I do get uncomfortable when folks directly ask me for ammunition recommendations. Recently, these requests are coming through much more frequently. Making a recommendation implies that I have some level of expertise in the subject matter. In reality, I have developed expertise in running structured simulation tests and documenting the results. I admittedly have no experience translating my simulation test results into real world results. There are many other folks who proudly proclaim themselves as experts in this area so I will leave it up to you to discover who they are and which of the differing expert opinions you chose to believe in. I choose to read everything with an open mind looking for the logical gems of wisdom without burdening myself by aligning with any one group or expert.
Even though I have tested a multitude of different 9mm ammunition types, with many more to come, I've always wanted to find one load that will work well in all my 9mm firearms. With barrels ranging from 2.75" up through 16", that's a pretty tall order. The Federal Premium 9mm +P 124 Grain HST has been tested many times and has appeared on the blog twice previously. You can find those previous tests on the Ammo Tests Tab at the top of the page. From the opening picture above you can see that I stocked up ahead of the 2013 ammo shortage which allowed me the luxury of burning 30 rounds on this test. Rather than make a recommendation, let me demonstrate why I think this load is a top performer in my firearms.
Kel-Tec Sub-2000 Glock 17 Pattern 16.1" Barrel Length
Glock 17 4.5" Barrel Length
Boberg XR9-L 4.2" Barrel Length
Boberg XR9-S 3.35" Barrel Length
Step 1) Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2) Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 10 feet for pistols and 10 yards for the carbine.
Step 3) Run a test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim. Shot distance is 10 feet for pistols and 10 yards for the carbine.
Step 4) Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.
Video Documentation Series of the Entire Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:
My Thoughts on This Load:
My first hurdle, when selecting ammunition, is to assure that it will feed, fire, and extract reliably in MY specific firearms. This load has never caused any reliability issues in my firearms and that includes testing ammunition from many different manufacturing lots.
Being able to place multiple shots on target quickly is the next ammunition selection criteria. This load from Federal doesn't appear to be measurably better or worse than others in terms of accuracy. What was most important to me was the knowledge that shots went close to point of aim at 10 feet and also at 7 yards. The left and right groups have 7 shots and the center groups have 5 shots each. These results are good enough.
The last performance criteria I look for is adequate penetration after clearing a heavy clothing barrier. This round has never demonstrated issues with the hollow point cavity plugging with denim and causing the bullet to behave like a full metal jacket penetrating to 30" or more. In my testing, it has demonstrated consistent expansion. Heavy denim has a definite negative impact on expansion, but it has not caused expansion failure in my tests.
I keep all my recovered bullets, but it's rare that I get them all out and look at them as a group. If I had, I might have learned long ago what I discovered doing this test. This was the Ah-ha! moment that really made doing the test a worthwhile investment of my time and resources.
In the photo below, the bullets are arranged from left to right as follows:
4.2" Barrel Bare Gel Only Control bullet
16" Carbine Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
4.5" Service Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
4.2" Compact Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
3.35" Sub-Compact Barrel Denim and Gel bullet
We've all seen the beautiful bare gel expanded HST bullets like the sample shot on the left, but how many of us have seen heavy clothing barrier samples like those on the right? What I found most interesting was the interaction of jacket and core working together to maintain a large expanded diameter across a broad spectrum of velocities. At higher velocities the petals peel back to the bullet shank and the lead core spreads. At lower velocities the petals expand, but don't banana peel down to the bullet shank so the lead core doesn't spread as much as the higher velocity shots. I believe this bullet design has allowed Federal to avoid having a unique product line for short barrel pistols. It was really neat to see the performance differences displayed side by side.
Pick or Pan:
Early on I told you this was a personal pick for me. Aside from the consistent terminal performance, this ammunition was generally available and reasonably priced prior to October 2012. I like to practice with carry ammo if possible so price and availability are factors in my ammunition selection criteria. As supplies started to tighten, I substituted Winchester 124 grain NATO FMJ for practice which has worked out really well.
One last note. This load is a +P, or added pressure, loading and is not suitable for use in all 9mm pistols. This is something you need to consider before loading this ammunition in your pistol. If you have any doubts about the compatibility of this loading and your firearm, please consult your Owner's Manual or call the Manufacturer.
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.