We’re back with another projectile data dump today, telling the story of the Smith & Wesson Nyclad and its latest generation, the Federal Syntech family.

The story begins when a company named ALCAN was formed in 1948 in Alton, IL. They were best known for shotshells and components, although they briefly dabbled in making plastic .45 Colt blanks, presumably for the Quick Draw competition market. S&W and Fiocchi cooperated to buy ALCAN, finalizing the deal in early 1970. According to the 1972 Gun Digest, the S&W-Fiocchi handgun cartridge line was announced in early 1971. Fiocchi ultimately sold out their interest in ALCAN in late 1972.

1976 Ad

The nylon-coated Nyclad design was designed by Smith & Wesson back in the late 1970s. James L. Oberg, Roger J. Curran, Michael Czayka filed the patent application in October 1978, and received US Patent #4,328,750 in May 1982. Originally, it was marketed as a cheaper alternative to jacketed projectiles while reducing airborne lead exposure, particularly with indoor ranges. 

The S&W Nyclad patent mentions the reduction of airborne lead and lead fouling more often than aiding expansion. So did their advertisements at the time. In fact, S&W had offered their RN, SWC, and full wadcutter loadings in the Nyclad line roughly a year before introducing the Nyclad hollowpoints.

1980 Ad

When S&W got out of ammo manufacturing in the 1980s, Federal Cartridge bought the patent rights to the Nyclad. Federal announced their acquisition of the Nyclad patent in March 1982, also noting the benefits of reducing fouling and lead pollution before the benefits of expansion and feeding in semi-auto pistols.

1982 Announcement
1983 Ad
1987 Ad

Introduced in 2017, Federal’s new Syntech line is sort of Nyclad 2.0, but they have replaced the nylon with a different polymer. Federal has made the interesting decision to color-code the loads by application: red is standard range and target ammo; purple is training ammunition that matches HST duty loads; and blue is self-defense and hunting ammunition. The latter includes the Syntech Defense – a fragmenting hollowpoint.


  1. Shawn says:

    man that is a name I haven’t heard in a long damn time. I cant even recall the last time I saw a box of old nyclad stuff


    1. Pathfinder says:

      I was thinking that while reading this.


      1. D.E. Watters says:

        Nyclad availability has been spotty from Federal since the 1990s. During the last few years of production, they even dropped the distinctive blue boxes in favor of standard packaging.


  2. Wild, wild west says:

    I have several of those 10-packs of .270 rat-holed from when I last owned one, maybe 35-years or so ago. It shot well in my rifle, not sure why I kept the ammo when the rifle went down the road.


  3. Tom Stone says:

    I still have a box of Nyclad hollowpoints somewhere, they were quite accurate out of my 2″ Smith.
    I’ll have to pick up a box or two of the Syntech to see how they compare.


  4. It's just Boris says:

    Nyclads are from before my time as a gun owner, as are most of the ammo history posts; thanks again, it’s interesting reading.

    I prefer Speer Lawman Cleanfire for range days, but the Syntech loads I’ve tried are a good alternative: almost as clean, and about as accurate. (The limitation there is most certainly located behind the gun, however, rather than what’s being shot through it.)


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