Like almost every iconic weapon in the evolution of firearms, the modern sporting rifle has been embraced by hunters. We see its action, handling, adjustability and compatibility with varied optics and accessories as the perfect combination for hunting everything from coyotes to moose—and we’re right. This versatility isn’t magic, however. Gun manufacturers made the MSR what it is by designing it wholly unlike conventional bolt-actions, semiautomatics and lever guns. In short, MSRs function differently because they are different—in their barrels, their firing pins, their actions and more.
This calls for ammunition that’s just as specialized. Unfortunately, many shooters, especially those who purchased an MSR during the platform’s meteoric rise to popularity over the past decade or so, don’t always understand this. This is due, in part, to the MSR’s military pedigree, but military-style fully jacketed rounds are neither the practical or legal choice for hunting. And although more appropriate, conventional hunting loads are similarly ill suited to the MSR.
Thankfully, ammunition manufacturers have developed hunting-specific loads built around this revolutionary class of firearms. Last year, for example, Federal Premium released Fusion MSR, as well as new MSR-optimized loads in its American Eagle line.
“We know a good percentage of MSR owners are using them for hunting, and we feel that number will rise in years to come. So we looked at what needs the group has—or will have—and tailored products to meet them,” said Dan Compton, product line specialist for Federal Premium.
The company’s primary hunting offering is the Fusion MSR, which is currently offered in .223 Rem., .308 Win., 6.8 SPC and .338 Federal.
“For target practice, we offer several loads in our American Eagle brand, including 6.8 SPC, as well as 300 Blackout in both standard and the new Suppressor line.” Compton said. “We also offer 5.56mm, .223 Rem and 7.62x51mm FMJ ball offerings for target practice.”
MSRs are not simply cosmetically different than their more traditional counterparts—they function differently on an almost fundamental level. An important distinction, especially in respect to ammunition, is the firing pin. An MSR has a free-floating pin that comes into contact with the primer when the bolt chambers a round. If a cartridge’s primer is too sensitive, the round may go off when the bolt slides shut, resulting in a slam fire. On the other hand, if the primer is too heavy, it may not ignite when the trigger is pulled. Federal Premium dealt with these issues head-on when developing its Fusion MSR line.
“The key is balance,” Compton said. “All of our MSR-optimized loads feature the Gold Medal GM205AR primer, which is loaded to mil-spec sensitivity. It offers the high levels of reliability and consistency our Gold Medal primers are renowned for.”
Propellant choice is another critical part of how manufacturers are providing hunters ammunition customized for the MSR. The challenge is that MSRs typically have short barrels—16 to 20 inches. This can limit velocity. Federal countered this by loading Fusion MSR and its other new MSR-optimized loads with fast-burning powders. These maximize velocities out of short barrels while maintaining standard pressures. As a bonus, such propellants burn extremely efficiently, leaving less powder residue in the firearm.
“This means better function and easier maintenance,” said Compton. “The powders used in Fusion MSR loads also feature flash suppressants for minimized visual signature. This makes them ideal for hunting in low light for species like hogs.
No matter what flavor of rifle they use, serious hunters know that it’s ultimately the bullet that does the dirty work of bringing down game. That’s why it’s only logical that Fusion MSR borrowed its Fusion counterparts’ bullet. The pressure-formed lead core is electro-chemically bonded to its copper jacket plating. This eliminates core-jacket separation while ensuring deep penetration and high weight retention. Plus, the bullet’s internal skiving helps initiate expansion at lower velocities, essentially stretching the lethal range of MSRs. “This bullet is inherently accurate and very strong,” Compton said. “It is also very affordable.”
Combine all the pieces—the primers, propellants and bullets—and shooters are left with the ultimate ammunition for turning their MSR into a fine-tuned hunting weapon. The results are clear: higher velocities, low flash, clean function, reliable and consistent ignition, excellent terminal performance and great accuracy.