Not every development in the ammunition world involves a new hollow point with barbed wire and scorpion stingers attached, though that is normally the headline. Earlier this year at SHOT Show, Federal Ammunition announced a new bullet that is pretty much the opposite of that. And for the purposes of training or gun games, it should have your attention. I finally got my hands on some this week in .45 ACP and I was not disappointed.
The new line is called Syntech Action Pistol and is the official ammunition of USPSA. But the benefits to this round aren’t just for competition shooters. Anyone who is serious about training is going to reap some benefit from this development.
Syntech is purely for training or matches and that is the lens from which we must examine it. Fortunately, for those purposes the benefits are many. To start with, the rounds are designed as the ultimate compromise in low recoil. Part of the reason I requested test round in .45 ACP is that .45 packs the most in my opinion, of the common calibers. The recoil on a .40 S&W is sharper and snappier, but the slow push of the .45 ACP actually packs more. That is an arguable opinion, but we can safely say either is greater than 9 mm., so .45 is a good place to test.
If you have ever shot a .45 ACP all day long, you know the training value curve. For a long training session, your hands give up long before your spirit with full power rounds. A lower recoiling round lets you get more practice in. It has other benefits as well. If you only have one pistol, and it happens to be in .45 ACP, training newer shooters can be a problem. .45 is a lot of recoil for smaller statured shooters as well as children. The new Syntech solves that issue, as the recoil is extremely manageable. This is the softest shooting factory round I have ever picked up and provides a perfect bridge between 9mm and full power .45 ACP.
For those who are into competitions, the benefit is obvious: You can shoot lower recoil bullets faster, as the gun doesn’t move as far off target under recoil. It is beneficial here to talk about the way Federal decided on the bullet weight and speed. USPSA has a thing called “power factor,” something they actually check at every big event. Power factor has two metrics, minor and major, that affect how your hits on target are scored. The power factor is calculated by a simple bit of math—bullet weight times velocity divided by 1000. The magic number for minor is 126 and 165 for major. Since it only makes sense to shoot bigger bullets to the higher or “major” power factor, that was the goal Federal set out for with this round.
The Syntech .45 has a 220-grain bullet, moving at a velocity of 775 feet per second. That calculates out to a power factor of 170.5, right at the usual hand loaders goal of 170. Why 170.5 and not 165 even? To mitigate the minor differences from one gun to another, as well as provide a cushion against chronographs that may read differently. The USPSA does an excellent job of keeping the testing tools fair, but things do still happen. And 164.9 is still scored as minor scoring, rules are rules. I saw a former national champion lose at the “chronograph stage” one time, his .40 S&W loads making a 163. Needless to say, he wasn’t a happy camper.
This is a great off the shelf option for new shooters to the sport as well. I have been at this a while, and I just started reloading my own this year. Not everyone has the money or space for a press, or maybe the time to use it. If you are starting out in competition, in the past this has left you at the mercy of niche sporting-specific ammo companies. The price was higher, and you always had to wonder about quality control. The aforementioned champion with the underpowered rounds was using ammo from a sponsor, not his own press. I shall refrain from mentioning names because I’m feeling nice. But with the Syntech, you glean the benefit of both a mass-produced item on the price, as well as Federal’s exacting standards in QC. Even if you do reload your own, this still has a side benefit. It is worth picking up a box or two and testing them in your gun, in case. For fly-away matches, most of us ship our ammo to the destination. I personally have had it not show up, and had the match director leave it out in the rain. In either case, it is handy to have an off-the-shelf option to supplement your hand-built race rounds.
The bullet design itself has benefits for both competitors and general-purpose shooters. Specific to the competition nerds, the new bullets all feature a flat face. The benefit here is a higher push factor on steel, increasing your chances of knocking it over, which it must do to be scored. I had never considered this feature from flat bullets, but it is a logical factor if you think about it.
A round-nosed bullet impacts steel with a very small surface area then begins to give up energy both to pushing the steel and collapsing into itself. If you ever have seen a hit on steel from a slow-motion capture, you know what I am talking about. A flat bullet hits with more surface area, transferring more energy to the target as it impacts. Not that I see this being a problem with .45 to start with, but it is certainly a factor in the .9 and .40 loadings. It is awesome to have a lesser recoiling round, that still offers reliable knock over power on steel.
The jacketing benefits of the bullet work for everyone. If you watch my videos, you notice that I almost always use static steel targets. Mostly because I am far too lazy to pick the steel back up between training runs. Steel is a great training benefit, and I highly recommend it. But it does come at a cost. We always wear eye protection, because you do get splash-back on occasion. And eventually, if you do it enough, a piece of jacketing is going to make you bleed. From either worn out steel, a bad angle or shooting too close, you will get bit. When I taught thousands of hours per year in the Army, I would often find jacket pieces when I was shaving. Almost without fail, a sharp piece of copper is what actually hits you. With the polymer jacket, that risk is greatly reduced. Shards of polymer lack the mass to fly far, and the lead generally flattens out to disk and falls at the target.
All in all, I could not be happier with the Syntech .45. It makes my XD(M) in 45 recoil like a 9mm, and keeps my face clean and pretty like you all expect. I was skeptical about the use, but I have found my new training round of choice, and as soon as I find some in .40, my new USPSA round of choice to boot.