Review: Federal Syntech Ammunition

cutaway of a lead core bullet with a red polycoat sheath

It is notable that while modern defensive ammunition has received a great deal of development—and competition is fierce—we are still using the same old lead and jacketed bullets as we have for the past 120 years or more. The high degree of reliability inherent in modern manufacturing by Federal Cartridge Company has crossed over into practices lines such as the Federal American Eagle, but by and large the same, jacketed bullet is used. Federal recently finished a years long development of a new practice load, and the American Eagle Syntech is well worth your time and effort to obtain and use.

cutaway of a lead core bullet with a red polycoat sheath
The lead core is covered by a polymer sheath.

Syntech uses a total synthetic jacket, termed the TSJ by Federal. The lead-alloy core is covered with a red polymer coating. No lead, which is a heavy metal, is exposed. From the company that gave us Nyclad ammunition, this is just another step but a different and important one. Syntech isn’t really a coating, but more of a durable sheath or shield.

This loading is designed to be useful when airborne lead must be restricted, such as when shooting in an indoor range. The lead bullet isn’t exposed to burning gas or primer ignition, so there isn’t any melted lead with the Synetch loading.

Lead is also an important part of the priming compound. To overcome this, Federal developed a new primer—the Catalyst—to overcome lead emissions. The result is a very clean cartridge. Another advantage is that the Syntech projectile is less likely to splash back or break into large shards when it meets a steel plate.

9mm Syntech ammunition in front of shooting glasses and earmuffs
The 9mm Syntech offers a viable low recoil training round.

All of this was good, so I wanted to see how the loads fired and performed. I collected a number of my favorite 9mm handguns and headed to the range. You do not have to ask me twice to go shooting! I took four 9mm handguns and the .45s. I had more 9mm to expend than .45.

My crew and I fired a total of 400 rounds of 9mm and 200 rounds of .45 ACP. This isn’t a military grade test but Federal has a great reputation for reliability. I wanted to gauge the Syntech loads against Federal American Eagle, so I brought along 50 rounds of American Eagle 124-grain 9mm FMJ and 50 rounds of 230-grain .45 ACP American Eagle.

9mm Handguns and Loads Velocity 25-yard groups
Beretta (With Wilson Combat additions) 1142 fps 1.8 inch
Wilson Combat EDC X9 1129 fps 1.65 inch
Glock 17 Vickers Tactical 1134 fps 2.9 inch
Arex Rex Zero 1 1112 fps 2.35 inch
.45 ACP Handguns and Loads
Kimber Custom II 799 fps 2.0 inch
SIG P220 R 760 fps 1.7 inch
American Eagle 124 gr. FMJ
Rock Island Compact 773 fps 3.95 inch
Beretta W/C 1140 fps 1.4 inch
SIG P220R 809 fps 2.0 inch

Clearly, the loads are comparable to any on the market for accuracy, and accurate enough for IDPA use. They are similar to the original Federal American Eagle FMJ loads in performance. After firing 600 rounds in a few hours, the crew and I broke out our Shooters Choice cleaning kits. The cleaning wasn’t much of a chore. The bore was clean and powder ash was limited. This is a good product worth its price.

How concerned have you been about lead ammunition? Have you fired Syntech ammunition? What were your results? Share your answers in the comment section.

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 (11)

  1. After reading this article, I am interested in knowing how much dirtier the ‘regular. ammunition was compared with this newest one

  2. I know it’s “Range Ammo”, but I would be interested in a brief rundown of how this would perform against a live target. Would it expand? Shatter? Pass through?

    1. If it does break up on a steel target, I would not expect it to mushroom well on a live target, so I would guess maximum penetration with minimum expansion or exergy loss.

  3. Last time I checked, lead came from the environment. I think it’s mined from the ground actually. How can we save the environment from lead when lead comes from the environment? Maybe it’s jut me, I don’t know. This also makes me wonder about composite and non metal bullets in the future and the ability to detect the ammo in places such as airports.

    1. Ok, first let me state that the following is my opinion. I am not an expert but, I do have strong opinions about things lkke this. I offer this as discusion, and in no way do I intend to insult or argue with anyone. I will try to keep this very brief.

      In nature, lead is basically sequestered in large deposits contained in rock and buried underground mostly undisturbed until we start to mine it. We then dig, blast and crush the rock and ground in order to free the lead. This creates a lot of small pieces of lead (particles and dust) that does not get collected by the minors because it is not economically beneficial for them to do so. Therefore, it is subject to wind, rain and who knows what, that helps spread these particles, much of which finds its way into lakes, rivers, streams and underground water tables. Then, the mined lead gets used in all sorts of products that get used and eventually disposed of, adding to the environmental problem.

      Pertaining to shooting and hunting. The lead bullets get deposited wherever it is being shot. At ranges it creates a large concentration of small pieces (bullets) and smaller particles and dust from primers and also some from the bullets themselves. Wind and rain does their job here just as at the mining site. Hunting scatters it throughout forests and grasslands.

      Lead mining is not the only mining that does this. Coal, oil and gas drilling, and every other large scale mining destroys the land and pollutes the environment. Large corps swoop in and rape, pillage and pollute the land until they take everything they want, make billions of dollars, and leave us their toilets to deal with.

      Sorry if I ranted a little.

    2. Indianastev, the next time that you want to travel somewhere, I suggest that you either do one of two things. 1.) Call me to borrow my horse which uses NO lead in any of its processes whatsoever or 2.) Befriend ALGore and travel in style on his corporate jet that uses more energy than an Iranian Nuclear Factory and leaves a Bigfoot Carbon Footprint.

  4. I fired 2 boxes through my PX4 Beretta. I do think it ran cooler, and accuracy seems identical to fmj, as I loaded every other round in the mags twice and couldn’t feel difference.
    I REALLY want some of these in 380ACP, as one of my favorite range guns is the Browning 1911-380, and it runs on the hot side.

  5. I bought 1000 rounds of this in 9mm during the current American Eagle rebate. I believe it was .16 per round. I have not had a chance to shoot any of it yet though. I bought it due to the concerns about lead particulate in the air during practice. I quit going to our local indoor range for that same concern. This round wouldn’t do much to reduce the problem at the range, unless everyone used it , I won’t be going there to try it.

    I do feel that lead used in ammunition is a valid environmental concern. I am glad to see manufacturers looking for ways to reduce the amount of lead that winds up in our environment. I can imagine the day when lead bullets will no longer be legal. We need to stop fighting that change and get ahead of that day and find alternatives to lead. We might actually find something that works better, although it probably will end up costing more. When was the last time “new and improved” cost less.

  6. I just shot a box of these yesterday in 9mm, 115 gr., using a 3.3″ Springfield XD-E and my CZ P-01. They ran well and were acceptably accurate. So if they actually run cleaner, I have no reason to think that’s untrue, then as long as they are affordable, it’s a great new product.

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