Friday, June 01, 2007

Ballistic Gelatin Testing

I saw an article while I was reading at Front Sight, Press. I would like you to read it, but please do so with an open mind. I'm going to throw out some opinion here that is in disagreement with the article. This is not intended in any way, shape or form to start any kind of a flame war. It's my opinion based on 12 yrs as a Paramedic with the training that goes into Anatomy.

Ballistic Gel is a commonly used medium to test the performance of a bullet when striking something. It works pretty well because it allows you to see the path of the bullet and to see the expansion. Many people out there tout this type of testing as "gospel" when they tell you about how great their particular "magic" bullet is in taking down goblins.

It is a possible indicator, yes, I will give you that. Please note that I said possible indicator. It's not gospel as many would have you believe. They want to tell you that because of the gel testing, they know that their bullet will expand to "X" when it strike a human target. Maybe it will, maybe it won't and you won't know if it will or not until you (god forbid) drill a human in the chest with one.

The next time you take a shower, or bath if you prefer, please pay close attention when you wash your chest. You will feel the sternum, which is a very dense bone in the center of the rib cage. It's anywhere from 12 to 14 inches long, depending on your body structure, and probably an inch or so wide. It takes a hell of alot of force to fracture a sternum. Now feel around a bit more, you'll find your ribs. They really aren't very far apart are they? The parts you can't feel are inside, the vital life sustaining organs. Some muscle, some blood, some air.

Ballistic gelatin takes none of this into account. In the article, they covered the gel with 4 layers of denim. I live in Michigan, even in January, I don't see people wearing 4 layers of denim. They simulated a car door, that's nice, but how many times does a car door try to mug you on the sidewalk? I want to tell you something, I'll bet you $5 (figuratively speaking) that if you pop someone in the chest with a .45 ACP 230 gr. Hydra Shok round, you're going to hit bone, and the goblin is going down. Please keep in mind that I shoot the Springfield 1911 exclusively but I do have some experience with other weapons. You may also hit air pockets and areas that have blood. You'll hit bone and dense muscle tissue. I say again that ballistic gel takes none of this into consideration. Why do you think the military shoots animals for ballistic testing? Because, unlike what some of these people want you to think, ballistic gelatin does not accurately simulate what happens when you place hits on muscle, blood, air and bone, like what happens when you have to shoot a human.

I'm just saying that one needs an open mind when discussing bullet performance. One needs to take gel testing with a grain of salt. Yes, it does indicate what a bullet might do, but only an autopsy will tell you what the bullet actually did and that is likely to vary from incident to incident.

I also want to throw in here one other thing to remember. The .45 ACP was designed to take people down using 230 gr BALL not the hollowpoints available today. That, in a nutshell, is why I personally feel that the .45 ACP is the planet's premier handgun based combat round. This is my personal opinion.


Steve said...

This rebuttal sounds perfectly reasonable. Testing methods and results should be soberly considered and not worshipped or demonized.

John of Argghhh! said...

I am with you 100% on the .45ACP round.

I may really like my Radom VIS as a shooter - but it's my M1911A1, along with the M97 trench gun, that defends Castle Argghh!

Ben B. said...

This ignorant rant says nothing about the utility of gelatin testing to measure performance in soft tissue. The author says that gelatin is not the same as a living target, which is true and a worthy observation. Beyond that, this article contributes nothing.

"They simulated a car door, that's nice, but how many times does a car door try to mug you on the sidewalk?" The article the author is ranting about is of .223 performance. Most olks don't have a .223 handy for sidewalk mugging defense, but...This method is a standard used in simulating performance in soft tissue after penetrating a car door. The idea is testing bullet performance against hostiles behind a car, not on antisocial car doors. Even you must see that?

Also, 4 layers of denim were chosen by the FBI as a standard for simulating heavy clothing. It is a standard reference. Obviously, you can't test everything people might wear.

Testing bullets in animals can give less useful information than gelatin, because it contributes more random information. Animals aren't people, either. I know that seems obvious, but the author seems to miss the obvious.