Ballistics Gel Step by Step Regulation Testing Density




Introduction: Ballistics Gel Step by Step Regulation Testing Density

Ballistic Gel Recipe Done Correctly For Regulation 10%  by Weight and Proper Density

I'm a retired cop and have made both ballistics gel and used off the shelf unflavored gelatin,

The bellow recipe has worked for me for over 13 years. It gives the best results and as long as the steps are followed exactly and will result in calibrated FBI regulation ballistic gel. I got this recipe from back in 2000 and its given better results than any other manufacture steps.

Calibration of finished product by FBI staandard:
Complete calibration by using a air rifle or pistol shooting a steel BB into it at a velocity of 590 feet per second ± 30 fps. The BB should penetrate 8.5 centimeters. This test done on bare gel block with no fabric or clothing in front of the target.

Step 1: What You Will Need

  • Vyse type 250A ordnance gelatin powder (1 kilogram) or 1kg Knox brand unflavored gelatin, 6 boxes give you just over 1kg of powder
  • Triple beam balance
  • Stainless steel or Pyrex mixing bowl (3 quart)
  • 5 gallon plastic paint bucket
  • Graduated pitcher (3 liter) or measuring cup (1 liter)
  • Thermometer (capable of measuring fluid temperature of 130° F ± 10° F)
  • 9 liters hot tap water (130° F ± 10° F)
  • Electric drill
  • Paint stirrer (w/ plastic propeller-type blades)
  • 12cc hypodermic syringe
  • Aquarium air hose (6 inches long)
  • Propionic acid
  • Large spoon
  • Silicone spray mold release
  • Gelatin mold (FBI size: 6"W x 7"H x 16"L)
  • Refrigerator (capable of maintaining approximately 39° F)
  • Thermometer (capable of measuring air temperature of 39° F ± 10° F)
  • Kitchen size (13 gallon) plastic garbage can bags
  • Ice chest (if transporting gel to range or outdoors and not using immediately)
  • Stand for block, cheap or built wood table
  • Pneumatic air rifle capable of shooting steel BBs at 590 fps
  • Chronograph
  • Ruler, metric (45 - 60 centimeters)
  • Dial caliper
  • Denim cloth (14.5 - 16 ounce) or other clothing patch or layers of clothing and coat to simulate clothing interaction.

Step 2: Mixing Procedure

1. Using triple beam balance, measure 1 kilogram ordnance gelatin powder. Pour pre-measured gelatin powder into 3 quart stainless steel mixing bowl. Place bowl aside, out of immediate work area.

Note: If balance does not have capacity to measure 1000 grams, measure two 500 gram portions or four 250 gram portions. I f gelatin powder is scooped into a container and the container is placed on the balance, be sure to take the container's weight into consideration or your gelatin powder weight will be incorrect. Weigh the container first and add the container's weight to the desired weight of the gelatin powder to be measured. If you're measuring two 500 gram portions of gelatin powder and the container weighs 75 grams, set the balance to measure 575 grams.

2. Using graduated pitcher/measuring cup, measure 6 liters hot tap water (130° F ± 10° F) into 5 gallon plastic bucket.

3. Add 1 kilogram pre-measured gelatin powder to hot tap water while slowly mixing with paint stirrer attached to electric drill. Pour and mix approximately 1/3 of the pre-measured gelatin powder at a time, ensuring all gelatin powder is thoroughly mixed before adding more. (If you add the gelatin powder while mixing, be careful that the airflow produced by the electric drill doesn't blow the gelatin powder all over your work area. We found it best to pour about 1/3 of the powder directly into the water, and then turn-on the drill to mix it thoroughly before stopping to add more powder.) Exercise care to prevent entrapment of air in gelatin solution.

4. After 1 kilogram gelatin powder has been thoroughly mixed into 6 liters hot tap water, use syringe to measure and add 5 milliliters propionic acid to gelatin solution to inhibit mold growth. (Propionic acid is not necessary if you intend to shoot the gelatin block within a week after preparation and you intend to dispose of the gelatin block immediately after testing.)

5. Add 3 liters hot tap water (130° F ± 10° F) to gelatin solution. Slowly mix gelatin solution for 3 - 5 minutes, ensuring all gelatin powder is dissolved. Exercise care to prevent entrapment of air in gelatin solution.

6. Use large spoon to scoop off foam from surface of gelatin solution. Dispose of foam in sink while running warm tap water.

7. Spray gelatin block mold with silicone spray mold release for ease of gelatin block removal. (Ensure gelatin mold is clean and dry. Small particles of dried gelatin solution adhering to internal surfaces of mold can produce gouges in gelatin block when it is removed from the mold.)

8. Carefully pour gelatin solution into mold.

Step 3: Remove Gel Block

1. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to hydrate. Tent mold with aluminum foil to protect gelatin from airborne contaminants.

2. Place filled mold, uncovered, in refrigerator at 39° F.

3. Wait at least 24 hours before attempting to remove gelatin block from mold.

4. When removing gelatin block from mold, pour a small amount of ice cold water between mold and gelatin to ease removal. After gelatin block is extracted from mold, blot water from block using paper towels.

Step 4: Cure Gelatin Block

1. Wrap gelatin block in plastic bag. Return to refrigerator at 39° F. After gelatin block is removed from mold, wait at least 24 hours before shooting block to allow gelatin temperature to stabilize.

2. Gelatin is ready to shoot when 48 hours old. Larger gelatin blocks may require additional time to properly cure before use.

3. Use ice chest (add no ice) as an insulated container to transport ordnance gelatin to shooting range. Use thermometer inside ice chest to monitor temperature.

Note: A couple of milk containers, filled with water and frozen solid, can be placed into the ice chest to cool the interior. The milk containers should be put inside the ice chest at least couple of hours prior, and removed immediately before placing the gelatin block inside. Do not add any ice to the ice chest after the gelatin block has been placed inside. Doing so will produce temperature variations throughout the gelatin block, and invalidate your test results.

4. Remove gelatin block from ice chest, unwrap it, and place it on test stand. Position chronograph sensors (skyscreens/photoelectric screens) directly in front of gelatin block to measure projectile impact velocity

Note: Time is of essence. Depending on ambient air temperature, the gelatin block will begin to warm as soon as you remove it from the ice chest. It's best to test in an environment in which the ambient air temperature is 65° F or cooler. A good rule of thumb to follow is to complete your testing within 20 minutes after removing the gelatin block from the ice chest. If you believe a gelatin block may have warmed, verify it meets calibration standards.

Step 5: Calibrating, Using and Measuring Results

1. Calibrate gelatin block by shooting a steel BB into it at a velocity of 590 feet per second ± 30 fps. The BB should penetrate 8.5 centimeters

Note: We use a calibration standard of 7.7 - 9.4cm BB penetration (corrected) at 590 fps velocity. This provides a calibration tolerance of plus or minus 10 percent. As long as the BB achieves this range of penetration/corrected penetration, we consider the data to be valid as measured.

2. If two or more gelatin blocks are going to be lined-up end-to-end to capture the entire wound path of the bullet under test, each and every gelatin block must be calibrated in accordance with step 17.

3. After calibrating, the gelatin block(s) is ready for terminal ballistics testing. Depending on the cartridge being tested, more than one bullet can be shot into the block(s). Carefully plan each shot to avoid overlap of previous temporary cavities/bullet paths, and to ensure the bullet will not exit the sides or top of the block.

4. It's best to measure penetration depth after each shot is completed. This practice minimizes loss of data if one bullet collides with another in the gelatin block.

5. After penetration depth is measured, the bullets can be recovered at a later time to measure expansion diameter using dial caliper.

6. If denim cloth is used to test bullet expansion performance, cut a 4 feet long, 6 inch wide strip of cloth. Fold the cloth strip lengthwise twice. This produces a cloth test fixture that's 1 foot long and four layers thick. Place the cloth loosely against the gelatin block, half on top of the block, half hanging over the front of the gelatin block.

7. If shooting at an outdoor range, shade the gelatin block from direct sunlight using a piece of cardboard or similar device.

Guide to recycling gel after testing:

VYSE is one if the leading ballistic gel manufactures and the what most PDs and the FBI use in testing. This is a link to their ballistic gel brochure and in it their mixing instructions for their gel powder.




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    25 Discussions

    I followed this recipe and have had EXCELLENT success with it.

    Sadly the link to "recycling" it does not work.

    2 replies

    Sorry haven't checked this in some time. Didn't know the link was no longer valid. I'll try to edit this with the recycling instructions. Glad it worked well for you. I love using this stuff. We tested a lot of rounds for my department back in the day to decide what to switch to. That's when I learned to make this.

    Thanks, Dad_a_monk . . . the rest of your item was really great and has been passed on to several people.

    If one wanted to create fake organs and bones to see what organ and bone damage would occur what would I do? Lets say I'm not shooting at it and instead I'm doing things like stabbing and hitting with crowbars.

    1 reply

    I have done that myself. We used things like pig and deer bones, pig organs (local butcher can hook you up with these for free. Just make sure you keep the whole gel target cold if you don't use it the same day. TRUST ME) and bags with fake blood for testing.

    Had to make one for a blood spatter experiment, during an investigation. Used an human skull model with gelatin brains we filled with fake blood. There are actually sources for human bone analogs. Usually polyurathane boes, but they are of similar density. You can make a mold out of a dummy or a friend who may also be a dummy. Just make sure it is water tight so the gelatin does it leak out while the mold is setting.

    Maybe I'll do one on how to build a body mold. Seems to be a popular request for non ballistics weapons testing.

    So this seems great but is there any way to make the stuff so it wont melt? I just personally don't feel like being so precise unless its actually gonna last otherwise I might as well just make it the easy way after all its just gonna get shot up any way. Still not trying to take anything away from your stuff this is definitely the most impressive recipe that I have seen thus far.

    1 reply

    Sorry I just saw this. The product does not melt. It is not like Jello you make to eat. This is a far more dense product than that. I have used this outdoors in the summers of New Mexico spiking over 100 degrees with no problems.

    One odd addition to this, I was once asked to make a block that would bleed on impact. The way I accomplished it was to take a small oval balloon about the size of a large cucumber. I anchored it vertically in the middle of the mold with string and a heavy weight at the bottom. So as the gel was poured into the mold the balloon stayed in the middle.

    After the gel cured, I took a long large gauge needle and syringe used for injecting meats and filled the cavity with fake blood. I used clear syrup with food coloring. The balloon of course popped when I injected the needle but the cavity was still in tact. I did find I had to use a second needle without a syringe attached, injected at a downward angle into the top of the cavity to allow air to escape as I added the "blood" Otherwise the airtight nature of the gel would cause the cavity to expand as the liquid was added.

    I have used this string method to add bones to the gel blocks. By weighting the string at the bottom and extending a second string upward and attaching it to a rod running across the opening of the mold, the bones stay in place where you want them. Otherwise they tend to shift around and may end up too close or too far from the exterior of the gel construct.

    Very, very nice 'ible. I didn't know anyone ever went so far as to make the "home version" meet FBI standards. This is definitely going into my bookmarks bar.

    I've been trying to find a way to see what bb weights and velocities (airsoft) would penetrate flesh and which are safer. I once saw an airsoft bb go through somebody's cheek and into their mouth, with the offender claiming his airsoft gun was shooting within the limits. This will help me determine exactly what limits should be set on fps for each specific bb weight so we don't have any more incidents like that.

    The Mythbusters made put into one of their episodes the process of how they make ballistic gel, and they add pour some cinnamon leaf oil onto their ballistic gel mixture to take away the foam. Do you think this would screw with the density of the ballistic gel or do you think it's a viable option to taking the time to scoop all the foam away?

    4 replies

    To be honest, i have never heard of adding cinnamon leaf oil to stop the foaming. My thoughts are that it would depend on the amount used. I think if it is less than an ounce, the density shift would be nominal. If its more than that, i would substitute its volume from the water at a ratio of 1:2 to compensate for the density of the oil compared to water. So one part cinnamon oil substituting two parts water. This would be a very OCD approach, you would have to test it but i don't think it would change density.

    Although i don't really see the foam removal as such a tedious step. The mixture is so viscous at that point, the foam is easily removed. I think i will try it next time I make a batch. If you beat me to it, please share your results.

    Thanks for that.

    I don't have any means to measure out the gelatin mix at the moment, so you will probably be the one to make it with cinnamon leaf oil first. I'd be very interested if it does yield different results, because that would mean all the mythbusters results thus far when testing with ballistic gel have been invalid. Of course I'm not looking for that to happen because I love the mythbusters, but it would sure be interesting.

    I made a batch for a torso mock up and tried the cinnamon oil trick. Now I did do as i said substituting water for the oil at a 2:1 ratio to compensate for the oil's density and viscosoty. I only added one ounce of oil and it did knock almost all the foam down. Also I conducted the FBI standards density test with a sample if the finished product, and it performed just as perfect as my normal formula.

    For the ease of not having to deal with large amounts of foam, its worth the addition. It also gives the gel a slight cinnamon smell. So it smells good as its being blasted.

    BIG THANKS to neodymium for making my life easier!!

    Well ya know, you can't shoot something that doesn't smell nice. It just isn't worthy of our bullets.

    Glad it worked out. Guess the mythbusters have the right idea, adding cinnamon leaf oil to the ballistics gel.

    I shared this 'ible with some friends who like to experiment with various projectiles (don't ask), and it helped them out a lot. They were making home ballistics gel using other 'ibles, and once they tested this formula out, they found all their other tests were invalid. So thanks for giving me a good laugh! Now I get to watch them do a million tests shooting things into ballistics gel, haha, (no sarcasm, it's really fun).

    A few have asked me about the use of ballistic gel for edged weapons testing. Although penetration depth is relative to the user, it can't be used as a standard. It can be used as a personal test of various weapons and how they penetrate for the individual.

    The gel can be used for forensic purposes to compare wounds and tool marks as well as cut and slash comparison. When used for this purpose I have found it good to add a dark food coloring to the mixture. The gel being darker and opaque makes for easier comparison.

    When adding food coloring you must subsitiue the volume of food coloring for water in the process so as not to alter the density. Liquid food dies are safe but pain or thicker coloring agents are not since these would alter the density of the gel.

    Interesting... but can you tell me why a person would make this? What's the purpose?
    Is it a forensics tool? Could you build bunker out of it? Not being snarky, I promise. I'd really like to know!

    3 replies

    It is supposed to have the same consistency as human flesh, so ballistic gel may be used to test weapons, like projectile penetration or such. But not just firearms. In a TV Show, Gina Carano hit a human-shaped model made with this gel over a skeleton, she broke a couple ribs.

    Exactly ffcabral, Thak you. A great point to make is that ballistic gel is designed to be an equvlant to human flesh, tissue and organs. It does not replicate the density of the entire human body. That's why I have talked about not only using bones as you stated by clothing samples in front of the test block. Both bone and fabric as well as any other obstacle between the firearm and target can greatly impact performance. A reson police officers use "hotter" rounds than most civilians. Not to ensure the suspect dies, but to ensure the person can be stopped.

    In a real word shooting you have things like glass, metal and wood to sometimes get in the path,but even clothing can make a great buffer to slow a round. As I stated in a comment on an inferior recipe, a saw a case were the suspect was shot by a 9mm and the round didn't even fully penetrate his fat layer. He was a big guy, but he had a thick coat on made of denim and layers of clothing that combined to slow the round to an ineffective level.

    No test is 100% when it comes to ballistic performance. Their are so many variables that no one test can take them all into account. However if you start with a massively underpreforming product like these quick jello jigglers recipes then you can not even begin with a baseline of performance .

    Great info! That was a really interesting read, far better than that jelly in a bowl Instructable ;)

    1 reply

    That jelly in a bowl Instructable is adequate for Call of Duty and maybe some light KNEX fire. This is my favorite kind of Instructable: someone leverages a real-life skill into something easily-replicable. When that kid gets some real police training, I imagine his skills will improve. This, though, is magnificent in its casual professionalism and detailed documentation. Kudos, dad_a_monk.