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Old August 24, 2012, 01:13 PM   #1
PH/CIB
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Bullet Tests Flawed

I just got a copy of my American Rifleman Magazine in the mail and it is one of the best yet chock full of great information.

One great article was on handgun stopping power where a combination of penetration and expansion was tried to be achieved by using different ammo from different manufacturers and shooting into ballistic gelatin only a few ammo types of different calibers made the cut.

Another great article was on the new Hornady ammo that uses a heavier bullet which I always recommend and shooting through clothing and windshield glass, and steel for a car door, and drywall etc with ballistic gelatin behind all of these mediums to test for penetration and expansion a great test that included not only clothing but barriers or concealment or cover.

Both of these articles and tests were some of the best I have seen, I also like the Box O Truth for some of his tests.

However in these tests and all the ammo tests that I can remember there is a flaw in my opinion. To get to a man's brain you have to shoot through his skull the get to a man's heart or even his lungs you have to shoot through his ribcage. Shots to a man's body anywhere else can incapacitate or kill but probably not before a determined attacker has ample chance to kill you.

I think a medium should be found that replicates human bone the skull or ribcage of the average man and bullet tests should shoot through that and into ballistic gellatin to test for penetration and expansion. In other words the test through auto glass would be through the auto glass through the material simulating bone and through the ballistic gellatin.

I also see arguments on this forum and others about over penetration and the dangers of it, and while it concerns me, shooting through my house or through a bad guy on the street while a concern, is less of a concern than having adequate penetration in an attacker or in an attacker behind auto glass, a car door, a wall or door or tree or whatever. To me Penetration is the most important then expansion and I would rather over penetrate than lose my life or the life of a loved one due to a bullet that did not penetrate far enough.

After being hit by a hand grenade I am thick skinned so please feel free to shoot holes in my argument.
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Old August 24, 2012, 01:33 PM   #2
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I am not going to shoot holes, deep penetrating or not. But here's some questions for you.

I generally agree with what you say, though I don't think the intent of those tests, which I haven't seen are necessarily to test the absolute penetrating ability of those bullets so much as they are merely to compare the different bullets and loads with one another. Of course that's why a test medium is used to begin with, in an attempt to produce reproducable results. That is, to remove the variable of the test medium itself.

Naturally the problem comes in right away when someone doesn't think the test medium is realistic, always a valid objection. I imagine that a tester would like to have something that does replicate the presence of bone in the path of the bullet, or for that matter, clothing, armor, leather, arms, etc., etc. There are limitations in these testing in the way of cost, time and "what do we include?" That's another way of saying that the testing can't go on forever. Another factor they might have considered is that bone, or something resembling bone, creates secondary projectiles within a body and they may have wanted to avoid introducing a complication like that. And in the case of a head shot, the testers may have also decided that anything would work then (unless it didn't), which is sometimes mostly true.

Just about anything else is iffy and besides, a man can be seriously incapacitated if hit in the leg. Would it stop the fight? Beats me!
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Old August 24, 2012, 02:07 PM   #3
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As BlueTrain says, the tests are a comparison of ammo, not real world results.

There is not and can not be testing for real world results. There are far too many variables. There would always be objections.

Simulate a 200 pound human and what happens if your attacker is 300 or 120?

How would you reliably replicate the possible angles of impact?

One persons bones being stronger or weaker or thicker or thinner?

Thickness of the down in a jacket? Different materials used as insulation? 3 layers of clothing or 4 or 2?

Over penetration is of no concern IMO. Hit rates in shooting are commonly in the 10, 20, 30% range. Even if it's 5 out of 6 (virtually unheard of), that 6th round is far more dangerous than the other 5.
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Old August 24, 2012, 03:00 PM   #4
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IIRC, there was an attempt to make a dummy with flesh and bone material simulations and it didn't work out. Also, a similar computer model using modern fluid and material dynamics was a bust.

Vague memory of such.
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Old August 24, 2012, 03:43 PM   #5
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Both the value and the limit of ballistic gel is its uniformity. No two shots into a living body are going to be identical in the tissue interfaces or thicknesses that they cross. Ballistic gel allows valid comparisons between two rounds by eliminating the differences in the routes that they travel through tissues.

Keep in mind that, while 12 inches of penetration in ballistic gel is a common standard, the front surface of the heart is, in most people, only two to three inches deep. I just measured the depth of my own chest at the level of the sternum and it is about 13.5 inches front to back. Thus, a 12 inch standard penetration can account for clothing, possible impact with bone, fat, or a different angle of impact.

Overall, gel isn't perfect, but it is the best current technology for comparison between rounds. The value of gel is in its reproducible results; as has been pointed out, it is not intended to fully mimic an actual shooting result.
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Old August 24, 2012, 03:48 PM   #6
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It is possible to produce a dummy of a human that replicates fairly closely a real body and this has been done for bullet testing. The problem is that it's expensive and is good for pretty much one shot, maybe, and you still have the problem of a target with built-in variables, which of course is problem that the testing people are trying to overcome to begin with. But for certain limited situations, it has been used. It just wouldn't be practical to use for a large test project for different cartridges.
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Old August 24, 2012, 03:54 PM   #7
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Brassfetcher uses a .25" thick layer of bone simulant directly in front of the gel block in many of his more current tests. IIRC, he gets it from a Swiss company...
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Old August 24, 2012, 04:00 PM   #8
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what I found most amusing in the hornday ad was they changed the zoom on the pictures.

if you just glanced at it without reading the scale several of the rounds looked like they performed better than plain gelitan.

I am sure it was intentional.

also the fact they only showed plus P rounds was kind of telling too.
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Old August 24, 2012, 04:01 PM   #9
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Thank You all for some excellent discussion and I certainly hope to hear more, from what I have read most of you sum up that there are too many variables, size of person, barriers, glass or steel or wood or dywall etc as these could all be different in different shoot outs, however I would say there is one constant in all shootouts, flesh and bone.

It has been pointed out that it has been tried before to simulate bone and it failed, that does not mean in cannot be tried again, and succeed.

TailGator has an excellent argument that the heart or brain is only a few inches under bone therefore 12 inches of penetration in ballistic gellatin should reach it, but that does not take into account the density of bone compared to flesh or ballistic gellatin and as far as bone shards at velocity causing additional damage that is a benefit and of interest to me also.

This reminds me of the old argument of relatively slow long large round nose bullets for dangerous game as opposed to small lightweight bullets at high velocity.

Anyway penetration is paramount to me,,,much much more than expansion and I still would like to see a medium similar to bone included in the ballistic testing of bullets with ballistic gellatin, until then I will carry the bullets with the most penetration.

Thank You, rbernie,,,for Brassfetcher, just googled him up and will read,,have read some of his tests with simulated bone and gellatin, and bookmarked it, was worth it to me anyway to start this thread just to learn of this website and info, Thanks again!
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Old August 24, 2012, 04:03 PM   #10
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My opinion was the article used relatively similar loads for testing. I noticed the .357 magnum losads were not the top pick available. .44 Special and .44 magnum were also lacking. I concluded the test was mostly geared toward those that use the typical service round catagory and to help them perhaps pick a round for their handgun. General data with an attempt to be able to compare apples to apples. I found it interesting. Perhaps because I do not use any of the loadings tested.
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Old August 24, 2012, 06:44 PM   #11
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I gave my magazine away so I can't recheck what I think I recall. I think the author was testing the various makes of ammo to see which would meet or exceed the FBI testing requirements. There was a slight slant to self defense; as it was most if not all self defense touted ammo, and a couple of references to 1 shot stops. I thought that was a secondary message, maybe, kind of a take what you can from this.
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Old August 24, 2012, 07:55 PM   #12
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Running a suitable test is next to impossible. Bullet between the ribs will probably penetrate deeper than one that hits a rib: for one example. Best way would be to use cadavers. Or if you were in Nazi Germany in WWII you could use Jews and POWs. Not really practical. (before anyone gets upset, I don't advocate that you use Jews and POWs.)

Essentially the best you can do is read all the tests and choose your round/load based on your own instincts and interpretations.
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Old August 24, 2012, 08:45 PM   #13
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About 5 yrs ago when I was doing wetpack testing of ammo, we tried to simulate the sternum bone with some tests. Best we could determine was 3/4" of plywood was close to the approx. 1/8" sternum based on compresive strength. Much of the calibers we tried did penetrate the plywood and continued several inches, enough to possibly reach the heart in a real event. Plus, lots of "shards" came out the back of the plywood! Even .25acp FMJ penetrated but not .25 JHP. Higher caliber JHP did in most cases.
In no way are these comments supposed to be "certified". But if you want to try your ammo, get a piece of good, exterior grade 3/4" plywood and see if it penetrates.

My tests were posted on the old usrange site which is no longer available.

og...FWIW!
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Old August 24, 2012, 08:51 PM   #14
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I'm just guessing here, but isn't the sternum like an 3/4" thick? It's got to be 1/2 anyway.

Your math would indicate that it would take like 2 inches of plywood to equal a sternum.
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Old August 25, 2012, 05:43 AM   #15
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No, I don't think a relatively slow long large round nose bullets are used when hunting dangerous game, that is, thick skinned animals in particular. You need large fast bullets, though many elephants have been killed with "ordinary" rifle bullets. In any case, you still need to know where to hit the animal. For smaller dangerous animals, you wouldn't need an elephant gun but they could certainly be used. But that kind of stuff doesn't translate much to human targets, though an elephant gun will still work and probably very well.

The problem with bone is that bullets can be deflected, particularly from the skull and believe me, some people are very hard headed. Aside from that, I'd say most service ammunition has enough penetration capability. Very high speed pistol bullets, like .30 Tokarev, will supposedly shatter bones (limbs, that is).
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Old August 25, 2012, 08:15 AM   #16
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Seems to me the big, heavy, slow (by rifle standards) .45-70 penetrates and performs quite well on large critters.
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Old August 25, 2012, 09:03 AM   #17
oldgranpa
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quote: I'm just guessing here, but isn't the sternum like an 3/4" thick? It's got to be 1/2 anyway.

Brian, you are correct. I don't know who did the calc but I most likely said it wrong when I said 1/8". The 3/4" plywood did equal the 1/2" sternum for whoever did the calc. The bone being more dense than the plywood. Should have said 1/2". Checking med sites says 1.7cm which is about 1/2" for the sternum.
Anyway, if your ammo won't penetrate 3/4" ext.grade plywood it ain't gonna penetrate the sternum.

og
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Old August 25, 2012, 11:56 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MLeake
Seems to me the big, heavy, slow (by rifle standards) .45-70 penetrates and performs quite well on large critters.
I've never recovered one shot through bone and meat. They seem to keep on going.
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Old August 25, 2012, 12:06 PM   #19
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This article might interest some here. I love the comments about the .600 Nitro Express.

http://www.handloads.com/misc/lineba...tion.tests.asp
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Old August 25, 2012, 12:21 PM   #20
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I was referring to large African game animals.
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Old August 25, 2012, 02:18 PM   #21
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Its Time Has Come

"I think a medium should be found that replicates human bone the skull or ribcage of the average man and bullet tests should shoot through that and into ballistic gellatin to test for penetration and expansion. In other words the test through auto glass would be through the auto glass through the material simulating bone and through the ballistic gellatin."

Much has been said about bullet penetration, expansion and realistic test medium. It’s kind of like a hobby horse to ride for those who like merry-go-rounds. It's fun riding around in circles.

Its time has come for the NRA to start a real study for Bullet Penetration and Expansion in Realistic Test Medium.

It’s time for YOU to do your part by DONATING your body to the cause when you die.
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Old August 25, 2012, 03:03 PM   #22
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You can't take the '12" of penetration is OK' to the bank.

The bad guys aren't always going to be facing you with their arms to their sides.

The FBI would actually prefer 18" of penetration.
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Old August 25, 2012, 08:48 PM   #23
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seems to me that the tests are just fine. the OP doesn't like the limits that science sometimes runs into, but that's not a failing of the test. we learn things from doing tests, and then we learn to do better tests. before the Miami shooting, there was no FBI protocol. just shoot what's cheapest. now, we can shoot what has been documented to perform well under certain, repeatable, test conditions that replicate commonly encountered real life situations.
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Old August 25, 2012, 10:26 PM   #24
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G1R2 - you mean that fat is better for tests than muscle? OK, then I volunteer - it's better than being chopped liver for no purpose re "organ donor." What do they want 70+ year old organs for? To feed to lab monkeys and make them barf? Just grill me over some fragrant black oak and spread my ashes on a place that looks like a Lonesome Dove site.
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Old August 25, 2012, 10:41 PM   #25
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Quote:
The FBI would actually prefer 18" of penetration.
Actually, the quote is that "up to 18 inches" of penetration is preferable. The implication is that 18" is the maximum acceptable penetration, more than it is the preference.
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