Monday, March 26, 2018

New Database for Gel Terminal Ballistics Tests

The folks at AmmoToGo sent me some links to a pretty massive database of gel test results that they posted on March 14th.  For what are arguably four of the most popular carry calibers (if not the four most popular): 9mm, .380, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, they list five shot average results of every brand of self-defense loads they tested.  It can be sorted by name, recovered diameter, penetration depth, or muzzle velocity.  For instance, here's the top few entries (out of 32) for 9mm self-defense ammo.

This is the default sorting, which you can get back by clicking the top of the "AMMO" column.  You can see the first offering, Magtech First Defense, 124gr bonded JHP, clearly didn't expand.  The 5 shot average diameter is 0.35, which is almost textbook 9mm (.356"), and the average depth into gel was 31.5"!  Clearly over-penetrating - unless maybe if you're being attacked by Sumo wrestlers.  By contrast, the next listing,  Black Hills 115gr +P expanded to 0.69" and penetrated a much more reasonable 13.76".

The test results are on these four web pages, which also feature the ability to look up each round and buy some:
I imagine this took a pretty large amount of work - you can add that up to 90 entries with at least 5 rounds of each, so a lot of shooting, setup, tear down, data reduction and I'm sure there's stuff I'm not even thinking about.  That's got to be expensive for a small business.  The details on the test setups are not on the results page, so it took a bit of digging to find this:
We fired each round included in our testing from a distance of ten feet, following the FBI standard, measuring from the muzzle to the front of the block.
For our condensed version of the FBI test we opted to simulate shooting through typical heavy cold weather clothing as our intermediate barrier. We placed the barrier in front of the gel, which consisted of one layer of Denim (14.4 ounces/yard), one layer of Polartec 200 fleece, one layer of cotton dress shirt (3.5 ounces/yard) and one layer of cotton T-shirt material (5.25 ounces/yard).
The data set is hours of entertainment for the "numerically inclined" and you can bet any amount you'd care to bet that people will bitch about it because it didn't test their favorite ammo, or their favorite gun, or something.  It may have me picking out a new carry round for my Sig P238, though.  The Speer Gold Dots I've been carrying apparently didn't expand in their test.  Some more research is in order. 


  1. Interesting. But I have never been attacked by a gel block in winter clothing. Now meat is a different story. Short story. Pistol takes three shots on average to stop a man. Even head shots with anything smaller than .357 Mag. may not kill quickly(or at all) A 12 Ga.shotgun with OO buck or slugs at the same range takes one shot to kill. It transfers the same kinetic energy to the meat as a 30.06 150 Gr. soft point @ 100 yards or less. Your average handgun round delivers around 10% as much energy to target. The truest thing I ever read went like this "your handgun is a backup weapon you use to fight your way to a long gun". Truth----Ray

  2. I've been carrying Federal HST 147 grains in my Glock 19, I've been thinking of changing to 124 grains. Interesting data, when I sort by expanded size it looks like at the top end they're all in the same ballpark. I long ago gave up believing in magic bullets, placement is way more important than .03 inch difference in expansion.