Winchester has something new out in the way of cheaper 9mm range ammo. Well.... new to THEM but not new to the shooting world. It's Steel cased pistol ammunition.
Some years back, I shot a bunch of the imported steel cased ammo in both rifle and pistol, as a test to see what it was all about. I've been shooting Soviet steel cased Mil-surp for years in my Mosins and such, but that is a different animal. One has different expectations of brand new commercial ammunition as compared to 40 year old military surplus ammo.
Coming under the names Tula, Brown Bear, Silver Bear, and Wolf, these imports are about the cheapest range ammo one can buy. Always with steel cases coated in ..... something, these inexpensive cartridges proved to be hit and miss for me, quite literally. Not that I'd object to having a few cases tucked away, but one has to limit expectations with them. Their quality (for me) was a bit iffy, with wide velocity variations. Worse, in the rifle cartridges the coating on the cases would eventually play havoc with my chambers and make extraction problematic.
So, what has Winchester done with this product? They say the cases are made here in the USA, with their own special coating to inhibit rust. In addition, they are using a brass jacketed lead core bullet, and Winchester powders and primers.
Delivered in a box of 150 rounds (Three trays of 50 each) from Wideners Reloading and Shooting Supply, they are priced there just a bit under Winchester White Box. WWB is typically one of the cheapest of the American made range ammo offerings, often found on sale at various suppliers. At this point, Widener's is the only place I see this new Winchester ammo for sale.
The basics: A 115 grain FMJ bullet, with a lead core and a brass jacket. Winchester says it trots along at 1190 FPS. My own Chrono testing across a 20 round sample gave a velocity average closer to 1150 FPS out of a S&W 9c compact pistol. Velocity variations were considerably tighter than I recall the import ammo having, mostly staying within about 20 FPS.
Function was 100% with all 150 rounds through this pistol in the space of about 30 minutes. No failures of any kind to report. Accuracy was at least on par with any bulk 9mm Luger I've used, and better than many. I didn't bench it, but holding all the rounds inside a 4"x6" index card at 50' while shooting offhand was not a problem.
Recoil was light, about what one would expect for target ammunition. An old box of Golden Sabers was sacreficed after the Winchesters, just to serve as comparison. The less expensive steel cased Winchester was quite mild and civilized in contrast.
For me, the real question.... once function was assured.... was how bad the pistol would be fouled. My experience with the import steel cased ammo left something to be desired when it came time to clean the pistols, so I had qualms there.
I guess Winchester was being straight. Field stripped after 150 rounds of the USA Forged, I couldn't have told you it wasn't their White Box I was shooting. Yes, it was dirty, but nothing out of the ordinary. It was the kind of dirty that tempts me to wipe it down, use up a couple Q-tips, spray some lube, and call it good. In the field of grunging up a pistol, the Winchester is way, way ahead of the import steel cased ammo.
On the ammo itself, I have nothing negative to say. It performed decently and exceeded expectations in every way compared to the imports. If a shooter just doesn't care about having reloadable cases leftover, I can't see any reason not to buy the Winchester USA Forged if it's cheaper.
That said.... it would be nice if the price on this new American made steel cased ammo stabilized a little closer to the import end of the spectrum, rather than nipping at the heels of the White Box. If it were a bit more reasonably priced, I might lose interest in reloading my own 9mm target ammo!