In this edition, we explore the different Federal projectile options that have been unleashed on the reloading market recently.
The opportunity for hand loaders to take full advantage of these technologically advanced bullet designs has generated a huge buzz in the industry, and many shooters who were previously restricted to using said bullets in factory-loaded ammo can now bring a whole new level of options and performance to the table.
This is the consummate deer-hunting bullet – hugely popular in loaded factory ammunition. The Fusion is molecularly fused, jacket to core, leading to a high bullet-weight retention and controlled expansion – this is a different bonding process to other bonded bullets. Looking at a cross-sectional view of the projectile, the copper and lead appear to almost be melted together; we’re talking intermolecular coupling here – pretty clever tech!
In the real world, what does this mean to the Kiwi deerstalker? Quite simply, when these bullets hit, they’ll maintain about 95% weight, and expansion is absolutely massive, thus creating a permanent wound channel that’ll put animals down fast. Because of these attributes, they increase the shooter’s margin for error, as unlike some other bullet options, the Fusion will perform exactly the same whether you hit bone or vitals.
The bullet also incorporates internal skiving to achieve deliberate points of weakness to ensure reliable expansion even at lower velocities.
This isn’t a high ballistic coefficient (BC) projectile option and is definitely created for the more traditional stalker … sub-350yd up-close-and-personal stuff.
Trophy Bonded Tip
This much-revered design was forged from the proven and legendary performance of the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw – a bullet loved and used extensively in the USA as an absolute terminator on big game. With extensive penetration and bone-crushing toughness, many an elk, moose and grizz have been reported DRT (Dead Right There) after been thumped by this bullet over the years.
While game of this size isn’t what we commonly deal with here in the land of the long white cloud and such stout bullet construction is wasted on our game options, Federal have taken note there are elements of this design that, with some modification, can make for an ideal controlled-expansion bullet for our kind of hunting.
The Trophy Bonded Tip (TBT) has a solid shank, much like a monolithic copper bullet. The forward part of the bullet has a nickel-plated jacket, providing a lubricious coating, bonded to a lead core. The nose is then tipped with a heat-resistant polymer to provide a far improved BC from the original Bear Claw design that was more like throwing a brick. The TBT’s tangent ogive, in our experience, takes rifling forgivingly, enabling the bullet to shoot accurately and consistently from a broad range of different chamber throats and rifling types.
This bullet has shown to be very tolerant with seating depth. I’m sure Federal, being primarily a factory loaded ammunition company, factored this into its projectile design so as to attain the best performance from their factory ammo over a broad range of rifles. We’ve found the sweet spot with the custom loads from Black Watch Reloading to be anywhere from .020-.080.
Our in-house testing displays the remarkable weight retention of this bullet and picture-perfect expansion.
The TBT begs to be pushed hard. It’s designed for toughness and depth of penetration on big game, and the higher the velocity of the bullet when you hit them, the better the results will be.
The 165gr 30cal we tested, with a BC of .450, is no slouch and makes for a great mid-range (sub-550yd) option when driven around that 3000fps mark.
With absolute reliable expansion and weight retention at high velocity, I personally see these bullets as an ideal option for heavy standard calibres like a 30-06 or 280 Win and light magnums such as 300WSM, 270WSM, etc.
Next, we move on to the show pony of the Federal line-up! The design of this bullet, with its dark nickel jacket coating and blue translucent polymer tip, resembles something that would be used to knock over vampires in a sci-fi thriller.
The Edge TLR is specifically designed to cover all bases. A precision-made bullet, with the highest possible BC, yet tough enough to handle the highest magnum velocity without breaking up at close range.
With a secant ogive and long boat tail, the 30cal 200gr boasts a BC of .625, while its little brother, the 175gr, offers .536. Launch of the 7mm 155gr here in NZ is imminent and slips downrange with a BC of .610.
Like the TBT, the TLR design incorporates a solid copper shank and bonded lead nose section. The nose is also skived to aid and control expansion – much like a hollow point. This is then topped with Federal’s new heat-resistant slipstream tip. Contrary to what we’ve been told for years by most manufacturers, Federal has made it very clear this tip is solely there for aerodynamic advantage and actually has a weakened stem, designed to break away on impact, thus allowing the hollow point a hydro-mechanical advantage in expansion initiation.
Justine Carbine, Federal’s design engineer, states the lower end of the TLR expansion window is 1350fps. He also regards ‘expansion’ as the nose of the bullet opening to the diameter of the shank. Personally, I don’t call that expansion worthy of a hunting scenario. Our ballistic gel tests produced legitimate and complete expansion at 2200fps. This is an approximate impact distance of 550yd with a .300 Mag or 350yd with a .308 Win – both ethical hunting distances for said calibres.
Early solid shank designs were plagued with accuracy problems. Barnes discovered the remedy for this was machining a series of grooves in its bullets, and everybody copied; the issue this created was additional drag and a drop of BC. Federal engineers discovered sloping the rear wall of the groove helped minimise this issue – hence the impressive BCs these projectiles boast.
This range of bullets is technically advanced in their manufacturing and is an exciting addition to the NZ market. With the impressive results in the field we’re constantly getting feedback about and the performance we’ve seen in our own trials, they certainly justify their ever-increasing popularity with NZ hunters.