A Federal Fruit Shoot with Hydra-Shok Deep and its Stablemates


Federal Ammunition has rolled out the descendant of its revered Hydra-Shok load. Hydra-Shok Deep will replace the first Hydra-Shok, as an updated version of the ammunition that’s made to match modern FBI ballistic protocols.

Hydra-Shok deep still has the first-of-its-kind center post lurking inside a hollow point bullet with a six-petal notched jacket.  Powder adjustments have increased the load’s penetrative power. According to Federal Premium literature, its average penetration of a bare block of ballistic gel is 15 inches—exactly where today’s FBI guidelines say it should be.

The company kicked off this updated product with a 135 grain 9mm load. Now, .40 S&W 165 grain and .45 ACP 210 grain are available.

In this very informal test of .40 S&W caliber ammo, Hydra-Shok Deep was stacked up against two other Federal Premium products: Speer Gold Dot 165 grain and Syntech Action Pistol 205 grain.

In the spirit of the season, some of nature’s bounty became target material. A perfectly good half-peck of apples and several sticky Osage oranges (AKA horse apples or monkey balls, depending on where you’re from) were sacrificed for quasi-science and fun.

All shooting was done from 10 yards, from a braced kneeling position, to make an approximate right angle between bullet trajectory and the vertical axis of each target. Targets were placed either on a flat-topped wooden sawhorse, or balanced atop an upside-down plastic planter which was set on the sawhorse. The handgun used is an aging Springfield XD with a ported barrel.

In order of grain weight, here’s what happened:

Syntech Action Pistol is a match shooter’s load with a flat-nosed bullet under a cartoonish red synthetic jacket—Federal has trademarked TSJ, a move that surely turns some other ammo makers green with jealousy.

Syntech bluntly cut off a third of the Osage orange at the point of impact, leaving a through-cut without mangling the fruit much. As promised, this is soft-shooting ammo that made my old XD feel like a 9mm. The other targets, strewn across the top of the sawhorse or resting on planting pots to the left and right of the orange, were undisturbed.

Syntech, in its red jacket, took a third of the Osage orange off.

The apple target was much the same. Syntech blasted solidly through three apples with the same general result each time—the fruit dropped to the ground immediately behind the sawhorse as it was hit, breaking into a handful of small chunks.

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An apple, more or less neatly sectioned and dropped straight to the ground by Syntech TSJ.

Hydra-Shok Deep delivered the recoil I expect from a .40 caliber pistol. It broke the Osage orange in a pattern that looks like several radii of a circle from high school geometry, only we never had 3-D wedges on those circles.

Speaking of wedges, Hydra-Shok Deep cut a center-hit apple into six sloppy but recognizable wedges, almost as if a chef had taken a crude knife to the fruit. Looking at the petal pattern on this round’s jacket, this entertaining outcome is no surprise.

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Fascinating six-slice job on an apple, done by Federal’s new Hydra-Shok Deep.

Hydra-Shok Deep consistently threw broken pieces of the target in a 360-degree radius around the sawhorse. Large chunks flew about 10 feet from home base in every direction, including some that flew back toward me about 20 degrees to my right and left.  Nearby targets fell to the ground when the neighboring fruit was struck. My verdict: this round is aptly named, at least the Hydra-Shok part.

Speer Gold Dot, another popular agency choice for ammunition, rounded out this test and provided a closer comparison to Hydra-Shok Deep. Significant recoil is felt firing these hot cartridges, even with a ported barrel.

A slightly below-center hit on the Osage orange sent not only the orange flying, other targets on the table were deflected by the blast, landing up to eight feet away. The container the orange was resting on split wide open. A large chunk of the fruit was simply gone; the rest showed a very ragged cut.

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Speer Gold Dot obliterated the monkey ball and the stand it was on.

As they saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Speer Gold Dot did its part by making cider out of most of the apples. Twice on the apple target, two chunks, about 2.5 x 1 in and cut in a sort of cloven-hoof pattern, were all that could be found after the Gold Dot experience.  The surface of a card table next to the target-holding sawhorse was quite soaked with apple goo for the first time with this load. Very disruptive!

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The rest of the apple is cider, thanks to Speer Gold Dot.


Federal’s new Syntech Action Pistol load appears to deliver on their promise of a solid THUD that’ll knock the paddles off a Texas Star on the first try. It’s game time when making rapid follow-up shots on this low-recoil round.

The “Deep” new take on Hydra-Shok will keep Federal Premium competitive as a manufacturer of ammo for agency use for many years to come. The substantial blow-back of nearby materials, precise dissection of targets, and manageable recoil make this round ideal for personal defense or law enforcement use.

Speer Gold Dot remains in its own class of destructive power. Its impressive way of turning fruit to smithereens leaves no doubt it can stop a deadly threat fast. The dramatic recoil make it best suited as a defensive and law enforcement round for those whose gun handling skills are well established, and who carry a gun that’s not too big for their build. While that may sound overly basic, too-big guns are a problem that still happens with some officers who are paired with a mandatory agency firearm.

This fun little experiment further cemented my confidence in a company that makes the rifle ammunition I use most often. And it helped put me in a festive mood for fall holidays.  I hope you enjoyed this colorful little test as much as I did, sans the sticky mess!

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