The Rimfire Report: Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense Ammunition

Category: Firearms | Reviews

Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its various guns, gear, ammunition, and sports! Last week we talked a little bit about fixing up a High Standard Flite King using 3D printing to accomplish the task. So far it has worked out very well and further testing after I’ve made adjustments to the feed lips on either side of the magazine body has essentially solved the feeding issue and I’m also happy to report that the new follower is still holding up very well even after repeated range trips. 3D printing is truly a skill set you want to add to your list of home-brewed gunsmithing techniques if you like to be self-sufficient. This week we’re back to testing ammunition – specifically 29-grain Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense. This ammunition is marketed by Federal as being the first “practical” option for self-defense in the 22LR category.

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There are a couple of reasons why someone might want to carry a 22LR for self-defense including extreme recoil sensitivity, as a backup gun, or perhaps it’s all you have access to for the time being. However, there are specific handguns designed for personal defense like the High Standard derringer and the Davis DM-22 derringer pistols. These guns are extremely compact and are capable of being concealed in the smallest of pockets making them more discreet than many traditional designs. For today, we’re going to be testing the performance, and accuracy of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense using 4 different pistols from my current inventory and we’ll see how the ammo measures up to its claims on the box.

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

The Rimfire Report: Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense Ammunition

Product Specifications and Testing Protocol

I brought a couple of boxes of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense ammo along with my Taurus 942 with a 2-inch barrel, Ruger LCP II Lite Rack with a 2.75-inch barrel, SIG P322 with a 4-inch barrel, and my raced out Ruger MKIV with a 4.4-inch barrel length.

For each pistol, I followed the same protocol and shot 5-rounds from 10 feet using a pair of calibrated homemade ballistics gelatin blocks. Each set of shots was shot through a chronograph to gather velocity data and I retrieved as many rounds as I could. I did two additional tests using only the LCP II Lite Rack and Ruger MKIV in order to test the performance of the bullets through 4-layers of shop towels to simulate clothing but we’ll go over those results when we get to them.

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

The pistols used in my tests

A Word on Accuracy

Before I did any of my ballistic tests, I first did a quick set of accuracy tests using the LCP II Lite Rack and the Ruger MK IV. These accuracy tests were done from a distance of 7-yards and as you can see below, the results are pretty promising. The Ruger LCP II Lite Rack doesn’t have the best trigger and I’m also not a terrific shot with it so that’s not a knock against the pistol or the ammunition. You can also see that the top group (shot with the MKIV) is much tighter and this indicates to me that the ammunition is at least consistent enough to form very tight groups at close range.

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

One 10-round group from the Ruger MKIV Lite (top) and another from the Ruger LCP II Lite Rack (bottom)

Accuracy at short range is important for a personal defense cartridge as no matter what caliber or cartridge you’re defending yourself with, it has been stressed time and again that shot placement is king over all other factors. So as far as accuracy goes, you can be confident that Federal Punch 22LR is more than capable of producing consistent tight groups at average self-defense ranges.

Ballistic Test Results

Instead of editorializing all of my data, I’m just going to list the raw data for each pistol down here and we will discuss the results afterward.

Taurus 942

  • Avg Vel: 1,005-fps
  • Max Vel: 1021-fps
  • Min Vel:  988 -fps
  • Extreme Spread: 33-fps
  • Std Dev: 15-fps
  • No. of Failures: 0
  • Min Penetration Depth: 10-inches
  • Max Penetration Depth: 17-inches
  • Average Penetration Depth: 15-inches
  • Expansion: No rounds expanded
  • Weight Retention: 100%

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

The Taurus 942 has the shortest barrel length in my inventory and is also the only revolver I tested out of the bunch. As a result, there is a bit of an expected dip in the advertised velocity because of the gas that escapes through the cylinder gap. All of the rounds penetrated to a depth beyond the FBI minimum of 12-inches aside from one that escaped through the side of the gel block. None of the rounds expanded and no fragments were left behind inside of the gel block. This last observation is one that carries over with all of the tests so for brevity’s sake I won’t repeat the expansion or weight retention points from here on. Two out of five projectiles curved out and away from the gel block.

Ruger LCP II Lite Rack

  • Avg Vel: 1,123-fps
  • Max Vel: 1,150-fps
  • Min Vel: 1,095-fps
  • Extreme Spread: 55-fps
  • Std Dev: 26-fps
  • No. of Failures: 0
  • Min Penetration Depth: 16-inches
  • Max Penetration Depth: 19-inches
  • Average Penetration Depth: 17-inches
  • Expansion: No rounds expanded
  • Weight Retention: 100%

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

The LCP II Lite Rack results were pretty interesting to me. The little cartridge manages to produce an additional 120-fps out of a small .75″ barrel length increase. My shots weren’t as accurate with the LCP II’s heavier and longer trigger pull and as a result, I was only able to collect three of the projectiles. From my footage observed that two of them seemed to curve upwards and out of the block right around the 16″ mark near the rear of the first block similar to the rounds from the Taurus 942.

SIG Sauer P322

  • Avg Vel: 1,193-fps (7-shot average)
  • Max Vel: 1,213-fps
  • Min Vel: 1,175-fps
  • Extreme Spread: 38-fps
  • Std Dev: 15-fps
  • No. of Failures: 0
  • Min Penetration Depth: 18″
  • Max Penetration Depth: 19″
  • Average Penetration Depth: 18.4-inches
  • Expansion: No rounds expanded
  • Weight Retention: 100%

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

I think with the P322 we are starting to see diminishing returns in the velocity department. Even though the P322 has a 45% increase in barrel length, we are only seeing about a 70-fps increase in velocity. This indicates to me that in order to achieve such high velocities out of such a short barrel length, Federal is using an extremely fast burning powder. No pressure data is listed on the website but 22LR generally has a max pressure of 25,000 PSI. Either way, the seven rounds I fired at the block penetrated at a very consistent 18-19 inches. The two extra rounds fired were because I wasn’t paying attention to the chronograph and I thought that it hadn’t caught the first two rounds fired. The two extra shots did give us good data in confirming or reinforcing the 15-fps standard deviation result achieved with the Taurus 942.

Ruger MK IV Lite

  • Avg Vel: 1,238-fps
  • Max Vel: 1,241-fps
  • Min Vel:  1,234-fps
  • Extreme Spread: 7-fps
  • Std Dev: 3-fps
  • No. of Failures: 0
  • Min Penetration Depth:  16″ (departed the side of the block)
  • Max Penetration Depth: 23″
  • Average Penetration Depth: 21.6″
  • Expansion: No rounds expanded
  • Weight Retention: 100%

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

This time with a 0.40″ (10%) barrel length increase, we saw only a 45-fps increase in velocity. I know there are other factors that could contribute to the inconsistent increases and decreases including the differing weights of the bolts/slides on the semi-auto guns but since one company doesn’t make all the different length barrels that I’d need to make it consistent, this is the best I can do for the moment. In all honesty, I think it’s better to know what the ammo will do in a specific gun rather than how it performs over a linear increase in barrel length out of the same platform. What is clear, however, is that Federal Punch is good to go out of an MK IV pistol.

Conclusions (and two additional tests)

I didn’t initially think that nickel-plated lead core 22LR would be as resistant as it was to deformation given that it is traveling at pretty high speeds out of some of the longer pistols. In the same vein though, Federal actually doesn’t specify that Federal Punch 22LR is supposed to expand but rather achieve the “deepest penetration through short-barrel handguns.”  If this is the standard we are measuring it against, then I think it achieves its goal pretty well. In contrast, Norma ECO Power and ECO Speed 22LR saw a handful of bullet cores get stuck in a shorter 12″ block out of a Ruger Precision Rimfire with an 18″ barrel length. In all fairness, Norma’s goal with their ammunition is hunting so having the bullet dump all its energy into a smaller target should probably be expected if not at least desired. In short, I think Federal Punch does a beautiful job of achieving consistent penetration out of guns that someone would likely carry (P322, LCP II Lite Rack, and Taurus 942).

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

None of the rounds expanded but as best I can tell from reviewing my footage most of them left about a 2-2.5″ temporary wound cavity for the first 6-inches of travel through the bare gel. I was curious to see if I could get any of the projectiles to deform in some way shape or form so I performed two additional tests using the LCP II Lite rack and the Ruger MK IV and added 4 layers of shop towels to the front of the ballistics gelatin blocks and sent 5-more rounds each into it – still no expansion and only a slight decrease (maybe 1/2-1″) penetration depth. Temporary wound cavities can be devastating to more sensitive organs like the heart and lungs. The permanent wound cavities were pretty small but they also left nice spiral tears that were about 4-6-inches long before they stopped and returned to the normal pinpoint wound channel 22LR normally leaves behind.

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

Even through the semi-opaque block a nice 22LR sized permanent wound cavity can be seen from several of the rounds. The larger tears in the block can be seen near the left side where the bullets entered.

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

So in conclusion, I’ve found in my testing that Federal Punch 22LR is consistent in its reliability, penetration, and velocities and seems to produce its advertised velocities out of pistols that one would likely carry for self-defense purposes. This does indeed make Federal Punch a possible viable option for self-defense for those that want to carry a small pocket-sized 22LR. However, 22LR should probably not be used as an alternative when you have other practical centerfire options available to you.

As always I’d like to hear your thoughts. Did I miss anything? What did you think of the results? Would you consider carrying a pocket-sized 22LR pistol for self-defense using Federal Punch 22LR? Let us know down in the comments and thanks once again for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report! We’ll see you all next week!

The Rimfire Report: A Review of Federal Punch 22LR Personal Defense

At the end of my testing, I decided to take a single shot from my M&P Shield (my normal backup gun) and sent a 147-grain Federal HST through the block. IT expanded and only stopped at 16″ because of a single piece of Level III ballistic sheeting I put near the end of the block. The force was enough to put a small tear in the fabric but the projectile never left the block.


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