Ammunition manufacturers seem to tout their brand of load offerings as the best in overall performance compared to their completion.

However, the truth about the matter cannot be found by punching paper targets, unless accuracy is to be the only factor. Although bullet placement is always the most critical component in taking a whitetail deer, factors such as bullet expansion and penetration play a vital role – especially if shots are not perfectly positioned.

Independence Day provided an opportunity to test two relatively new ammunition offerings from top-brand manufacturers in .450 Bushmaster: Hornady and Federal.

The .450 Bushmaster was designed by the Hornady Manufacturing Company for Bushmaster Firearms International producing a .45 caliber cartridge that would function in the short AR-15 action.

The result of this collaboration is the increasingly popular .450 Bushmaster. Initially, ammunition choices were quite limited, but as the cartridge has gained popularity in what was once labeled as shotgun zones, so has the options in firearms and ammunition.

Hornady’s 250-grain FTX bullet has been the popular choice and by all accounts is very accurate. In my limited experience in recent years, it has done its job in the field.

However, my unscientific testing found that the bullet’s weight retention is less than ideal, even though it is reported that Hornady has made this bullet tougher than normal.

I sure don’t know what that means in specific terms, but other manufacturers claim similar results. I’m about to find out.

If a firearm and ammunition combination cannot produce acceptable accuracy, bullet integrity is a moot point.

Since the Hornady FTX load is extremely accurate, it will take a good competitor to replace it as the go-to hunting load.

At the shooting range, my testing with a Ruger American rifle, the Hornady Interlock 245-grain bullet offering (not the FTX load) put three shots in the bull’s eye at 100 yards with absolutely no adjustments in the scope from last season’s setting with the FTX ammo.

Hornady explains the Interlock ammo this way: InterLock® bullets feature exposed lead tips for controlled expansion and hard-hitting terminal performance.

Bullets used in American Whitetail ammunition feature our pioneering secant ogive design and exclusive InterLock ring — a raised ring inside the jacket that is embedded in the bullet’s core that keeps the core and jacket locked together during expansion to retain mass and energy.

Next up for accuracy testing was a new load by Federal with a slightly heavier bullet in 260 grains.

Dubbed the Fusion line, Federal puts it this way: Fusion was the first rifle ammunition specifically built for deer hunting—and it’s still the best, offering the largest expansion and highest weight retention in head-to-head comparisons against the competition.

With a molecularly fused jacket and a pressure-formed core, Fusion transfers maximum energy on target.

Again, without so much as a one-click adjustment, the Federal Fusion ammo with its 260-grain bullet was on the mark at 100 yards with a 3-shot group of less than 1.5 inches – plenty good for minute-of-deer accuracy.

Interestingly, the advertised velocity is 2200 feet-per-second – the same as the lighter Hornady bullet loads. This means more energy and that’s a good thing.

However, there’s more to effectiveness than mathematics and it’s the transfer of energy.

A bullet must not only penetrate, it must expand, as well.

The more the bullet penetrates and expands without disintegrating to any degree, the better.

Now that we know all of three types of ammo are more than acceptable in the accuracy department, it’s time to measure a most important aspect of performance. Next week, we’ll do just that.

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