Can There Be Only One? Federal 9mm +P 124gr HST Short Barrel Gel Test and Review

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    We have tested several 9mm defense loads from a 3.1″ S&W Shield and none of them have done very well. Even the Federal 9mm 150gr HST that is specifically marketed for short barrel pistols had less than ideal performance. It’s a difficult trick to design a bullet that can expand well and penetrate adequately while still being able to expand when fired through heavy clothing, and do all of that at the relatively low velocities produced by short barrel 9mm pistols. If you reduce weight, you can get higher velocity, which can improve expansion, but that reduced weight can result in shallower penetration too.

    So when we tested Federal 9mm +P 124gr HST, I was unsure of what to expect. To say that it’s a well respected load in service pistol length barrels is a bit of an understatement. It is quite probably the best possible load and it’s been very well documented. But given the track record of other 9mm in the short barrel, I was prepared for less than perfect results and I was pleasantly surprised.

    Recoil is, of course, a bit snappier than standard pressure 124gr 9mm, but it’s by no means obnoxious. Velocity was decent for a 3.1″ barrel.

    Velocities (fps):
    Average: 1,127.60
    StdDev: 16.46
    Min: 1,101
    Max: 1,145
    Spread: 44

    In bare gel, the figures and appearance of the bullet and the wound track are all textbook. Everything is as near perfect as can be.


    Bare gel wound track

    Bare gel wound track

    Federal 124 gr HST recovered from bare gel

    Federal 124 gr HST recovered from bare gel

    Penetration: 14.9″, 16.0″
    Retained weight: 122.9gr, 123.9gr
    Max expansion: 0.638″, 0.663″
    Min expansion: 0.414″, 0.405″


    But that is the easy part. Many bullets can produce decent results in bare gel, even at short barrel velocities. The hard part is being able to do that in heavy clothing as well. In this case, the results were not quite perfect. But they were nevertheless very good. Penetration was a little deep and expansion was somewhat more moderate. But expansion did occur and it was both reliable and uniform. Bear in mind that this is also the IWBA four layers of denim standard, not the FBI heavy clothing. The latter is a bit easier to pass.


    Heavy clothing wound track

    Heavy clothing wound track

    124gr HST recovered from ballistic gel after passing through four layers of denim

    124gr HST recovered from ballistic gel after passing through four layers of denim

    Penetration: 19.1″, 19.4″
    Retained weight:123.8gr, 123.5gr
    Max expansion: 0.635″, 0.675″
    Min expansion: 0.393″, 0.386″


    I may sound as if I’m gushing a bit, but this is really the best set of results seen so far from a short barrel pistol. If it means anything, I did switch from Speer’s short barrel +P 124gr Gold Dot to 124gr HST in my own Shield.



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    Guns in this video:
    S&W Shield 9mm

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    Andrew is a combat veteran of OEF and has performed hundreds of ballistic tests for his YouTube channel, The Chopping Block ( He is an avid firearm collector and competitor and lives with his family in Arizona. If you have any questions, you may email him at [email protected]