Federal Fusion Lite Ammunition
By Chuck Hawks
Federal's Fusion ammunition line, featuring a bullet with a jacket molecularly-fused to a pressure-formed lead core, was introduced in 2005. Around the same time, Federal was offering a Low Recoil line of ammunition in the most popular deer hunting calibers, such as .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .30-06. 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 Fusion bullets. The result is Fusion Lite ammunition, available at this writing in calibers .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield.
These Fusion Lite loads compete directly with Remington's Managed Recoil loads, that company's attempt to accomplish 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 clean, humane kills, not raw power. However, the two ammo makers have followed very different paths in recoil reduction. Remington reduced the bullet weight while keeping muzzle velocity (MV) relatively high, while Federal/Fusion reduced velocity while retaining normal weight bullets.
Remington's stated goal was to keep the 100 yard point of impact of their Managed Recoil loads the same as their full power Express loads that use heavier bullets, thus making scope readjustment unnecessary and allowing the shooter to switch at will from full power Remington Express loads to Managed Recoil loads in the same rifle. This sounds good in theory, but the reality is that changing factory loads, even with same bullet weight and advertised velocity, normally changes the point of impact of individual hunting rifles in unpredictable ways.
Changing to a different bullet weight and muzzle velocity is even more likely to change the point of impact. This is because the different loads cause the barrel to vibrate differently as the bullet travels through the bore, with the result the muzzle is in a slightly different place when the bullet exits. (A tiny change at the muzzle results in a big change down range.) In addition, since recoil lifts the muzzle as the bullet travels down the barrel, loads that kick more are likely to hit higher at 100 yards than loads that kick less. The result is that, while two different loads can be calibrated to hit close to the same place at 100 yards when fired in a rail gun or a heavy bench rest rifle, they are unlikely to do so when fired in much lighter weight hunting rifles. The point is, while Remington Managed Recoil is good ammunition, you will probably need to re-zero your rifle if you use it.
Another bit of reality is that the deer hunter who is more comfortable shooting Managed Recoil ammunition is unlikely to want to switch to full power loads on a whim. This particularly applies to young or inexperienced shooter/hunters.
Fusion makes no such claims about point of impact for their Lite loads. This allows Fusion Lite ammunition to be loaded with normal weight bullets of greater sectional density, typically allowing deeper penetration in game animals. For example, the Remington Managed Recoil .270 Winchester load uses a 115 grain bullet (SD .214) at 2710 fps MV and the Managed Recoil .308 and .30-06 loads use 125 grain bullets (SD .188) at 2660 fps. The Fusion Lite .270 Winchester load uses a 145 grain bullet (SD .270) at 2200 fps and the .308 and .30-06 Fusion Lite loads use 170 grain bullets (SD .256) at 2000 fps. As you can see, the Fusion Lite loads have a big advantage in sectional density. This bodes well for penetration and killing power, particularly if large bones, such as a shoulder joint, happen to be struck. These Fusion Lite loads should be roughly similar in killing power to standard .30-30 loads fired from carbine length barrels, which we know from long experience to be very effective on Class 2 game.
The Fusion 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."
Here at Guns and Shooting Online we have tested both Remington Managed Recoil and Fusion Lite loads with excellent accuracy results. Both are good loads, depending on the preference of your particular rifle. (All rifles are individuals). However, my research and experience over the years has convinced me of the benefits of superior sectional density. The result is that I prefer the Fusion Lite approach to reduced recoil hunting ammunition.
For this article I requested a supply of Fusion Lite .270 Winchester ammunition (load #F270FSLR1) from the good old boys at ATK. I wanted to try this load in our Mannlicher-Schoenauer Model 1952 Carbine, the subject of a full review that can be found on the Product Reviews index page. Here are the catalog ballistics for the .270/145 grain Fusion Lite load, calculated for a 1.5" sight height (typical of a low mounted scope):
Since this is intended to be a 200 yard hunting load, it seems a bit silly to zero a rifle at 100 yards with a mid-range rise of less than 1/4" at 50 yards and accept 7.1" of bullet drop at 200 yards. Far better to have the mid-range bullet rise at 100 yards and the drop at 200 yards about equal, so that one can hold dead on any species of Class 2 game without having to worry about the bullet hitting too low at 200 yards or too high at any intermediate distance.
Federal/Fusion did not publish the ballistic coefficient (BC) for their 145 grain, .277" diameter bullet in their 2013 Ammunition Catalog, so I called Federal/Fusion technical support and was told that the BC is .410. Using the .410 BC to calculate the optimum trajectory of the Lite .270 load over 200 yards for a 1.5" sight height gave this result (rounded off to one decimal point):
This is a far more practical trajectory for a hunting rifle. Sight-in your rifle to hit 2.4" high at 100 yards and the bullet will be dead on at 171 yards and only 2.4" low at 200 yards. No "Kentucky elevation" is required within the 200 yard maximum effective range of the Fusion Lite .270 load to keep the bullet within the heart/lung kill zone of even the smaller species of Class 2 animals.
So far, so good, but how accurately does this Fusion Lite load shoot? To answer that question we need only to look at the shooting results in our Mannlicher-Schoenauer Model 1952 Carbine review, for which we used the .270 Fusion Lite factory load.
Guns and Shooting Online Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays and I did the shooting for that review at the Izaak Walton outdoor range, shooting from a bench rest with a Caldwell sand bag under the rifle's forend. The M-S Carbine came with decent iron sights, so we used them. We fired three shot groups for record at our usual iron sight testing distance of 50 yards, in deference to our aging eyes.
Eliminate our single smallest (3/8") and largest (2-5/8") groups, both flukes, and the remaining groups measured between 1" and 1.5". The average group size was 1.33". This is about as well as we can consistently shoot with iron sights these days, since our senior citizen eyes have limited accommodation. (Sadly, even at 50 yards, either the sights are fuzzy or the target is fuzzy, depending on whether we wear our close-up or distant vision glasses.)
After testing, both Rocky and I were impressed with the low recoil and good accuracy of the Fusion Lite .270 factory load. This is an excellent 200 yard deer load and where we live, in Western Oregon, 200 yards is a long shot. I plan to zero one of my scoped .270 hunting rifles for this load (per the optimum trajectory shown above) and use it on our next hunt at Clover Creek Ranch, where we "field test" ammunition. I am confident the results will be more than satisfactory.
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.