Compared: Remington Managed-Recoil and Federal Fusion Lite Ammunition

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff


Modern reduced recoil ammunition is intended for shooting Class 2 game, such as deer, antelope, sheep and goats, out to 200 yards. These reduced recoil factory loads are excellent for use by young shooters, new shooters, recoil sensitive shooters and everyone else who (sensibly) prefers not to be belted around by their hunting rifle. They are especially appropriate for use in any of the lightweight hunting rifles chambered for high intensity calibers (.270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06, etc.) that are popular today.

Examples of such rifles include the Browning X-Bolt Micro, CZ 550FS, Kimber 84L, Mannlicher Full Stock Carbine, New Ultra Light Arms rifles, Remington 700 Mountain SS, Ruger American and Compact, Savage Lightweight Hunter and Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight. Fired with full power hunting loads in powerful all-around calibers, these rifles are frankly uncomfortable to shoot. For hunters who shoot factory loads, the answer to excessive recoil in lightweight rifles is Federal Fusion Lite (www.fusionammo.com) and Remington Managed Recoil (www.remington.com) ammunition. Experienced reloaders have quietly been tailoring reduced power loads to their rifles for decades, which is one reason why reloading manuals always list lower pressure, as well as maximum, loading data.

Both the Federal Fusion Lite and Remington Managed-Recoil ammunition claim a 50% reduction in recoil. This is really a worthwhile reduction. In other words, a rifle that ordinarily delivers 16-20 ft. lbs. of recoil energy will be reduced to the 8-10 ft. lb. level.

Why not just buy a .30-30? An eight pound .30-30 shooting a 150 grain factory load delivers about 9-1/2 ft. lbs. of recoil energy and has a maximum point blank range (MPBR) in excess of 200 yards. Well, many shooters already own a hard kicking .270, .308, or .30-06 rifle that they would like to tame. Reduced Recoil ammunition will let them use their present rifle for deer hunting with greatly reduced recoil. They will flinch less, shoot better and probably kill more game, more humanely, as a result. Should they get a chance to hunt heavy game, such as elk or moose, they can always switch back to full power loads.

Reduced recoil loads are also a natural for teaching beginning hunters to shoot with existing rifles. You don't have to buy your son, daughter or spouse a new, smaller caliber rifle; just a few boxes of reduced recoil ammunition will get them started. A word of caution: reduced recoil loads may not operate the actions of semi-automatic rifles.

Remington Managed-Recoil

Remington ammo box.
Illustration courtesy of Remington Arms Co., Inc.

In 2004 Remington announced a new line of centerfire rifle cartridges. They called it "Managed-Recoil" and trademarked the name. Managed-Recoil cartridges come in green boxes that closely resemble Remington's famous Core-Lokt loads, but this ammunition is special.

Managed-Recoil is desirable because it allows a quicker recovery of the sight picture, better shot placement and less anticipation of recoil. Lower recoil is one reason that cartridges such as the 6.5x54 M-S and 7x57 Mauser have earned such a deadly reputation in game fields all around the world. It allows recoil sensitive shooters, which includes nearly all beginning hunters, as well as many women, youth and (yes) experienced hunters, to use existing "all-around" rifles, sometimes without the necessity for scope adjustment. Managed-Recoil also allows more practice shooting at the range without discomfort.

Remington Managed-Recoil ammunition cuts the recoil of full power cartridges approximately in half. This is achieved in two ways: (1) a lighter bullet and (2) a lighter powder charge. However, the primary emphasis was on reduced bullet weight. Reduced recoil reloads can have problems such as erratic ignition and degraded accuracy if the normal powder charge is reduced too much. There is also the problem of reduced bullet expansion to consider when velocity is reduced, which degrades terminal performance. It is important to select a bullet designed for the velocity at which it will be launched.

As a major arms and ammunition maker, Remington has the capability to develop special bullets and select powders (including non-canister powders) specifically for reduced recoil cartridges. The Managed-Recoil bullets are lighter than the "standard" weight bullets normally used in these cartridges and they are loaded to lower velocity.

The Remington technicians also took other factors into account. They wanted the Managed-Recoil loads to shoot flat enough and retain enough killing power to be effective out to at least 200 yards. The goal for the new bullets was 2x expansion at 200 yards and 75% weight retention at 50 yards. These goals were achieved. Except for the shorter range .30-30 load, all of the Managed-Recoil loads all retain at least 1100 ft. lbs. of energy at 200 yards and the new Core-Lokt PSP bullets expand beautifully at that energy level.

Here are the bullet weights and muzzle velocities for the various Remington Managed-Recoil loads: the .260 Remington load uses a 140 grain bullet at 2360 fps, the .270 Winchester load uses a 115 grain bullet at 2710 fps, the 7mm-08 load uses a 140 grain bullet at 2361 fps, the .30-30 load uses a 125 grain bullet at 2175 fps, the .308 Winchester and .30-06 loads use 125 grain bullets at 2660 fps, the 7mm Rem. Magnum load uses a 140 grain bullet at 2710 fps, the .300 Win. Magnum load uses a 150 grain bullet at 2650 fps and the .300 Rem. Ultra Mag load uses a 150 grain bullet at 2815 fps.

Another of Remington's goals was to keep the 100 yard point of impact of their Managed-Recoil loads the same as their full power factory loads, thus making scope readjustment unnecessary and allowing the shooter to switch at will from full power loads to Managed Recoil loads in the same rifle for target practice and short range hunting. This is difficult to achieve, because changing factory loads, even with same bullet weight and advertised velocity, normally changes the point of impact of hunting rifles in unpredictable ways. In the shooting portion of this article we will see how close Remington came to achieving the goal of "no scope readjustment necessary."

Fusion Lite

Fusion Lite Ammunition box
Image courtesy of Federal Premium Ammunition.

Fusion is a Federal Premium Ammunition brand. The Fusion ammunition line, featuring a bullet with a jacket molecularly-fused to a pressure-formed lead core, was introduced in 2005 as the first rifle ammunition designed specifically for whitetail deer hunting. It is now available in calibers ranging from .223 Remington to .458 Lott for all firearm hunting purposes, including regular rifle, reduced recoil and safari loads.

Around the time the Fusion brand was introduced, Federal was offering a Low Recoil line of ammunition in the most popular medium game hunting calibers. The idea was to cut the kick of these high intensity calibers about in half, yet still retain good killing power for deer size (Class 2) game out to 200 yards. Now, the Federal Low Recoil concept has been folded into the Fusion ammunition line and loaded with dedicated Fusion bullets. The result is Fusion Lite ammunition, available at this writing in calibers .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield, three of the best all-around hunting calibers.

Federal claims the following features for their Fusion bullets:

A.     Skived tip: Provides long range expansion potential plus short range toughness. No conventional technology delivers this combination.

B.     Pressure-formed core: Achieves combination of expansion and strength never before available in a deer rifle projectile.

C.    Molecularly-fused jacket: Totally eliminates component separation, unlike other conventional methods. Uniform deposition builds balance, stability and accuracy.

The Federal marketing folks put it this way:

"FusionŽ Lite is built on the same game-changing technology as the standard Fusion bullet. That means you can count on Fusion to provide better penetration without the shoulder-pounding. That's good news for you and bad news for that monster whitetail you're after."

Fusion makes no claims about point of impact for their Lite loads, which normally do not impact close to full power loads. You will need to re-zero your rifle if you standardize on Fusion Lite ammunition. However, this allows Fusion Lite ammunition to be loaded with normal weight bullets of greater sectional density, typically allowing deeper penetration in game animals. The Fusion Lite .270 Winchester load uses a 145 grain bullet at 2200 fps and the .308 and .30-06 Fusion Lite loads use 170 grain bullets at 2000 fps.

Comparison

Federal Fusion Lite loads compete directly with Remington's Managed-Recoil loads in the marketplace. Both the Fusion Lite and Managed-Recoil loads use bullets designed for shooting Class 2 game out to 200 yards at the velocities developed by their reduced recoil ammunition. The ballistics for all of these reduced recoil loads were developed in 24" barrels. Both brands claim the same 50% recoil reduction. Less recoil is a noble goal, since anyone can shoot more accurately with a rifle that kicks less and it is bullet placement that results in quick kills, not raw power.

However, the two ammo makers followed different paths in recoil reduction. Fusion reduced velocity while retaining normal weight for caliber bullets, while Remington reduced the bullet weight in order to keep the muzzle velocity (MV) relatively higher.

As a result of these different approaches to reducing recoil, Managed-Recoil loads shoot flatter and hit closer to the 100 yard point of impact of full power loads. Fusion Lite ammunition is loaded with heavier bullets of greater sectional density (SD).

The Remington Managed-Recoil .270 Winchester load uses a 115 grain bullet (SD .214) and the Managed Recoil .308 and .30-06 loads use 125 grain bullets (SD .188). The Fusion Lite .270 Winchester load uses a 145 grain bullet (SD .270) and the .308 and .30-06 Fusion Lite loads use 170 grain bullets (SD .256). As you can see, the Fusion Lite loads have a big advantage in sectional density.

The Managed-Recoil line is available in nine calibers, three times the number of cartridges offered by Fusion Lite. The three cartridges the two brands have in common are .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .30-06. Any legitimate comparison must use one of these three cartridges, so we chose .270 Winchester.

In .270 Winchester, the Fusion Lite load uses a 145 grain Fusion bonded core bullet (BC .410) at a muzzle velocity of 2200 fps. The muzzle energy is 1560 foot-pounds and the remaining energy at 200 yards is 1070 foot-pounds.

The Remington Managed-Recoil load uses a 115 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet (BC .295) at a muzzle velocity of 2710 fps. The muzzle energy is 1875 foot-pounds and the remaining energy at 200 yards is 1161 foot-pounds.

These reduced recoil loads have plenty of energy to be effective on Class 2 game out to 200 yards. Here are their 200 yard trajectories from scoped rifles:

ˇ        Federal Fusion Lite .270/145 grain: -1.5" at muzzle, +1.43" at 50 yards, +2.39" at 100 yards, +1.19" at 150 yards, 0" at 171 yards, -2.36" at 200 yards.

ˇ        Rem. Managed Recoil .270/115 grain: -1.5" at muzzle, +0.68" at 50 yards, +1.52" at 100 yards, +0.86" at 150 yards, 0" at 173 yards, -1.5" at 200 yards.

With either load you can hold dead-on the center of the heart/lung vital area of a deer or other Class 2 game animal and ignore the minor variation caused by the bullets trajectory from the muzzle to 200 yards.

Test Shooting

For the shooting portion of this article, we requested Fusion Lite ammunition from our friends at Federal and Managed-Recoil ammunition from the good folks at Remington in .270 Winchester caliber. These reduced recoil .270 loads are approximately equivalent in power to the classic 6.5x54mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer cartridge with a 140 grain bullet, which is known around the world as an effective Class 2 game (deer, sheep, goat, antelope) cartridge, as well as for its soft recoil. For comparison with the data given in the preceding section, the Hirtenberger 6.5x54 factory load launches a 140 grain bullet at 2250 fps with 1575 ft. lbs. muzzle energy.

For a test rifle we chose the Winchester Model 70 Jack O'Connor commemorative rifle in .270 Winchester we recently reviewed (see the Product Reviews index page). This rifle was equipped with a fine Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x36mm scope.

We shot our comparison groups from a bench rest at our usual test range of 100 yards, using a Caldwell Lead Sled DFT rest without lead. As usual, we did our shooting at the Izaak Walton range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor facility offers covered shooting positions, solid bench rests and target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. The summer weather was sunny with a high temperature of 83-degrees F and up to a 12 MPH cross wind. Guns and Shooting Online's Chuck Hawks and Rocky Hays did the shooting, using Hoppe's Crosshair 100 Yard Sighting Targets. We fired three shot groups for record.

Shooting Results

  • Federal Fusion Lite, .270/145 grain: Smallest group 1"; largest group 1-3/8"; mean average group = 1.13"
  • Rem. Managed-Recoil, .270/115 grain: Smallest group 1-9/16"; largest group 3-1/16"; mean average group = 2.20"

As you can see from these results, our Model 70 test rifle clearly preferred the Fusion Lite load. All rifles are individuals and you just never know. We had previously used the Managed-Recoil load in a .270 Ruger No. 1-B falling block rifle and it shot brilliantly, better than any other load tested. Shooting the Managed-Recoil load in our Model 70, the first two bullets consistently hit within an inch or less of each other, with the third shot well out of the group. The best choice for you will depend on the preference of your particular rifle.

Shooting the mild Fusion Lite and Managed-Recoil loads in this 8.5 pound rifle (including scope and mount) was very pleasant. We judged the recoil to be similar to that of an average weight .243 rifle. Anyone can shoot more accurately with a rifle that kicks less and it is correct bullet placement, not raw power, which produces humane, one shot kills.

To test Remington's assertion that Managed-Recoil loads impact at nearly the same place at 100 yards as full power loads, we fired groups with the Managed-Recoil .270 load and Remington's full velocity 130 grain Core-Lokt .270 load at the same 100 yard target. The resulting group centers were 1-3/4" apart, with the full power 130 grain load hitting above and slightly left of the Managed-Recoil load. Close enough for target practice at the range or killing a deer at 100 yards. However, to take advantage of the 200 yard capability of the ammunition, the rifle would require re-sighting with the Managed-Recoil ammunition. Of course, the results from shooting Managed-Recoil and full power loads from our Model 70 JOC tribute rifle with its 22" Featherweight, free floating barrel may not be duplicated if you shoot these same loads from your hunting rifle. Your results, as they say, may vary.

Subjectively, Chuck felt that the Managed Recoil load kicked a bit harder than the Fusion Lite load, probably due to higher recoil velocity with similar recoil energy. (Remember, this analysis is just an impression, not verified fact.) Rocky was noncommittal on the subject. Both clearly kicked substantially less than the full power 130 grain Core-Lokt factory load.

Conclusion

After our test shooting, both Rocky and Chuck were impressed with the low recoil of the Federal Fusion Lite and Remington Managed-Recoil .270 factory loads. In a rifle zeroed to take full advantage of their trajectory, these are excellent 200 yard deer loads. Where we live, in Western Oregon, 200 yards is a long shot. We plan to use the .270 Fusion Lite load in the Model 70 JOC and the .270 Managed-Recoil ammo in the aforementioned No. 1B during the coming deer season and on our next hunt at Clover Creek Ranch, where we "field test" ammunition. We are confident the results will be very satisfactory.




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