Federal .380 ACP 99gr Hydra-shok deep in vyse ballistics gel

Test Gun: Ruger LCP
Barrel length: 2.75 inches.
Ammunition: Federal .380 ACP 99gr Hydra-Shok Deep.
Test media: 10% Vyse Ballistics Gel.
Distance: 10 feet.
Chronograph: Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2.
Five shot velocity average: 873fps
BB Calibration: 3.5 inches.

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In 2018 Federal announced a new line of defensive pistol ammo called the Hydra-Shok Deep. Originally introduced in 9mm and later expanded to .40 S&W and .45 ACP. In January of this year Federal announced it would be producing a .380 ACP version as well. Six months later Federal started shipping to retailers and I was able to grab some from SG Ammo. The price was $23.95 before tax and shipping.

Depending on who you ask the .380 is either marginally acceptable with the right load, or not acceptable in any loading. The problem with the .380 is it doesn’t have the ass or the mass to make the FBI standard of 12 to 18 inches with acceptable expansion. What one tends to see is either good expansion with shallow penetration or over penetration with little or no expansion.

The general agreement is the Hornady 90gr XTP bullet seems to be the only one that marginally makes the mark. This opinion is based on the extensive testing done by the Shooting the Bull blog. His test is very comprehensive and if you carry a .380 I suggest you take a look.

Federal claims this new round will meet the FBI standards when shot into bare and heavy clothing ballistics gel but not through other barriers.

From Federals press release;

ANOKA, Minnesota – July 9, 2020 – Federal Premium Hydra-Shok Deep’s bullet
design brings the 380 Auto cartridge to all-new heights—or in this case, depths. This
new micro-handgun ammunition offering is the first expanding 380 Auto load to
consistently penetrate beyond the FBI-recommended 12-inch minimum in bare gel and
through heavy clothing. Shipments of this product have begun to arrive at dealers.
“FBI protocol for handgun ammunition testing includes a series of rigorous scenarios.
Bullets are shot through materials such as 10-percent ordinance gelatin, laminated
automotive safety glass, plywood, wallboard and heavy clothing specified by the FBI,”
said Federal Handgun Ammunition Product Manager Chris Laack. “While our larger
caliber ammunition is designed to meet and exceed these requirements, the smaller
380 Auto is designed to offer the best possible blend of performance in a compact
handgun platform.”
Testing done by Federal ammunition engineers in their Anoka, Minnesota facilities
showed typical results of 13 to 13 ½ inches of penetration in bare gel and 13 ¼ to 14
inches through heavy clothing. Test gun barrel lengths were from common, compact
handguns ranging from 2 ¾ to 3 ½ inches. The bullet and load are also fine-tuned to
ensure delivery of consistent performance across all handgun platforms, including ones
with longer barrels, to stay within that 13- to 14-inch goal range.
“It’s a completely new bullet design. We didn’t just take a 45 ACP, 40 S&W or 9mm
Hydra-Shok Deep bullet and make it smaller,” said Laack. “During development,
engineers looked at several design elements such as bullet weight, jacket, skiving,
profile, and hollow point design elements to determine what modifications were
necessary for the 380 Auto.
Hydra-Shok Deep 380 scores a blistering 1,000 feet per second at the muzzle and
delivers full expansion in both the bare gel and heavy clothing tests when shot from a
variety of common compact handguns.

So, if this round really gets 13 to 14 inches of penetration could it be a game changer? I mixed up one block of Vyse ballistics gel using the 10% FBI method and let it sit, in the fridge, for two days and it calibrated to 3.5 inches. Two shots in bare gel and two through heavy clothing covered gel with the Ruger LCP.

With the Ruger LCP I got a five shot velocity of 873fps with a high of 894fps and a low of 851 for and extreme spread of 43fps.

Five round off hand at five yards.

So, starting off with the first round in bare gel it penetrated to 14.5 inches. It expanded to .51 inches and had a recovered weight of 99.8 grains. No velocity was recorded. The second round’s velocity was 783fps and it penetrated to 14.75 inches. It also expanded to .51 inches and had a recovered weight of 99.8 grains.

Now the two rounds through the heavy clothing. Round one had a velocity of 869fps and penetrated to 15 inches. It’s recovered expansion was uneven at .52 by .49 inches. The recovered weight was 99.8 grains. The second round had a velocity of 886fps and penetrated to 16.25 inches. It’s recovered expansion was .49 inches and it had a recovered weight of 99.7 grains.

Finally, I decided to try it in four layers of denim. I don’t normally test in denim but instead, prefer to use the FBI heavy clothing. The four-layer os denim is a standard created by the IWBA as an alternative and harder test then heavy clothing. People seem to mix up the two different testing methods.

Out of fairness to Federal, it should be pointed out that Federal does not claim this bullet will perform to the FBI penetration and expansion standards in a denim test.

Shooting the first round in the denim-covered gel the bullet had a velocity of 822fps and penetrated to 17 inches. There was no expansion and the recovered weight was 99.5 grains. The second round’s velocity was 859fps and it penetrated to 14 inches with an expansion of .53 by .47 inches.

I tried to take some slow mo videos on my new phone but it did’t come out very well. I may try to edit later and see if there is anything worth posting.


  1. This is impressive performance! Out of an LCP, no less, with a mere 2.75″ of barrel length to develop velocity. We can only imagine the performance achievable though a full-sized .380 pistol with 3.5″-4.0″ barrel length. I’ll try this ammunition as soon as I can find any to buy. Thanks for another great test!


  2. Fast forward six months later, and this stuff is unobtanium. Available through only one source on ammo seek, and it’s over $1.50 a round.


  3. It can be bought on federal’s website, just keep checking for a few weeks. Usually goes up on Friday/Saturdays at least once a month. Price has gone from $25 a box to $36 over the past year and a half.


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