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Federal's Extensive Handgun Ammo Lineup

Whether is hunting, self-defense, competition or simple plinking at the range, Federal has one of the most extensive handgun ammo lines you can find.

Federal's Extensive Handgun Ammo Lineup

When I got into shooting, there were only two types of handgun ammunition: practice/target ammo and hunting/defensive ammo. Other than velocity, the only difference between these loads were the bullets. Practice ammo was loaded with wadcutters or full metal jacket (FMJ) projectiles, whereas defensive/hunting ammo featured bullets meant to expand. These days, the amount of specialization in ammunition is incredible. Not only is modern handgun ammunition made to fulfill a specific purpose, but it’s also often tailored to certain types and even sizes of guns. This reflects the improvements that have happened across the ammunition front. Federal currently has more than 20 product families of handgun ammunition, which vary widely in construction, performance, and intended purpose. Let’s look at some of their offerings and, to make things as simple as possible, divide them into three categories: target, personal defense, and hunting.

TARGET: Gold Medal

Federal’s Gold Medal line offers three loads specifically built for the classic games that demand the utmost in accuracy, such as Bullseye and Police Pistol Combat (PPC). Because 38 Special revolvers and 45 ACP 1911s are the two most popular pistols used, Federal offers one 38 Special and two 45 ACP Gold Medal match loads that are ideal for those shooting endeavors. The 38 Special load features a full classic wadcutter bullet. It has a flat face and is designed to cut a perfect circle (wad) out of the heavy paper targets for easier and more accurate scoring. One 45 ACP load has the standard 230-grain FMJ bullet. Not only do many people feel this is the most accurate type of ammo in the 1911, it is also the most reliable. The other Federal offering is a 185-grain semi-wadcutter — the closest you can get to a wadcutter design in a semiauto while still having it cycle reliably. What makes it match-grade ammunition isn’t just the bullet profile. Federal uses the best components and keeps everything to the tightest tolerances to provide the utmost accuracy.

The best components, tightest tolerances, and utmost accuracy are what make Gold Medal ammo reach match-level standards. For shooters in the market for affordable, value-packed boxes of training ammo, American Eagle is where it’s at.

American Eagle

American Eagle is Federal’s primary target-shooting brand. Most of the American Eagle offerings are practice/target ammunition featuring FMJ bullets and loaded in economical 50- or 100-round boxes. There are currently 35 offerings in 15 different handgun calibers, from 25 ACP all the way to 44 Magnum. No matter what caliber pistol they own, most people want to practice with it. If they’re just “punching paper,” they’d prefer to do it with less expensive ammo. American Eagle cartridges offer brass cases and are designed to offer the same accuracy and reliability performance as defensive loads but at an affordable price. Various calibers are offered in the most common bullet weights. You’ll also see a few green boxes in and amongst the American Eagle standard red — those are the Indoor Range Training (IRT) lead-free loads. Lead-free loads are becoming more popular with the increased number of indoor shooting ranges. In fact, some ranges mandate lead-free ammunition. Offered in 380 Auto, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, 38 Special and 45 Auto (the five most popular handgun calibers), this training ammo uses Catalyst lead-free primers, which have the same shelf life as standard primers. The IRT cartridges are tipped with bullets that, while not technically “frangible,” provide reduced ricochet potential on steel targets — another feature that is becoming increasingly popular with both shooters and ranges.


Federal Target

There are record numbers of new gun owners in America, and they’ll be heading to the range alongside all the veteran shooters — and all need ammo. Whether you plan to shoot a match or head to the range, you need ammunition that is both reliable and affordable. Federal’s Champion (blue box) line of ammo is meant to be priced for volume shooters. It is also offered in niche cartridge options with more traditional bullets than otherwise found in the American Eagle line. Depending on the caliber, you can find Champion ammo in 20-, 50-, 100-, 200-, and even 500-round containers.


Lead bullets given some sort of synthetic coating to reduce barrel fouling are nothing new; Federal’s Nyclad ammo was hugely popular back when Reagan was president. Federal’s newer Syntech line brings that concept into the 21st century. Syntech features soft lead bullets completely enclosed by polymer jackets. The combination means reduced fouling and heating of your barrel and reduced ricochets when shooting hard targets. Federal adds their Catalyst lead-free primers to make this ammunition safer to use indoors. The first Syntech products were loads meant for practice and target shooting, but they became so popular Federal found themselves working with the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), ultimately producing their Action Pistol line of Syntech ammo, the official ammunition of USPSA. This ammunition is guaranteed to provide the declared “power factor” required for these shooting sports. With the huge increase in popularity of pistol caliber carbines (PCCs) in competition, Federal began making 9mm Syntech PCC ammo, with bullet weights and powders chosen for great performance out of these guns. Syntech Training Match is similar. It provides the same numbers as the equivalent HST loads — same recoil, point of impact, and velocity — while being less expensive than high-end jacketed hollowpoints (JHP). The lead bullets have a purple polymer coating to identify them as training rounds.

Personal Defense: Hydra-Shok

Whether it’s HST, Syntech Defense or some other option, a good self-defense bullet needs to deliver on what it’s designed to do. Federal’s new Punch rounds are designed for excellent performance in the most common self-defense scenarios.

Over the past few decades, the landscape when it comes to defensive firearms and ammunition has changed dramatically, and nowhere do you see that more clearly than with Federal Premium defensive handgun ammo. Let’s start with the FBI ballistic test. Developed after the famed 1986 “Miami shootout” between the FBI and bank robbers in and around several cars, the FBI test protocol was designed to objectively evaluate the terminal performance of handgun ammunition. Back in the 1980s, one of the few bullets that performed well on the FBI protocol was Federal’s Hydra-Shok. This JHP featured a post in the center of the cavity designed to aid expansion and nickel-plated cases to aid in feeding and extraction. While the design has been slightly tweaked over the years, Federal not only still offers Hydra-Shok ammo but has expanded the line to include a modern, deep-penetrating version. The FBI protocol places a heavy emphasis on penetration, including through barriers, and the engineers at Federal, with the Hydra-Shok Deep, produced a bullet that penetrated up to 50 percent deeper than the original Hydra-Shok bullet. It didn’t just penetrate more deeply after punching through barriers, this new bullet featured improved expansion and integrity, with a resulting 70 percent improvement in the FBI protocol score. To accomplish this, the engineers at Federal did a little outside-the-box thinking, and the end result are non-traditional bullet weights in each of the five calibers for which Hydra-Shok Deep is offered.

Federal HST

Many people consider Federal’s HST the best defensive handgun ammunition on the market. This modern JHP was specifically designed to provide superlative defensive performance in the FBI ballistic test. It has been adopted by large numbers of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and has also been a huge success on the commercial side. Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of states where concealed carry was legal. Today, concealed carry weapons (CCW) are legal in more than 40 states, and constitutional carry (concealed carry without a permit) is legal in approximately 20 states. Most private citizens don’t carry full-size guns, and Federal has responded accordingly. In addition to offering HST in smaller calibers such as 380 ACP, Federal has tailored ammo for better performance out of those smaller, short-barreled guns.


Train + Protect


Federal’s Train + Protect line provides economical ammunition that can be used for training and/or self-defense. The reloadable brass cases are tipped with their VHP (versatile hollow point), which is a traditional hollow point with a lead core and a skived jacket. Sold in 50-round boxes, this ammo features traditional bullet weights loaded to standard velocities for solid performance across the board.

Syntech Defense

The defense wing of the Syntech line takes the polymer-coated lead bullet design and enhances it for defensive use. The hollow point of this bullet separates into four sections upon impact to create secondary wound channels. The base of the bullet penetrates to FBI specifications. Like the other offerings in this line, the polymer coating on the bullet reduces fouling in the barrel, and it has the lead-free Catalyst primer.

Federal Punch

Federal’s newest line of defensive ammo is Punch. Ammo meant for law enforcement is built to pass the brutal FBI test, and that means shooting through multiple barriers. That also means increased cost and often increased recoil. Punch is intended for private citizens looking for high-performing ammo for their CCW guns, and it provides excellent penetration and expansion for the kind of face-to-face defensive scenarios in which most people would find themselves. For this, Federal’s engineers focused on the FBI’s bare gel and heavy clothing protocol tests when designing Punch.


All of Federal’s Fusion line, handgun and rifle, is meant for hunting. I’ve taken a Florida hog with a single, perfectly performing round of their 223 Rem. Fusion load. Federal’s Fusion handgun ammo is offered in hard-hitting calibers. Options include 460 and 500 S&W, 357 Magnum, 454 Casull, 44 Magnum, 50 Action Express, and even the ’80s classic 10mm Auto, which is seeing a resurgence as a semiauto hunting cartridge. Fusion bullets are jacketed softpoints, the original “expanding” bullet used long before the first hollow point was invented. They feed as well as fully-jacketed bullets but that softer lead tip deforms and expands upon impact. They’re simple, and they work. But Federal’s Fusion isn’t just old-school softpoints; they have combined that classic bullet design with modern technology — in this case, a copper jacket electro-chemically bonded to the lead core. Bonded core bullets prevent the jacket separating from the core after impact, and the more weight retention, the deeper the penetration. Expansion or penetration? With the Fusion line, you get both.



This ammunition is built for three of the most common revolver cartridges used while hunting — 357, 41, and 44 Magnum. Meant for medium game, the loads feature jacketed hollow point bullets and brass cases for powerful performance at an affordable price.

Premium Hunting

There has been a resurgence in handgun hunting in the last few years. The Federal Premium handgun hunting loads sport nickel-plated cases and offer the best hunting bullets on the market. They include the all-copper Barnes Expander, the classic weight-retaining, deep-penetrator Swift A-Frame, and the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. Expansion is nice in a hunting bullet, but what you always need is penetration, as you must reach vital organs. The select bullets in these Premium offerings do both. These loads are offered in most hunting calibers from 327 Federal Magnum all the way up to the massive 500 S&W.

Solid Core

Let’s look at Federal’s brand-new and interesting Solid Core line of ammunition. It is offered in 9mm Luger, 357 Magnum, 40 S&W, 10mm Auto, 45 Auto +P, and 44 Rem. Magnum. Except for 10mm, none of those calibers are traditionally thought of as hunting calibers. But calling this hunting ammo is not the whole story, as Federal has introduced this line to satisfy another recent trend — ammunition meant for defense against dangerous animals.

The Solid Core bullets have a blue Syntech polymer coating over a hard, high-antimony lead bullet with a flat nose. This combination is designed to produce deep penetration, ideal for hunting or defending yourself against aggressive bears or hogs.

Final Thoughts

Modern technology and a robust commercial market have combined to allow Federal to provide a full and diverse lineup of handgun cartridges. Whether you’re driving to the range to punch paper, flying into Alaska to hunt bear, or are just looking for the best defensive ammo to protect yourself and your loved ones, Federal likely has several products that are perfect for you.

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