Hydrashok Ammunition

Federal 45 acp HydraShok ammo displayed

An article all about Federal’s popular line of Hydra-Shok self-defense ammunition. What makes this ammo a popular choice for concealed carriers and shooters interested in defense?

When it comes to personal defense, you can’t afford to use substandard products. Your weapon and your ammunition need to meet a high standard for performance and reliability, so many gun owners turn to HydraShok ammunition cartridges for their conceal-carry and home-defense needs.

A box of hydra-shok ammo with a link where visitors can buy the ammunition

Since the 1980’s, these rounds have been used by both on-duty professionals and private citizens. If you have browsed ammunitions aisles, you’ve likely seen the name Hydra-Shok; perhaps you’ve even considered purchasing a box or two.

Should you be loading Hydra-Shok rounds into your weapon? To find out, you need to understand the unique qualities and potential downsides of this popular self-defense ammunition.

What is Hydra-Shok?

Hydra-Shok (sometimes written as “Hydra Shok”) is a line of cartridges made by Federal Premium Ammunition. Using an advanced hollow-point design, Hydra-Shok is considered one of the top self-defense and personal-protection rounds in the world.

These rounds, which are available in multiple calibers, achieve a high level of terminal performance thanks in large part to the bullet design. Yes, it’s a hollow-point round; numerous manufacturers offer hollow points. But what makes the Hydra-Shok design so effective is the central post and specialized jacket, which allow the bullet to “petal” outward during expansion. The design is unique from the typical cup-and-core design, offered by most manufacturers, which is essentially a full-metal jacket round with a hole drilled at the front.

The central post that runs through the core of the bullet helps the projectile maintain a unified form (no fracturing), which drives penetration, while the notched jacket (you’ll see lines at the front of the bullet going backwards) create consistent, wide expansion. These are the defining characteristics of the Hydra-Shok line, simple innovations that have helped make the product one of the most successful brands in the ammunition industry.

Hydra-Shok is currently available in a variety of sub-products. There is the traditional Hydra-Shok ammunition line, which offers reliable and trusted terminal performance in a wide variety of cartridges. (See cartridge availability below.) There is also Hydra-Shok Deep, which offers a specially-formulated propellant to increase penetration at the target.

Hydra-Shok Low Recoil offers a high level of terminal performance with significantly reduced recoil. With lower recoil, shooters maintain reliable penetration and expansion while getting less muzzle rise, which improves accuracy and confidence.

Cartridges Available in Hydra-Shok

There are numerous cartridges available in the Hydra-Shok line, and most American gun owners will find something that fits their specific needs and can be fired from their exact weapon.

You’ll find the HydraShok ammo lines in the following calibers:


  • .32 Auto
  • 9mm Luger
  • .38 Special (+P)
  • .357 Magnum
  • .40 Smith & Wesson
  • 10mm Auto
  • .44 Remington Magnum
  • .45 ACP

Hydra-Shok Deep

  • .380 Auto
  • 9mm Luger
  • .38 Special (+P)
  • .40 S&W
  • .45 ACP

Hydra-Shok Low Recoil

  • 327 Federal Magnum
  • .380 Auto
  • 9mm Luger
  • .38 Special
  • .357 Magnum
  • .40 Smith & Wesson
  • .45 ACP

In many ways, you can think of these three product categories as light (Low Recoil), medium (standard Hydra-Shok), and high powered (Deep).

Hydra-Shok Performance

Shooting Hydra-Shok into gelatin at the range

Hydra-Shok is one of the most trusted rounds in the ammunition industry. From duty-carry to private citizens, these bullets and cartridges are trusted by numerous gun users across the country.

However, as someone concerned with reliable performance, you can’t go on reputation alone; you have to look at the statistics.

Compared to many other products, the Hydra-Shok line appears to perform well in ballistics testing and velocity statistics. For example, we can look at our comprehensive ballistics-gel testing on 9mm Luger cartridges. Among 48 different products, the four Hydra-Shok products included in the tests performed very well. The 124-grain Hydra-Shok rounds ranked #6 in overall penetration, while the 135-grain cartridge was #13.

Shot diameter, another important stat for self-defense, showed excellent expansion from the Hydra-Shok rounds. The 135-grain product was especially impressive; it had .54 inches in shot diameter, making it one of the top performers in our testing.

Downsides to Hydra-Shok

Like all ammunition choices, there is a positive and a negative to each decision. For Hydra-Shok, while the advantages are clear, the downsides are a bit harder to discern.

The biggest deterrent for most people is pricing. While Hydra-Shok may not be the highest-cost product on the market, it’s one of the most expensive products available. These cartridges, from all three sub-categories, go through an extensive manufacturing process, which makes them more costly. They certainly won’t be your high-volume target-shooting round, but for most users will instead remain a conceal-carry option that gets limited but essential practice.

There is also a concern for over penetration. People have differing views on penetration, but the FBI, a group that certainly knows something about ballistics, actually looks for cartridges that penetrate between 12 and 18 inches in testing, providing good penetration without going through the target. In many of our tests, the Hydra-Shok round penetrated well beyond this 18-inch mark. While testing at 10 feet, we found that all three Hydra-Shok products penetrated beyond this 18-inch mark.

Should You Consider Hydra-Shok Ammunition?

Hydra-Shok cartridges may not be for everyone, but they certainly fill an important role if you are concerned with personal defense and home protection. These rounds offer a premium option for conceal-carry purposes, delivering reliable protection in a variety of situations. Best of all, they are available in multiple cartridges, so most handgun owners will be able to find a product that fits their specific needs.

Whether you have a compact 9mm handgun or an 1911-style pistol that loads .45 ACP, you can find a Hydra-Shok product that fits your needs.

If you are looking for Hydra-Shok ammo for your handgun, visit ammotogo.com. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact our staff or head to this page and we’ll do what we can to help you get a box of top-quality self-defense ammunition.

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