August 24, 2018
By Lane Pearce
Until recently, Federal sporadically has offered a few popular-caliber cartridge cases but never any factory bullets for reloading. Only Federal primers were routinely offered as a reloading component. However, with ammo sales declining, Federal has adopted a more accommodating attitude towards the hobbyist handloader.
Federal introduced Syntech range ammunition and Trophy Bonded Tip hunting ammunition a couple of years ago. Not too long ago, the company announced several new Federal-branded reloading components, including TSJ pistol and TBT rifle bullets. I recently received samples of both to test and evaluate.
Syntech TSJ Bullets
As you can see in the photo, the pistol rounds resemble miniature, bright red lipstick. The proprietary polymer coating replaces the typical gilding metal jacket used to isolate the bullet's lead core from the barrel rifling and burning propellant. The swaged lead core has a Brinell hardness of 19 to 20 and is totally encapsulated within the polymer shell. There's no copper or lead fouling, so cleaning your pistol is less of a chore.
The TSJ (Total Synthetic Jacketed) ammunition was introduced as a reduced-cost option for target shooting. The plastic shell prevents hot powder gases from melting the lead core and releasing vaporized lead into the air. The bullets also spatter less when they strike steel targets. Although not intended for personal defense, these bullets weigh the same as and are fired as fast as typical jacketed bullets, so they likely would do in a pinch.
When I received the TSJ pistol bullets, I wondered if any specific handloading data was available. I checked Federal's website and found a comprehensive data sheet for 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP cartridges. Only then did I open a box of the 115-grain 9mm bullets and, lo and behold, Federal had thoughtfully included a printed card with cartridge-specific reloading recipes and some special handloading instructions.
If you're familiar with loading any of these rounds, the process for the TSJ bullets is essentially the same. Resize/decap the case, clean the primer pocket, flare the case mouth, seat a new primer, charge the case with a safe amount of a suitable propellant, seat a bullet to the specified overall length, and crimp. The only special consideration is the last step: crimping the bullet in place. Federal cautions you to taper crimp the case mouth- and only just enough to straighten out the flare. Too much crimp will possibly damage the polymer jacket.
It's not a big deal. Just "bell" the case mouth enough so the heel of the bullet easily sets in place. The plastic coating helps center the bullet properly. After carefully adjusting my Lee Precision seater die to both seat and taper crimp the first round, I finished up with the rest of the box with no problems.
As you can see in the accompanying chart, I loaded the test ammo with Alliant's newest pistol propellant: Sport Pistol. Sport Pistol is similar in burn rate to W231 and HP38. It's also clean burning and temperature stable, meters well, and exhibits low muzzle flash. It's a great choice for handloading target/range pistol ammo. The range results were satisfactory, and I especially enjoyed how well my H&K pistol performed despite the "fuzzy" sight picture.
Trophy Bonded Tip Bullets
Big-game hunters reading this magazine may remember Jack Carter. He developed the original Trophy Bonded bullets years ago and established their reputation for excellent performance in the field. As his bullets became more and more popular, Carter couldn't keep up with production demands, so he contracted with Federal to manufacture them. Carter continued to market them for a while, but within a few years, Federal's sister company, Speer, took over and offered Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullets as a component for handloaders, while Federal offered factory ammunition loaded with the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (TBBC) bullet.
As we all know, consumer pressure often drives the demand for new products. Nosler's Ballistic Tip led the way and eventually every bullet company realized they had to offer a tipped product to remain in the game. Federal recently redesigned the TBBC bullet to incorporate a polymer tip, but it was only available in factory ammo. Until now. The new Trophy Bonded Tip (TBT) bullet retains the stout, solid base copper jacket with the forward lead core bonded in place. In addition to the heat-shedding polymer tip, the jacket is grooved and nickel-plated to reduce friction and corrosion.
I received samples of two bullet weights of each of three popular calibers. As the chart shows, I loaded all the test ammo with Alliant Reloder 16, the latest in the series of a dozen different burn rate rifle propellants with the "Reloder" label. As the name indicates, Reloder 16 is slightly faster than Reloder 17, and both are very similar in burn rate to 4350 ballistic performance.
As expected, I found specific load data included in each box of bullets. The .280 Remington did not merit inclusion in the recipes listed, but it's so similar to the .270 Winchester and .30-06, I simply estimated a safe conservative charge weight of Reloder 16 and the lighter 140-grain 7mm TBT bullet and assembled another 20 rounds of test loads. The velocity data indicated safe pressures, and accuracy results were easily good enough for hunting big game, so I did not attempt to fine-tune the handloads.
All of Federal's new handloading component bullets performed well in my tests, and they are competitively priced. The Syntech TSJ pistol bullets run $15 to $18 per hundred, and the Trophy Bonded Tip rifle bullets are $25 to $28 for 50 bullets.