Photo Dave Spaulding
This HST 9 mm displays an excellent temporary wound cavity in 10% ballistic gelatin.Photo Courtesy Federal Cartridge
HST is designed to rapidly expand but still penetrate deeply. This .45 load expanded after only three inches of gelatin penetration.Photo Courtesy Federal Cartridge
This .40 HST shows optimal expansion and penetration in 10% ballistic gelatin.Photo Courtesy Federal Cartridge
Photo Courtesy Federal Cartridge
FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
There was a time when I collected shooting reports from all across the country. It started in the late 1980s when I was working on my master’s degree in criminal justice administration and I needed to pick a thesis topic. I proposed a research project entitled The Incapacitation Effectiveness of Police Handgun Ammunition, and it was accepted by my student advisor and counseling professor.
I conducted ballistic research by shooting bullets into various mediums—including ballistic gelatin, wet undertaker’s cotton, duct sealant and water tanks—to determine whether or not one substance was better than another based on the bullets removed from human tissue. I was also permitted to use my agency’s letterhead to solicit shooting and autopsy reports from across the country. I contacted many of the country’s biggest agencies and they responded to my request. I kept many of those contacts open over the years and continued to exchange data with officers across the country. I quit doing it several years ago because I wasn’t learning anything new and my network began to retire.
My network kept me abreast on the types of ammo that worked on the street and which did not. Many promising ammo styles (based on lab testing) ended up as dismal failures in the street. Others proved worthy. I’ve seen continued success with the .38 special all-lead hollow point regardless of brand; the Winchester SXT and Speer Gold Dot regardless of caliber; and the Federal Hydra-Shok in slow-moving bullets, like the 230 grain .45 caliber or 147 grain 9 mm.
I’ve been watching the progress of Federal’s newest addition, the HST, which isn’t new, but it takes some time to see street results. HST’s results have been impressive across the caliber spectrum, offering consistent expansion and optimum penetration for terminal ballistic performance, i.e. incapacitation potential. A specially designed hollow-point tip won’t plug while passing through a variety of barriers, and it holds its jacket in the toughest conditions. HST is engineered to provide 100% weight retention through most barriers and impressive expansion, often as much as doubling its original diameter.
I was made aware of the encouraging lab results of the HST before it even hit the market. I was at Federal’s Anoka, Minn., plant writing an article on the expanding full-metal jacket ammunition when I was asked if I wanted to see the next-generation hollow point. Hell yes—who wouldn’t?! I was shown a series of bullets that had been fired through various mediums into ballistic gelatin and all displayed incredibly consistent performance. I was then allowed to enter the ballistic lab and watch tests being conducted. I admit to being impressed by what I saw, but I wanted to see the shooting data. Well, HST has been on the market long enough for shooting data to roll in and results show the bullet is as good as the early testing said it would be.
Although some say HST stands for High Shock Two, Federal says it really doesn’t stand for anything other than a designation for a line of ammo. During an email exchange with Tom Burczynski, the inventor of the HST bullet as well as several other successful bullet designs, he wrote, “After testing, I submitted two different concepts (for two different bullets) to Federal. One concept dealt with a serrated core while the other dealt with a series of highly effective scores in the jacket. Federal engineers incorporated both concepts into the same bullet and dreamed up a way to align the serration’s with the scores in the jacket. It is a pre-stressed core, which is why the expanded bullets look like El Dorado Starfire (no longer in production) and Speer Gold Dot (ATK’s other pre-stressed core bullets).” It’s also the reason why the HST expands and penetrates so well through various barriers and materials.
According to Burczynski, early versions expanded well through FBI cloth, but not International Wound Ballistics Association denim test medium. Federal re-worked the bullet and later versions expanded well through denim as well. Over the years, Federal tweaked the bullet’s velocity—raising the velocity of some loads while lowering others—to get the maximum performance parameters from each load. In the end, Federal has a bullet design that’s only rivaled by the Gold Dot in on-the-street effectiveness.
My HST Shooting Data
In my personal files, I have shooting data of the 124 and 147 grain +P 9 mm, 165 and 180 grain .40 S & W, and the 230 grain +P .45. The performance of the HST in this limited number of actual shootings is exemplary. The 124 and 147 loads expanded to .64 and .60, while the .40 loads deformed to .68 and .66 respectively. The +P .45 was recovered at autopsy to have expanded to a whopping .74 caliber—that’s three fourths of an inch! Even though this is a limited number of shootings, it’s enough for me to load my guns with HST with confidence.
I decided to perform my own tests with the HST using both 10% ordnance gelatin and rolls of wet undertaker’s cotton. The cotton material was a substance formerly used by the crime lab in my jurisdiction to trap bullets for ballistic comparison. David Taulbee, the late master firearm’s examiner at the lab (and one of the smartest bullet experts I’ve ever met), noticed the bullets he fired into the cotton looked very similar to those removed from bodies at autopsy. He conducted a number of tests in the mid-1980s and determined the rolls of cotton were an excellent way to test bullet expansion, and I couldn’t agree more. I fired the bullets into the gelatin and cotton at 15 feet with the bullets crossing the screen of a Shooting Chrony chronograph. The gelatin and cotton were covered by the leg of a pair of blue jeans and the guns used were a Glock 17, 22 and 21.
To test accuracy, I bench rested the three guns and grouped each load at 25 yards that, admittedly, is outside the distance in which law enforcement uses a handgun. That said, when testing a gun’s accuracy, why not take it to the limit?
In the end, only you or your agency can determine what load or caliber is right for the job. Note: I don’t recommend purchasing ammo solely based on a magazine article review. Instead, research and test any potential issue or carry load for yourself. HST is a good place to start.