What Is Ballistic Gel?
Also known as “shooting gelatin,” ballistic gel is a block of solid gelatin used in ammunition testing. A bullet is discharged into the block of gelatin, then the expansion, penetration and cavities caused by the fired bullet are measured and recorded. Ballistic gelatin simulates human muscle tissue to measure the effects of bullet wounds. Conducting ballistic gel tests has proven beneficial, as it enables reliable and consistent measurement of terminal ballistics.
Ballistic Terms Testers Should Know
Anyone who will be doing ballistic gel tests needs to be familiar with these terms:
- Ballistic Soap – While ballistic gelatin is the popular choice for ammunition testing in the United States, ballistic soap is often used in Europe and China. Ballistic soap performs the same function as ballistic gel blocks, the main difference being it’s made with glycerin soap.
- Bloom — The measure of the ballistic gel block’s strength, otherwise known as Bloom strength. The higher the number, the stiffer the gel. For comparison sake, gelatin used in food is between 125 Bloom and 250 Bloom. Meanwhile, ballistic gel has a standard Bloom of 250.
- Clarity — One of the major terms related to the quality of the ballistic gel. The clarity of the gel allows the user to see through the block and report ammunition performance. The level of clarity is measured by Nephelometric Turbidity Units.
- Defoamer — A substance that helps reduce the occurrence of foam or bubbles in ballistic gel.
- MPS — An abbreviation for millipoise, a unit of measure indicating viscosity. A higher number of millipoise indicates more viscosity.
- NTUs — An abbreviation for Nephelometric Turbidity Units, used to measure the clarity of ballistic gel. This unit measures scattered light at a 90-degree angle. A lower number means more clarity.
- Solubility — How quickly the ballistic gelatin will dissolve in a solution. When manufacturing ballistic gel blocks, the gelatin should dissolve quickly to avoid overmixing and dismantling the protein in the gel.
- Viscosity — Determines how quickly the ballistic gel blocks will set and how slowly they will melt during ballistic gel testing. More viscosity means faster setting and slower melting.
Ammunition Testing Terms To Know
Having a solid understanding of the types of ammo and how they behave is critical if you’re planning on doing ballistic gelatin testing:
- Bonded Core Bullets — Rounds of ammunition in which the core of the bullet is bonded to the jacket to prevent separating. Bonded core bullets are used for big game hunting where it’s crucial for the bullet to remain intact.
- Fragmentation — When a bullet breaks into pieces or fragments upon impact.
- Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) Bullets — Ammunition in which the bullet has a soft core encased by a harder metal.
- Jacketed Hollow-Point (JHP) Bullets — A bullet that expands on impact. This expansion is caused by the hollowed-out shape at the tip of the bullet.
- Jacket — The harder metal encasing the softer metal core of the bullet.
- Jacket Separation — When the jacket of the bullet and the core separate upon impact. Some bullets are more prone to this than others.
- Mushrooming — When the front of a hollow-point bullet expands upon impact, creating a wider, rounded nose at the end of the cylindrical portion, resembling a mushroom. This process reduces penetration while also increasing damage along the wound path.
- Non-Bonded Bullets — Bullets that don’t feature a connected bullet core and jacket.
- Ordnance — Military equipment, such as firearms and ammunition.
How Are The Results Of Ballistic Gelatin Testing Measured?
Based on the type of bullet being fired into the gelatin, certain standards of performance will give you a reading on how your ammunition performs. The bullet will be graded on the following:
- Expansion — Bullets are designed to expand when they make contact with the target. When your product is used for ammunition testing, it allows the user to compare the diameter of bullets before and after firing into ballistic gel blocks. An ideal bullet will expand to about 1.5 times larger than the original bullet diameter.
- Penetration — One of the factors assessed with ballistic gel testing. To determine the penetration of the ammunition, testers measure the distance from the edge of the ballistic gel to the deepest point the bullet touches.
- Retained Weight — Another factor measured during ammunition testing, retained weight shows how intact the bullet remains while traveling through a target. Users compare the weight of the bullet before being shot and after being retrieved from the ballistic gel block.
Other Factors for Ammunition Testing
A few other things to keep in mind when creating ballistic gel blocks:
- Most ballistic gel blocks should be a standard 6″ x 6″ x 16″ size. Manufacturing these blocks may require gel molds and mold liners.
- Whichever type of ammunition you’re testing, JHP or FMJ, ballistic gel tests are conducted the same way – the results will just be measured against a different set of standards. For example, in a hollow-point ballistic gel test, the bullet expands quickly after impact but also slows down, so you won’t have the same kind of penetration as you will in an FMJ ballistic gel test.
- While not a flawless predictor of performance, ballistic gelatin testing is a valuable tool for evaluating bullet characteristics.