Sporting Rifle’s Byron Pace delves into a deer-specific ammunition line from Federal
When I spoke to Steve at GMK about ammo for testing, he replied with: “I have just the thing for you. Have you tried Fusion ammo?” I hadn’t, but was eager to find out more.
The Fusion line was actually launched by Federal in 2005, branded separately as its heads boast the Fusion bonding technology. It is pitched as offering the performance of premium ammunition at affordable prices. At around £26 a box it certainly positions itself well in the market. The bullets were specifically designed with whitetail hunting in mind, but they are equally at home on UK deer species. It is interesting to note that the range has recently expanded to include Fusion Safari, offering .375, .416 and .458.
So what is special about Fusion ammo? According to the Fusion literature, it all comes down to the advanced technology used in the bullet construction. With an ‘inseparable jacket’, it is billed as “the most lethal deer hunting bullet in its class”. At the centre of the marketing hype is an electrochemical process, bonding the lead core to a copper jacket, leading to high bullet weight retention and controlled expansion.
Bonded bullets are not new – what’s different here is the bonding process. The bullets are constructed initially from a pressure-formed core of lead before a copper jacket is applied “one molecule at a time”. The bonding process makes the copper and lead one. Cross-sectioning the bullet exposes the bonded interface – the two metals appear inseparable, as if melted together. Compare this with a standard cup and core head, and the difference is clear.
The bullet shaping process takes place under pressure, as the top and bottom are squeezed into a boat-tail design. The final step of the process builds in deliberate lines of weakness to ensure reliable expansion at long range, while maintaining bullet integrity at higher velocities and shorter distances. This is achieved by a top secret form of internal skiving.
In practice what does this actually mean? A full side-by-side comparison on bullet terminal performance will be coming soon, but initial inspection does suggest an incredibly well-constructed bullet. Whether this level of bonding is necessary for bullet integrity in soft-bodied animals is debatable, but generally, unless the bullet is travelling in excess of 2,800fps on impact, or is required to shoot through the shoulder of tougher animals such as wildebeest, bonded bullets don’t have any superior performance advantage over standard cup and core. However, it will achieve much more consistent penetration with high-velocity calibres. We will be putting this to the test at a later date.
The other components differ little from what hunters will be used to seeing in Federal ammo. Putting the loaded round under the usual testing, the most surprising result was the bullet run-out measurement. With my handloads and basic reloading dies I can normally achieve run-out of around 0.002in or marginally better. It is generally accepted that up to 0.004in it is unlikely to have much effect on down-range performance, especially in a hunting rifle. Anything beyond that needs looking at. The average run-out of the .22-250 Fusions I had on test was 0.0026in, with many measuring 0.0015in. This was pretty good. There were a number of exceptions, though, with some bullets recording 0.004in.
Putting some rounds over the chrono turned up an average MV of 3,424fps – 180fps less than advertised. I was unable to find the barrel length for factory ballistics, but a 26in test barrel would account for the difference with an extra two inches over my rifle. An extreme spread of 80fps was not as tight as I would have expected, especially in .22-250 Rem, which is a flat-shooting calibre often used for longer shots. To give some real-life perspective, the difference in bullet drop at 300 yards from the max to min MV would equate to a half-inch difference with a 170-yard zero. So it’s noticeable, but for practical purposes with deer in mind, it’s neither here nor there.
I was fortunate that this test coincided with the final build of a .22-250 Rem that I had been working on, so was able to run them through a proven ¼MOA rifle for the same 55-grain bullet weight. I was happy with the results for all hunting practicality, printing 0.75in average groups all day long. Apart from the observations above, the main deciding factor between my hand-loaded Nosler B-Tips and the Fusion is the bullet jump. For the same weighted bullet I was seating handloads 0.11in further out. This is true of most .22-250 ammo.
Brass weight overall variation was around 0.8 per cent, with only a small amount falling outside the 0.5 per cent we use as a standard. Interestingly the head spacing max/min of the sample were marginally above and below the SAAMI specification. With an average head spacing measurement of 1.594in, this puts the cases 0.0089in longer on average than maximum spec. As long as the bolt closes – and I have never heard of any issues – this could actually be an advantage, leading to less case stretch and a closer fit to the chamber more akin to neck-sized brass. Measuring OAL to ogive gave results that largely varied by just 0.001in, while case length variation was about 0.01in.
For a deer round in .22-250 it does everything one could hope for. Accuracy is very good, and a detailed breakdown didn’t expose anything to particularly write home about. I think the key decider for fusion ammo will come down to the terminal ballistic test. I have read great things on killing performance, so let’s see how it fares in the field.