Looking for quality, yet inexpensive training ammunition? Aren’t we all. The Winchester USA Forged ammo might be right up your alley.
Let’s face it: the days of a 50 round box of 9mm selling for about $5 are long gone. If you watch for online deals, you can sometimes get a box for about $10 (before shipping), but prices of $12-15 are far more common. [Editor’s note: That was before the 2020 pandemic that drove ammo prices sky high.]
Winchester Ammunition recently introduced a line of ammo for high-volume shooters who wanted to make their dollars stretch. Called USA Forged, this new series is available in 150 round bulk packs and is currently only made in 9mm. But, is the ammunition reliable and affordable? I decided to take a look.
Since this was a completely new line at the time of the review, the folks at Lucky Gunner offered to send me 600 rounds of the USA Forged ammunition for testing.
Though they get the obvious benefit of a little publicity in this article, I got the distinct impression they wanted to know if this was a good product they should carry for their customers. With the understanding that this would be an honest evaluation of the product, I accepted their offer.
What is USA Forged?
USA Forged ammunition is a new line of ammo that uses steel cases to save on production costs. Winchester adds a brass-jacketed lead bullet, a non-corrosive Boxer-type primer and a clean burning powder to complete the load.
Yes, this ammunition is made in the United States of America. It is not imported.
The USA Forged ammunition is designed for practice and plinking, though I suspect it is reasonably good for local competitions as well. If you are competing at the top levels, you probably already have your preferred load dialed in for your guns. But for the rest of us, these rounds will probably work fine.
This ammo is sold in rather tall boxes of 150 rounds. A heavy cardboard box is used with plain black print. I suspect the design is purposefully created to give the impression of being affordable.
Inside the box are three styrofoam-like trays that hold 50 rounds of ammo each. Everything is packed just tight enough to keep the rounds from spilling out, but not so tight as to be difficult to slide a tray out for use.
Indoor Range Use
I know there are many ranges, mostly indoor ranges, that prohibit the use of steel cased ammo. From my conversations with range owners, I’ve heard two reasons for the steel case ban given:
- they don’t want steel cases mixed in with the brass that they are selling or reloading, and
- some of the imported steel cased ammo has a steel core bullet that can penetrate the backstop.
If the concern is about mixing steel cases into the range brass, you may be able to convince the owner to allow you to shoot the ammo if you pick it up and dispose of it separately. I use a heavy duty magnet (like this one) with a length of paracord to wave over the ground and quickly retrieve steel cases.
If the concern is about the bullets – have no fear. These are pretty typical full metal jacket bullets. Winchester uses a lead core with a brass jacket. They will not penetrate the bullet trap as a steel core might. Winchester clearly labels the boxes with the lead core information so a range owner can easily be convinced that this is ok for use on his or her lanes.
I have the good luck to have a great indoor range close to my home. Like many indoor ranges, however, it prohibits the use of steel cased ammo. The shop owner is a good guy and agreed to let me shoot the Winchester ammo after I explained it was definitely loaded with lead core bullets.
I entered into this ammo review with generally high hopes that were tempered by past experiences with Winchester’s budget “white box” ammunition. Even though my experience with Winchester’s premium ammunition has been superb, I’ve had some pretty poor reliability out of the 9mm WWB ammo in recent years. Frankly, I was unsure if the new USA Forged would be reliable.
My fears were quickly put to rest as the new ammo was perfectly reliable.
I carried nine different handguns to the range with me for this evaluation. They represented seven different manufacturers and ranged in size from the diminutive Diamondback DB9 to the full size Smith & Wesson M&P9. Each gun got a minimum of 25 rounds through it, while the Glock 19, Glock 43 and S&W Shield got quite a bit more.
All of the guns ran the ammunition 100% reliably. I experienced no malfunctions of any kind. Every gun fed, shot and cycled as well as I could hope for.
Recoil was on par with other 115 grain practice loads. I had Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ rounds on hand and I could not discern any difference in recoil between them.
Accuracy was good. Off hand, five shot groups were sub-3″, with many less than 2″, at 7 yards. A better shooter can definitely tighten those up.
I know Winchester states the company uses a “clean burning powder” in these rounds. I’d give that statement a mixed review. There is not a lot of smoke generated when shooting. In fact, it appears to be no more smoke than any other quality round from a US manufacturer.
However, there did appear to be more residue left in the guns than other US-made budget rounds such as the Blazer Brass and American Eagle lines. Overall, this was a very minor concern for me, but one you should be aware of.
Here is the velocity and bullet energy readings I measured during testing:
|Bersa BP9CC||1,011 fps||261 ft-lbs|
|CZ P-07 Duty||1,083 fps||299 ft-lbs|
|Diamondback AM2||1,069 fps||292 ft-lbs|
|Diamondback DB9||1,031 fps||271 ft-lbs|
|Glock 19 Gen4||1,101 fps||309 ft-lbs|
|Glock 43||1,039 fps||276 ft-lbs|
|Kahr CM9||984 fps||247 ft-lbs|
|SCCY CPX-2||1,015 fps||263 ft-lbs|
|Smith & Wesson M&P9||1,117 fps||319 ft-lbs|
|Smith & Wesson M&P Shield||1,019 fps||265 ft-lbs|
Typically, I do not buy steel cased ammunition for anything other than my ComBloc surplus guns. Frankly, much of the steel cased ammo on the market is imported and of a sometimes uncertain quality. So, I have tended to buy brass cased, US made stuff almost exclusively.
However, the USA Forged ammunition is a quality load that I will be buying more of and shooting. Everyday pricing on this ammo at the time of testing was less than 17¢/round, which puts it close to the sale price of some of the rounds I currently buy. It is also cheaper than some of the imported ammo. With the good pricing combined with the reliability I experienced, I will happily add this to my range bag.
One of the hurdles some people will face with the USA Forged ammo is its acceptance by ranges that typically prohibit steel cased ammo. Hopefully, as word about this new product spreads, the majority of shooting ranges will be prepared to make an exception for this ammunition.
Last updated: July 13, 2021
As with any other ammunition review, I include a disclosure statement. The reason why I do this is I want you to be aware of any possible biases and conflicts of interests that may have colored my evaluation of this ammo.
As I mentioned above, Lucky Gunner provided the ammunition for this review. I thank them for that and happily include links back to their site. When we spoke, they did not ask for any links or other favors. Nor did they offer to pay me anything. I explained to them, as I do any manufacturer, that the reviews – good or bad – are based on the performance of the product.
I do recommend Lucky Gunner as an ammunition retailer as they have a very comprehensive web site that is easy to navigate and have always provided me with very good customer service. Also, they are a solid supporter of the Second Amendment.
Lucky Gunner is not an advertiser, nor am I in any talks with them to be one.
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