Review: Federal Punch Defense Ammunition


Federal has been a leading producer of law-enforcement ammunition for more than 30 years.

Drawing on that knowledge, the company recently set out to design a new self-defense load that would provide excellent overall performance from popular carry guns.

The result of those efforts is one of the most exciting new lines of defensive loads to hit the market in years —Federal’s new Punch ammo.

The ammunition is designed to feed, function and perform well not only in service-grade loads, but in the short-barrel lightweight handguns most of us carry for personal defense.

Expanded Federal Punch Bullet
The .38 Special loading offers good expansion at modest velocity from a two-inch barrel revolver.

Federal’s History

During the 1960s and 1970s, Federal introduced some of the first handgun defense loads that expanded well and offered good performance.

The Federal 9B 9mm Luger and the .45 ACP 185-grain JHP were among these. Recently, most of Federal’s expanding-bullet loads have been those developed for law-enforcement use.

Additional factors that go into law-enforcement ammunition, such as complex barrier performance, are more heavily weighted in its requirements, which can add expense.

The result is a loading that may perform well on barriers, but which doesn’t expand as quickly as is possible with a purpose-designed defense loading.

Few civilian scenarios call for performance against threats behind cover.

Federal saw a need for a reliable, accurate, terminally-effective option that doesn’t have to be the top-scoring product in duty test procedures.

It was important, however, to retain feed, function, reliable ignition, a clean powder burn and resistance to the elements.

An important feature of the Federal Punch load is sealed primers.

While some of the original Federal jacketed hollow point loads worked well in most scenarios, Federal’s engineers learned a great deal developing the Hydra-Shok, HST and deep-penetrating loads.

This has been applied to the new Punch loading. There has also been a great deal learned about wound potential.

A balance of expansion and penetration is needed, with equal parts among the two. Reliable expansion and enough penetration are needed.

A softer lead alloy is used in comparison to the HST, for example.

Smith & Wesson Snub Revolver
Even in a two-inch barrel revolver, the .38 Special loads provided good performance.

The Punch Line

I am impressed that Federal has made an effort to launch Punch in all the big-five defense calibers at once: .380 ACP, .38 Special, .40 Smith and Wesson, 9mm Luger and .45 ACP.

The loads and specifications include a .380 Auto 85-grain offering with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 fps, a .38 Special +P 120-grain load at 1,070 fps, a 9mm Luger 124-grain load at 1,150 fps, a .40 S&W 165-grain load at 1,130 fps, and a .45 Auto 230-grain load at 890 fps.

Federal Punch expanded bullets
Federal Punch ammunition proved reliable and consistent.

Testing Federal Punch

During my test, I used water jugs to gauge penetration and expansion. The real advantage of gelatin is that the cavity may be saved and a mold may be made of the wound channel.

Water is useful for comparing one load to the other and is cheap. Generally, expansion is very similar, or the same as gelatin, penetration may be overstated by perhaps 10 percent.

I used representative carry firearms to test velocity and function. With a limited quantity, I got a good idea of the characteristics of Punch ammunition.

First and most importantly, Federal quality-control is there. That is the bottom line.

Second, velocity and accuracy were what is expected from Federal, despite a fair price. The balance of expansion and penetration is good.

Federal has another winner in this line.

Handgun Caliber Velocity Penetration Expansion
CZ P-01 115-Grain 9mm Luger 1115 fps 18 Inches .58 Inches
CZ 75B 115-Grain 9mm Luger 1149 fps 18 Inches .58 Inches
S&W Model 48 Two-Inch Barrel 120-Grain .38 Special +P 901 fps 18 Inches .48 Inches
S&W Model 65 Four-Inch Barrel 120-Grain .38 Special +P 1003 fps 16 Inches .52 Inches
Colt Government Model 1911 230-Grain .45 ACP 868 fps 18 Inches .71 Inches
SIG GSR 1911 4.25-Inch Barrel 230-Grain .45 ACP 849 fps 18 Inches .68 Inches

What is your favorite defense ammunition? Have you tried the new Federal Punch? Let us know in the comments section below!

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