The AR style rifle is one of the most popular firearms in the country and its popularity is growing by the day, despite its scawy bwack appearance. Then again, perhaps its popularity is partly because of the negative attention that it has received. There are also some good, objective reasons for its popularity, though.
It is one of the very best rifles ever made. The placement of the controls allow for fast, efficient operation and the direct impingement gas system combined with a stock that is in line with the bore help to reduce the felt recoil of the already light recoiling .223 Rem or the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges. Those outstanding ergonomics combined with easy light and optic mounting combine to make a fantastic home defense weapon. The fact that light weight, high velocity projectiles present a slightly reduced risk to neighbors when compared to heavier, slower projectiles (like handgun bullets and buckshot) doesn’t hurt.
There are a number of quality, high performance defense loads available in .223 Rem and 5.56x45mm NATO. One of the loads that has captured much attention lately is the Federal 62 gr Fusion. Its construction is nearly identical to the Speer 64 gr Gold Dot that has gained significant popularity in law enforcement. Because Speer and Federal are both owned by ATK, that comes as no real surprise. The Fusion features a lead core and bonded jacket that is scored along the inside to aid in uniform expansion. Because the jacket is bonded, there is less fragmentation and better weight retention than similar weight non-bonded bullets but as we’ll see in the test below, they will still fragment if the velocity is sufficient.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, though. This test included a shot at very high velocity, about what the factory load produces from a 20” rifle, and at very low velocity, to approximate the terminal effect of the bullet at about 475 yards. The high velocity shot showed significant fragmentation but it also surpassed the FBI recommended minimum of 12” of penetration. When a rifle bullet fragments but also penetrates adequately, it can produce impressive tissue disruption. This bullet also started expanding almost instantly on impact, leaving a virtually nonexistent “neck”, the distance a bullet travels in media or tissue before producing increased tissue damage through expansion, fragmentation, or yaw.
At the other end of the spectrum, we also tested a reduced charge hand load from a short barrel to get a feel for what this bullet can do at long range. This was where the Fusion really shined. Not many rifle bullets can continue to expand and perform well across such an incredible range of velocity.
Of course, this bullet has been widely tested at the normal factory velocities as well, as you can see below. It is no secret that it can perform well in normal conditions so we wanted to see how well it performed when pushed past the envelope for which it was designed.
As you can see, the factory load performs like something from a textbook on how .223 bullets ought to behave. There are a few loads that produce slightly better tissue damage or feature a better ballistic coefficient, but they are also more expensive. The Fusion is not a budget, bulk load, but it is less expensive than some of the defense oriented .223 loads and it is widely available at big box retailers.
If you keep an AR or other .223/5.56mm carbine for home defense, you have a lot of ammo options and several that perform at least as well as the Fusion but there are few that perform this well at this price point and with this level of availability.
Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.
Photo credit – Andrew Betts and federalpremium.com