Last week, the .450 Bushmaster cartridge, which is fast becoming a favorite among Michigan deer hunters, was highlighted in terms of bullet design.
Two major ammunition manufacturers, Hornady and Federal, have developed loads that claim proprietary bullet technology meant to be tough in weight retention and overall performance. This week, we learn the truth about their claims in a head-to-head test.
The .245-grain Hornady Interlock and the .260-grain Federal Fusion factory ammunition were compared in an unscientific experiment in which both rounds were shot through a whitetail deer’s shoulder blades and into water-soaked bundles of phone books and magazines. The rounds were also chronographed for velocity.
Before beginning, a certain understanding of why the test was conducted is in order. For me, the ideal round will not only be accurate, but the bullet will expand and not disintegrate to any degree. To be clear, a bullet that fragments and sends pieces of its jacket into the animal are not desirable. While explosiveness is desirable in varmint hunting, it’s not necessarily a good thing in big game hunting, because it destroys too much meat if the bullet placement is not ideal.
When the .450 Bushmaster came onto the deer-hunting scene, Hornady’s Flex Tip bullet offering was about the only factory load available. I found it to be extremely accurate, but its destructiveness was too severe. In a similar test with this bullet last year, weight retention was far less than optimal, and therefore, other options in factory ammo were sought.
By recycling a road-killed deer’s shoulder blades and placing them in front of a wet expansion medium, I would be able to recover the bullets and weigh them for comparison. This method of testing was meant to simulate what happens to particular bullets under extreme conditions to offer a relative comparison of toughness.
A video of the test is available on YouTube by entering “.450 Bushmaster Bullet Integrity Test #2” in the search bar.
First up was the Hornady 245-grain Interlock ammo. Advertised at 2200 feet-per-second (fps), the bullet passed through the sensors at 2156 fps out of a Ruger American rifle with its relatively short barrel of 16 inches. The bullet created an excessive wound channel that could only be described as overkill. Sorting through the wet pages, pieces of the bullet’s jacket were found along with only 55.1 percent of the bullet’s core.
Next came the Federal Fusion load with a slightly heavier bullet weighing 260 grains. It was clocked at 2029 fps and was found to retain 86.5 percent of its original weight. Of the four bullets tested in this manner to date, it was by far the most intact projectile of the group; both penetration and expansion were substantial, as well.
Upon close inspection of the mushroomed bullet, the jacket could be seen totally enveloped by the lead core. It did not blow up!
The Federal Fusion ammo will get the nod this hunting season for me, because it really lives up to the claims of integrity. And, if shots hit bone, as they typically will, the bullet can be relied upon to stand up to even the most demanding conditions, and that’s what I was looking for.