Federal Practice & Defend Ammunition Review — 9mm Ammo Combo Packs

Federal Practice & Defend Ammunition Review — 9mm Ammo Combo Packs

In this article, Yamil Sued reviews the Federal Practice and Defend ammunition packs. These combo packs pair 50 rounds of Federal Syntech practice ammo with 50 Federal HST personal defense rounds. The ammunition was provided to the author by Federal Ammunition for review. 

After you decide to carry an EDC (Every Day Carry) pistol and have selected the best handgun for this purpose, you have another decision to make — and it can be a tough one. That is, to select the best ammunition for your handgun of choice. I’ve struggled with this for many years now, and I know I’m not alone.

Based on a great deal of research as well as some expert advice from a friend, my choice for my Hellcat Pro 9mm is Federal’s HST 147-gr. HST round. I’m familiar with this load and it’s a good choice based strictly on performance. Incidentally, it is also used by my local police department.

[Don’t miss Massad Ayoob’s Springfield Hellcat Pro review.]

The Process

So, why exactly is this such a tough decision to make? Most premium-grade defensive ammunition is sold in 20- or 25-round boxes. To further complicate the issue, when you select the ammo for your defensive handgun you need to sight in your pistol. It can be very costly to do this process with premium-grade ammunition. 

testing Federal Ammunition Practice and Defend

Some might argue you can simply use similar-weight practice “ball” ammo — preferably from the same brand — to ensure that your point of impact will be the same. I can say from experience that will likely not be the case. This means you would have to go back to your premium ammo to fine-tune your pistol and sight combination. This whole process ends up being very time-consuming, and even more importantly, very costly.

[Be sure to read our article on 9mm ball ammo vs FMJ.]

A Defensive Ammo Solution?

A couple of years ago, Federal Ammunition released their Practice & Defend Pack featuring 100 rounds of ammunition. It is a combo pack consisting of 50 rounds of Premium HST jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition and 50 rounds of Syntech Training Match total synthetic jacket (TSJ) ammunition. These packs are available in 9x19mm Parabellum in both 124-gr. and 147gr. loadings, .40 SW in 180 grain, and .45 ACP in 230 grain.

Federal HST ammunition expanded bullet

You can probably see the advantage here. What Federal is offering is a combo pack that gives you both proven defensive loadings and practice rounds that are ballistically paired to offer you matching velocities, trajectories and point of impacts. 

This gives you more than enough ammo to load up two 15-17 round magazines for your pistol, plus another 50 rounds for either practice or sighting in your pistol.

[The Syntech line is quite capable beyond just practice use. Be sure to read Beyond Seclusion’s article where he takes it hunting in an effort to find the best 9mm hunting ammo.]

What You Get

First let’s discuss the ammo itself. The defensive-grade ammo in the pack, the Federal HST JHP, is designed to offer superior penetration, weight retention, expansion and great performance going through barriers. In my experience, it also offers the ultimate in function and reliability in semi-automatic handguns.

Federal Syntech ammo

On the practice/training side, the Syntech Training Match TSJ offers a lot of great features, including identical point of impact, velocity and trajectory as the equivalent HST loads. The total synthetic jacket of the round also prevents metal fouling while reducing barrel heat and friction, as well as reducing splatter/splash back on hard targets.

In short, you get the best of both worlds in one box of ammo.

Hands-On with the 9mm Ammo

The best way to ensure you get the performance that you’re expecting is to take the pistol and ammo to the range. What’s printed on the box is one thing, but how the ammo performs out of your pistol is what really matters.

Springfield Hellcat Pro used for testing Federal ammo

While the 9mm Practice & Defend Combo Packs are available in both 147-gr. and 124-gr options, I decided to try out the lighter 124-gr. option. This bullet weight is very capable, especially with the 3.7” barrel on the Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro that I planned on using during my testing. Not incidentally, this gun is, in my humble opinion, the best EDC choice.

The first thing to do when sighting in a new pistol/ammo EDC combo is to make sure that your pistol is sighted in at a distance with which you’re comfortable. There are several points of view on this subject, but I landed on 10 yards for my testing.

For this first sight-in, I placed my pistol on a Ransom International Multi Cal Steady Rest, which is strong and very easy to use with a wide variety of handguns and rifles, making it ideal for getting repeatable results. It took me fewer than 10 rounds to make sure my pistol’s point of aim and point of impact were as close as I could possibly get them.

Federal Practice and Defend ammo with Hellcat Pro

So, is the point of impact of the 9mm Luger 124-gr. HST the same as the Syntech Training Match? Again, the best way to find out is to put it to the test. Using the same set-up, I fired five rounds of the 124-gr. Syntech Training Match ammo on a brand-new target. Then, on a separate target, I shot five rounds of the 124-gr. HST. 

The results were that the point of impact of the 124-gr. HST were extremely close to that of the 124-gr. Syntech Training ammo. I say “close” because this is a human being doing the shooting, so there is a variable there. I suspect in a machine rest, the results would have been exactly overlapping. 

My second test of the ammo was with a Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph, which is the coolest new chronograph in the market today in my opinion. The ammo packaging says that the muzzle velocity of both rounds is 1,150 feet per second (fps), with an energy of 364 ft-lbs.

Federal 9mm 124 grain Practice & Defend Measured Performance

I decided to test both rounds independently, starting with the Syntech Training Match. The Syntech Training gave me a muzzle velocity of 1,178.5 fps with an energy of 382.4 ft-lbs. Next, I tested the 124-gr. HST, and it gave me a muzzle velocity of 1,150.6 fps with an energy of 364.5 ft-lbs. Clearly, these two loads are very closely matched. 

Federal 9mm 124 grain Practice & Defend Gel Testing

I also took the opportunity to test out the HST round in some Clear Ballistics gelatin I had on hand. I shot several rounds into the gel and found that the HST projectile expands reliably through a variety of barriers and penetrates to ideal depths for self-defense situations. It also shows excellent weight-retention characteristics. The round penetrated about 14.5” into the gel and expanded to .601”. Weight retention was an impressive 122.8 grains.

Federal Practice & Defend Ammunition Specifications

Here are the specs on the Practice & Defend ammo as provided by Federal:

My Thoughts on the Federal Ammunition Packs

After years of having to sacrifice precious concealed carry premium ammo sighting in a pistol whenever I changed carry guns or added optics, I finally have found a simple and cost-effective way to switch ammo for any EDC pistol.

Not only is the Federal HST and Syntech Training Match TSJ ammo accurate and reliable, the Federal Practice & Defend Packs make prepping an EDC pistol for carry a simple process, and all for a suggested MSRP of $84.99. Whether you need .45 ACP, .40 or 9mm, there’s a Federal Ammunition Practice & Defend Pack that will suit your needs.

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