By Andrew Betts
Federal’s Fusion line may very well be the best kept secret in defensive rifle ammunition. It is a bonded soft point (okay, technically it is plated but the result is essentially the same) that bears a strong similarity to the Gold Dot line from Speer. That might seem odd at first glance, but both companies are owned by ATK. The Fusion line appears to be aimed at the hunting market based on the design of the packaging and promotional materials and indeed, it looks as though it would make an excellent load for deer and similar sized animals. It is gaining popularity as a home defense and emergency preparedness load though, and for good reason.
The .223 Rem version of Fusion comes in two flavors: original and MSR. The MSR version features annealed cases, sealed primers, and a slightly higher muzzle velocity out of most rifles but but both use the same bullet. Because this ammunition might be used in a wide variety of situations, we wanted to see how it could perform at the edges of its design limits. To do that, we tested the projectiles with two different hand loads designed for higher than factory velocity and very low velocity and we fired them from 16” and 11.5” barrels.
The results were nothing short of phenomenal. The higher velocity bullet impacted at well over 3,000 fps and produced excellent expansion, fragmentation, and ideal penetration. As expected, the lower velocity projectile retained more weight and penetrated more deeply. What was really remarkable was that this load, which approximates the impact velocity of the full power load at 475 yards, was still able to produce substantial expansion and it did so almost immediately on impact, with a neck length of about half an inch. This performance is truly incredible for such a low velocity.
There is already a wide array of quality defensive choices for ammunition in .223 Rem and 5.56x45mm but until fairly recently, there were not many well designed defense loads for the 7.62x39mm. Recently, that has begun to change and it was a pleasant surprise to see Federal offer a Fusion load in 7.62x39mm. This is a very capable cartridge for hunting and defense, with a lot to offer and it really shines with the benefit of modern technology.
Just as with the .223 load, the 7.62x39mm began to expand almost instantly on impact. It penetrated to 15” which is absolutely ideal for defensive use. It also produced huge expansion and a devastating wound channel. It is rarely wise to proclaim one particularly load to be “best” but if terminal performance is the priority, there exists no better ammunition in 7.62x39mm for defense.There may be better choices for other applications, but for defense against human beings, this is the best load available. That it is also more affordable than other premium ammo is a bonus.
Soft points in general and bonded soft points in particular tend to be very good at barrier performance. To be clear, just about any bullet can pass through a windshield, car door, wooden board, or piece of gypsum. Some bullets may not be able to expand and/or fragment as designed if they strike tissue after passing through the obstacle, though. The ability to perform nearly as well after passing through a barrier is referred to as “barrier blind”. It is an important feature to many shooters since bad guys have this funny quirk where they don’t like being shot and tend to get behind stuff. Auto glass is one of the toughest materials on a bullet because glass is much harder than wood or metal so we fired both the .223 Rem and the 7.62x39mm Fusion through a windshield to test its barrier performance.
Penetration was reduced a bit, which is to be expected, but the bullets still expanded as designed. It is not really a quantifiable measure, but the high speed video really gives an impressive illustration of just how incredible both these rifle rounds are. Both performed as well as anyone could reasonably ask in some very difficult circumstances. Whether close or long range, whether with a carbine or SBR, and even if one has to shoot through intermediate obstacles, the Federal Fusion will get the job done. What is more impressive is that it is not marketed as go fast, door kicking ninja ammo. It is just quality ammunition at a decent price.