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Federal HST Duty Ammo

Written by Mike Boyle

Federal Cartridge Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems (ATK). Federal is one of the major players competing in the vital law enforcement market. Founded in 1922, this Anoka, Minn.-based firm turns out a wide variety of handgun, rifle and shotgun ammunition with several lines designed specifically for police and self defense applications.

Federal markets six different lines of handgun ammunition suitable for police duty use, including Tactical Bonded, HST, Hydra Shok, Expanding Full Metal Jacket, Barnes XPB and Classic.

A few years ago, Federal launched its Tactical HST line, which quickly became popular with law enforcement agencies. Federal Tactical HST might be best described as the next evolution of the earlier HydraShok line of premium ammunition.

Maximum weight retention was a priority and bullets had to maintain their integrity after passing through obstacles common in police action shootings. By all accounts, it appears Federal has succeeded.

For the last 20 years, the performance yardstick for law enforcement ammunition has been the test protocol developed by the FBI. Test rounds are fired into blocks of 10 percent ordnance gelatin and depth of penetration and expanded diameter are noted. Ordnance gelatin closely replicates the density of muscle and soft tissue and provides useful feedback on how a particular round might perform on the street. Humans, however, are not comprised of a homogenous substance. Additionally, barriers in addition to clothing, such as sheet metal, glass and wallboard, are often present in police action shootings. Without question, these obstacles can have an adverse effect on bullet performance.

For most law enforcement application, testing rounds through barriers makes tremendous sense these obstacles are part of real situations. Rounds that can defeat common obstacles and still work their magic remain better choices. Agencies whose officers have a higher likelihood of shooting incidents from or around vehicles would be wise to consider performance through sheet metal and glass.

The most likely obstacle in police action shootings remains heavy clothing. While clothing may not appear to be a formidable barrier, it can play havoc with the performance of hollowpoint bullets.

The Federal HST ammunition in 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP were evaluated. Test rounds were fired through pistols commonly used in law enforcement service and were chronographed to measure muzzle velocity.

Three 9mm HST offerings were received for testing, including a 124-grain standard pressure JHP, a slightly hotter 124 grain +P JHP, and a 147 grain +P JHP. Externally, the 124-grain loads were identical with the bullet featuring a wide hollow cavity and serrated jacket. From a HK USP Compact, the +P load galloped through the chronograph screens about 50 fps faster. When fired through a four-layer denim barrier and into gelatin, bullet expansion with both loads was more than 1.5 times the original diameter.

I was never impressed with the original crop of 147-grain 9mm subsonic loads from any manufacturer. But if your preference runs to heavy bullets, the new premium loads represent a quantum leap in performance and the HST version may be the best. Even from the slightly shorter barrel of the HK USP Compact, this load clocked 1022 fps. The serrations on the 147-grain HST bullet are longer than those on the 124-grain bullets, which no doubt facilitates expansion at lower velocities. When fired through a four-layer denim barrier into ordnance gelatin, this load expanded to .60 caliber and penetrated to a depth of 14.5 inches.

In U.S. police agencies, the popularity of the 40 S&W now exceeds that of 9mm. Federal offers three different 40 S&W HST loads, including 155-, 165- and 180-grain JHPs. Samples of the 155- and 165-grain loads were fired through a Glock 22 pistol to measure muzzle velocity and assess accuracy potential. At 1167 fps, the 155-grain HST load is fairly snappy and would, no doubt, deliver superior terminal performance. Much the same can be said for the heavier 165- and 180-grain offerings.

The 45 ACP has achieved greater popularity in law enforcement circles than anytime in the past, with many agencies utilizing pistols for this timeless cartridge. From the 4-inch barrel of a Springfield Armory XP pistol, the 230 grain +P HST JHP averaged 899 fps and penetrated 15 inches of denim covered gelatin. Expanded bullet diameter measured .71 caliber.

Federal HST is clearly one of the better choices for law enforcement use. It is superior in every way to the earlier HydraShok and performance through heavy clothing is excellent.

Mike Boyle served as a captain with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Law Enforcement. He is a frequent contributor to firearms and law enforcement journals and remains active as a police academy instructor.

Photo courtesy of Federal Cartridge Company.

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2011

Rating : 7.0


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