Through the years, I have seen many high-performance handgun loads rise, fall and fail. Some would not feed properly,
some over-expanded and others expanded only if they hit a brick wall. Others were of such low quality you could not count on them for personal defense.
Federal has earned my trust and respect with service-grade loads, such as the Hydra-Shok, HST and personal defense lines. Federal has shown consistent quality control for decades. Today, Federal offers general-purpose defense and specialty loads. There are times when a home defense load should be specific to your needs. For example, the Federal HST loading is predicated on a peace officer’s need to penetrate light cover.
While it is also a good choice for general personal defense, some wish to limit recoil and penetration. A load that expands well yet offers less momentum on firing is desirable for personal defense. A bullet without a bonded core expand more quickly in a flesh-and-blood target and for in intermediate obstacles. A lighter-weight bullet stops more quickly in barriers.
The Federal Expanding Full Metal Jacket (EFMJ) bullet, offered in the Guard Dog line, is an ingenious answer to real problems. The load offers expansion with a full-metal-jacketed profile, a reliable feed profile in any handgun that feeds FMJ ammunition, which ensures reliability in less-expensive and older military handguns.
The bullet weight is dropped to 165 grains from the traditional 230 grains—not a +P load, yet dropping the bullet weight results in a velocity of 1050 fps from a 5-inch Government Model, compared to the average 850 fps for a 230-grain bullet. That is sufficient velocity to ensure expansion, and recoil is light.
The questions, then, are how does the company instigate expansion in a full-metal-jacketed bullet, and why would they want to offer it? There are many reasons.
- First, not all handguns feed hollow-point bullets and all hollow-point bullets are not designed equally for feed reliability.
- Next, hollow-point bullets usually work well but sometimes plug with clothing or intermediate material. A bullet that expands by other means is less likely to fail to expand.
- Finally, in some jurisdictions, hollow-point bullets are illegal. That is ignorant and misguided legislation in my opinion and, just the same, Federal has found an alternative to the hollow-point bullet.
Experiments with FMJ expanding bullets began in Europe, where the political climate often would not allow hollow-points. They tried jacketed soft-point (JSP) bullets, although that design is unreliable in expansion. The EFMJ features a scored and weakened nose with a two-point core, part rubber and part lead. On impact, the rubber core drives into the denser lead core and causes expansion of the bullet nose. The result is reliable and consistent expansion.
Even when fired from a short-barrel handgun, such as the XD(M) 3.8 .45, the .45-caliber Guard Dog loads I tested gave good to excellent expansion. I also tested the 9mm version with good results. Recoil is modest, and accuracy is excellent.
Federal designed the EFMJ bullet with a flat point. Despite the light weight for the caliber, the bullet features a long bearing surface, which gives excellent accuracy. The lighter bullet usually strikes to the point of aim in personal defense handguns.
The Guard Dog loading is a good alternative for those who are handicapped by political or legal considerations or simply do not trust hollow-point bullets. A light bullet at high velocity with good expansion is a viable defense loading.
On the whole, the Federal Guard Dog loads are good performers with much to recommend.
- 15 yards
- Average of two 5-shot groups
- .45 ACP 165-Grain Guard Dog
|SIG FASTBACK||1.2 inches|
|Colt Commander Series 80||1.9 inches|
|SIG P 227||1.25 inches|
|Springfield XDM 3.8||2.8 inches|
So are you ready to give the Guard Dog a try? Or have you already? Share your next steps and experiences in the comments section.