Monday, December 29, 2014

Palette's Product Review: American Eagle vs. Silver Bear

Or put more thoroughly:

Palette's Monday Gunday Product Review: Federal American Eagle vs. Barnaul Silver Bear 9mm 115gr FMJ

Bit of a mouthful, isn't it?

Back before the holidays started, I was approached by a representative of who asked if I wanted to do an ammunition review for them. Having done ammunition reviews before, I was happy to say yes!

I chose to perform a head to head test between two 9mm cartridges, Federal's American Eagle (made in America) and Barnaul's Silver Bear (made in Russia). This allowed me to an "East vs. West" showdown a la...

.. well, you get the idea.

IN THE WESTERN CORNER: Weighing in at one hundred fifteen grains, boxer-primed and with a gleaming brass case, is American Eagle!

IN THE EASTERN CORNER: Also weighing in at one hundred fifteen grains is Silver Bear, with a distinctive zinc-plated steel case and berdan-primed!

Both are chambered in nine millimeter Luger!

Both are full metal jacketed rounds!


American Eagle is clearly the prettier of the two cartridges. Its gleaming brass casing reminds me of fields full of amber waves of grain, while Silver Bear isn't really silver at all; it's just sort of a shiny metal that isn't even polished.  Of course, who really cares how ammunition looks?  That's just pre-fight trash-talk.

Round One
American Eagle is reloadable because of its brass case and boxer primer. Berdan primers require special tools to reload, and while it is possible to reload a steel casing, last time I checked it is't advisable for the hobbyist due to the wear it will cause on resizing equipment. Winnah: American Eagle!

Round Two
On the other hand, no one really saves money by reloading anyway (you end up spending the money on powder, primers and tools), and the lower price of the Steel Bear means you get more bang for your ruble. Winnah: Silver Bear!

Round Three
Regarding performance, both were excellent. I did not experience a single dud, misfeed or failure to eject from either one. The only noticeable difference was that the American Eagle was slightly louder in its report, and the Silver Bear had slightly more recoil. However, when I mixed them randomly inside the same magazine, I had difficulty telling which was which and was correct in my guess only about half the time. Winnah: Tie!

Round Four
But wait... Silver Bear is a bi-metal bullet! According to conventional wisdom, a steel-cored projectile will wear out a barrel faster than the pure copper of American Eagle. However, others say this is nothing at all to worry about. Winnah: Judges can't tell. 

Because this is an exhibition match, this fight is ooooooooverrrrrrr!

The winner:  American Eagle, but just barely. Silver Bear performs well and is affordable; American Eagle costs more (though not much more), and most of that is due to reloadability. I honestly do not know if shooting bi-metal bullets is detrimental to a firearm over the practical lifespan of a non-warfighting weapon. I do, however, refer you to this brass vs. bimetal torture test for more information. 

The main reason that I picked American Eagle as the winner is not due to price, or reloadability, or single-metal projectile;  I picked it because it's made in the USA, and I believe in giving American money to other Americans, rather than to Vladimir Putin. But if you choose to shoot Silver Bear, I certainly won't fault you; just make sure that your firearm can eat steel-cased ammo, as some cannot.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this product for free. I was not paid or otherwise compensated in return for giving it a good review. Basically, someone said "Hey would you like some free ammo in exchange for your pretty, pretty words?" and I of course said yes, because ammo. It's not like they could ask for it back after I shot it. 

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