From defensive ammunition to components for handloaders, company offers a bit of everything.
I was in Minnesota for a deer hunt – specifically the Minnesota Governor’s Opening Weekend event – when my friend J.J. Reich suggested I amend my itinerary in order to pay a visit to the Federal plant in Anoka.
J.J., you see, is the public relations manager for Federal Ammunition,
and I didn’t hesitate to accept his invitation. “We can test all sorts of stuff: rifle, pistol, whatever you want to do.” I have long been a fan of Federal ammunition – with all the different brands of bullets they load, in addition to their own fantastic designs – and it would be my first time shooting into ballistic gel.
We spent the afternoon with a good 1911 clone and some boxes of .45 ACP
ammunition loaded with Federal’s famous handgun bullets. We shot into bare gelatin, gelatin covered with clothing, and finally through some
BROUGHT TO YOU BY gypsum sheetrock. While all are good bullets, I ended up with a particular favorite, and some of Federal’s subsequent releases have paired up with their premium bullets very well.
Let’s take a look at Federal’s lineup of handgun bullets, available in both component and loaded form.
For the last 30 years, the Federal Hydra-Shok has pretty much defined the defensive bullet. The brainchild of ballistic engineer Tom Burczynski, the Hydra-Shok was developed in an attempt to better the terminal ballistics of a standard cup-and-core jacketed bullet design, and it did exactly that. With a deep hollow cavity, and its signature center post – used to initiate expansion – the Hydra-Shok uses a skived copper jacket to create a large wound channel and give deep penetration. It is an accurate bullet, and has been depended upon by both law enforcement and civilians alike.
Available in many popular cartridges, like .32 Auto, .327 Federal, .380 Auto, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto,
.44 Remington Magnum, .45 ACP, and .45 GAP, there is a Hydra-Shok for nearly every shooter. The Hydra-Shok has traditionally given weight
retentions in the 90 percent range, holding together very well in a number of different mediums. I found that the Hydra-Shok will give 13 to 16 inches of penetration in both gel and gel covered with clothing fabrics, as well as consistent expansion.
There is a +P version for the .38 Special, as well as several “low recoil” loadings, to reduce muzzle jump and get the shooter back on target quickly. Federal offers the Hydra-Shok in both factory loads and
in component form for handloaders. Without argument, the Hydra-Shok is
a bullet you can count on.
The Hydra-Shok received a facelift in 2018 in order to better reach the FBI protocol penetration depths of 14 to 16 inches in 10-percent ballistic gel (I will assume that other folks saw less penetration in their tests than I did with the original Hydra-Shok). The center post was redesigned, and according to Federal, the revamp scored much better in the FBI protocol testing.
That center post is much more prominent in the Hydra-Shok Deep, and the results of the new configuration are certainly there. Federal offers this bullet in their Personal Defense Line, in 9mm Luger (135 grains), .40 S&W (165 grains) and .45 ACP (210 grains). My Sig Sauer 1911 in .45 ACP really likes the 210-grain Hydra-Shok Deep load.
A good designer/engineer never stops tinkering, and they are rarely ever satisfied; Burczynski came up with another winner when he designed the Federal HST. It was intended to provide unprecedented expansion without giving up any of the penetration of the Hydra-Shok. Well, long story short, Burczynski nailed it, and his HST is my personal favorite of the lot. The upset HST bullet looks like a metallic flower with razor blades for petals; the skived jacket and deep hollowpoint combine to give what I consider to be the consummate blend of terminal ballistics: deep penetration and excellent expansion, in an accurate and reliable load. It is this factory load that I carry daily in my .45 ACP, at 230 grains.
Testing this bullet into ballistic gelatin, I have found that it opens consistently – no matter the medium, I have yet to see any HST “plug” and fail to open – and in the tests I’ve done with my .45 ACP, I’ve found the average expansion to be between .80 and .95 inch, with the retained weight to be above 95 percent. The Federal HST is one bad hombre.
It is available in both standard and “Micro” loading in the Personal Defense line – the latter being optimized to perform in shorter-barreled handguns – in .380 Auto (99 grains Micro), 9mm Luger (124 and 147 grains standard; 150 grains Micro), .38 Special +P (130 grains Micro, seated flush with the case mouth), .40 S&W (140 grains), 10mm Auto (200 grains) and .45 ACP (230 grains).
Designed with the same electro-chemical bonding process used in the Fusion rifle bullets, the Federal Fusion handgun ammunition makes a great choice for those who enjoy hunting with their handguns. Federal offers the Fusion in common handgun hunting cartridges, ranging from .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, through the true big cases like .454 Casull, .460 Smith & Wesson and the mighty .500 Smith & Wesson. With a skived ogive and a copper jacket bonded to the lead core, the Fusion gives a lot of performance for the money; like most Federal loads, I’ve found them to be more than accurate enough for hunting.
If you practice often with your handgun – and you most certainly should – the ammunition bill can get rather expensive. Federal has solved that problem with the Syntech bullet: it is a lead bullet with no copper jacket, instead encapsulated with the TSJ polymer coating, eliminating
metal-to-metal contact. It is affordable – with boxes of 50 cartridges having a street price of between $15 and $22, depending on the cartridge – and runs very clean.
Federal uses a lead-free primer (important for indoor shooting ranges) and a clean-burning propellant; the Syntech ammo will make you happy when you clean your sidearm and see how clean it actually runs.
Federal offers Syntech in its loaded ammunition and in component form
for the handloaders, in 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP (loaded ammo) and
9mm, .40 and .45 (component).
ODDS & ENDS
Federal offers a quality full metal jacket (FMJ) bullet in most common
calibers, as well as their jacketed hollowpoint in the Power-Shok “blue
box” line. The new Train + Protect line is built around the Federal Versatile Hollow Point (VHP) bullet, for an affordable yet effective load that will allow the shooter to practice routinely without breaking the bank, and use the same ammo for the defensive weapon.
Ever innovative, Federal remains on the cusp of bullet development, and this article only highlights their proprietary designs. Federal has long been known for embracing a great number of different brands, and they continue to do so, even in their handgun cartridges.
Take some time to peruse federalpremium.com and see how many different bullets are loaded in their ammunition; these guys take ammo very seriously.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO