Reviewed: Federal's .22LR Punch Defensive Ammunition

The ammo giant turns an underpowered cartridge into a contender.

posted on July 7, 2023

There are so many debates and conversations that can be had about the best carry gun and/or the best ammunition to put in those guns. However, it remains a fact that each person has to choose a gun that they can effectively use as protection. Everyone is different in stature, strength and ability, not to mention other situations such as clothing and carrying conditions. That said, although it has long been acknowledged that rimfire cartridges are far from ideal for personal defense, there are people who opt to carry a .22 handgun for their personal safety.

When I saw a press release about a new cartridge from Federal designed for .22-caliber personal protection, I was intrigued. I love shooting .22 pistols, rifles and revolvers, but had never considered carrying one for personal protection. After doing the research, chatting with officials from Federal Ammunition and doing some shooting with their new .22 LR Punch ammunition, I have found myself, on occasion, carrying a .22 pistol as part of my everyday carry (EDC).

The .22 LR cartridge is over 100 years old and was not originally designed for personal preservation. The most common .22 LR bullets in cartridges on store shelves range from 33 grains to 40 grains, with some rounds below and above those numbers available. Velocities range from roughly 1,200 feet per second (fps) to 1,500 fps. Energy at the muzzle is below 165 foot-lbs., and at 50 yards it is near 100. For comparison, a 9mm round is approximately double that muzzle energy.

Federal ammunition makers point out that the bullet design is more critical for self-defense than terminal ballistics. Federal Ammunition Shotshell and Rimfire Manager Dan Compton explains, “The bullet geometry and nose profile are designed to retain its weight to allow for increased energy and penetration in on target. We do not test with wet catalogs or fiber-based products. We use 10% calibrated gelatin, as it is consistent and an accepted industry standard.”

Compton notes that since people are already carrying .22 LR guns, Federal decided to build a bullet optimized for that caliber. The Punch round was the result. They based their design on years of data collected from bullet performance during FBI protocol testing.

Federal first reduced the bullet weight to 29 grains, which increases velocity in even short-barreled revolvers. Next, the bullet got a brand-new design with a flat nose and heavy nickel-plated jacket around a lead core. This makes the bullet travel fast, minimizes expansion and retains its weight for direct penetration—which is crucial for the round to perform as a self-defense bullet. Compton noted that Federal is not trying to replace a 9mm, but give those who carry a .22 LR an option that will penetrate as much as possible despite the small caliber.

During testing using the FBI protocol, minimum penetration threshold of 12 inches in 10% gel, the .22 LR Punch penetrated more than the .25 Auto FMJ 50 grain (13.75” vs 12.79”) and the .32 Auto HP 60 grain (8.5”). The .32 Auto TMJ 71 grain was able to outpenetrate the .22 LR Punch at 15.25”.

So how accurate and reliable is the ammunition? My tests with two separate Ruger SR22s showed the ammunition was on par with multiple other .22 HP and lead-nose rounds that I had for hunting. I never had a misfire with the Federal .22 LR Punch after firing multiple magazines at various targets. It appears to me that Federal takes the extra time to make the .22 LR Punch a higher grade ammunition.

Just for curiosity’s sake, I shot the .22 LR Punch at some old catalogs and compared against other .22 ammunition.  Keep in mind that the test I ran is not at all the same as the FBI test firing bullets into gel, and it does not at all mimic having to use the round on an attacker. I just wanted to see if the round penetrated better in wood or paper. The results showed that the Punch does indeed “punch” through targets better than other rounds. I found the penetration to be nearly twice that of other bullets in both paper and wood.

My testing also showed that the .22 LR Punch was very consistent, and although the report of the shot was a bit more noticeable than the other hollowpoint and lead nosed rounds I was shooting, it was not at all uncomfortable.

In this author’s opinion, anyone with physical limitations such as arthritis or strength issues would clearly benefit from this cartridge. Additionally, those who are not comfortable with recoil or loud gunfire are going to find the .22 LR Punch appealing. Last, if you simply do not have a way to carry a larger gun concealed, the .22 LR Punch opens up a lot of small frame gun options for you.



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