Federal Premium® HST® and HST Micro® Ammunition

Federal Premium® Ammunition, a leading US-based ammunition manufacturing company out of Anoka, Minnesota – has introduced a collection of law enforcement and personal defense ammunition that exhibits unique and impressive qualities. The AmmoDigger Editorial Staff looked into the history, specifications, physics, and efficacy of such ammunition for 380 auto, 9mm, 357Sig, 40 S&W, 45 GAP, and 45ACP rounds. What we learned is both instructive, and frankly, rather impressive.

In 2002, Federal Premium® Ammunition introduced a new product line, specifically restricted to law enforcement applications. It was designated Federal Premium® Tactical® HST® line. (The HST component of the title is open to speculation, but through inquiry we learned from Federal that it has no technical meaning. Rather it simply adds a figurative dimension to the product name!)

As of 2013, this product series has been made available to both law enforcement agencies and those legally armed citizens favoring high quality, high performance ammunition.

The HST line is available to legally armed citizens in the following calibers, bullet weights, muzzle velocity, and muzzle energies as stated by Federal:

380 auto                      90 grains         1,000 feet per second  233 foot/pounds energy

9mm luger                  124 grains       1150 feet per second   364 foot/pounds energy

9mm luger                  150 grains       900 feet per second     270 foot/pounds energy

40 S&W                       180 grains       1010 feet per second   408 foot/pounds energy

45 auto                        230 grains       890 feet per second     404 foot/pounds energy

The Law Enforcement Tactical HST line, which includes several offerings beyond that promoted for civilian use, is available to law enforcement agencies and their officers in the following calibers, bullet weights, muzzle velocities, and muzzle energies, fired from a 4 inch test barrel, also as stated by Federal:

9mm luger                    124 grains       1150 feet per second   364 foot/pounds energy

9mm luger                    147grains        1000 feet per second   326 foot/pounds energy

9mm +P luger             124 grains       1200 feet per second   396 foot/pounds energy

9mm +P luger             147grains        1050 feet per second   360 foot/pounds energy

357 Sig                          125 grains       1360 feet per second   513 foot/pounds energy

40 S&W                       155 grains       1160 feet per second   463 foot/pounds energy

40 S&W                       165 grains       1130 feet per second   468 foot/pounds energy

40 S&W                       180 grains       1010 feet per second   408 foot/pounds energy

45 auto                         230 grains       890 feet per second     404 foot/pounds energy

45 +P auto                   230 grains       950 feet per second     461 foot/pounds energy

45 GAP                          230 grains       890 feet per second     404 foot/pounds energy

The HST ammunition features an advanced bullet design that is specifically intended and constructed to meet the performance standards set forth by the FBI. The FBI (The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation) has produced a significant body of ammunition testing with the goal of generating informed analysis and recommendation for judging the performance of defensive ammunition. Most law enforcement agencies and lawfully armed citizens rely on these standards).

It is well known that the FBI standards are most often met by the bullet performance of many manufacturers featuring a “bonded” bullet design. “Bonded” refers to the manufacturing process of affixing the bullet’s lead core to its metal jacket that contains it. This aids the projectile in maintaining its integrity if it must pass through an intervening obstacle before striking the intended target – or maintaining its integrity as it penetrates such legal targets.

As an aside, the FBI protocols involve a series of rigorous performance tests. Bullets are shot through a variety of testing materials, including 10% ordinance gelatin to simulate human targets, automotive safety glass, plywood, wallboard and heavy clothing. All told there are seven different barrier tests. Barrier penetration and terminal performance issues are obviously of greatest concern across the array of law enforcement agencies. Thus the FBI protocols are also of chief concern for all ammunition designers and manufacturers.

Contrary to the bonded bullet trend, Federal’s HST ammunition is not a bonded design. Instead, the HST is designed with a cannelure on the bullet, a indent which holds the core and jacket together by mechanical force. (A cannelure is groove produced on a bullet during manufacturing.) While a cannelure may have a variety of ballistic or efficiency purposes, in this case, it is intended to help maintain the integrity of the projectile if it passes through an intervening obstacle or as it penetrates a legal target itself.)

In addition to this feature, the design also adds a patented system of jacket skives which aid in the expansion of the hollow point upon striking and penetrating its legally- intended target. (Jacket skives refers to a split in the jacket to encourage expansion).

Federal Premium’s HST ammunition is designed to produce maximized expansion. The difficulty with intended, dramatic expansion is that the process may slow bullet progress and thus limit the penetration needed to succeed in stopping a legal target. In fact, the greater the expansion of the frontal surface as the bullet penetrates, the less it will typically penetrate.

This tendency to fail in penetration to a necessary depth is avoided by the HST. While an expanded HST bullet produces a large and destructive hole – it still penetrates well and effectively. This is the result of the combining influence of the star-shaped expansion, resulting from the skives, and proper weight retention produced through the cannalure. The combination works well, and the current installed base of law-enforcement agencies using HST suggests it does so to wide-spread satisfaction.

Expansion of the HST, as observed in recovered projectiles, resembles a six-pointed star. The pointed shape of each of the six points of the star increases the destructive effect on target medium, but does so without producing a lead “dam” that slows velocity and thus penetration. In effect, the shooter attains impressive penetration while retaining impressive retained bullet weight.

Federal has conducted exhaustive tests to assure that their HST loadings meet the FBI standards relied on by so many law enforcement agencies and civilians. Among the agencies are police departments of Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; and Los Angeles, CA.

An unusual bullet weight for caliber is the 9mm Luger Micro HST in 150 grains. The use of the term “Micro” in the product name refers to Federal’s intention that this ammunition will produce excellent performance with smaller, lightweight pistol designs. Federal advises that this line will provide:

“consistent expansion, optimum penetration, and superior terminal performance with bullet weights and propellants optimized for the most efficient cycling and accuracy in subcompact handguns.”

They further assert:

  • New 9mm Luger load for micro-size concealed carry pistols
  •  Heavy bullet and lower velocity decreases felt recoil and noise
  •  Expanded diameter and weight retention produce the desired penetration for personal defense situations, without over-penetrating
  • Bullet nose profile, nickel-plated case and Federal primer provide the ultimate in function and reliability in semi-automatic handguns  Clean-burning, low-flash propellants

Specifications for the Micro HST rounds, as stated by Federal are: 

380 Micro HST             99 grains         1030 feet per second   235 foot/pounds energy

9mm luger                    150 grains       900 feet per second     257 foot/pounds energy

These Micro HST rounds may be of particular interest to legal shooters with smaller-framed semi automatic pistols or law enforcement officers using a small frame firearm as a backup to their main firearm.

As an example of the new line, the HST 380 Auto Micro Ammo round was designed to improve the performance of personal defense handguns by achieving an ideal balance between expansion and penetration. A 380 projectile of an unusual 99 grains, an impressive 1030 feet per second at the muzzle, and an impact energy of 235 foot pounds, again at the muzzle, is impressive by any standard.

Further, the Micro HST 9mm round offers an equally unusual 150 grain bullet, 900 feet per second velocity at the muzzle and 257 foot pounds of energy upon impact as measured at the muzzle. These performance statistics, when paired with the penetration and expansion characteristics of the HST design, have great appeal within the law enforcement and citizen shooter collectives alike.

Relative to the physics of firing a semi-automatic with ammunition of HST Micro specifications, one finds that the higher weight projectile provides a better penetration depth. The bullet design produces equal-for-caliber or larger expanded diameter. The lower muzzle velocity produces a longer recoil impulse to reduce the perceived sharpness of recoil a shooter typically finds with smaller pistols. Through such a longer recoil impulse, the pistol produces a longer duration for slide movement, improving reliable feed and function.

All things considered, the AmmoDigger Editorial Staff finds the Federal HST and Micro HST line of ammunition to be as impressive as it is a ground-breaking design.

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