For years, Federal’s Hydra-Shok has been one of the most reliable expanding bullets on the market. However, not long ago Federal changed the design, bringing out Hydra-Shok Deep ammunition. Even better, shooters will soon find .40 S&W and .45 ACP rounds to go with the 9mm ammo first introduced.

So why change it? The answer is both simple and two-fold. First, customers have increasingly desired rounds that score high in the FBI ballistic testing protocol. Second, in the 30 years since Hydra-Shok appeared, gelatin tests and field reports have expanded the general knowledge of the terminal performance of bullet metals. This made it possible for Federal to re-design Hydra-Shok bullets to deliver even better penetration in the FBI tests. Now buyers have a choice between original Hydra-Shok and Hydra-Shok Deep ammunition, depending upon how they define their needs for penetration.

Hydra-Shok Deep

Hydra-Shok Deep was designed to penetrate an average of 15 inches in bare 10-percent ballistic gelatin, which is midway in the 12 and 18 inches of desired penetration in the FBI tests. The FBI developed its tests protocols after the April 11, 1986, shootout in Florida. In this incident, Special Agent Jerry Dove fired a 9mm bullet into the right arm of Michael Platt. However, it failed to penetrate far enough into his chest to reach his heart. Platt then went on to kill two FBI Agents, including Dove, and wound several others.

This incident, along with the fact that assailants rarely present predictable angles of fire during gunfights, the FBI determined that a bullet needs to penetrate at least 12 inches into tissue. This ensures that vital structures would be compromised enough to cause the likelihood of reasonably quick incapacitation. They went on to establish a maximum depth of 18 inches to help guard against collateral damage due to over penetration. By designing Hydra-Shok Deep to penetrate 15 inches in bare gelatin, the new bullet gains a 50-percent improvement in minimum penetration over the old Hydra-Shok. It also provides a 70-percent better performance in the five FBI barrier tests.

A New Bullet

Federal used a unique design on the new Hydra-Shok Deep bullet. Looking at a loaded cartridge reveals a new folded appearance in the hollow point opening, with six deep skives cutting into the jacket and a broader conical Hydra-Shok post in the center of the hollow-point cavity.

The wider post drives tissue fluids into the six “pockets” formed by the jacket’s skives in the bullet’s nose and causes rapid expansion when the bullet hits the target. At that point, something that can’t be seen looking at the loaded cartridge comes into play. The lower half of the bullet has two separate cannelures around its circumference that firmly control expansion and lock the jacket to the core. Additionally, these cannelures help retain the bullet’s weight for consistent penetration.

A lot of research went into this design and the results are dramatic when the bullet is fired into gelatin. The bullet begins to expand immediately, transferring a great deal of energy within the first 8 inches of penetration. Then, it stays solidly together as it penetrates another 7 inches in a straight line. This is excellent performance for both law enforcement and civilian applications.

A New Choice

Ballistic testing indicates that Federal’s new Hydra-Shok Deep ammunition performs very consistently. It also presents an exciting new high-tech personal protection choice for users of 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. We were able to fire some of the new Hydra-Shok Deep ammunition loads at the Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous, where they performed well. More in-depth tests will be forthcoming.

Now at some point, Federal might bring out more calibers, but for now they are sticking with the most popular ones for defense. This makes sense for the market.

Hydra-Shok Deep Ammunition

  • 9mm: 135 grain — $27.95/20-round box
  • .40 S&W: 165 grain — $31.95/20-round box
  • .45 ACP: 210 grain — $33.95/20-round box

For more information about Hydra-Shok Deep, please visit

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