Federal .38 Spl 120gr +P Punch JHP in Vyse Ballistics Gel.

Test Gun: S&W M442
Barrel length: 1 7/8 inches.
Ammunition: Federal .38 Spl 120rg +P Punch JHP (PD38P1)
Test media: 10% Vyse Ballistics Gel
Distance: 10 feet.
Chronograph: Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2.
Five shot velocity average: 785fps
BB Calibration: 3.75 inches.

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The Federal Punch line was introduced in 2020 as a new Premium line of self defense line of ammo. It seems to be considered a more budget friendly line of ammo similar to the HST. At least that seems to be the conventional wisdom. According to Federal’s product description. “Get protection that delivers a knockout blow. Punch™ draws from Federal® Ammunition’s decades of experience designing the world’s finest defensive handgun loads. The bullet’s skived jacket and soft lead core produce ideal expansion and penetration for the most common situations, while its quality brass and sealed primer deliver reliable feeding and ignition.” At the time of this posting this was one of the few .38 Spl rounds that was redaly avalable form several venders.

Visiting a Sportsman Warehouse the other day I noticed they had some .38 Spl. Punch in stock and decide to grab a box and try it out. .38 Spl has been one of the harder calibers to find in stock and I was a bit surprised to fine some. The price was $25.99 for a box of 20 rounds.

I got a five shot average of 785fps with a high of 843 and a low of 716fps for an extreme spread of 127fps. The advertised velocity was 1000 fps for a 4 inch barrel. When adding the highest velocity form the gel test the first round brings the ES to 199fps!

Five shots off hand at 10 yards

Starting off with the bare gel shots, the first round hit at a velocity of 915fps and penetrated to 11.75 inches. It’s recovered weight was 114 grains and it expanded to .59 inches by .58 inches. It shade jacket matreal at 5,6,9.5, and 10 inches. Round two had a velocity of 813fps and its penetration stopped at 13 inches. The recovered diameter was .54 inches by .53 inches and the recovered weight was 119.5 grains.

When shooting through the heavy clothing gel the first round’s velocity was 820fps. The bullet came to rest at 16 inches with diameter of .43 inches by .43 inches. Its weight was 120 grains. Round two penetrated to 15 inches after hitting the block at a velocity of 813fps. The recovered weight was 120 grains and it expanded to .48 inches by .48 inches.


  1. Thanks for the content. it is interesting to find a reliable defense .38 specal ammo. though, the extreme FPS deviation is a bit of turn off


  2. This is a +P round? Even in a snubby it should be getting up near 1000 ft/sec with a bullet so light. Except for that first shot this is .380 ACP level performance at best, and unimpressive compared to so many others. And yes, the extreme velocity spread makes me wonder about QC problems at Federal.


  3. Its so good to see new tests being done of .38 special in actual ordinance gel.
    The power level displayed by this load, being on the (very) low end for .38 special +p(we sure about these numbers?), combined with the fact that you got decent performance in the ord. gel, is interesting.
    Maybe the numbers are a result of the ammo shortage causing quality issues?
    I know alot of the ammo I’ve bought recently has had more then the usual…

    Anyway, if you can find it, I’d love to see the old school FBI load tested in ordnance gel. Its best representation these days is made by Buffalo Bore, but Remington makes what is supposedly the best of the brand name loads. What you’re looking for is a 158gr lead semi wadcutter hollow point, loaded to +p.

    This right here:

    Thanks again for your dedication and work.


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