Federal Premium Ammunition

Federal Premium Ammunition is an American ammunition maker. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vista Outdoor and is located in Anoka, Minnesota. With a work force of nearly 1,500, Federal makes shotshell, centerfire, and rimfire ammunition and components.

Federal Premium Ammunition
FormerlyFederal Cartridge Corporation
TypeAmmunition manufacturer
Founded1916; 105 years ago (1916)[1]
Refounding: April 27, 1922; 98 years ago (1922-04-27)[2]
FounderCharles L. Horn
HeadquartersAnoka, Minnesota, USA
Key people
Jason Vanderbrink
ProductsShotshell, centerfire, rimfire ammunition
Number of employees
ParentVista Outdoor
WebsiteFederal Premium


On April 27, 1922, Charles L. Horn took control of a small plant in Anoka, Minnesota and refounded Federal Cartridge.[2]

Horn launched a distribution plan to merchandise Federal products in grocery stores, barber shops, and gas stations. In 1941, Federal won an $87-million contract from the U.S. government (approx. $1.3 billion in 2010) to build and operate the $30-million Twin City Ordnance Plant (TCOP).[2] Federal ranked 59th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.[3]

In 1977, William B. Horn introduced Federal's Premium line of centerfire rifle and shotshell ammunition. The Premium line did not just load Federal's own bullets. Federal also loaded its Premium line with highly regarded projectiles from other manufacturers such as Nosler Partition and Sierra boat-tail. Federal insisted on extremely tight tolerances. As a result, the factory-made Premium line achieved accuracy, performance, and quality, usually associated with hand-loaded ammunition. As of March 2019, Federal still used projectiles from numerous manufacturers.[4]

Federal also owned Hoffman Engineering, a company that made electronic enclosures. In 1985, a group of private investors, including Kelso & Company, BancBoston Capital, and members of company management purchased Federal. Federal and Hoffman engineering were united under the name Federal-Hoffman and taken private during the sale. In 1988, Pentair, a diversified manufacturer based in Minnesota, agreed to acquire FC Holdings Inc., the holding company for Federal-Hoffman, for $175 million in cash and the assumption of debt.[5] Federal-Hoffman has since split, and Federal is currently owned by Vista Outdoor. Vista Outdoor, formerly the outdoor and sporting goods division of Alliant Techsystems, was spun off in February 2015. Federal Cartridge does business today as Federal Premium Ammunition.[citation needed]


As of July 2017, 1,100 employees worked on four shifts at Federal Premium's site in Anoka, Minnesota. Federal Premium had doubled its number of employees at its Anoka facilities since 2003 and invested in new buildings and equipment. Until shortly after the election of 2016, 1,400 worked for Federal Premium in Anoka. After the election, there was a huge drop in sales of ammunition, causing a mass layoff and buyouts of employees totaling around 300. Raw materials are brought to the factory by rail. Production runs 24-hours per day, seven days per week. Some of the machinery in use at Anoka dates back to the 1940s. Federal has also modernized much of its production process with help from Lewiston, Idaho based CCI, another Vista Outdoor subsidiary. The company's quality control allows defects to be traced back to the employees who oversaw the loading of any substandard ammunition detected.[6] The Federal Premium complex in Anoka has four different factories with a floor area of at least 700,000 square feet. The facility is vertically integrated to the extent that raw natural materials enter and leave as finished products.[7][8]

Federal uses recycled lead from car batteries, brass, and plastic as production inputs. The Anoka compound also has a modern water-treatment plant built in 2014.[8]

Federal has worked with a local non-profit group to employ people with disabilities since 1987.[8]

Products and marketingEdit

Federal makes hundreds of types of ammunition for a wide variety of customers and uses.[7]

In 2019, Federal started selling directly to consumers through its online store. This was partially prompted by Walmart's decision to stop selling certain calibers of ammunition. Federal also started a new service where customers can order hand-loaded ammunition customized for their needs.[8]

In 2020, Federal developed a series of online shows in order to make up for the numerous gun industry consumer and trade shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These shows focused on the features and benefits of new Federal products and were offered as a service to its end customers and resellers. Federal also produced such shows for its sister brands CCI and Speer.[9]

As of 2020, Federal Premium was a supplier for the United States military.[10]

During 2020, Vista made more hunting ammunition than in any other year of its history or those of its subsidiaries. Heavy demand and a shortage of raw materials has made fulfilling orders difficult.[11]

Defense ammunitionEdit

HST 380 Auto MicroEdit

The HST 380 Auto Micro was designed for self-defense and use in small pistols such as the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard. It has a nickel-plated casing and special primer that improve its reliability in semi-automatic handguns. It weighs 99 grains and has a deep, tapered hollow-point to provide consistent expansion. This ammunition does not meet the FBI Ammunition Testing Protocol. With a 3.75-inch test barrel, HST 380 Auto Micro ammunition achieves a muzzle velocity of 1,030 feet per second, a velocity of 990 feet per second at 25 yards, and a velocity of 950 feet per second at 50 yards. Using the same sized test barrel, it measures 235 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.[12]


Hydra-Shok is a type of cartridge with expanding bullets. It was originally patented by Federal Premium bullet designer Tom Burczynski. Hydra-Shok was introduced in 1988 after the FBI requested a bullet with better terminal ballistics than a traditional cup and core projectile.[13]

Hydra-Shok ammunition has a patented center-post design and notched jacket with a non-bonded lead core. Hydra-Shok is designed to provide more reliable expansion and deeper penetration than other hollow-point projectiles used at that time. Federal Premium claims that the scored jacket and center-post design provide a "programmed" expansion. There has been much debate regarding the bullets unreliable expansion when fired through clothing or media other than ballistic gelatin. In ballistic gelatin, the bullet typically displays very rapid expansion resulting in a larger but more shallow wound channel than would be typical from most other bullet configurations in the same caliber and of similar weight.[14]

Federal introduced a .320 version of the Hydra-Shock round in 2020.[15]


Federal Premium announced a .30-30 Winchester version of its Vital-Shok Trophy Copper ammunition for medium-sized game in August 2015. These bullets are tipped with polymer inserts to affect rapid expansion and retain 99 percent of their mass after expanding. The one percent loss of mass is due mostly to shedding the polymer tip. The case of this cartridge is nickel-plated to make extraction easier and prevent corrosion.[16]

Federal Premium sells shotgun slugs with Vital-Shok branding. These slugs use the Foster, also known as American, design. Foster-type slugs have rifling to make it easier to pass them through a choke and have hollow tails that help stabilize the slug in flight.[17]

Punch .22 LREdit

The Punch .22 LR is a 29-grain lead-core bullet. It can achieve a muzzle velocity of 1,070 feet per second when fired from a two-inch handgun barrel. It can achieve a muzzle velocity of 1,650 feet per second when fired from a 24-inch rifle barrel.[18]

.327 Federal MagnumEdit

The .327 Federal Magnum is a cartridge introduced by Federal Cartridge intended to provide the power of a .357 Magnum in six shot, compact revolvers. The .327 has also been used in full-sized revolvers and Henry's Big Boy Steel carbine. The .327 Federal Magnum is actually a super magnum having replaced the .32 H&R Magnum as the pinnacle of power in this diameter revolver cartridge.[19]

Hunting ammunition for handgunsEdit

Federal sells a line of hunting ammunition for handguns. In 2020, it started selling Fusion 10mm Auto ammunition.[20]

Shotgun shellsEdit

Black Cloud Snow GooseEdit

Federal Black Cloud Snow Goose loads are designed for use against large waterfowl. It comes in BB and 2. Federal claims a muzzle velocity of 1,635 feet per second.[21]

Shorty ShotshellsEdit

Shorty Shotshells are very short for shotgun ammunition as they have a length of only 1.75 inches. Federal says the Shortys work just as well as full-sized shotshells. The Shorty Shotshell comes in #8 shot, #4 buck, and a rifled slug as well.[22]

Upland SteelEdit

In early 2021, Federal Premium added two 12-guage rounds to its Upland Steel line. This ammunition is unique for being made of stainless steel instead of lead. It is primarily used for hunting.[23]

.224 ValkyrieEdit

6.8 SPC + .224 Valkyrie

Federal significantly expanded the number of .224 Valkyrie loads it offers. The Varmint and Predator load hold 60-grain Hornady V-MAX bullets. The 80.5-grain Gold Medal Berger Match was designed for long-range target shooting. The 78-grain Barnes TSX copper hollow point is a hunting round for large game such as deer.[22]

American Eagle brandEdit

American Eagle Ammunition


In late 2015, Federal Premium introduced the Syntech ("synthetic technology") line of handgun bullets for the 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP calibers, under Federal's American Eagle brand. The "Syntech" trademark derives from the Total Polymer Jacket (TPJ), a synthetic low-friction polymer jacketing that replaces the traditional bare lead or copper jacketing. With no metal-on-metal contact with the bore and rifling, the polymer-jacketed bullets theoretically will impose much less wear on the rifling and generate less heat, which helps to extend barrel life as well as eliminate lead and copper fouling in the bore. Cartridges using Syntech bullets also use special primers and clean-burning propellants to further minimize carbon fouling.[24][25]

Syntech was designed for indoor range shooters. In addition to being cleaner than conventional ammunition, Federal Premium claims that Syntech is safer due to decreased splash and fragmenting when hitting hard targets. The company says its studies show that what little spray there is stays close to the target.[26]

In early 2021, Federal Premium introduced the Syntech Rangle line of ammunition. This line includes 380 Auto, 38 Special, and 10mm Auto.[27]


Ballistic Magazine recognized Federal's Force X1 as the Best Shotgun Ammo of 2020. Federal Practice and Defend Packs were recognized as the Best Handgun Ammo of 2020.[28]

Federal received a "Gold" Shooting Sports Retail Choice for its shotshells in 2020.[29]


  1. ^ "Federal Cartridge Company". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Federal Cartridge Company: Federal Premium Ammunition's 90th year of booming business". Pioneer Press. June 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  3. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  4. ^ Writer, Staff (March 7, 2019). "Federal Premium Ammunition Bringing Back Popular Barnes, Nosler and Berger Loads". The Truth About Guns. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  5. ^ "Sale to Pentair". The New York Times. November 15, 1988. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Miniter, Frank (March 25, 2016). "Ammo Increasingly Goes Custom". American Hunter. Fairfax, Virginia. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Federal Ammunition on Why Bigger Is Better". AmmoLand Shooting Sports News. AmmoLand Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Patrick (December 2, 2019). "You may not know Anoka company Vista Outdoor, but you know its brands". Star Tribune. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  9. ^ Staff (August 7, 2020). "Vista Outdoor : Federal Launches Virtual Shows for Its Buy Group Partners and Distributors". Market Screener. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  10. ^ Scepaniak, Adam (September 10, 2020). "U.S. Army Awards Federal Premium $13.8 Million Ammunition Contract". ALLOUTDOOR. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  11. ^ Robinson, Alex (January 22, 2021). "Where's All the Damn Ammo? Federal Premium's President Has Some Answers". Outdoor Life. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  12. ^ "Federal Premium's HST 380 Auto Micro Ammo – Redefines Compact Protection". AmmoLand. United States. July 30, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Carter, Aaron (January 2011). "Managing Editor". American Rifleman.[full citation needed]
  14. ^ "9mm Ammo Quest: Federal Premium Hydra Shok". The Truth About Guns. Robert Farago. February 23, 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  15. ^ Staff (October 3, 2020). "The .380 ACP Made Better: Federal Hydra-Shock Deep .380 Auto". Shooting Illustrated.
  16. ^ Slowik, Max (July 8, 2015). "Federal Premium's new .30-30 Win. Vital-Shok Trophy Copper". Guns.com. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  17. ^ Case, Larry (July 23, 2018). "Ammunition: Shotgun Slugs 101". Gun Digest. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  18. ^ Staff (May 1, 2021). "PDW Buyer's Guide". Personal Defense World.
  19. ^ Mann, Richard A. (December 17, 2018). "Is The .327 Federal Magnum The Best All-Purpose Magnum?". Gun Digest. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  20. ^ Staff (October 7, 2020). "First Look: Federal Fusion 10mm Auto Hunting Ammo". American Rifleman. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  21. ^ Fenson, Brad (January 6, 2016). "6 Tips For Sea Duck Hunting Success". Mossberg.com. Mossberg. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  22. ^ a b Alberts, Kristin (February 12, 2019). "VISTA OUTDOOR WOWS SHOT WITH INSANE NUMBER OF NEW PRODUCTS". Guns.com. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  23. ^ Lenze, Nicolas. "Federal Premium Expands the Upland Steel Line of Shotshells". ALLOUTDOOR. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  24. ^ "New For 2016: American Eagle's Polymer-Encapsulated Syntech Ammo". Tactical Life (Harris Publications). New York, New York. January 5, 2016. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  25. ^ "American Eagle Syntech TSJ: What Is Synthetic-Tip Ammo?". Gun Digest. United States. January 15, 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  26. ^ Alberts, Kristin (February 8, 2016). "First look at Federal's three new ammo offerings". Guns.com. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  27. ^ Grant, Jim (January 20, 2021). "https://www.ammoland.com/2021/01/federal-ammunition-announces-new-pistol-loadings-for-2021/#ixzz6kamZSZa6". AmmoLand. External link in |title= (help)
  28. ^ Staff (February 1, 2021). "Best Ammo of 2020: The Ballistic's Best Editors' Selects Awards".
  29. ^ Staff (March 1, 2021). "Choice Awards". Shooting Sports Retailer.

External linksEdit