December 18, 2019
Federal’s Syntech family of bullets and ammunition continues to grow, and the latest addition is the company’s all-new Syntech Defense ammo. Like other Syntech loads, the Defense line features Federal’s synthetic jacket design—blue, in this case—which eliminates lead and copper fouling in the barrel and greatly reduces friction and heat. But unlike the original Syntech bullet, which features a lead core inside the polymer coating, the Syntech Defense bullet utilizes a hollowpoint design with three nose segments and a one-piece core designed for deep straight-line penetration and maximum energy transfer.
Upon impact, Syntech Defense’s base penetrates 12 to 18 inches into bare ballistics gel, which is optimal because it offers plenty of penetration to stop an attacker without the risk of overpenetration. Gel testing shows the lead core continues to penetrate in a straight line while the three nose segments fracture and move at separate angles, penetrating more than six inches and creating additional wound channels.
It’s a very different design concept than traditional jacketed hollowpoint defense bullets that rely on a single expanding projectile to transfer energy and neutralize a threat. Additionally, Syntech Defense ammunition features Catalyst primers for hot, reliable ignition when you need it most. There are currently three Syntech Defense factory loads available: 9mm Luger (138 grains), .40 S&W (175 grains) and .45 ACP (205 grains). Suggested retail prices range from $20 to $25 per 20-round box, which makes Syntech Defense an affordable alternative to jacketed hollowpoint defensive loads.
I function tested Syntech Defense ammunition in a Glock 17 with a 4.5-inch barrel and a Springfield XD-S with a 3.3-inch barrel. Both of the guns performed flawlessly with Syntech Defense ammunition, running through full magazines without issues. Average muzzle velocities were 1,066 and 1,010 fps from the Glock and Springfield, respectively, measured 10 feet from the muzzle.
Based on those calculations, Syntech Defense 9mm 138-grain loads generate around 350 ft.-lbs. of energy from a 4.5-inch barrel and 313 ft.-lbs. out of a 3.3-inch barrel.
That means the Federal ammunition is on par with other 9mm defensive loads like Hornady’s 115-grain FTX Critical Defense (332 ft.-lbs.) and Winchester USA’s 147-grain jacketed hollowpoint (320 ft.-lbs.) and is well-suited for close-range personal defense applications. Standard deviations out of both guns were in the single digits, which means this ammunition is consistent.
Accuracy was generally good for both firearms with this load. The Glock 17, with its stock barrel, slide and trigger and aftermarket Trijicon sights, produced groups that averaged 1.9 inches at 25 yards with a best group of 1.6 inches. The Springfield produced groups that averaged 2.7 inches at the same distance, good for a short-barreled defensive pistol.
Recoil and muzzle rise was quite manageable from both guns compared to other 9mm defensive loads, and if you’re looking for a mild-shooting defensive load that produces plenty of stopping power and functions reliably in defensive handguns, then Syntech Defense is worth considering.
There was a marked difference in barrel fouling. After cleaning both barrels, I fired 50 rounds of conventional jacketed hollowpoint 9mm ammo through them, cleaned the barrels, then fired 50 rounds of Syntech Defense and cleaned the barrels to compare the levels of fouling with each ammunition.
There was a clear difference when the patches were compared side-by-side. Standard copper-jacketed jacketed hollowpoint ammunition left noticeable copper and lead fouling in both barrels, whereas the fouling from the Syntech Defense ammunition was minimal and easy to swab from the barrel.
The Syntech design is certainly unconventional, but based upon ballistics gel test results—plus the other advantages I’ve outlined—Federal may be onto something. This may be the future of defense bullets wrapped in a blue polymer package.