February 2004

Winchester Ranger Ammunition Challenges Federal Hydra-Shok

Winchester has renewed a bid to be the leading supplier of special ammunition to law enforcement.

The Ranger Law Enforcement Only (LEO) ammunition is a direct challenge to the Federal Hydra-Shok cartridge that is used exclusively by the FBI. We wondered how the two rounds stacked up in a head-to-head comparison, so we acquired samples of both rounds in .357 Sig, .45 ACP and .40 S&W

and shot them

. Here is what we found.

The Winchester Ranger ammunition in .357 SIG (125-grain SXT, code RA357SIGT, a jacketed hollowpoint) on average fell some 27 foot-pounds of energy short of the Federal Hydra-Shok in the same weight and configuration. Accuracy of the Ranger round was also slightly behind, to the tune of 0.3 inch on average. Other considerations, recoil and report, were slightly less than when firing the Federal cartridge in the SIGArms P239.

On the .40 S&W side, the Winchester Ranger cartridge, we feel, proved superior when fired in the Glock 22. The Ranger 180-grain SXT (code RA40T) shot groups nearly half the size of the Federal Hydra-Shoks in the same bullet weight and configuration. Muzzle energy was nearly identical but recoil and report were, in the case of the Ranger ammunition, noticeably reduced.

Previously, we have criticized the Glock 22 pistol because, in our opinion, it was more prone to muzzle flip, was less comfortable, and was harder to control than other .40-caliber pistols, especially ones with steel frames. As a result, we would recommend the use of Winchester Ranger ammunition in the Glock 22 to minimize this characteristic.

We shot the .45 ACP bullets in a Smith & Wesson Model 4586, a single-stack semi-auto in double action only. Both the Federal and Winchester rounds employ 230-grain hollowpoints, and we measured velocity and muzzle energy to be nearly identical. But the accuracy of this gun improved by 1 full inch on average per five shot group measured from center to center when firing the Winchester Ranger RA45Ts. Felt recoil was closer to that of military (230-grain lead) ball ammo than that of a special defense round.

Gun Tests Recommends
The final tally on our scorecard shows that Winchester’s Ranger ammunition is superior in .45 ACP and .40 S&W when fired in guns commonly used by the FBI. We’d call it a draw between Hydra-Shok vs. Ranger in .357 SIG.