Federal Ammunition of Anoka, Minn., has a long and storied history as an American ammunition manufacturer and the company’s expansive catalog includes options for virtually every firearm-related pursuit, from waterfowl shells and big-game loads to competition- and training-oriented offerings. Federal also serves on the frontlines with military and law-enforcement agencies and its experience in developing fight-stopping firepower is reflected in the company’s lineup of personal-defense products available to armed citizens. Within the autoloading handgun segment, Federal’s HST, Hydro-Shok Deep and newly-introduced Punch ammunition are illustrative of the company’s commitment to developing tailored solutions for armed self-protection.
When it comes to defensive-pistol ammunition, Federal’s HST is one of the most recognizable brands in the age of autoloaders. Developed at the request of premier law-enforcement agencies, and introduced in 2002, HST was Federal’s response to the FBI’s ammunition testing protocol that, among other things, includes an exceptionally rigorous gauntlet of barrier-penetration tests. From standard home building materials to steel and auto glass, success in the FBI’s testing protocol not only requires a bullet to defeat intermediate barriers, but that also demonstrates optimal levels of penetration, expansion and weight retention when it comes to rest in the ballistic gelatin block beyond. That’s no mean feat, but HST was among the first designs to succeed and has become a trusted brand among law enforcement and armed citizens. Standout features include a hollow-point design that resists clogging yet still provides consistent expansion, a mechanical lock between the bullet’s jacket and core to keep the elements connected and, to bolster weight retention, environmental sealing and the nickel-plated cases that have become standard among Federal’s duty and defense products. The HST offerings represent the best that Federal has to offer and are priced accordingly, with a box of 20, 9 mm Luger cartridges wearing a $30 MSRP.
Federal’s Hydra-Shok Deep builds on 30-plus years of acclaimed performance from the company’s other premier duty/defense brand. Whereas HST is synonymous with busting the toughest barriers, Hydra-Shok has a hard-earned reputation for reliable, fight-stopping terminal performance. Born out of necessity after the 1986 FBI Miami shootout, where handgun projectiles failed to effectively end the threat, Hydra-Shok’s refined hollow point, central post and “programmed” expansion continue to offer superior terminal ballistics. Hyrda-Shok Deep evolves the Hyrda-Shok design in order to dial in its penetration capabilities. As such, the ammunition meets the FBI-recommended penetration depths of 14-16 inches in ballistic gelatin, and is capable of defeating most common barriers encountered in personal-defense scenarios. Loaded in nickel-plated cases and sealed against environmental factors, such as moisture, Hydra-Shok Deep provides armed citizens a premium option for self-protection. In 9 mm, the suggested price for a box of 20 is $29.
If HST and Hydra-Shok Deep stand as a testament to Federal’s technical mastery of handgun ballistics and projectile design—and are priced accordingly—Punch was introduced to offer shooters a simple and accessible solution for personal-defense and concealed carry. That’s not to say that Punch lacks Federal’s expertise and experience. Federal has been able to take all the lessons learned from HST and the Hydra-Shok lines and use them to develop loads with characteristics suited to armed citizens—specifically, reliable penetration and expansion on bare targets or through heavy clothing.
The truth is, some armed citizens prefer the versatility and enhanced capabilities of duty-grade ammunition, and they are willing to pay a premium for it. On the other hand, Punch will appeal to those who want a trustworthy defensive load capable of solid performance in “most-likely” scenarios. Even better, at about half the price of HST ($16 for a box of 20 in 9 mm) shooters shouldn’t have to empty their wallets every time they need to practice with their carry loads or cycle the ammunition in their daily carry magazines.
Actually, HST, Hydra-Shok Deep and Punch are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Federal’s duty and personal-defense pistol ammunition, but they are a good starting point for anyone new to firearms or armed self-protection. The company also boasts an impressive array of practice and training ammunition, with some loads designed to replicate the trajectories and recoil of ballistically matched defensive offerings. Those looking for more information will find a plethora of product information, test results and reviews throughout the NRA Publications network, and from Federal Ammunition’s full catalog is available at federalpremium.com.