Ballistics Gel

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Unique Ballistics Gel Testing

Natural gelatin and water when mixed and cooled together create a substance that is comparable to muscle tissue. Ballistics Gelatin became an important tool for understanding bullet wounds. Martin Fackler and others in the field of wound ballistics developed and improved the gelatin and water solution to closely resemble both human and animal muscle tissue in density and viscosity. The advantage to having this material is that it can be easily reproduced and used for testing and results could be analyzed and compared on a common baseline.

Used primarily for fire arms testing and in the medical field, ballistic gel offers an internal view of what might happen during and after high impact incidents. Using high speed cameras it is easy to see how the bullet and gel moves under impact conditions. The ability to study high speed impacts and the effects on tissue is valuable in quantifying total damage done. Although this kind of testing offers a good look at how tissue reacts over a uniform distance, there are many factors not taken into account such as bone and other elements of a human body. The best thing ballistic gels offer though is a glimpse at overall reaction to impact forces on a common baseline allowing the results to be repeatable, which is immensely important when comparing two events in a scientifically valid approach.

Ballistic gel can be made at home, there are many websites with DIY (do it yourself) videos, but professional grade and synthetic gels are completely clear and meet national requirements. Ballistics gel according to the FBI recognized INS National Firearms Unit Standard must undergo a penetration testing protocol that indicates whether or not the material is truly like tissue. The test requires that a known size metal pellet fired at a specific speed penetrate the gel to a distance within a specified range.

When testing with the ballistics gel a high speed camera is useful because all aspects of the impact are clearly shown. Comparing how a hollow point bullet and a standard bullet the initial impacts are severely different whereas the final damage done is not much different. Using the high speed camera it is easy to see that the hollow point projectile expands on impact, increasing the time it’s in the tissue and this creates a massive outward wave of force and resulting tissue damage. The standard bullet in comparison does not have the same devastating effect, but it penetrates deeper into the tissue.

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Ballistic gel helps analyze many types of impacts and how energy is distributed through a body, which in the medical field helps characterize damage and provide a wider understanding to improve treatments. Not all ballistics gel impacts involve bullets. The photo demonstrates testing that was performed to understand how an accident involving a common paint sprayer caused injury. There are many applications for the ballistics gel and the ability to mold a variety of models for impact studies makes it a valuable test tool.