Skip to main content

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo - TESTED

The new Federal Punch ammo is designed for the concealed carry and self-defense market.

Federal recently announced a completely new line of defensive handgun ammo: Punch. It currently includes one load for each of the five most common calibers used for self-defense in America: .380 ACP (85-grain, 1,000 fps); .38 Special +P (120, 1,070); 9mm (124, 1,150); .40 S&W (165, 1,130); and .45 ACP (230, 890). The line features nickel-plated cases, sealed primers, and newly designed hollowpoint bullets.

The Punch line is interesting because prior to it, every type of defensive handgun ammunition made by Federal was developed with law enforcement in mind. Instead, Punch was developed for the commercial market, with carry guns in mind.

Most police agencies these days won’t even look at duty ammo unless it’s guaranteed to pass the rigorous FBI ammunition testing protocol—bullets that penetrate gel blocks 12 to 18 inches no matter the barrier (heavy clothing, drywall, sheet steel and auto glass). However, that performance also comes with a cost.

Federal realized the average CCW holder doesn’t necessarily need ammo built to shoot bad guys inside cars and through walls. Punch features bullets designed to perform well in the FBI protocol tests most likely to be encountered by private citizens in a defensive scenario: bare gel blocks and blocks covered by the FBI-spec heavy clothing. Since the bullets weren’t specifically intended to defeat complicated barriers, Federal could make the core out of softer lead.


This is not downloaded or tailored to provide less recoil in smaller guns. It is full-power ammo. Since it isn’t specifically built to pass the FBI test, the ammo is more affordable than Federal’s other premium defensive product lines.


Federal-Punch-Defensive-Ammo
From left: .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm, .38 Special +P. The top row was fired through bare ballistic blocks, the bottom through heavy clothing. Expansion through heavy clothing proved a bit inconsistent in some calibers.

I was able to get samples of all but the .380 to test, and I evaluated them in both bare gel and with the FBI’s heavy-clothing covering. This includes denim over a layer of cotton/poly sweatshirt material over two layers of cotton shirt material (dress shirt over T-shirt).

Instead of ballistic gelatin I was using Clear Ballistics’ polymer gel blocks, which are designed to provide similar performance to ballistic gel blocks calibrated to FBI specs. It’s similar but not identical. The Federal folks told me that after a lot of testing they’d determined penetration in the Clear Ballistics polymer blocks is up to 10 percent deeper than what you’ll see in calibrated FBI gel blocks. Keep that in mind when you look at my results.

When testing the 9mm, I used a Mossberg MC2c. This concealed-carry pistol has a four-inch barrel and provided a velocity of 1,125 fps with the 124-grain jacketed hollowpoint. Bullet penetration in the bare block was 19 inches. The bullet expanded to 0.53 inch and had 100 percent weight retention—as was the case with everything I tested. They didn’t shed any petals or jackets.

When fired through heavy clothing, the 9mm bullet penetrated 20.5 inches and expanded to 0.60 inch. This is excellent performance.


For the .38 Special +P load, I used the most common type of .38 Special revolver people carry: a snubnose—in this case my S&W J-frame Model 638, which has a 17/8-inch barrel. I got a velocity of 959 fps out of it.

In bare gel the .38 Special +P load penetrated 14.5 inches and expanded nicely to a diameter of 0.50 inch. When shot through heavy clothing, however, the bullet did not expand—and I repeated the test three times. It appears that out of a short snubby barrel this load doesn’t generate enough velocity to expand when shot through heavy clothing. However, the bullets fired through heavy clothing had an average penetration of 21 inches, which is deep enough to reach vital organs.

I tested the .45 and .40 out of five-inch 1911s, a Springfield Armory and a Remington Tomasie Custom respectively. Generally, the longer the barrel the faster the bullet, which should provide more expansion, usually with less penetration.


The .45 ACP bullet, traveling 859 fps, penetrated the bare block 18.25 inches and expanded perfectly to 0.75 inch, with 100 percent weight retention. It didn’t perform as well through heavy clothing, though. I fired three rounds, and penetration was inconsistent, ranging from 15.25 inches to 24.25 inches. That 20-inch average works out to a perfect 18 inches when reduced by the 10 percent I mentioned. Weight retention was 100 percent.

The bullet that penetrated 15.25 inches was the only one of the three showing any expansion, with two of its petals opening up for an expanded diameter of 0.55 inch. Of the other two, one looked ready to reload, and the other showed just a small enlargement of its hollowpoint.

This is not so unusual for standard-weight .45 ACP hollowpoints. They just don’t have the velocity to expand reliably, even out of five-inch barrels. If you’re of the philosophy that .45 ACP bullets don’t necessarily need to expand because they start out at .45, then you won’t care.

The 165-grain .40 S&W bullet had a muzzle velocity of 1,109 fps. In bare block it penetrated 15.75 inches and expanded to 0.63 inch. Through heavy clothing the bullet penetrated 24.5 inches and expanded to 0.62. While the expanded diameters were nearly identical, the bullets did not look alike. The bullet fired into bare gel expanded more, but the petals were bent farther back. Again, weight retention was 100 percent.

All in all, my testing showed that the Federal Punch ammo in every caliber retained 100 percent of its weight and penetrated more than deeply enough to meet the FBI 12-inch minimum. However, in the slower calibers, expansion through heavy clothing was often wanting—although, again, the Clear Ballistics polymer blocks aren’t the same as regulation FBI gelatin blocks.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

Going To The Range

Going To The Range

Jim and Scott show you how to make each trip to the shooting range a quality experience.

Ruger Security 9 Compact

Ruger Security 9 Compact

This handgun lives up to what Ruger wanted to build: a solid, dependable, easy-racking carry/home defense pistol at a better-than-reasonable price.

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

If you're in the market for a 17-round, compact .22LR pistol that's feature packed, then the P17 is definitely an option for you. At less than 14 ounces fully loaded, and barely longer than a dollar bill, the P17 is concealable for pretty much anyone. The threaded barrel, Picatinny-style accessory rail, ambidextrous safety, ambidextrous magazine release and three (3) 16rd magazines come standard. That's a lot of value added in such a small package.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice Training

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these...

With the introduction of the XD-M Elite line of pistols, Springfield Armory one-ups itself.Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Review Reviews

Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Review

James Tarr - August 21, 2020

With the introduction of the XD-M Elite line of pistols, Springfield Armory one-ups itself.

A look at eight optics-ready pistols for just about any application or budget, including offerings from CZ-USA, Springfield, Smith & Wesson and more.8 Great Red-Dot-Ready Pistols Sights

8 Great Red-Dot-Ready Pistols

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 01, 2020

A look at eight optics-ready pistols for just about any application or budget, including...

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want one.Ruger 57 Pistol Review Reviews

Ruger 57 Pistol Review

James Tarr - June 05, 2020

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want...

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

Norma has announced the introduction of ENVY -- a new line of 9mm ammunition.Norma ENVY - Dedicated 9mm Ammunition for Pistol Caliber Carbines Ammo

Norma ENVY - Dedicated 9mm Ammunition for Pistol Caliber Carbines

Murray Road Agency - January 23, 2019

Norma has announced the introduction of ENVY -- a new line of 9mm ammunition.

Richard Nance and James Tarr discuss what factors go into choosing Plus P ammo or not.Help Desk: Plus P or Not Ammo

Help Desk: Plus P or Not

Handguns Online Staff - August 15, 2017

Richard Nance and James Tarr discuss what factors go into choosing Plus P ammo or not.

James Tarr and Richard Nance talk expansion and penetration when it comes to Hornady ammo.Hornady Ammo Expansion and Penetration Ammo

Hornady Ammo Expansion and Penetration

Handguns TV - May 30, 2016

James Tarr and Richard Nance talk expansion and penetration when it comes to Hornady ammo.



Federal Premium has introduced what could be a game-changer in range ammo with its new Syntech,Red Hot: American Eagle Syntech Review Ammo

Red Hot: American Eagle Syntech Review

J. Scott Rupp - August 16, 2016

Federal Premium has introduced what could be a game-changer in range ammo with its new...

See More Ammo

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now