Federal Fusion .30-30: My New Go-To Lever Action Ammo

I’ve been on a lever action kick lately. And by lately, I mean the past year or so. 

Why lever actions? I’ll answer that question with another one: Why not? They do so many things well. They’re short, light, fast to operate, and great for close-in work. They pack a wallop, too, depending upon the caliber in question.

Marlin’s Model 336 lever action is a staple with many hunters. The Fusion ammunition complements it well, as does the Tom Krein fixed-blade Mini Bowie. It’s a nice hunting package! (Photo: Jim Davis)

Just like any other firearm, a lever gun needs good ammunition. One of the shining advantages of the .30-30, which is an eminently popular lever-action cartridge, is its availability. Where I come from, every gun shop will be guaranteed to have at least a couple of boxes of .30-30 ammo available.

The .30-30

What’s so great about the .30-30? Here’s a quick history lesson.

It made its debut in 1895 and was one of the very first cartridges to use smokeless powder. The first rifle that it was chambered for was a lever action (specifically, the Winchester 94, designed by John Browning). At the time, its nearly 2,000 feet per second velocity firing a 160-grain bullet was considered to be screaming velocity.

Despite being so old (128 years, as of this writing), the .30-30 Winchester is still enduring. Why? Because it works. And when you have something old that still works as well as the day it was invented, it holds a huge amount of attraction.

It’s true that many other cartridges invented since the .30-30 surpass it in performance. They can shoot farther and faster. However, there’s something classic and nostalgic about the .30-30, and within 200 yards, it still harvests deer and other game in style, and using a classic lever gun to do it adds icing to the cake.

There’s something about picking up a rifle that has been in use for decades (some for a hundred years or more) and using it the way it has been used for all those years. It keeps us connected to our ancestors, and people enjoy that.

Federal Fusion

Federal Ammunition opened its doors on April 27, 1922. 101 years ago! Since then, they’ve been a major player in the ammunition industry. They offer ammunition for every conceivable use, from hunting to target shooting, duty ammunition, and Premium ammunition. My agency issued us Federal Premium ammunition for our sniper teams, and it was of the utmost highest quality. I still use it to this day.

Federal Fusion is an entire line of hunting ammunition initially designed for hunting Whitetail Deer (the largest demographic of hunted game animals in North America).

Federal Fusion .30-30 ammunition.
The Federal Fusion line, introduced in 2005, comes in several calibers, including the .30-30 Winchester. These 170-grain rounds hit with authority. (Photo: Jim Davis)

Launched in 2005, the Fusion line of ammunition features bullets with a lead alloy core that is “precision-plated with a uniform thickness of copper, then formed to final shape.”

During the process, the lead core is immersed in a bath of copper and the jackets are applied, finished, and shaped. The thickness, taper, and dimensions are precision controlled.

But before that jacket is applied, the lead alloy cores go through several steps to ensure that they reliably expand upon impact. A star-shaped punch is driven into the nose of the core, which creates a hollow point with ridges. After that, the core is run into a die and the hollow point is closed as the profile arrives at its final shape.

The jacket is bonded to the core, so when the bullet impacts, the internal hollow point opens up without fragments of lead peeling off, which allows the projectile to retain its weight. Retained weight is a good thing because it helps drive the projectile deep into the game, where it hits vital organs and causes the most damage while expanding.

The Fusion line of bullets also has a boat-tail design, which helps them slip through the air more aerodynamically.

Because of the very precise bonding process, the Fusion line exhibits excellent accuracy. We all know that consistency is the friend of accuracy, and here, Federal has combined the two very effectively. Normally, the type of accuracy exhibited by bullets of this type comes with a significantly higher price tag, but not so with Federal. I have to mention that this isn’t advertising hype; I’ve priced this ammunition, and it is typically less expensive than many other brands of hunting ammunition. It’s the real deal.

Expanded Uses

Initially, the Fusion line was intended for Whitetail deer. Over the years, though, it was discovered that the line works wonderfully on other game animals. Western hunters began using Fusion on Mule Deer and Elk. It comes in many other calibers aside from .30-30, although for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on the Fusion .30-30 170-grain Soft Nose.

It does come in many calibers, though, including .30-06, .223 Remington, .308, .300 Blackout, 6.5 Creedmoor, and several others, including pistol calibers.

At the Range

Up until the time that my editor asked me to give the Fusion line a try, I hadn’t used it, not knowing much about it. Let’s face it, there are so many different manufacturers and types of ammunition these days, the choices are bewildering.

Marlin 336 and Federal Fusion at the range.
On the range, the Federal Fusion ammunition ran perfectly in the Marlin 336. (Photo: Jim Davis)

That particular day on the range, I was testing several other types of ammunition, a few of which were loads for the .30-30. It’s a 1973  Marlin 336 with a 20-inch barrel.

I grudgingly admit that my eyesight is not what it once used to be, and these days, the sights get a bit blurry for me. The buckhorn sights of the Marlin don’t help any; in fact, I much prefer aperture sights. But I went with what I had.

Upon firing the first three-shot group of the Federal Fusion .30-30 ammo at 50 yards, I was taken aback. Two of the hits were touching, and the third was a few inches down from those. The spread was obviously my fault, I had pulled a shot down. However, I knew immediately that this ammo is dramatically more accurate than any other .30-30 ammo I’ve used thus far.

A target group at the range shot with Federal Fusion .30-30 ammo from a lever gun
This is very accurate ammo, as advertised! The flyer is the author’s fault. They’re not kidding when they say their focus is on accuracy and performance. Photo: Jeremy Charles.

I’ll confess that, up to that point, I hadn’t read anything about the Fusion line, nor had I done any research. I just loaded up and hit the range. Afterward, I read about how Federal focuses on delivering extreme accuracy. Well, I can confirm that with my own findings. I shot some very nice groups with open sights that day; in fact, I shot more accurately than I normally do with the old lever gun. What a pleasing result!

Is Federal Fusion .30-30 any good?

Let me sum it up like this: This is my new go-to ammo for my lever gun. Why? First and foremost, the accuracy. If that were the only reason, that one would be good enough. But it’s not.

The performance is another aspect. I’ve seen photos of how it expands when hitting game, and it does its job very well. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that it would perform just as well in the defensive mode.

In the event I was to need to use this round against bear, I’d feel okay doing it. It’s 170 grains, so it’s on the heavier side and will penetrate adequately, I believe. It would also expand very nicely. And yes, I occasionally hunt where I might run into a bear, so it’s an honest concern. Mind you, I’m talking about black bear, not grizzlies.

The price is also a factor. While it’s not the cheapest ammo, it’s far from the most expensive either. The current price is $31.99 per box of 20 rounds.

Performance, accuracy, and price. It’s got a lot going for it. As I said, this is my new go-to ammo for the .30-30. This one gets two thumbs up, and if I had more thumbs, I’d throw those in as well.

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