Ammo Test: .45 ACP HST—Federal’s Flying Ashtray!

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Federal's HST proved accurate and consistent from a variety of .45 ACP pistols.

Federal’s HST proved accurate and consistent from a variety of .45 ACP pistols.

For those who like .45 ACP, the 230-grain bullet weight variety is the classic. Earlier this year, we took a look at another 230-grain self-defense load from Sig Sauer. This time, we’re testing Federal Premium’s offering in the heavyweight class.

The Federal .45 ACP HST is a 230-grain load topped with a bullet designed to expand at the moderate velocities of the full-weight .45 ACP. Most 230-grain loads are rated below 900 feet per second, and this one is no exception, with a claimed velocity of 890 feet per second.

The HST line is the next generation of the Hydra-Shok basic design, but HST does not stand for Hydra-Shok Two. The word is that HST doesn’t stand for anything, it’s just a cool marketing name. The projectiles are jacketed, and each caliber and weight combination is specifically designed to achieve the desired expansion and penetration results. In fact, the gaping maw of the round might make the round look to some like a “flying ashtray.”

Accuracy was great with five-shot groups measuring just over two inches.

Accuracy was great, with five-shot groups measuring just over two inches at 25 yards.

Velocity

I was fortunate to have a small pile of different .45 pistols passing through at the time, so I tested actual velocity from a range of pistols from compact to full-size. To check velocity, I set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet down range and shot strings of fire from each gun so I could do some fancy math and get average velocities for each gun shooting the 230-grain HST load.

GunVelocity
(feet per second)
Smith & Wesson 1911 E Series Government (5” barrel)853.1
Smith & Wesson 1911 Pro Series (3” barrel)818.7
Smith & Wesson 1911 Sc (4.25” barrel)840.9
Springfield Armory XD(M) Threaded (SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor, 4.5” barrel)930.1
Springfield Armory TRP 1911 (5” barrel)905.4

For the most part, the velocity pattern was consistent with barrel length, meaning speed tapered off a bit as the barrels got shorter. One interesting observation was the velocity boost when I added the SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor to the Springfield Armory XD(M). That’s been the norm in my observations and getting a 30 to 50 feet per second is not that unusual. The other kind of weird thing was the difference between the two government models, both with five-inch barrels. I can’t explain why the velocity clocked so much higher out of the Springfield Armory TRP. It’s not like I coated the inside of the barrel with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” or anything.

Picture perfect expansion.

Picture perfect expansion of the HST rounds in the testing gel.

One more thing. I did the big-time match when shooting the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP and found the velocity consistency to be outstanding. Firing 10-shot strings, the extreme spread from lowest to highest velocity reading in the string was only 27.7 feet per second. That’s outstanding.

I did gel testing with a trio of Smith & Wesson 1911s of different size.

I did gel testing with a trio of Smith & Wesson 1911s of different barrel lengths.

Accuracy

I set up my Blackhawk Titan III rest, weighed down with a 25-pound bag of lead shot. That’s a pain to lug around by the way. I set targets 25 yards down range and proceeded to shoot multiple five-shot groups with a couple of pistols. At the end, I averaged the five-shot group sizes to arrive at an “average” spread. Here’s what I found.

GunAverage Five-shot Group Size
Springfield Armory XD(M) Threaded (SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor)2.14 inches
Springfield Armory TRP 19112.5 inches

As expected based on the pretty incredible velocity consistency, accuracy was outstanding too. If I had been able to mount a handgun scope (the suppressor sights are too tall for my mount, and the TRP has no rail), I suspect the groups would have shrunk even more.

Penetration and Expansion

The fun part is always destroying gelatin blocks. I have to confess I never cease to be amused watching them bounce when hit. For this part of testing, I broke out the trio of Smith & Wesson 1911’s, so I could see the effect of barrel length on expansion and penetration. I used 6x6x16 inch Clear Ballistics gelatin blocks set 10 feet in front of the firing line.

Even when fired from the short barrel Pro Series, bullets expanded to double original diameter.

Even when fired from the short barrel Pro Series, bullets expanded to double original diameter.

I recovered all the bullets and measured expansion diameter at the widest point, then peeled off any obvious gelatin picked up along the way and weighed each projectile. Here’s what I found.

GunPenetrationExpansionWeight Retention
Smith & Wesson 1911 eSeries Government (5” barrel)15.25”.892”230.1 grains
Smith & Wesson 1911 Pro Series (3” barrel)14.12”.909”230.1 grains
Smith & Wesson 1911 Sc (4.25” barrel)14.87”.901”230.1 grains

From all three guns, expansion was right at double the original bullet diameter. That’s not too shabby. I didn’t pull a bullet to check weight before the shooting, so I’ll assume either the original weight is 230.1 grains, my scale is slightly off, or each projectile picked up a little bit of jello that I didn’t catch. Whatever the case, the projectiles stayed together, and there were no signs of jacket separation.

Closing Thoughts

There’s nothing to nitpick here and the results speak for themselves. Particularly impressive was the consistency of velocity. I think that speaks to care and a persnickety attitude in the manufacturing process. The deviation was among the best I’ve seen. If you are looking for great defensive ammunition, then take a close look at this from Federal.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Phil July 10, 2017, 8:07 am

    HST … Yes, Hunter S. Thompson would be proud!

  • Alex June 27, 2016, 7:59 pm

    HST stands for Hunter S Thompson. It always has, it always will.

    • Mike July 18, 2017, 10:34 am

      HST, does not stand for anything, its for marketing only, sounds cool. Call Federal and ask them they will tell you
      Thats what they told me

  • Tom Horn June 27, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Thanks for the results. Would be interested to see how well Hornady Critical Defense, and Critical Duty stack up against the HST rounds. Sure like the expansion on the HST. Would like to see what happens to it with FBI protocol barriers.

  • CW3RDL June 27, 2016, 7:21 pm

    Did you shoot some rounds through a clothing barrier of any type?

  • Greg Meyer June 27, 2016, 12:34 pm

    Were there any malfunctions? It always makes us feel good to read “there were no malfunctions of any kind during testing.”

  • Greg Meyer June 27, 2016, 12:31 pm

    Any malfunctions? It always makes us feel good to read “there were no malfunctions of any kind during testing.”

  • Jon bursey June 27, 2016, 10:07 am

    If you will do a little research CCI used to market a line of ammunition called Lawman and when tested it was dubbed the flying ashtray. This would have been written in mid to late 80s. To jagged edges like this round but almost looked like someone had inverted a hollow base was cutter was my reaction to the pictures from back then.

    • Ezra Bean July 1, 2016, 10:36 am

      I remember Lawman rounds. Actually,I experimented with wad cutters when I was younger and reloaded “inverted” wadcutters in my carry piece. It was a .38 S&W snubby.loaded with small charge of Bullseye.GREAT expansion. Lot of cleaning though. Lead deposits at flash gap

  • Dr. Strangelove June 27, 2016, 8:50 am

    Great test. I’m glad I stocked up when it was still $25.99/50. The 9mm was around $30, cheap compared to today’s prices.

  • JOHN HORNBY June 27, 2016, 8:41 am

    It is a modfied P.M.C, Starfire adding a 6th pedtal .

    • Steve July 1, 2016, 6:22 am

      Take a look at an unfired HST. Nothing like a Starfire, though designed by the same guy.

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