Federal Transforms Rifle Ammunition

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different caliber cartridges from 1962 in a line

Not only did World War II forever change the political and social structure of our planet, it propelled Federal into manufacturing centerfire rifle ammunition. This would ultimately cause a seismic shift in how rifle loads are built, how they perform, and how shooters use them.

With the lessons learned from supporting America’s war effort, in 1963, Federal began commercial production of 12 centerfire rifle loads. The cartridges selected for this initial offering tell us a lot about the rifle market of the early 1960s. Anchoring the small-caliber slot was the 222 Rem., once a premier varmint cartridge that has been totally overshadowed by its offspring, the 223 Rem. The 243 Win. was popular then and remains so, though newer 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges get all the publicity these days. It could be had with an 80-grain bullet for varmint hunting or a 100-grain Hi-Shok soft-point for deer. You couldn’t possibly have a centerfire line in 1963 or now without 130- and 150-grain 270 Win. loads. In the days before the 1968 Gun Control Act, America was awash in surplus rifles, and none were better than the 7mm Mauser, which was served with 139-grain and 175-grain Hi-Shok loads. Roughly comparable loads remain available in the Power-Shok line today.

The 308 Win. has far overshadowed the 300 Savage, but the latter was still popular in Model 99 lever guns in 1963, so Federal offered both rounds with 150- and 180-grain bullets. The 30-06 Sprg. was in those days the primary choice for bolt-action rifles, and it also was offered with 150- and 180-grain bullets. Eastern and Southern deer hunters loved, and still love, 30-30 Win. lever guns, and Federal catered to them with 150- and 170-grain loads. Its stablemate, the 32 Win. Spl., has gone into eclipse, though Federal still catalogs the 170-grain load for it. Thousands of those surplus rifles were in 303 British, with Federal offering a 180-grain load that’s still in the line, and 8mm Mauser, still sold with a 170-grain soft-point. Topping the range was the 35 Rem., which you can still buy with a 200-grain soft-point bullet https://www.federalpremium.com/rifle/power-shok/power-shok-rifle/11-35A.html.

The Premium Difference

Federal centerfire rifle ammunition is known today for offering handloader quality right across the counter. This climb to the top started in late 1976 as Federal prepared to introduce its Premium ammunition line in January of 1977. Using centerfire rifle cartridges loaded with high-end bullets from Sierra and Nosler, both big game hunters and target shooters could benefit from the best-performing bullets in the world without ever cranking the handle on a reloading press. In addition to these popular projectiles, Premium ammunition utilized the finest components in the industry like Gold Medal primers, nickel-plated cases, and clean-burning propellants.

As the 1980s rolled in, Federal rifle ammunition found its way into the hands of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Federal Premium 308 Win. Gold Medal match load would become the “gold” standard for law enforcement snipers and dedicated marksmen. This tradition continued into the 1990s with Federal’s acquisition of the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet and the introduction of a safari-specific line of centerfire rifle ammunition.

worker holding up packaing

By the mid-1990s, Federal introduced ammo that gave even price-conscious big game hunters a reason not to handload. We launched a Premium line of ammunition loaded with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets, expanded the Trophy Bonded line with additional loads, introduced the High Energy line of rifle ammunition and Premium varmint loads, and even a new line of ammo specifically for Weatherby rifles. Continuing this tradition at the turn of the century, Federal added top projectiles such as Woodleigh Weld Core bullets, Barnes XLC and X bullets, Nosler Solid Base and AccuBond bullets, and the Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer. Federal also added a V-Shok line of ammunition loaded with the most desirable projectiles specifically intended for varmint hunters.

But Federal had even higher aspirations. Low recoil loads have long been something experienced handloaders created for practice or for hunters who could not withstand the heavy kick. In 2003, Federal launched a Low Recoil line of ammunition.

Following another path often taken by experienced handloaders, Federal also decided to introduce a new cartridge. The 338 Federal, which used a 308 Win. case necked up to 338 caliber, was introduced in 2005. It quickly gained a home in AR-10 style rifles with hog hunters who needed firepower and stopping power in one package. Federal continued to prove it could—on a commercial level—do anything handloaders could do at the loading bench.

New Technologies

Federal also created its own modern hunting projectile and launched it in a new line of ammunition known as Fusion. The Fusion bullet was specifically engineered for deer hunting and was designed to deliver wide expansion and deformation in conjunction with deep penetration, for optimum tissue destruction.

Federal achieved this deer-dropping performance by molecularly fusing the bullet’s jacket to its core. The Federal Fusion line of ammunition has become one of the most trusted names in deer hunting ammunition. The year 2007 saw the Lite line of Fusion ammo, which offered 50 percent less recoil than standard loadings.

terminal ascent box with an antler in the background

Federal continues to focus on offering ammunition loaded with the most modern bullets available, including the polymer-tipped version of the Trophy Bonded bullet, Trophy Bonded Tip, the Barnes TSX and Swift A-Frame bullets, and improved Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Sledgehammer Solids.

To keep up with the times, in 2015, Federal adjusted the Fusion line so it had the optimum port pressure and would generate the ideal internal ballistics to perfectly dovetail with the AR platform. This tuning of loads to gas impingement driven semiautomatic rifles was something handloaders had been doing for some time. Now, optimal AR ammo was available across the counter from Federal in the form of Fusion MSR. Also new from Federal was a deer hunting load for those who liked to chase whitetails and mule deer with their AR-15s. It was a Trophy Bonded Tip load for the 223 Rem.

As the second decade of the 21st century was ending, Federal began addressing the rising popularity of long-range shooting. We did this with a wide range of loads for the 6.5 Creedmoor, the addition of Berger bullets, and a new line of hunting ammunition called TLR. Most notable, however, was the 2018 introduction of Federal’s second centerfire rifle cartridge, the 224 Valkyrie. The Valkyrie is a .22-caliber cartridge based on the 6.8 SPC, and it’s the flattest-shooting .22-caliber centerfire rifle cartridge compatible with the AR-15 platform.

In 2020, Federal announced two new diametrically different lines of ammunition. To continue to support the needs of long-range hunters, Federal introduced Terminal Ascent, ammunition loaded with a new Federal-designed, highly aerodynamic bullet that reduces flight times and provides meaningful expansion at impact velocities as low as 1,500 fps.

The other new line was HammerDown, engineered to extend the range of cartridges specific to traditional lever-action rifles. By optimizing everything about this ammo, including the cartridge case, HammerDown ammunition is the most advanced hunting ammo currently available for traditional lever guns.

Personal Touch

Custom Rifle Ammuntion box and cartridge

There was only one logical next step for Federal in its decades-long journey of delivering Premium centerfire rifle ammunition—ammunition of a quality only otherwise obtainable by handloaders. Having mastered the mass production of centerfire rifle ammunition, Federal decided it was time to offer truly handloaded ammunition. In 2020, Federal opened the Federal Custom Shop. Now a team of veteran, expert engineers, working at a state-of-the-art loading bench, hand- assemble the most precise ammunition, with the best projectiles possible, for dozens of centerfire rifle cartridges.

One could say the circle is complete. But rest assured Federal is not done. What will we bring to centerfire rifle ammunition next? For sure, anything any handloader can and, quite possibly, some things a handloader can’t.

Limited Edition Anniversary Ammunition

Don’t miss your chance to own a piece of Federal history. In honor of our 100th anniversary, we’re offering limited-edition rifle and handgun ammunition with throwback packaging designs. They’re available now, but supplies won’t last.

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Anniversary Ammo Packaging