Federal Hydra Shok Deep 135-Grain 9mm Ammo Review

Federal Hydra Skok Deep loaded in my Glock carry mags.

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- The Federal Hydra Shok Deep is the next evolution in the ever popular Hydra Shok line of defensive ammunition. In the release announcement earlier this year, Federal said that the new load was specifically developed for the FBI's updated testing protocol.

When the original Hydra Shok was released by Federal in 1989 in response to a request from the FBI for a bullet that performed better than the loads available at the time. Hydra Shok ammo saw wide acceptance by law enforcement and self-defense shooters as a result of the ammo's performance.

The Federal Hydra Shok Deep updates a well-loved cartridge to modern standards.

How Is Hydra Shok Deep Packaged?

The boxes that I received were the same plastic boxes they have been selling the Federal HST in for the last several years in consumer markets. I only mention the packaging for one reason, because I hate it.

Normally I wouldn't care about ammo packaging, but when flying somewhere you are required to use factory packaging to transport ammo in checked bags. I found the black plastic trays to be more fragile than I would expect. More than once I opened my bag to find loose ammo and a shattered box forcing me to leave the ammo behind when heading home with a broken box.

Note: I know that you can transport it in magazines in a pouch, but I have run into issues with that and been forced to surrender all of my ammo with the TSA.

I received the ammo in 20 round plastic boxes.

While I didn't have any issues, getting the boxes open can also be a challenge for some. I only mention this because I watched a range officer and an older range goer struggle with getting one open for several minutes. Eventually, I helped them get it open but I suspect that this wasn't an isolated incident.

A Closer Look At The Cartridge

Federal uses the same nickel-plated case found on the HST loads for several reasons. First would be the ability for you to quickly identify that you have defensive ammo in your chamber during a press check. Yes, you should know what is in your gun, but being doubly sure never hurts.

Other benefits of the nickel-plated cases are corrosion resistance when being carried in magazine pouches or sweaty pockets. The nickel plating also slightly less friction than brass cases, theoretically improving feeding and reliability,

Federal uses a nickel plated case and an all-new projectile design.

The projectile is an all-new design that focuses on better performance than the original Hydra Shok. They did this with an updated jacket and a core designed to provide reliable expansion as well as 50% deeper penatration than the original Hydra Shok.

The Hydra Shok Deep features a similar post in the hollow point cavity.

Is Hydra Shok Deep Accurate?

I shot the 135-grain Hydra Shok Deep at 10-yards as well as 25-yards in my ATEi milled Glock 19 with a stock barrel, Agency trigger, and my own stipple work. This gun is my every day carry in a PHLster Spotlight for TLR-7 as you see it below. Once the Glock 19 C slide I have at ATEi is back home and I have some time with it, expect a post on what I have found to be the perfect concealed carry setup for me.

Accuracy at 10-yards was superb with two shots straying from the very tight group. I know the one to the low left was a preignition push, something I struggle with constantly and try to fix with Ball & Dummy drill often. The other round to the top right of the group is a result of my support hand thumb doing some wonky stuff.

Realistically though, it is a pretty decent group but I know that the gun and ammo shoots better than this.

10 rounds shot at 10 yards with my ATEi Glock 19 for a score of 99/100.

The two 25-yard targets that I had the forethought to save showed that the Hydra Shok deep impacts just left of where my HST carry load does. Again, the targets are reasonably solid for shooting at distance with a carry gun but could always be better.

Both targets were scored at 91/100 points, but if you correct for the change in zero the scores go up to 95/100 on the left and 97/100 on the right with that one shot dropped just at the exge of the 10.5″ B8.

Two 10 round strings shot with my ATEi Glock 19 at 25 yards, both for a score of 91/100.

Hydra Shok Deep Gel Test

Jacob over at Concealedcarry.com gave me a hand with the ballistics testing. The Hydra Shok Deep had very consistent expansion and penetration as you can see below. He did note that the bullet didn't expand quite as much as some of the other 9mm loads on the market, but again, they were consistent.

Penetration results averaged at 17.19″ after passing through two layers of denim material in calibrated ballistics gel. Jacob noted that all projectiles retained 100% of their weight but sadly didn't share what width the bullets expanded to.

While Jacob was on the range he also did some velocity testing from a Sig P365 as well as a P320. The P365 averaged 920 fps with an extreme spread of 7 fps. Switching to the P320, it averaged 998 fps with an extreme spread of 69 fps.

Concealedcarry.com helped me out with some ballistic testing, the Hydra Shok Deep showed very consistent results.

Is Hydra Shok Deep Good?

The testing that Jacob did with the lot of ammo I had tells me that it probably is good to carry. While it won't replace the tried and true Federal HST 124-grain +p load that I prefer, it would be a good standby should I not be able to source the HST in the future.

At about a buck a round, the Hydra Shok Deep is priced in line with other premium JHP loads on the market. My only hope is that they offer some better packaging for the updated ammo.

There is a hidden benefit to the Hydra Shok Deep being a thing that you might not consider. Those Hydra Shok loyalists (a.k.a. old guys) might get tricked into buying a better load if Federal Premium discontinues the older, outdated Hydra Shok load.

Street price per box seems to hover around $20 even though the MSRP is $27.95. If you want to learn more about Federal's Hydra Shok Deep, head on over to the Federal Premium website.


About Patrick R.Patrick Roberts

Patrick is a firearms enthusiast that values the quest for not only the best possible gear setup but also pragmatic ways to improve his shooting skills across a wide range of disciplines. He values truthful, honest information above all else and had committed to cutting through marketing fluff to deliver the truth. You can find the rest of his work on FirearmRack.com as well as on the YouTube channel Firearm Rack or Instagram at @thepatrickroberts.

  • 48 thoughts on “Federal Hydra Shok Deep 135-Grain 9mm Ammo Review

    1. @ E6H; Right on about Peace Officers, not enough training to hit the targets, instead of just blowing off rounds down range. Also the way that they carry is a crime as to being accessible, along with to many stops at the Donut Shops, much the same as Over The Road Truckdrivers, been there done that !!!!!!!!!!

    2. I find that HST isn’t available locally , well in my county . Academy is hit or miss . I find ordering off of the internet is the best way to get what you want when you want it .
      Through my very limited research the HST projectile seems to be a top performer. Hydro shoc in my opinion is old news .

      1. Hydra-Shok was great when it first came out. The only example that I still have of those that I tested in the mid-90’s is a low velocity 180gr. .40 S&W that, if I remember correctly, averaged around 962 fps. from a Glock 22. Performance was superb and the heavy, well-tapered post was upright, slightly bent and intact. Expansion was nearly 200%.

        The current crop has been a major disappointment. I’ve tested about every version in 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP. The posts are now thinner, less tapered and shorter. (An engineer at Federal, when I asked about the lack of performance, told me that the posts no longer serve any function other than to satisfy the public that expects them to be there!) The ONLY two that I got good performance from were the 9mm 135gr. Low Recoil and the 40 S&W 135gr. Low Recoil. Feel free to use those, avoid ALL of the others. The 124gr. 9mm was, at least, useful. Everything else was lousy. The high-velocity version of the 155gr. .40 was the worst; I had expected it to be the best. Not a single one expanded, penetrated to ridiculous extremes and only one was recovered out of 14 fired. It looked new – except for the rifling grooves!

    3. Since when did “HST” ammo become unavailable except for LE agencies or personnel? I bought some last year, at high prices, at Cabela’s without issue. Did something change this year? They had just released .45ACP standard pressure HST a few years back, after being an LE-only offering for about six years. I think I agree with other respondents regarding equally good ammo without being fleeced. Single shots are not necessarily the answer, not in training or the real world.

      1. I carry the 124gr. HST +P in my 17 or 19X everyday and found it easily online. $26-28 for box of 50. Great ammo as is the +P Speer Gold Dot ammo. Semper Fi.

    4. As far as flying with ammunition. When I’ve had similar problems in the past, I’ve repackaged. For example, I took Winchester ammo and repackaged it into S&B bullet tray’s and boxes. S&B packs 50 rounds into smaller boxes and travels well. I’ve never had anyone even look at the cartridge head stamp let alone argue that it doesn’t match the box. I have had TSA try and tell me that I couldn’t even carry ammunition in checked luggage.

    5. I’m probably going to move on from Federal to either Hornady or possibly Winchester Rangers. I strongly dislike how Federal will only sell HSTs to law enforcement now. Apparently it’s always been this way but I’ve been buying and carrying HST for years (never even knowing Federal strongly discourages retailers from selling to non-LEO) and now suddenly I can no longer buy it. Instead I’m sold 20 round boxes of the exact same thing, just renamed and absurdly expensive. That’s 60% less ammo per box and a staggering 300% mark up in price. This is abhorrent and it absolutely ticks me off. Why on Earth would I want to spend $20 on 20 rounds when I used to buy 50 rounds for $17? Going from 34cpr to 100cpr is insane. I’d rather buy from a different company if that’s how it’s going to be. Hornady Critical Defense may still be half as much ammo for the same price I used to get 50rd boxes of HST for, but at least that’s only twice as expensive instead of nearly three times.

    6. The authors statement, “… when flying somewhere you are required to use factory packaging to transport ammo in checked bags.” Is incorrect.
      According to Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter I, Subchapter C, Part 175-10 Paragraph 8:
      “8) Small arms ammunition for personal use carried by a crewmember or passenger in checked baggage only, if securely packed in boxes or other packagings specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. …”
      I routinely fly with ammo packed in MTM Case Guard® boxes and have never had a problem.

      1. +1 on MTM boxes. The operative phrase in the regulation is ”specifically designed”. Also it’s not the TSA, rather airline employees who are checking your baggage. So it pays to have the airline’s rules bookmarked on your phone.

    7. Glock triggers suck, if they didn’t your groups would be tighter, especially in 9mm. The uber expensive trigger you use still doesn’t fix it. 1911 guy here 😛 Decent review Pat.

    8. Wow. No photos and measurements of expanded bullets. WAAAAAY too much penetration (Which would tend to indicate TOO LITTLE expansion and target damage. Another “FBI-spec” bullet that people foam at the mouth over, but will NOT provide the best fight stopping performance. These FBI types that established and insisted on these parameters for ammo are not the geniuses people believe them to be. They shun TRUE high-performance rounds as being “garbage” because they do not meet their minimum penetration standards. (For example, the Remington and Federal 125gr. SJHP .357 Magnum rounds at 8-12″ — the very BEST “man-stoppers” in handgun calibers ever.) They also (along with the IWBA) assess some rounds with a “negative wound index.” I suppose that being shot with any of those is somehow distinctly beneficial to one’s health and well-being. The FBI rejected an early (2014) version of a 2nd Generation of the 147gr. Speer Gold Dot for not meeting THEIR specs. My testing showed that it actually worked pretty well. The powder was a bit dirty, though. Respond with an email address to receive the results of my testing in more than 50 loads in 4 calibers (.380, 9mm, .40 and .45). Want to see some tested that I haven;t gotten to? Please donate some (or funds) and I’ll get to it (and give you credit) as weather here in the Midwest allows.

        1. If you would request to see my test results, you WOULD SEE photos of the good ones; soon I will post photos of the lousy ones as well. Real-world, consistent results, not “denim” and easily corrupted (intentional or not) gel. In the case of ammo companies, I STRONGLY suspect that it is definitely intentional.

          I am presently unable to work and haven’t for more than 7 years. Even so, I have invested $1,000 or more for YOUR benefit, if you wish to avail yourself of it, so yes – I need some help if people desire to see a specific load tested. A bit quick to criticize you might be.

    9. I too prefer to have more facts and less personal information in any review. I served 32+ years in the Army in both Armor and Infantry branches so I have a lot of practical experience with weapons of all calibers and have completed familiarization fire with almost every weapon used by Soldiers and by Close Protection details. I have several weapons now and have limited my inventory to 5 basic calibers, .22, .380, 9mm, .45 and 45LC/410. My focus is personal protection and home defense. I always carry 9mm and want to be able to shoot intruders through the door or wall, long before they ever get a chance to even see me. I would like to know what ammunition would be the best for that scenario. Please forego the PID warnings and any other comments regarding my engagement philosophy. It is justified by experience. Will this ammunition expand too much and/or slow down too much for my purpose? Should I stay with ball ammo for home and use HST for carry away from home? Thanks.

      1. HST works well through drywall AND heavy clothing. (BTW, my heavy clothing tests are conducted with actual heavy clothing, not the mythical (unicorn/fairy dust) “4 layers of denim” that no person ever has of ever will wear. I use 4″ squares cut from heavy duck canvas coveralls backed up with a similar patch of heavy insulated flannel shirt. Real-world heavy clothing that people actually wear in most of the country in winter. Drop me an email at [email protected].

      2. If that is your objective why not use a bullet not dependent on expansion for it’s damage like the Underwood Xtreme series which is a solid copper bullet. Furthermore, you would be hard pressed to find any JHP on the market that will at all stop it y show down enough through a single wall. Most would take 5 or more walls before stopping. People seem to overestimate the “safety” of shooting JHP indoors.

    10. AMAZING!

      I read the article. Then read most of the comments (there were several comments). Then I posted a reply to one of the comments.

      THEN the page comes back up showing “No Comments”

    11. I’ve used Federal HST for a long time due to its history of being a good self defense performer. Given the limitations placed on CCW permitees, I doubt seriously that I’ll need or find it legally good to have ammo meeting FBI protocol for shooting through windshields so I’ll stick with the older HST as long as it’s available.

    12. That has to be one of the sorriest “ammo reviews” I have ever read in the fifty years that I have been reading them. I now know that “firearms enthusiast” means that you own guns but know next to nothing about them. I see a great career ahead of him writing for the “gun rags.”

      1. 100% agree. The author is more concerned about telling you what he has and how it is set is up than getting to the point.

        1. Gotta agree…

          I’m still trying to figure out how the Federal packaging can be so weak it falls apart inside a properly packed suitcase AND is so tough that people are unable to get the package open.

          Also still trying to figure out how he figured “91/100” on both those targets — apparently either my eyes are getting even worse than I thought or his idea of a hole breaking the line between rings is quite a bit more generous than mine.

    13. Twenty and twenty-five round boxes of ammo are an abomination that should be outlawed. They make carrying a decent quantity of ammo more difficult by far than a fifty round box and the companies like Federal, Winchester, and Remington, charge for these low capacity boxes, what they would normally charge for a fifty round box.

      1. You could load your own defensive rounds. I do.
        The normal hydra shok 9mm is available in 50 rd boxes for about 25$ all over.

        1. Grigori, K L and Cliffalling; GOOD GRIEF!!! First of all, Cliff, NEVER carry reloaded rounds for self-defense. A prosecutor or attorney for the family of the poor mega-scholar that forced you to shoot them will absolutely HANG you for that and the intentionally ignorant jury that they picked will hypnotically agree!

          There is a reason that defensive rounds are 20 or 25 to a box. This designates it as their “good stuff.” Defensive ammo will (normally) feature nickel-plated brass, (sometimes) sealed primers and case mouths and – most importantly – flash-suppressed powders, which also may burn more cleanly. This ammo will last much longer in a carry environment in every way. Most self-defense situations arise at night or in poorly-lit places. Muzzle flash in high-performance rounds would be detrimental to your ability to see after the first shot and hamper your chances of “winning the day.” Use your brain, suck it up and get the good stuff. Is your life and your loved ones only worth a few bucks???

          1. I intended, but forgot, to include the fact that the 50rd. boxes DO NOT contain the same ammo! It is cheaper because it lacks the listed features, therefore, they sell 50 rounds for a price point near that of the 20 or 25rd. boxes. It is normally identical in ballistics, so use it for meaningful practice and carry the good stuff.

          2. And, Massad Ayoob lives on. Going to be pretty hard to carry “factory ammo” when I haven’t purchased any in the last 38 years. I have put at least 200,000 rounds down range in that time. Guess it’s a good thing I live in a gun friendly state. Also good that I don’t generally find myself in the company of thugs in the dark. Pulled my firearm twice in the last five and a half years and both times it was in the bright light of day. One of our members here can vouch that what I say is true. As far as Massad, like anything else, you must separate the wheat from the chaff.

          3. Uh, Charles, I take it you haven’t been in the shooting/defensive game too long. Federal has sold Hi-Shok handgun ammo in the 20 and 50 round boxes. Same exact thing, just that the 50 round boxes are usually sold only to LE. I am a retired cop and find issue with this practice. A citizen’s butt is just as important to him or her as a cop’s butt is to him or her. Why the discrimination? Speer does the same with their Gold Dots, also. 20 rd boxes for the peasants and 50 rd boxes (at about the same price or maybe less) for the police.

            1. No, you’re absolutely correct. I don’t know anything. 50+ years experience in hunting and all varieties of shooting. 30+ years reloading rifle and handgun ammo. 30+ years chronographing and testing ammo from .22 on up. Retired police officer (destroyed portion of lower back). Voracious reader of recreational and technical publications. Scored 35 on the ACT. Yes, I am ignorant – how about you?

          4. @Charles and Matt, the prosecutor is always going to try to come up with something to show your actions were unreasonable. If you don’t reload, it will be something else. Even if you did not use a firearm it would be something else. The pivotal issue is “reasonableness, from the defender’s point of view”, sold to a jury.

        2. Please do not reload your own defensive bullets (unless they are for animals). If you ever had to use your gun to defend yourself from a person it is a guarante that they will use that against you in the trial. They will try to convince the jury that you made those bullets just for killing people and you wanted to shoot someone.

    14. I love the Federal HSTs. They really went up in price, and to get the 50 round boxes, many sites want to see law enforcement credentials.

      1. Wells that stupid. I’m a LEO and there shouldn’t be any difference in getting ammo. We all deserve to carry and have the same access.

        1. Many people just run target ammo through their guns because the defensive ammo is more expensive. I found out my G43 didn’t like the HST and had to send it back to get it checked out. I really like to practice with the defensive ammo to make sure I don’t have any hiccups.

      2. See my comments above on 50rd.vs. 20rd. and 25rd. boxes. Also, there is not true ” law enforcement only” ammo that citizens (in MOST states, anyway) cannot buy. The one that is restricted at this time, according to my knowledge, is Speer Gold Dot G2 147gr. and that is only temporary until the supply issue is eased. Don’t bother, though; I’m sure the FBI will make sure it sucks like most FBI-spec rounds I’ve tested do. (Hornady Critical Duty, Browning BXP, newer Hydra-Shoks, Winchester PDX1 and others I’ve tested come immediately to mind.) An early version of the Gold Dot G2 that I tested worked pretty well; I guess that’s why they rejected it . . . .

        Reply with an email address if you (or anyone) would like to see my test results of over 50 loads in .380, 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP.

        1. There’s no law or regulation, but Federal is pressuring retailers not to sell HSTs to citizens. Federal insists that retailers only sell to law enforcement which is why retailers are now seeking LEO credentials before they sell any amount of HSTs. Federal will flat our refuse to sell to retailers who decide to sell HSTs to anyone, and that’s the problem now. From what I hear it’s always been this way, or at least for the last few years, but Federal is finally cracking down on retailers who won’t follow their ridiculous rules. The market HSTs as “law enforcement” ammunition. This is of course just marketing jargon. They repackage basically the same round with a different name but in 20 or 25 round boxes and sell those to citizens at nearly three times the price. This is why I don’t want to do business with Federal anymore. I was getting 50 round boxes of Federal HST 124gr for $17 for the last few years and now I can’t find them anywhere. The one online retailer I knew would sell them that cheap now requires you send a copy of your LEO credentials before you can buy them. You mention Speer Gold Dot. Speer is made by the same umbrella company as Federal; Vista Outdoors. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’re doing the same thing with Speer Gold Dot as they are with Federal HSTs. The problem I have is I buy a lot of Blazer and CCI, all also under the same umbrella company Vista Outdoors. Unfortunately it’s just so damn cheap to buy FMJs under those brands that I keep going back to them. You would think that Vista has made a killing with having all these brands under their company, but it seems they’re becoming greedy. It’s a real shame because I love HSTs but if I can’t buy them – if Federal/Vista doesn’t want me to have them because they want to sell me the same or an incredibly similar product under a different name at 3 times the cost – then I need to look at a different manufacturer for my hollow point needs. And my FMJ/target ammo needs as well. Hopefully more people will do the same, Federal/Vista will see sales drop, and they’ll knock off this nonsense so we can all benefit from the features and advantages of the HST rounds.

          1. I’ve never had an issue buying LEO ammo. What the hell does that mean anyway. Most Peace officers can’t shoot for shit and don’t train nearly enough. I notice their gear setup every time I see one and most are unsat and severely overweight. Saw one not long ago carrying a Sig without a mag. When told him, he just said he forgot to load up and that was it. WTF.This is why officers are Second responders. You are the first responder so be prepared. Semper Fi.

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