Zinc vrs. brass performance - Pistolsmith

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Old 09-13-2015, 11:48 AM   #1
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Zinc vrs. brass performance

I have an Makarov IJ70-81A, Russian, and have noted that brass casings work perfectly, but with the less expensive zinc, occasional "doubles" occur with the spent cartridge and a partially loaded new round jammed.
Is this a common occurrence with others?
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Old 09-13-2015, 04:27 PM   #2
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The cases aren't zinc. Zinc is totally unsuited for cartridges.

What they are are plated steel.
Soviet type ammo is usually either coated with a brownish colored lacquer or thinly plated with various types of metal to prevent the cases from rusting.

The Russians deliberately designed their weapons to work with steel cased ammo, and deliberately designed their steel cased ammo to work in their weapons.

For that reason, steel cased ammo is almost always reliable in a Soviet designed weapon since they were designed to work together.
I'd suggest trying a different brand of the Russian/Eastern European ammo.
It's made in a number of former Communist block countries so you have a fair number of brands to try.
You should be able to find a brand/type of steel cased ammo that will work reliably in your pistol.
Old 09-14-2015, 05:14 PM   #3
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"Zinc" vrs brass

The specific cartridge boxes I mentioned actually say "zinc" (maybe coated?).
However today in discussing this issue with a highly recommended gunsmith, he mentioned that 'zinc" does not have "memory" like brass. What that means apparently is that when the heat of the firing is created the casings expand.
However the brass quickly is able to return to its original dimension and can be ejected quickly enough to prevent the next stripped round from jamming against the spent casing and causing a "double" feed, whereas the 'zinc" does not do this consistently and therefore causes the jamming issue.
This is not present in all barrels, but if occurring can be fixed with careful barrel polishing and rework, although the gunsmith highly recommended continued use of the brass which he felt is better for the longevity of the firearm as well.
Further thoughts?
Thanks for your reply.
Old 09-15-2015, 01:38 PM   #4
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The cases would be zinc plated.
One Russian company sells steel cases with various plated finishes. Their zinc plated case ammo is sold as "Silver Bear".

If you look at most Soviet ammo and weapons the chambers are more tapered then Western ammo.
The tapered chambers allow more reliable chambering and more reliable extraction.

The tapered chamber is directly related to the properties of steel cases.
As you said, brass expands better, then shrinks back to almost the original size better.
Steel is not as elastic and won't expand or contract as well.
The lack of expansion is why you often see black fouling in the chambers.
Since the case didn't expand fully, it allows fouling to leak past the steel case into the chamber.

What I'd suggest:
First, give the gun a very thorough cleaning, especially in the extractor area.
Make sure the extractor and spring are clean, the extractor is not worn or damaged, and that the spring has correct tension.
A dirty or damaged extractor assembly won't hold a case properly and fails to extract well.

Make sure the extractor is properly fitted to the slide. If the hook on the extractor isn't properly gripping the case it can fail.
I'm not sure about a Makarov, but a test for a 1911 is to remove the slide from the frame, put a loaded round up under the extractor then turn the slide right side up and gently shake it.
The loaded round should not just fall out.

Buy a bronze (not stainless) chamber brush from Brownell's and use that to clean the chamber.
Inspect the chamber for bulges, rings, pitting, roughness, or any other defect.
If you do it correctly, the chamber can be lightly polished.
Note that it's lightly polished, NOT "polished like a mirror".

Just wrapping some 0000 steel wool or a piece of Fine Scotchbrite synthetic polishing pad around a worn bore brush then spinning it in the chamber at medium speeds with a drill will do all that's needed.
This should not take more the one or possibly two minutes AT MOST.

You might try a little grease on the frame and slide rails and the outside of the barrel where the spring fits over it.

Last, there's the old just try some different brands/types of ammo until you find one that's better.
If what you're using isn't working, don't make the mistake of just insisting that THAT ammo IS GOING to work in THIS gun, or else.
That's when guns get damaged by making alterations trying to force it work.

Last, of course brass cased ammo is "better" for firearms, but the Soviets specifically designed the Makarov to use steel cased ammo.
It may wear the gun faster, but very few people ever shoot a Mak enough to get to that point. The amount of ammo needed to wear the gun enough to have problems would be in the many thousands of rounds.
The Mak, like most small pistols of this type were not really intended for huge amounts of rounds.
However, I'd think a Mak would last longer then most any other pistol in it's class, simply because the Soviets designed guns to last.

Last edited by dfariswheel; 09-15-2015 at 01:43 PM.
Old 09-17-2015, 12:08 PM   #5
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Thank you so much for the detailed reply suggestions.
At this point, as I had noted initially, the brass cartridges work flawlessly, so I'll probably stay with this ammo.
With appreciation,
Drrere .....
Old 09-17-2015, 05:32 PM   #6
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After a little research, I think the silver colored cases are plated with cadmium.

Don't give up, try some other brands of steel cased ammo.

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