By Greg Rodriguez
Because of its unusual shape, this fine impala ram was considered a cull.
Last year, I called ATK’s Jason Nash to discuss ammunition for an article I was writing. ATK is the parent company of Federal Cartridge Co. I mentioned to him in passing that I was scheduled to go on a cull hunt in South Africa in a couple of months. There was a moment when I could practically hear him thinking, then he asked, “How would you like to be the first person to hunt in Africa with our new bullet?”
It took me about a second to accept. The chance to be the first person to test on African game a bullet so new it was still unnamed was just too tempting to refuse.
As my trip grew closer, Nash began to tell me more about the bullet that was eventually christened “Fusion.” It features a skived nose, a boattail design and a uniform jacket that is chemically bonded to the core. Federal claims these features combine to ensure accuracy, deep penetration and consistent expansion across a wide velocity range. In short, the Fusion bullet is supposed to expand consistently and penetrate deeply at 40 yards or 400, whether the quarry weighs 60 pounds or 600.
Nash said the skived nose is the key to the bullet’s consistent expansion, while the bonded core ensures deep penetration. The exposed lead tip causes expansion to begin, but the thickness of the jacket and the strength of its bond to the core help it stay together for deeper penetration.
Nash said the Fusion will be priced to compete with other manufacturer’s standard ammunition.
Shooting .308 Win Fusion ammo with 180-grain bullets, the author took game as small as duikers and as large as kudu.
In my Remington and Winchester test rifles with 20- and 21-inch barrels, the Fusion bullets yielded sub-half-inch groups at 100 yards — more than accurate enough for any kind of hunting. Based on my accuracy testing and Federal’s test data, the Fusion looked promising. Of course, my coming culling expedition would be the real test.
I’ve have been fortunate to hunt in Africa on numerous occasions. Though I’ve enjoyed every safari, culling is a different. African hunting usually involves a lot of sneaking through thick brush in hopes of getting close enough for a shot at an ancient bull wearing a massive set of horns. Culling, on the other hand, typically targets females and is done from a high rack equipped Toyota Land Cruiser at night with the aid of a spotlight. It is not sport hunting, but a way to manage game populations, feed the staff and reduce the drain on habitat in times of drought.
The first night out, we loaded the Land Cruiser with a full compliment of trackers. Soon, a plump kudu cow paused in the light long enough to become the first African animal to fall to the Fusion. The 180-grain .308 slug entered just behind the last rib and exited the off shoulder, dropping the heavy cow in its tracks.
The Fusion is marketed as a deer bullet, so I was surprised at how well it penetrated such a large animal.
Professional hunter Francois and I shot 10 kudu cows that night. Each fell instantly or within a few yards of where it stood at the shot. We fired from every angle in hopes of recovering a bullet, but eacb passed through, leaving a large wound channel and exit wound in its wake. The Fusion bullet was off to a good start, but there was more testing to do.
Francois had farm work to do the next day. Since I was there as a friend, not on a safari, I offered to help. Fortunately, his pal Russell Adshade suggested we find some skew-horned impala rams that needed to be culled. I quickly agreed because I was anxious to test the Fusion on impala rams, which are about the same size and build as the whitetails for which the bullet was designed. My rapid agreement, I assured Francois, had nothing to do with my dislike for farm work.
We made stalks on several non-typical rams, but getting within shooting range was difficult with so many eyes watching. Fortunately, the herd seemed to relax as the light faded. This enabled us to make one more stalk before the last rays of the sun disappeared behind the Winterburg Mountains.
We closed the distance to 180 yards before we ran out of cover. I eased out from behind a bush, plopped down into my favorite sitting position and dropped the ram with a single shot through both shoulders. The bullet exited, and the wound channel and exit wound were substantial.
The next night, we headed out after dinner to try to take some more kudu cows and female duikers. Again, the Fusion bullet was up to the tasks. I shot several kudu cows from very steep angles, and all of the bullets exited. On broadside shots, bullets broke both shoulders and left large wound channels, but the bullets just kept on going.
We also decided to take a few duikers if the opportunity presented itself. These are small animals, so I wondered if there would be sufficient resistance for the bullets to expand. My first chance at a duiker came at the edge of the spotlight’s beam about 185 yards distant. The duiker was quartering toward me, so I shot it on the point of the shoulder. It dropped as if struck by lightning. The exit wound was smaller than those of the impalas and kudu cows, but still exhibited substantial expansion and internal damage.
Later that night, I shot a large kudu cow as she lay facing me on the side of a hill. The bullet passed through the chest cavity, part of the rumen and then the thickest part of the spine before it stopped, lodging against the spine. Total penetration was 39 inches. The recovered bullet retained 87.55 percent of its weight and expanded to more than double diameter - great performance for a bullet designed for deer.
The last afternoon of the hunt, Francois organized a drive. Drivers create a ruckus as they walk through the brush in hopes of pushing animals towards the shooters. Since I was only allowed to take old cows and cull bulls, fate would, of course, dictate that I see plenty of big bulls. In fact, I saw more than 20 trophy bulls, all within 100 yards.
I did manage to take two cows that were driven toward me. The first, an ancient cow, came by early in the drive. I dropped the animal with a single bullet through the point of the shoulder. I took the second cow as she crossed from left to right at about 90 yards. The 180-grain Fusion bullet passed through both shoulders, flipping the kudu over in a cloud of dust.
By the end of the hunt, I’d given the new bullet a thorough test, taking over 30 game animals weighing from 60 to 300 pounds, and from a variety of angles and distances. Without exception, the Fusion held together while delivering deep penetration and rapid expansion. Though I would still recommend a premium bullet like the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw or Barnes-X for larger game, I would have to agree with Federal’s claim that on deer-sized game, the Fusion really does deliver outstanding performance at a standard price.
Federal should have 20 new Fusion loads in the most popular calibers on dealers’ shelves in time for deer season.or more information, visit www.fusionammo.com. To find out more about Blaauwkrantz Safaris, visit www.blaauwkrantz.com.
This article was printed in the August 2005 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.