Thursday, September 12, 2013

Federal HST 9mm +P 124 Grain - A Pet Load

For me, one of the best parts of writing the ammunition testing section of the blog is connecting with the folks that read or view the tests.  I do my best to keep up with the polite questions/comments and I really value the feedback they provide because it has helped to make my tests more comprehensive and therefore possibly even more valuable to the reader.  It may appear that I'm constantly changing my testing processes, but I hope folks see the changes as positive and evolutionary.  My goals for ammunition testing have never wavered.  The mission has always been to create data where little, or none, has existed before.  Sometimes that means revisiting the same ammunition multiple times or testing exotic ammunition that others won't touch with a 10 foot pole.  As a three decade ballistics geek, it's all fun for me and I really appreciate that other people can get some value from my testing.

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.

Test Guns:
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

Test Protocol:
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.

Test Results:

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.


  1. Fantastic write up and series of tests putting the bullets side by side is awesome. I've been staring at the numbers for a long time but As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Velocity equals expansion in hollow points. Keep up the great tests.

  2. Thanks very much for a timely and thorough bit of study. I lucked into several boxes of this ammo that was errantly packed in a shipment to a local business; as it was not part of their order they sold it to me at wholesale mid-2012 price. Someone's error at Federal saved me money and got a great product, which is now in all my 9mm's.

  3. This ammo is one of the best 9mm loadings, almost matching the good old 9PBLE. I'd love to see these two loads merged somehow.

    1. A few people have suggested that Underwood would do a great job with this load if they could purchase the HST bullets as a component.

    2. This load is so far ahead of the old 9PBLE load that comparing the two is unfair.

  4. I wish I could find some HST's. Want some non-plus P in 9mm and .45 for my PF-9 and 1911. They are all but impossible to find right now.

  5. Great to see the Sub2K data!

    I'd like to see some of the marginally performing SD ammo, (especially the cheaper ones) tested with the PCC's or other long barrel handguns. I came back and posted here, I am much further along in the blog/vlog format, but this stood out. My "arsenal" (small though it is!) is much more SHTF or crisis oriented, rather than CCW style. But the pocket gun format is very appealing even to me. I hope to get a good pocket pistol or 2 in the future, and I'm glad to see my beloved S&W getting good reviews :D
    We have a great Glock in the family, it is impressive to say the least (10mm G20!)

    Excellent Blog, and it seems to just get better as I get more up to date...

  6. I have been testing Federal Hi Shok in a carbine. 147gr Hi Shok performs well in a carbine. 9BPLE fails miserably from a carbine. Every 115gr bullet I tested from a carbine fragmented on impact, even a CCI Gold Dot. Once the Gold Dot failed in the carbine I quit testing 115gr 9mm ammo.
    Every heavy for caliber 9mm hollow point I tested worked very well in the carbine. I got at least 12 inches of penetration and the bullet did not fragment. I tested 124 gr XTP, 147 gr XTP, 135 gr Critical Duty and 147 gr Hi Shok successfully in the carbine.

    1. Thanks!

      I have a good friend (online) who has found that the NATO 124gr is very accurate @ 100yds out of a Hi Point Carbine. I have one of those and a Colt Pattern "AR-9" plus a Sub2000 40 S&W, Beretta 96 compatible. Do you reload?
      I'd like to get some data leads on carbine length barrels and powders, before I dive in to that arena. Still need the press and all that equipment but I think it could really pay off with a good bit of extra velocity and less powder flash.