When it comes to shooting and reloading, nothing beats brass, right? Steel and aluminum cases can’t be reloaded, and have other downsides like leaving dirtier chambers and giving lower velocities. Even polymer cases have their own problems and aren’t safe to reload. But Shell Shock Technologies claims to have made a reloadable case that is better than brass, but without the problems associated with other materials. Boasting better velocities, twice the strength, and half the weight, NAS3 Two-Piece Shells might actually give brass cases a run for their money.
First, a little backstory. Shell Shock Technologies is a pretty new company that started developing their new shell casings in 2015. The 9mm has been around for over 115 years with very little change other than modern powders and bullet design. SST decided to change it up a bit and look at how they could improve the case design to improve overall performance. What they created is a cartridge case that fits the modern era of manufacturing: tighter tolerances, more reloads, less weight. Using a unique, two-piece construction, these cases can offer many different advantages in performance, without hardly any trade-offs (we’ll discuss those below).The NAS3 cases bring the rest of the cartridge into the modern era and give shooters that last little bit of modification for their handgun rounds.
The Pros of NAS3 Ammo
First, let’s take a look at the reported advantages of this new ammo. First, the NAS3 case is stronger and lighter than the traditional brass case. The nickel alloy is substantially lighter than the brass case, weighing about half the weight of brass. Each case weighs in a just under 3 grains of weight, whereas brass typically clocks in at 5.8 grains. The weight doesn’t mean a trade-off in strength, however. The main body of the case is alloyed with stainless steel, which has a higher tensile strength than brass. The alloy also has a tendency to snap back to its original shape, meaning that it expands during the firing, but doesn’t “flow” forward. Handloaders will know that the expansion and flow of the case translates to case trimming, something that the NAS3 cases do not need. NAS3 cases can be reloaded 30-40 times before the cases need to be thrown out; compare that to the two to ten reloads you usually get out of brass casings.
Second, the two-piece alloy construction offers some very unique properties to the cases. The case head can be anodized a different color. Though this is purely cosmetic, imagine being able to visually distinguish between your sub-sonic, regular, and +P loads instantly. Or, if you’re a competition shooter, being able to pick out your cases from everyone else’s. Or, if you just like to have cool blue or red cases to show off a little flare the next time you’re out at the range. The ferrous alloy also allows you to pick up the cases with a magnet, making it even easier to scoop up your fired cases and reload them when you get home. The nickel alloy also gives a substantial resistance to corrosion. Sitting in salt water (or sweat) will not eat through the case. The case head eventually will start to corrode, but unless you keep your loaded rounds or prepped cases in a bucket of sea water, you probably won’t experience any corrosion over time.
The NAS3 cases also offer more internal volume, higher velocities, and more consistent ignition. The unique machining process for these cases allows for a slightly larger internal volume. The body of the case is machined separately from the case head, so the corners of the case can be “squared” rather than rounded, giving more space for powder and gas expansion. This also leads to higher velocities, such as +P loads that don’t have as high chamber pressures. The unique tensile properties mean you can blast away with +P loads (as long as your firearm is rated for them) but put less stress on the chamber. Additionally, the primer pockets and flash holes are a little larger and more uniform. The flash holes and primer pockets have to be made larger to accept the unique crimp of the two case pieces, and as a byproduct this makes ignition far more consistent and precise.
Finally, you get all this at half the price of regular brass cases. SST sells their cases for $60 for 500, $100 for 1000, or $850 for 10,000 cases, that’s $0.12 to $0.08 a case. Compare that to the $0.21 a case for Winchester 9mm brass or $0.19 for Hornady brass. So, there’s got to be a downside, right? Well, let’s take a look.
The Cons of NAS3 AmmoAs the great poet Bret Michaels once said, “Every rose has its thorn.” So, what are the thorns for SST’s NAS3 cases? For starters, the start-up costs for reloaders. If you would want to take advantage of the superior performance and cheaper price-per-case, you’ll have to shell out $99.99 for the special die set. These dies can be used for normal brass, however, so it isn’t a total waste. These new dies have spring-loaded mechanism that pushes the cases off after resizing, rather than pull the case off using the extractor rim.
The NAS3 cases need this mechanism because of the two-piece construction. The case head and cylinder are not monolithic, and too much force will cause the two pieces to separate, making the case unusable. This is exceptionally pronounced when using a bullet puller. During the firing sequence, there is not any force that pulls the two pieces away from each other; but yanking a bullet out—especially with press-mounted pullers—will separate the two pieces.
Another disadvantage is the need for lubricating the cases for handloading. With carbide dies, brass cases typically don’t need lubrication during the resizing process, but the nickel-stainless alloy of the NAS3 cases do require case lube for the process.
As with any new technology, there may be problems with the cases that nobody has found yet. So, we’ll have to wait and see if some of these issues get fixed or improved. Also, SST has only made dies and cases for 9mm Para. Fans of .45 ACP, .380, or other handgun rounds will have to wait until the NAS3 system expands to new calibers.