Home Culture Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Review: An American EDC Classic

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Review: An American EDC Classic

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Review

If you’re looking for an exceptional jacketed hollow point for self-defense, then you simply can’t go wrong with Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm Luger.

This handgun ammo simply works, offering controlled expansion for a large permanent wound channel and deep penetration to ensure you reach the vital organs to stop a threat.

Although the Hydra-Shok hollow point bullet has proven its capabilities on the streets in the hands of law enforcement and civilian CCW permit holders, some shooters still wonder if the Hydra-Shok is good enough for their EDC or if they should go with something like a Speer Gold Dot or the newer Federal HST.

In this Federal Hydra Shok 9mm review, I’m going to answer that question for you as well as share my personal experiences carrying and shooting the Federal Hydra-Shok.

If you need some Hydra-Shok ammo, check out what we have in stock and ready to ship to your door by Clicking HERE. However, if you’re still not convinced and want to read our full review, then keep scrolling and prepare to learn why the Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm is an excellent choice for home defense and concealed carry handguns.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Ammo Overview

Once Charles Horn took control and re-founded the Federal Cartridge Corporation, Federal Ammunition became one of the primary ammunition manufacturers for the U.S. Military, law enforcement, and civilian shooters across the USA.

Federal Premium has numerous ammo lines encompassing every aspect of shooting, ranging from hunting, target shooting, plinking, self-defense, and competition. Federal Ammunition produces rimfire, centerfire handgun, centerfire rifle, and shotshell ammunition, as well as reloading components and muzzleloading bullets.

In 1989, Federal Premium Ammunition released its brand new jacketed hollow point design, the Hydra-Shok. Hallmarked by its unique tapered center post inside the hollow, the Federal Hydra-Shok hollow point has been meeting the needs of American law enforcement and concerned civilians for personal defense and concealed carry for over 30 years.

The tapered post is designed to direct fluid and soft tissue into the side walls of the bullet cavity, maximizing expansion and weight retention and creating a large wound cavity to quickly stop threats.

The Federal Premium Hydra-Shok was designed to meet or exceed all the FBI specifications for handgun ammunition. This means the Hydra-Shok should perform well when fired through different barriers such as heavy clothing, drywall, and auto glass while still achieving 12-18” of penetration depth into ballistic gelatin.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm ammo

The Hydra-Shok remained unchanged for nearly 28 years until 2017, when Federal Premium introduced a new offering, the Hydra-Shok Deep. The new design replaced the classic center post for a pyramid inside the hollow point. The result was increased penetration without sacrificing the benefits of an expanding bullet.

Initially launched with a 135-grain 9mm load, the Federal Hydra-Shok Deep was also adapted to 40 Smith & Wesson45 ACP38 Special, and 380 ACP.

At the time of writing, Federal Premium Personal Defense Hydra-Shok 9mm ammo comes in two varieties, loaded with either a 124-grain or 147-grain jacketed hollow point. Federal Hydra-Shok Deep is currently only available with the initial offering of a 135-grain JHP.

Although the Hydra-Shok is viewed by many as an outdated design compared to the new HST, the Hydra-Shok still offers civilians and law enforcement an exceptional hollow point cartridge that is an excellent choice for both home defense as well as concealed carry.

Our Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Review

When I load up my EDC Glock 19 or Glock 26, you can bet that Federal Hydra-Shok ammo is always loaded in my mags. This self-defense ammo simply works. It’s a proven design that is trusted by law enforcement agencies and civilian shooters across the USA.

Federal has a long history of producing exceptional handgun ammo. It’s accurate, offers extremely reliable expansion, and exceeds the FBI testing requirements for all barriers, including auto glass and drywall.

For me, this is one of my all-time favorite self-defense rounds on the market for the 9mm Luger. The 124-grain Hydra-Shok is my preferred EDC bullet weight. The nickel-plated brass cases feed like butter through my Glock, and I’ve never had any issues with FTF (failure to fire) or FTE (failure to extract) malfunctions while testing at the range.

In terms of accuracy, this round is more accurate than I am, and the controlled expansion makes it a great choice for home defense or concealed carry. If you’ve ever looked into the ballistic testing that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have done on the Hydra-Shok, you’ll know that this round performs exceptionally well in ballistics gel and in the field.

Overall, this is one of my top choices for self-defense ammo. I’d easily rank it on par with Speer Gold DotWinchester PDX-1Hornady Critical Duty, and Remington Golden Saber. Simply put, this is a round you can trust your life with, which is what every shooter looks for in defensive ammo.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm ammo

What’s It Best For?

Federal Premium Hydra-Shok ammo is an excellent choice for self-defense. It’s reliable, has controlled expansion to reduce the change of over-penetration, and is extremely accurate. Its nickel-plated brass cases offer smooth and reliable feeding and are also reloadable.


Although there are not many downsides to Hydra-Shok ammo, it is an older design, and many shooters prefer the newer Federal HST. Also, defensive ammo is never cheap, and Hydra-Shok ammo is no exception. There are also some reports of Hydra-Shok hollow points failing to expand through thick clothing.

Pros and Cons

As much as we love ammo, we understand that no manufacturer is perfect. Here are some of the pros and cons of Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm ammunition you should be aware of.


  • Reliable
  • Reliable expansion
  • Passes FBI ballistic gelatin testing
  • Used by law enforcement
  • Extremely accurate


  • Older design compared to HST hollow point
  • Pricey
  • Concern over failed expansion through thick clothing


Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Cartridge Specifications

Variation Review

At the time of writing, there are three different defense loads for the 9mm Luger Hydra-Shok. Below you’ll find our individual reviews of each option available from Federal Premium.

Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm 124 gr JHP

This is my personal favorite Hydra-Shok load and what I carry daily in my EDC. The 124-grain bullet weight is a classic choice for the 9mm Luger as it offers a great balance of stopping power and penetration. With a muzzle velocity of 1,120 fps and a muzzle energy of 345 ft-lbs, this defense ammo is a great choice for subcompacts like a Smith & Wesson Shield or larger handguns like a Glock 19.

Federal Hydra-Shok Deep 9mm 135 gr JHP

The Federal Hydra-Shok Deep is the latest evolution of the Hydra-Shok jacketed hollow point. Designed for exceptional penetration, meeting the FBI’s desired 15” into ballistic gel, the 135-grain Hydra-Shok Deep is an exceptional choice for duty or concealed carry. With a muzzle velocity of 1060 fps and energy of 337 ft-lbs, the Hydra-Shok Deep has more than enough stopping power for any threat that crosses your path.

Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm 147 gr JHP

The 147-grain Hydra-Shok is my handgun ammo of choice for home defense. The heavier bullet weight and lower muzzle velocity help reduce the risk of over-penetration while still providing reliable expansion. With 1,000 fps and 326 ft-lbs at the muzzle, this defense ammo is sure to handle anything that goes bump in the night.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm ammo

Our Testing Protocol

When testing defensive handgun ammo, I want to see unquestionable reliability and excellent accuracy. Although I might not be a bullseye shooter with a handgun, I can hold my own in a competitive setting.

For this ammo test, I’ll be shooting the 124-grain Federal Premium Hydra-Shok at a range of 7 yards, as this is the distance most self-defense shootings occur per law enforcement reports.

The test firearms will be my personal Gen 3 Glock 19c and Gen 5 Glock 26. Both handguns are in my EDC rotation and should offer representative data for this test. Sadly, I do not currently have access to ballistics gelatin to perform penetration testing; however, I’m confident this personal defense ammo will have no problem meeting FBI penetration and expansion standards.

I am happy to report that Federal Hydra-Shok ammo met all my expectations. The nickel-plated brass cases fed and extracted flawlessly, and I had no issue with failure to feed (FTF) or failure to extract (FTE) malfunctions. I had 100% reliability with these rounds, which is what I would expect from Federal Premium Ammunition.

From an accuracy perspective, these rounds were clearly more accurate than I can showcase with my mediocre handgun shooting skills. The best 10-shot group measured 1.75 inches center-to-center on the extreme spread. With a more accomplished pistol shooter, I have no doubt those groups could be tightened up to 1-inch or less.

Overall, I’m extremely impressed with Federal 124-grain Hydra-Shok ammo. It met all my expectations for reliability and accuracy and further vindicates my decision to carry this ammo in my concealed carry Glocks.

Ballistics for Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm Ammo

Below we’ve compiled ballistics tables for the Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm ammunition we reviewed in the previous section. Please note that muzzle velocities listed might vary depending on your handgun barrel length.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Ballistics table

Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is only informational. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type load.

Parting Shots

It’s true that the Federal Hydra-Shok is an older design, but just because something is old doesn’t mean that it won’t get the job done. These rounds are reliable, accurate, offer excellent expansion, and are trusted by law enforcement, which is more than enough of an endorsement for me.

Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm ammo is a great choice for concealed carry, home defense, and will have no problem stopping a threat to your life or the lives of your loved ones. Make sure to check out all of the Federal Hydra-Shok ammo we have in stock, and we’ll see you out on the range!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some questions we get asked a lot here at Ammo.com about Federal Hydra Shok 9mm ammunition.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm ammo

Is Federal Hydra Shok 9mm worth buying?

Yes, absolutely. This 9mm Luger defensive ammo offers reliable expansion and is extremely accurate. Federal Hydra-Shok ammo passes all the FBI ballistics tests and is trusted by law enforcement and civilian shooters alike.

What is the range of Federal Hydra Shok 9mm?

Federal Premium Hydra-Shok 9mm will be effective at traditional self-defense ranges and up to around 50 yards (if you’re a good shot).

Is Hyrdra-Shok ammo illegal?

Not at all; Federal Hydra-Shok ammo is not illegal in the USA.

What is the difference between HST and Hydra-Shok?

The HST is the newer jacketed hollow point from Federal Ammunition, and it is designed for extreme, consistent expansion through all barriers specified by the FBI ballistics test. The Hydra-Shock utilizes a central post to aid in expansion, while the HST does not. Both are excellent hollow points, but most shooters prefer the newer HST design.

Federal Hydra Shok 9mm Review: An American EDC Classic originally appeared in The Resistance Library at Ammo.com.

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Sam Jacobs
Sam Jacobs grew up in Southern New England, probably the part of the country with the weakest gun culture. However, from a young age he believed firmly in the right of self defense and the right to keep and bear arms. This, coupled with 12 years of education in public schools and an argumentative nature, meant that he was frequently getting into debates with his teachers about the virtue of the Second Amendment. A precocious student of history and the Constitution, Jacobs became interested in both the practice of armed self defense throughout history as well as the philosophical underpinnings of the Second Amendment. Jacobs has an affinity for the individual and the common man against centralized forms of power and elites, whether they be in the government or the private sector. In particular, he is interested in the ways in which private companies work to subvert the legislative process and to undermine American freedoms outside of normal legal channels. He considers the resolution of how corporate power can hem in Constitutional freedoms to be the most pressing political question of our age. The private sector and the public sector are increasingly indistinguishable from one another, both because of behind-the-scenes corporate chicanery that undermines the legislative process and because private companies are rapidly becoming far more powerful than the federal government. Thus, it is more important than ever to both fight the incursion of private companies into our government and to become independent and self-reliant enough to make it difficult for private companies to hem in your rights. So Sam believes. Jacobs is the lead writer and chief historian with Ammo.com, and is the driving intellectual force behind the content in the Resistance Library. He is proud to see his work name-checked in places like Bloomberg, USA Today and National Review, but he is far more proud to see his work republished on websites like ZeroHedge, Lew Rockwell and Sons of Liberty Media. You can catch him on Quora and Parler as well as on our very own Resistance Library podcast. How many firearms does Sam own and what’s his everyday carry? That’s between him and the NSA.