Review: Federal Punch Defense Ammunition

CZ P-01 with Federal Punch Ammo Box

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-01 124-Grain 9mm Luger 1115 fps 18 Inches .58 Inches
CZ 75B 124-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!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. You used two huge CZ pistols to test 9mm ammo used by civilians in concealable pistols. This seems like useless data.

  2. The Federal Punch Defense ammo looks like it will do a good job.
    I prefer to use Winchester 230 gr Ranger T series ammo.. They will normally average 1” expansion out of 5 rounds. The Winchester 230 gr Ranger T series +P will normally average .99” expansion out of 5 rounds. (45 ACP).
    I prefer to use Barnes 115 gr TAC-XPD +P, they will normally average .70” expansion.
    Corbin 115 gr DPX is another favorite of mine, they will normally average .69” expansion.(9 M/M)).

  3. “penetration may be overstated by perhaps 10 percent.”
    Don’t kid yourself. I think you’d only get about 2/3 the penetration in calibrated ballistic gel vs water.

  4. Just received my 9mm, 124 grain Punch Ammo, I like Federal and will be very interesting to see how they perform in my CZ P10s. Will have an update shortly.

  5. In your article, you mention testing 124 grain 9mm. In your results, you represent 115 grain 9mm. Which is correct?

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