Could this be a really USEFUL self-defense ballistics test setup?


July 26, 2005, 11:33 PM
One of the things no one really seems to know for sure is "what ammo is best" for self-defense. There have been many attempts at answering this without concrete results.

I've been thinking about an artificial way to test ballistics and still get really useful results.

It seems that the general consensus is that for self-defense, frontal shots at COM (center of mass) and the head are generally the most effective. Taking this as pretty much true I've started to develop a way to test ballistics that closely approximate these shots. The PDF file in this link is an attempt to describe it.

New Ballistics Test Setup (

Unfortunately I don't have access to the weaponry and ammo to do the actual tests, but I know many of you do. I'm just trying to come up with a good way to do it.

What do you think? Pros, cons, suggestions?

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July 26, 2005, 11:47 PM
I'm not an expert in these things but I like it.

Will your new geletin hold together?

The old formula looks really tough and can many, many shots.

July 26, 2005, 11:58 PM
Will your new geletin hold together?
I believe it will. It will be a little softer than the present "FBI gelatin".

July 27, 2005, 12:12 AM
The principle looks good, but the same basic flaw still exists as when comparing ammunition effects on humans. Too many variables.
There is no way to properly simulate any of the components of a human body and no way to ensure exactly the same shot placement each and every time.
That's why you cannot compare 2 seemingly identical shootings on humans or animals. You can never get repeatable inputs.


July 27, 2005, 12:26 AM
Have you thought of using fired clay as a bone stimulant?

I have been thinking along the same lines as you have.

My idea is to take a 3 or 4 inch wide pipe about 12 to 14 inches long and seal the back end with a stretched over piece of shirt cloth. I would then stack layers of pork or beef products to simulate a human cross section. Fat back followed with a layer of pork ribs followed with liver followed with a piece of meat followed with liver followed with pork ribs followed with fat back. In the front section of the pipe I would place shirt cloth.

I call it an “anatomy tube”. I think it would work really well. The only thing is it would be impossible to hit an identical rib in the identical way from shot to shot. So I was thinking that one could place a 3 inch round fired clay pot saucer between two pieces of 1/4 inch thick pork cuts instead of using pork ribs.

I think what is lacking in gelatin testing is the lack of bone stimulant as well as the lack of layers of different densities of tissues.

Please let me know what you come up with and posts photos of your results.

July 27, 2005, 12:30 AM
Even if you could come up with a simulated bone, it would bear no relation to real life. It would only be internally valid, that is in comparison to other shots at the same tube of guts and bone. You would have a hard time making it consistant in temperature too. Cold jello does not splat like warm jello.


July 27, 2005, 12:43 AM
The FBI gelatin formula to my knowledge is calibrated and can be reproduced exactly by anyone or any institution wishing to. They've done enough testing that they can translate penetration in jello to penetration in a human being in general. It's already established as a labratory standard for ballistics testing I believe.

Granted, blowing up jello isn't going to give results that will be 100% accurate to what happens in a human body since the human body is a much more complex environment which further differs from person to person. It does, however, give a good "general idea" when you use the same test medium with a wide range of loads.

I don't wish to stifle creativity and personal experimentation as I encourage people to go seek their own results and collaborate/discuss with others. Doing backyard tests has more educational purpose than jumping into a 9mm vs 45 discussion anyhow.

July 28, 2005, 12:24 AM
You also need to add gelatin to the front to simulate an extended arm blocking the chest, for some tests (with and without bone simulant). The possibility that a bullet will encounter an arm before striking the chest is one of the reasons why the IWBA's minimum penetration requirement is 12.5". You would also need to have a seperate torso test which simulates a shot sideways through the body, with and without arm, again. Also one that simulates "quartering" angles, once again, with and without arm. When all the variables are added together; arm/no arm, arm bone/no arm bone, ribs/no ribs, forward/quartering/sideways, that adds up to... 18 different test protocols, if you don't distinguish between quartering towards and quartering away, nor between directly towards and directly away.

I think you can see why just blocks of ballistic gelatin are used. There are far too many variables involved in a "realistic" test.

I would like to see a standardized test which makes use of fired clay or some other bone simulant, though. Maybe just a standard-sized gelatin block with a 1" slice taken off the front, and the clay sandwiched between, to simulate an unobstructed chest shot. Then to simulate an obstructed chest shot, 2" of gelatin, bone simulant, 2" more of gelatin, 10" air, then 1" gelatin, more bone simulant, and the remaining 11" of gelatin behind that.

Something kind of like

July 29, 2005, 12:45 PM
Is there any information on the use of fired clay as a bone simulant?

July 29, 2005, 01:26 PM
Personally I think testing different ammo is a waste of time. What I'd really like to do is test different bullet designs, and to fire each bullet with exactly the same amount of energy. Then you can attempt to measure how much damage a particular design is able to inflict from a known quantity of energy. The bullet design can then be given an efficiency rating that is independent of the rest of the cartridge components, and is directly comparable with other bullets.

Well that's just my 2-cents worth.

July 29, 2005, 01:43 PM

My thought was to fire a "typical" self-defense round maybe 9 x 19mm JHP because it's medium sized and cheap :) through some bone, possibly sheep or goat sternum and/or skull may be close to human in thickness and density. Then use the same ammo in the same gun and shoot it through various other materials. Compare the results of the bone shots to the results of the other materials. The material that has the closest result to the real bone would be the winner -- as long as it was very close.
We all know that shots on humans have many variables and they all can't be simulated. That is not my intention. I know there may be other objects in the way (arms, hands, walls, etc.) I know the clothing may vary. I know the bullet may or may not hit bone, and may hit at various angles. I know people are different sizes. I know some people have thicker skin, stronger muscle, smaller or larger hearts and lungs, and smarter and dumber brains ;) , etc.

As I stated, I want to simulate a frontal COM and head shot on a human under "average" circumstances since this is "normally" what we feel is the best bet for a stop. For that reason it is what many or even most of us consistently practice.

Most tests to date have not even considered bone penetration, which seems rather odd to me. Most tests may have simulated a leg, arm, or gut shot, but we're aiming at the heart or the head!

I just wonder what will happen with various ammo fired through an average barrel (maybe 3.5" or 4") and if I'm really good (or lucky), and the shot is perfect, and the bullet is heading straight for the heart or brain...

Is it 'probable' that it will penetrate far enough? Is it 'probable' that it will expand or fragment when it's supposed to? Is it 'probable" that it won't over-penetrate by too much? And what ammo has the best probability in all this?

That means for a perfect COM shot the projectile must penetrate layers of clothing, skin, muscle, bone, then expand in the lungs and heart, and finally hit bone again. Those materials in that order. (The head shot is similar but with no clothing and a shorter distance during expansion.)

I agree that the temperature of the gel must be consistently controlled during testing.

Fired clay may work well.

Your "tube test" sounds pretty good too.

For the COM test setup I was thinking something like this may work (the head test setup would be similar):

A box with thick plexi or bullet-resistant glass bottom, sides, and top - no front or back. At the front and back there would be slots to slip the bone material into since it will have to be replaced from time to time. The block of gel would fit in between the two pieces of bone material. This would allow viewing and even possibly photographing the shots and results from top, bottom and sides. Also the containment of the gel would be more like the containment of brain heart, and lungs in the body within ribs and skull. The clothing fabric would be positioned over the front and the back. Situated a few feet behind this setup would be an interior wall arrangement (wallboard and 2 x 4's) to simulate the results of over-penetration in a home defense situation.

Yes, the FBI formulation was calibrated, but it was calibrated to represent human muscle not soft internal organs. I believe a new formulation may be needed to more closely represent lung, heart, and brain for frontal COM and head shot simulations. Maybe I'm wrong in this because the heart is a pretty tough muscle. This is all very preliminary and the gel formula would definitely have to be worked on.
Thank you all for your input so far!!!

July 29, 2005, 06:35 PM
We have a lot of people on death row Their your test matter Practice on them . Do a leg shot put them to sleep and remove leg for study. Done correctly should be able to use subject several times. .

July 29, 2005, 07:38 PM
We have a lot of people on death row Their your test matter Practice on them . Do a leg shot put them to sleep and remove leg for study. Done correctly should be able to use subject several times. :eek:

I'd be interesting to see the future of ballistic testing a decade...two decades down the road. If they develop enough simulated materials that parallel the human body, they'll soon have composite gelatin stacks which could reasonably (though not 100% accurately) represent typical wound channels.

Support cloning, clone headless and limbless torsos for ballistics testing :neener:

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