Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Federal Premium 45 Auto 230 Grain HST - 6 Shot Terminal Test

I've been hearing some negative reports about this load and how it performs from short barrel 45's.  I started hearing the reports at about the same time as I received a few boxes of factory fresh ammo to replenish my dwindling supply.  Last Fall, I decided to make this load my carry ammo in the Springfield XDs, so these reports were concerning to me.  At about this same time, I was thinking through my test protocol and testing some improvements in my testing process.

I ended up running the most comprehensive test I've ever done on a single load.  I sent 11 rounds down range between the velocity testing and terminal testing.  I really wish I could be this thorough with all my tests, but there simply isn't enough time available to run through a test like this each week.  As I go through the results of this test, I'll let you know what parts will stay and what will be dropped from future tests.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
The test protocol used for this test was a bit different than the normal process.  I used two blocks of Clear Ballistics Gel as well as a barrier block of Clear Ballistics gel with a 5/8" diameter Poplar hardwood dowel suspended in it.  I took 3 shots at each block from 8 feet away and impact velocity was measured at various distances ahead of the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home to recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to shooting the block, I do a 5 shot velocity test over the chronograph.

Test Results:

This video documents the entire test from the range to bullet recovery.

My Thoughts:
As I mentioned earlier, I've been considering some changes to my testing protocol.  One of those changes includes shooting through a bone substitute.  My initial thought was to try and replicate a rib bone with an appropriate sized dowel.  I selected a 5/8" hardwood dowel for my first trial.  Suspending the dowel wasn't too difficult.  Contrary to what you heard in the video, I actually did hit the dowel with all 3 test shots.  Shot 1 very nearly a miss, but the bullet did make contact.  Shot two had substantially more contact.  Shot 3 hit the dowel solidly.  I was actually surprised to see how little difference the dowel made to penetration.  

Recovered bullets 1, 2, and 3 are displayed from left to right in the pictures below.  All bullets were slightly deformed by their contact with the dowel, but I was surprised to see how little they were impacted.  I was also surprised by bullet 1 with the single petal wrapped under the bullet base.  I never would have expected the bullet would have expanded so much in the first inch of travel that just that single petal caught the dowel and wrapped under the base.  

After running this test as a pilot, I decided to do away with the dowel.  Instead I did a little research on the sternum and have substituted a 1/2" thick red oak plank in place of the dowel.  It suspends equally well in the Clear Ballistics gel.  I've also switched to a pan with flat sides so it mates up with the backing block much better.  Faux sternum tests will be used from time to time in future tests.

The bare gel, 4 layers of medium weight denim, and 1 layer 5/6 weight leather with denim shots are displayed from left to right below.  I wasn't surprised by the performance on any of these tests.  I would have been surprised to see uniform expansion from the leather and denim shot.  Defeating that formidible barrier requires a much higher bullet speed.  Lopsided expansion caused this bullet to tumble as it passed through the block, which again was not surprising as we have seen this happen with other tests.

Shortly after completing this test, I found a source for true FBI testing specification 14oz denim.  I will be doing more tests with 4 layers of this denim in the future.  I will be scrapping the medium weight denim I have been using for testing.  I will also be dropping the leather and denim test going forward.  The leather and denim test is somewhat realistic, but I fear that any load that doesn't start with .357 will have a hard time expanding normally through this barrier.  The photo below shows 1 square yard of the new denim and how much it weighs on my postal scale.

The most surprising part of the test for me was the consistent velocity measured across all 11 shots taken during the test.  The 11 round sample had an average of 797 feet per second with a standard deviation of 8.4 feet per second.

Terminal performance was as I expected it would be.  I have found that HST bullets expand well in both short and long barrels.  While no bullet is "magic", I find the ability of the HST bullet to expand optimally at a wide range of velocities very unique and somewhat magical.

The only negative thing I can say about this load is that I wish it penetrated a bit deeper from short barrel pistols.  If anything less than 12" of penetration across all test scenarios is unacceptable, you will probably need to step up to the P45HST1, which is the same round loaded to +P pressures.

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.


  1. Thank you for this! I just bought a Kahr PM45 and knowing I can reasonably expect decent expansion in a short barreled pistol with HST (my favorite full-size pistol defense load) is critical information I needed. You saved me a good deal of time and money... and did a more professional job than I would have!

  2. I just got the xds 45.

    Thanks for the info.