As any gun enthusiast will tell you, not all ammunition is created equal. But how can you tell which ammunition is the best for firearms, whether hunting or self-defense?
Ballistic gelatin has been used by many different industries including the FBI, military and law enforcement officials. In fact, when you have the right training and the required supplies, you can use ballistic gel to test your ammunition for yourself. Curious about which ammunition reigns supreme? Start testing your ammunition with these tips.
Important: Don’t try this at home unless you have the proper training and licensing to use a firearm.
To run these tests, you’ll need the following items to accurately test the ammunition.
First, you’ll obviously need ballistic gelatin to run these tests. You have a couple of options for how you can acquire the ballistic gelatin. One option is to purchase a ballistic gelatin kit that features the gelatin, mold, and mold liners you need to create the 6″ x 6″ x 16″ used for standard ammunition testing.
If this isn’t your first time using ballistic gel, you might already have the mold and mold liners needed to create the ballistic gelatin for testing. If that’s the case, you can always just stock up on ballistic gelatin with a 10lb box of ballistic gelatin. The gelatin itself can be indefinitely stored when in the proper conditions. Also, you’ll need a block of gelatin for each test you plan on running because the gelatin cannot be reused.
For the tests you’ll be running you need the ammunition or archery devices you plan on testing so you can see how they perform using the ballistic gel.
One of the tests shown below also requires a cotton fabric. You could use either an old cotton sheet or a cotton T-shirt. Remember to use the same type of fabric in all your tests. After all, you don’t want to skew your results.
Now that you have the right supplies in place, you are ready to run the ammunition tests.
The first test you can run on the block of ballistic gel is the simplest. Just the ballistic gelatin block and the ammunition are needed for this test. Stand 10 feet away from the gelatin block while shooting a single bullet or arrow. Remember, you can test up to 3 shots in one block of ballistic gel.
For this next test, you will use the testing method you used for the first test but add the cotton fabric we referenced in the needed items. Stand 10 feet away from the gelatin block, but this time the gelatin block will be covered in the cotton fabric.
This test will take into account the ammunition’s penetration if someone is wearing a cotton shirt. If you want to test with different layers of clothing you can do so. Just make sure your tests are comparing examples that have the same amount and similar types of layers on the blocks.
For the third test, you can test your ammunition on the cotton fabric covered ballistic gelatin, but this time take a couple of steps back, so you’re now 20 feet away from ballistic gel block. This testing scenario will give you insight into how the ammunition performs when firing at a farther distance from your target.
There are plenty more variations of these tests, but these three can help you get started.
Ballistic gelatin is used to test ammunition because it has a similar density to human or big game tissue. But since the gelatin is clear, you can see the path of the bullet when hitting the target and how it changed once inside. When looking at the results of your ammunition testing, there are a few items you’ll want to examine.
The first result you can measure using the ballistic gelatin is the penetration depth. To do this, you’ll measure the start of the gelatin block to where the bullet ended up in the gelatin block.
Next, you can measure the expansion of the bullet within the ballistic gel. Retrieve the bullet from the ballistic gel block after you’ve completed the other measurements. Bullets are expected to expand upon hitting a target to ensure they cause damage. Measure the diameter of an unfired bullet of the same kind and compare it to the fired bullet retrieved from the gel block. While there is not a set standard for measuring the expansion of bullets, it should be around 1.5 times larger than the diameter before being fired.
Another result you’ll want to examine when using ballistic gel is how well the ammo was able to retain weight, meaning how well it stayed in one piece, even while traveling through the target. A higher retained weight suggests that your bullet may allow more accuracy and do more damage at longer ranges compared to bullets that lose a lot of weight. To check retained weight, you’d weigh the bullet before being shot into the target and then measure it again after the bullet was retrieved from the gelatin block. Once you have the two measurements, compare the initial weight and the weight after being retrieved.
Start getting insightful data about your ammunition by using ballistic gel for ammunition testing. When testing your ammunition remember:
There’s a reason the FBI and law enforcement use ballistic gel for their ammunition tests, and that’s because of the informative results. Start testing your ammunition today with some help from ballistic gel.
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