Fusion Leaves Its Mark

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Different Fusion products packaging stacked on top of each other

Since the first smokeless gunpowder pushed lead alloy bullets faster than they could handle, cupping a lead core in a copper jacket has served to create bullets that seemed accurate and effective enough for whitetail deer.

But what if you could have an extremely accurate, ultimately predictable bullet at nearly the same cost? Debuted in 2005 and launched in concert with Federal’s Fusion line of hunting ammunition, Fusion projectiles incorporated an entirely new type of construction. Yes, they have a lead core and copper jacket, but the way the two are formed was radical and incredibly effective. The breakthrough was about to forever change how deer hunters looked at bullets and ammunition.

The Fusion Advantage

Traditional cup-and-core bullets that dominated the hunting landscape for the better part of a century are built when a cylindrical lead extrusion is inserted into a copper cup, and the two are pounded into final shape. Fusion bullets, however, feature a lead alloy core that is precision-plated with a uniform thickness of copper then formed to final shape.

This “plating” isn’t your average thin wash of copper. It’s a beautifully controlled process in which the lead Fusion cores are immersed into a bath. Copper rods feed the process, and jackets are precisely applied, shaped and finished, one atom at a time. Thickness, taper and all other dimensions are created to perfection.

There’s a bit more to it: After the lead cores are electrochemically jacketed and formed, they go through a process that optimizes the way they expand on impact. Traditionally, controlling how the lead core deforms is the copper jacket’s job. In Fusion’s case, that’s wrong, at least partially. Plated Fusion cores are swaged to a near finished shape. But a step is taken before that final swaging process. A star-shaped punch is driven deeply into the nose of the nearly formed core, creating a hollow point with ridges—termed skiving—around its outside wall. Then, the core is run into a die. The hollow nose is swaged closed, and the exterior profile is swaged to its final, perfect shape.

Since this process is applied cold to the lead core, the separation created by that star-shaped nose punch remains. The walls of the hollow point are swaged tight together, but no bond occurs. On impact, that swaged-shut, star-shaped fissure in the nose of the Fusion bullet works its magic, opening up, guiding expansion, and optimizing the final mushroomed shape of the projectile. Because the jacket is bonded to the core, it prevents lead fragments from sloughing off and destroying the integrity of that mushroom.

Generally, according to Federal’s Centerfire Ammunition Product Line Director Michael Holm, Fusion bullets retain about 85 percent of their original weight on impact. This certainly helps with penetration. Fusion engineers shoot test projectiles through heavy hide, cow bones, ballistic gel, and other challenging penetration mediums while tuning the designs and optimizing them to do what they’re meant to do.

On the exterior, Fusion bullets are hard to distinguish from any others. Nose meplats are modestly flat, exposing just a tad of lead at the tip. Bases are boattailed but not dramatically. Bullet jackets seem a little less polished than competing projectiles. However, appearance tells little of the accuracy potential.

Aside from the expansion control mechanism engineered into the formation of the core, Fusion bullets boast a feature that’s very important to accuracy. Because jackets are applied molecularly onto the perfectly shaped cores, the resulting bonding is perfect. It has no inconsistencies to effect accuracy. Generally, the traditional bonding process other manufacturers use has a negative effect on accuracy. Bonding a traditional lead core to a traditional copper cup usually introduces tiny bubbles (great in champagne; bad in bullets) and other inconsistencies.

Very few bullet makers manufacture bonded bullets that dependably provide, for example, half-minute of angle accuracy. Only a couple of companies have become very good at creating very consistent (and very expensive) traditionally bonded bullets. Fusion bullets, with their proprietary molecular bonding process, are extremely consistent and extremely accurate but not extremely expensive.

Terminal performance is so good, Fusion bullets occupy a performance realm a significant step up from traditional cup-and-core projectiles.

More Than Just Deer

Let’s circle back to the beginnings. Fusion was conceived as a whitetail deer bullet, first and foremost. Whitetail hunters are far and away the largest demographic of American hunters; Fusion was, in 2005, meant for them. But it was too good to be limited to just whitetail hunters.

“Fusion, when we designed it, was all about deer hunting. We wanted to create the most effective, best deer-hunting ammunition on the market,” Holm says. “Design of the expansion, plating thickness, profile—all of it was originally optimized for deer hunting. We even had whitetail antlers on the box. But after it was introduced, we had Western hunters wondering if they could use Fusion on mule deer, elk, and so forth.”

“Truth is, it’s fantastic for mule deer and elk,” Holm says. “We have two, often three different bullet weight options in most of the bigger cartridges, so you can pick the heavier bullets for your heavier game.”

Soon, a different Fusion line expansion took off meteorically. Fusion MSR is designed for modern sporting rifles. According to Holm, Fusion MSR is optimized for cartridges and barrel lengths common to the various AR-type platforms. Propellant burn rate is chosen for best-possible performance in 16-inch barrels. Mil-spec primers are employed. And of course, all the various popular cartridges are included, from 223 Rem. to 300 Blackout and on up to the 338 Federal for the large-frame AR-10 shooters.

In many cases, inexpensive, basic AR-15s, right off the shelf, produce half-MOA five-shot groups with 223 Rem. Fusion. It’s superbly accurate, and it’s a fantastic option for hunters that want to take deer or hogs with their favorite AR.

Fusion has permeated all of the popular North American big-game cartridges. It’s a favorite among straight-wall cartridge hunters. It’s optimal for handgun hunters. It’s the foundational technology in the explosively popular HammerDown lever-action line. Even in Europe, Fusion is making inroads. A 156-grain version is now being loaded in the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser specifically for the Scandinavian hunters who have to make a certain power factor to legally hunt Nordic moose.

For more than a century, traditional cup-and-core bullets have served American deer hunters well. Most students of the big-game bullet thought nothing would ever entirely replace that basic technology. But if you examine the meteoric popularity of Fusion, you might conclude that just perhaps, something should—and will.