A Clean Way to Shoot Advances in Federal Ammunition’s Syntech Lineup


In terms of firearm product development, we live in exciting times. Computers, compact circuitry and manufacturing techniques have opened a Pandora’s box of new items. Some of these items are fulfillment of ideas now being brought to fruition; others are fresh off the drawing board. Examples span the gamut from red dots on personal defense handguns, integral suppressors, caseless cartridges, energy impulse weapons, new propellants and so on. While not as sexy or headlining, projectiles are undergoing the same rejuvenation. Federal Ammunition is leading the way with its Syntech® ammunition lineup.

Federal Ammunition’s Syntech lineup is leading the way with a new approach of bullet production/performance.

New Coating

Federal’s original impetuous with Syntech ammunition was to service the burgeoning competition circuits’ appetite for ammo. Federal decided this was an opportunity to assist shooters who did not want to reload in order to keep up with ammunition demands experienced during practice and competing. Federal’s goal was to forego the typical copper jacket via polymer bullet coating. As the multiyear research proceeded, other aspects were added to Federal Ammunition’s product goals. This included not only reducing fouling and extending barrel life via the polymer bullet coating, but also making a cleaner burning propellant and Catalyst™ lead-free primer. Syntech Range ammunition included 9mm 115 grain (GR) and 124 GR; .40 S&W 165 GR; and .45 ACP 230 GR. In 2018, Federal expanded beyond its initial 2017 Syntech Range offerings with Match, Defense, PCC and Action Pistol loads. Calibers include 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Each load category, i.e., Range, Match and Defense, is color-coded for quick reference and contains Federal’s exclusive Catalyst™ primer, making Syntech perfect for indoor ranges.

Federal Ammunition’s Syntech Range in a GLOCK G48 was at home inside Echo Valley Training Center’s Hesco Shoot House.

While still a lead core, the Syntech bullet is coated, not copper-jacketed, with a polymer shell. The polymer coating eliminates metal-on-metal contact in the barrel. The result is softer, smoother shooting, less friction, heat and barrel wear. According to Federal Ammunition, Syntech ammunition generates about 12% less friction and about 14% less heat than typical jacketed rounds. Start multiplying this by strings of fire, and the significance is evident. This translates into less required cleaning and better overall reliability in a heavy-volume-use handgun. Not hard to see why shooting sport competitors are embracing the Syntech concept.

Another benefit of the Syntech coating is less chance of injury from jacket fragments after impacting steel targets or solid backstops. The Federal Syntech practice loads (Range and Training Match) are especially suited for engaging steel at close range with minimal chance of bullet spalling/splashback. According to Federal, recoverable fragment weights with Syntech ammo are about 51% less than what is common with FMJ bullets between 5 yards and 15 yards from the impacted steel. Past 15 yards, the comparison disparity becomes more pronounced with Federal Premium Syntech producing 91% less weight in recovered fragments. While not the equivalent of true frangible ammunition, Federal Syntech is a significant improvement over metal-jacketed rounds. Trust me, if you spend any amount of time training with steel targets at 25 yards and closer, it is inevitable you will have a piece of a jacketed round strike you. That is why eye protection is imperative.

In addition to the elimination of copper fouling, Federal Ammunition incorporated two advancements into its Syntech lineup relating to propulsion. All Syntech ammo is loaded with special clean-burning propellants, and these powders are ignited with a new lead-free primer. This new primer utilizes what Federal calls Catalyst™ technology, and it provides hot and extremely reliable ignition, burning the propellant better. This means that in addition to the absence of copper fouling, you also have a noticeable reduction in carbon fouling. The clean burning, reduced lead and safety aspects of the Federal Syntech round are really amplified when used in an indoor range setting, to which many departments, agencies and civilian gun shop ranges are confined. The advantage of Syntech is obvious and not easily dismissed.

Syntech Training Match

Federal Ammunition has been constantly expanding Syntech offerings since its 2017 introduction of Syntech Range, including Syntech Training Match and Syntech Defense (shown).

For a round to be embraced as a training and/or match round, it must maintain accuracy standards within accepted norms and not break the bank. The Federal Syntech Training Match succeeds here. For comparison, the 9mm Federal Premium Syntech ammo retails for about 32 cents per round and American Eagle FMJ ammo for about 29 cents per round. In .40 S&W, the difference is about 5 cents and in .45 ACP about 6 cents. None of this means anything if Syntech rounds are not comparable to other loads’ accuracy and reliability. When a shooter touches off a round, they want to hear “bang” and not worry if it landed where intended.

Each specific Syntech product has its own nuance. For example, Syntech Training Match products offer the same velocity, trajectory and point-of-impact as equivalent Federal Premium HST and Tactical duty ammunition. This makes sure your training gives the same feedback as duty ammunition. Syntech Training Match is available in 9mm 147 GR and 124 GR, .40 S&W 180 GR and .45 ACP 230 GR.

Syntech Action Pistol

Syntech Action Pistol meets the U.S. Practical Shooting Association’s (USPSA) Power Factor guidelines out of the box. Federal estimates only about 20% of action shooters use factory ammo due to Power Factor concerns. This is where the company saw an opportunity to create a round that would meet the USPSA’s Power Factor but not require shooters to reload. USPSA’s sanctioning of Syntech Action Pistol as the official ammunition of USPSA means shooters can bypass the chronograph test required at most matches because their ammo is guaranteed to make Power Factor. The Syntech Action Pistol 9mm weighs 150 grains. This is not random or just because this is what Federal had lying around. It is the end result of a lot of experimentation to find a soft-shooting load that makes Power Factor. Furthermore, the Syntech Action has meplat designed to smack steel harder and cut cleaner holes in targets.

Syntech PCC

Syntech PCC was created for the increasingly popular PCC (Pistol Carbine) competition class. Velocity and accuracy are optimized for long gun barrel lengths, with a bullet profile that provides excellent accuracy and reliable feeding in a variety of carbine platforms. Syntech PCC is offered in 9mm 130 GR.

Defense Rounds

What started as training and competition ammo has now expanded into personal defense. The defense rounds’ polymer coating is a distinctive blue to easily differentiate between training and protection rounds. The Syntech Defense projectile is constructed with a deep, hollow-point cavity, which causes the bullet to split apart into four sections upon impact. The bullet core achieves 12 to 18 inches of penetration in both bare ballistics gel and through heavy clothing with purposely created segments creating three secondary wound channels more than 6 inches deep. This is quite different from standard hollow-points that mushroom, creating a single, large wound cavity. Syntech Defense is available in 9mm 138 GR, .40 S&W 175 GR and .45 ACP 205 GR.

Federal Ammunition’s Syntech Defense hollow-point bullet core achieves 12 to 18 inches of penetration in both bare ballistics gel and through heavy clothing with purposely created segments creating three secondary wound channels more than 6 inches deep.

A Quality Product

Federal Ammunition’s Syntech 9mm loads functioned without issue in multiple SMG-type weapons.

I have been using Federal Syntech 9mm in its various forms for almost a year now for training courses, competitions and reviews involving handgun, SMG and PCC types of platforms. The total number of Syntech rounds fired measures in the thousands. While the launching platform may have changed, the Federal Synthetic has performed as advertised. Echo Valley Training Center’s Hesco Shoot House was a popular venue for putting Federal Syntech ammunition through its paces. Action is fast-paced inside a shoot house scenario where each target is engaged with multiple rapid strings of fire; ideal for heating up firearms and making sure ammunition performs in harsh environments.

Federal Ammunition’s Syntech Training Match comes in a variety of calibers: 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. It is designed to match Federal HST and Tactical loads in terms of ballistics.

Handloaders can also get the benefits of the same groundbreaking design in Syntech component bullets, as Federal sells these components separately. Bullets for reloaders are available in 9mm .355-inch, 115 GR; .40 cal., .400-inch 165 GR; and .45 cal., .451-inch 230 GR.

A Federal Ammunition Syntech bullet cut through, showing proprietary polymer-coated jacket.

The validity of the Federal Syntech approach is proven by the expanding lineup of loads. It will be exciting to see how far the concept will be pushed in the coming years.



Federal Ammunition