In the world of self-defense cartridges, there is a notion that we must stick to 9mm or better. However, smaller cartridges do have their place and shouldn’t be discounted completely. Federal Punch 22 LR comes to mind as one of these cartridges.
Federal Punch 22 LR: Better than a Sharp Stick in the Eye
The problem with .22 LR is more than just its reduced energy. Conventional bullets aren’t doing it any favors either as they often fall apart or fail to expand. Sometimes they just veer off course before they get into the vitals of a threat. These issues span many cartridges and Federal’s PUNCH line of ammunition sought to alleviate these problems. After the introduction of this line in the most common cartridges, Federal announced that it built a .22 LR PUNCH round. This round boasts enhanced velocity and weight retention by utilizing a 29-grain, nickel-plated flat point bullet. The projectile is designed to stay together and travel straight through tissue. Instead of expanding, the .22 LR PUNCH is designed to maximize penetration and weight retention from a rimfire round.
After scoring a few boxes I was eager to test penetration. It would go up against the next most powerful self-defense round, the .32 ACP. I decided against testing against .25 ACP because a coffee cup is more effective than a .25 ACP. Aside from testing the Federal PUNCH 22 LR penetration claim, I wanted to see how reliable it would be. Especially through a variety of defensive pistols that would get serious consideration from serious shooters. I gathered up offerings from North American Arms, Glock, Taurus and Walther. Then I tossed some Clear Ballistics 10-percent FBI gelatin in the car, and hit the road.
Test Protocol for Federal Punch 22 LR
My test protocol was intended to find the PUNCH ammo’s average accuracy based on five consecutive, five-shot groups. Then gather velocity and standard deviation data for each pistol. All the while I would be noting any issues with feeding, firing or ejecting. This is critical with anything you might consider staking your life on. A simple sandbag rest would be all that I needed for the formal accuracy testing on paper. A Wilson Combat storable steel IDPA target would be my point-of-aim for a handful of mag dumps to test reliability. I set up a shooting point just seven yards away from my target. Then, I laid out my five pistols and got to work.
Guns On The Range
Up first was the smallest of the bunch, the North American Arms Black Widow. This mini-revolver features a 2-inch barrel and a surprisingly good set of sights. It’s intended for deep concealment and holster-less carry thanks to the single-action design and five safety notches. With it, I was able to produce minute-of-human-head accuracy, and it went bang every time I pulled the trigger. To my amazement, the ammo reached velocities as high as 1,236 fps. Then it tapered off to an average of 1,210 fps.
Next was one of the more finicky semi-auto .22s that I owned, a 3.42-inch Walther P22. We were able to run more than 100 rounds through it without a hiccup. We even managed an average accuracy of 2.51 inches. When we looked at the chronograph is when things got interesting. After a 10-shot string, we were left with an average velocity that fell within just a few feet per second of the NAA Black Widow. This is is interesting because the Black Widow’s barrel is half the length of the P22.. The standard deviation was only 5.4 so it wasn’t like we arrived here through one or two underpowered shots either. It looks like Federal hit its mark with making this round produce most of its potential energy in just a few short inches of travel and things were starting to get exciting.
Bringing out the Glock 44
As the last two guns aren’t terribly popular I decided to include something that was, a Glock 44. In its early days, there were a few internet videos floating around showing it to rupture cartridges, specifically those built for high velocity. I was curious to test this new PUNCH ammo for this particular failure and am happy to report that after 100 rounds I can safely say that it was not going to be the case. Furthermore, I have never experienced such a rupture with this gun so those failures were likely isolated instances linked to a few particular lots of ammunition. Our velocity and accuracy results were nearly the same as the 3.42-inch Walther P22 again showing us that Federal wants this round to be adequate in even the shortest of barrels.
While the Glock 44 was revolutionary for the company, it was playing catch-up to Taurus with its TX-22. This gun quickly become my favorite semi-auto rimfire pistol, and I am not being paid to say that. It has terrific ergonomics, superb reliability and a price tag that can allow you to keep one in each room of your house. My one gripe was that it shot way too low at 15 yards, but I fixed that in just a few minutes by filing down the front sight. Anyway, it shot about the same as the others in both the accuracy and velocity departments and again ate a perfect 100 rounds without a failure.
Can we Go Faster?
At this point, I was wondering if something on the extreme side of pistol barrel length would produce more velocity. As it stands, I was already achieving more juice than Federal advertises but I wanted to know if we were at the max without having to move up to a rifle. So, to test my theory I dusted off my target edition Walther P22 with its 5-inch barrel and stuffed a few magazines. For starters, the groups were phenomenal, less than one inch in most cases. Second, we did indeed see a small step in velocity showing us that this round has room to grow.
Now came the fun part, ballistics gel testing. Here we set out a 16-inch block just 10 feet from the firing line and wrapped it with a layer of denim under a layer of leather. After sending a 73-grain FMJ .32 ACP round through, we placed a round of the .22 LR punch right next to it. I chose the NAA Black Widow revolver for this shot to show us the “worse-case scenario” and also to closely match the barrel length of the NAA Guardian that fired the .32 ACP round. The results were eye-opening as we achieved more than 11 inches of penetration with Federal’s PUNCH .22 LR, not even four inches less than the next caliber up. Aside from that, it kept a straighter path than the .32, indicating that it had a better chance of reaching vitals through clothing, fat and tendons.
I have always felt that .22 LR was a viable option for a last line of defense, and the introduction of Federal’s .22 LR PUNCH only helped cement that notion. Aside from filling the needs of those who can’t handle something larger, .22 LR pistols have the added advantage of enhanced capacity. That TX-22 has an available 16-round magazine and guns like the Kel-Tec CP33 hold more than TWICE than in a single flush-fit magazine. You might scoff at getting hit with one .22 LR but I doubt there is a human being walking the earth that can take nearly three dozen and live to tell the tale. Aside from capacity, these guns can be extremely affordable to own and practice with so, if nothing else, one belongs in your range bag to at least help build proficiency. For more information visit federalpremium.com.