Ballistic gel mimics certain properties of flesh more closely than any other substance. In fact, ballistic gel from Custom Collagen is so finely tuned to imitate the density of human organs that it’s even used by hospitals and universities to calibrate ultrasound equipment.
So if you shoot a block of ballistic gel, you should be able to see just how much damage would have been done to a human or animal target … right?
Well, not exactly
Let’s explore some of ballistic gel’s strengths and limitations.
Limitations Of Ballistic Gel
While ballistic gel is the closest artificial equivalent to human or animal flesh, it can’t predict exactly how much damage a firearm can do. Ballistic gel is a fairly accurate representation of human and animal muscle and organ density, but it doesn’t represent skin or bones. Therefore, the gelatin tears more easily than skin, causing a margin of error that you will always need to account for.
Additionally, no two target scenarios in real life are going to be exactly the same. This fact alone makes it impossible for ballistic gel, or any other test substance, to predict the performance of a bullet with 100% certainty.
Strengths Of Ballistic Gel
As stated above, ballistic gel mimics human and animal flesh more closely than any other substance in existence. That makes it the best choice for getting an approximate idea of how a bullet behaves when it enters a flesh-like substance. Moreover, the clear gelatin makes it easy to see how a bullet penetrated, whether it fragmented, and whether it caused cavitation — simply by looking.
The other benefit of ballistic gel in an experimental setting is that it limits variables. It makes testing easily repeatable and more controlled. A controlled test setting is key when comparing bullets against one another. Specifically, you can compare the penetration, retained weight, and expansion of the bullets in equivalent conditions. Ballistic gel makes these controlled conditions possible.