless steel case body resisted corrosion far better than brass, but the case head is made of nickel-plated aluminum, which did corrode about the same as brass after exposure to saltwater.

Internal Volume

The company says the case has two percent more internal volume than a typical brass 9mm case due to the squared bottoms at the case head versus brass having rounded inside corners. That's a really small amount that would be difficult to accurately measure across a number of case samples, so we'll take the company's word for it.

More Consistent Ignition

This claim comes from a beveling of the flash hole from inside the case, which is an accurizing trick used in precision shooting like NRA Long-Range and High Power competition. The NAS3 also has an enlarged flash hole to help accommodate lead-free primers for indoor shooting. The story says munitions specialist H.P. White Laboratory has tested this aspect of the NAS3: "finding fantastically low standard deviations of 0.093 fps and extreme spreads of only 3 fps with 124-grain FMJ bullets and 4.2-grain of Titegroup."

40 Reloads

This one will take some time to test, and Shooting Sports USA is on the job, so we’ll have to wait and see what the results show.