Help with making ballistic gel

I’ve decided to make some ballistics gel to do some better testing.

Has anyone here made their own?

Any pitfalls to avoid?

Any hints, I read that cinnamon oil will help clarify it, anyone tried that?

After looking at google and ewechewb vids half of yesterday, I ask the questions above, and roll me in honey and throw me to les… I mean gee wizz, literally 2 minutes after posting the above I found very detailed written instructions that were only available in pdf and when I tried to download a link it repeatedly failed.

So, here 'tis

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Instructions for Making “Home-Made” Ballistic Gelatin (December 2002) Ballistic gelatin is a clear/yellowish “Jello,” and is a standard medium for seeing and evaluating what happens to bullets on impact with soft tissue after being shot. These instructions were written by Becky Davis and Howard Davis of Custom Cartridge, Inc. These are not official calibrated gelatin blocks, but are a reasonable alternative for evaluation of ammunition. We developed these instructions from numerous other sources we found elsewhere (online, the gelatin manufacturers, etc.). We wrote this to help others more quickly and easily make their own gelatin blocks for ballistic testing. You probably want to read the entire instructions prior to starting so you are properly forewarned about all the possible problems. Sources for materials: Gelatin: 1. Specialized “ballistic gelatin” is available from a. VYSE,, [email protected], 5010 N. Rose St., Schiller Park, IL 60176, (847) 678-4780 or (800) 533-2152. They charge $4.65/lb. and require a minimum 25 lbs. purchase, plus you pay shipping. They do not accept credit cards; you must pre-pay with a company check or ship C.O.D. They require about three days� lead time. b. Kind & Knox, P.O. Box 927, Sioux City, IA 51102, (712) 943-5516 or (800) 223-9244 (Lanette Tackett). They require a minimum 25 lbs. purchase at $10.80/lb. or about $300 with shipping. We have used both. Both work fine and seem to give very similar finished gelatin blocks. 2. If you are making a small amount (less than 25 lbs.), it appears that plain old Knox unflavored gelatin will work. The amount of gelatin needed is approximately 13 ounces per gallon of water. This results in a 10% by weight mix, as the specifications require. We usually make one larger block that we cut in half to get two rectangular blocks of the correct size. The amount of water required for this is about nine gallons, so you need 9x13, or 117 ounces of gelatin to make two blocks. Mold: The rough dimensions you want for either pistol or rifle ammo testing are 6 x 6 x 20 inches. The easiest way to get this is to go to your local K-Mart/WalMart and buy a large, clear, plastic storage container, approximately 12 inches wide, 12 inches high, by 20 inches long. These are cheap (less than $8), plentiful, and easy to find. Try to find one that has smooth (non-patterned) sides. Measure six inches up from the bottom of the container, and draw a line with a magic marker. Fill the container with water to that line using empty one-gallon milk jugs to measure the amount of water required to reach six inches. It will be about 9 gallons.

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You also need: • Cinnamon oil, available from any pharmacist. Use about one drop per gallon to help clarify the gel and prevent mold growth. It costs about $6 per three ounce bottle. • Non-stick cooking spray (like Pam) to help release the gel from the container more easily. • Plastic wrap for wrapping the blocks once they have set up. • Heavy corrugated cardboard (about 6 x 20 inches) to support and transport the blocks more easily. • Wood or plywood (about 12 x 20 inches) to support the plastic box. (Nine gallons will weigh over 70 lbs.). Either plan to spend 20 minutes stirring by hand with a large, metal or wooden spoon, or find a variable-speed drill and put a piece of bent rod in it to use as a stirrer (and it is still going to take 20 minutes). We�ve bent a piece of cheap metal rod into a three inch triangle at the bottom, and it seems to stir very well. You also need a chilly garage or a large–very large–empty refrigerator space to cool this big block. Finally, we recommend you put your plastic box (which isn�t very strong) on a slightly larger piece of plywood, so you can pick it up and transport it once you have it mixed and need to move it to the cool refrigerator or garage. How to: Your water should be about 105 degrees fahrenheit (warm tap water). We use a thermometer to make sure we don�t go below 102 or above 108. According to Knox, higher temperatures result in cloudy gelatin blocks. Vyse, however, recommends you use 140 degree fahrenheit water. Mixing gelatin into luke-warm water takes longer than mixing it into hotter water, but we made clearer blocks by sticking with the luke-warm water. Spray the inside of the clean, empty container very lightly with Pam, wiping it off lightly after spraying. Too much Pam results in cloudy gelatin. Then simply fill the container with 105 degree tap water up to the pre-drawn line. Have the gelatin and cinnamon oil ready to add, as well as whatever you are mixing it with (drill or big spoon). Make sure you are comfortable, because you are going to be stirring for a long time. Remember to place the wood under the container before filling it so you can move it once you are done. We use a clear pyrex kitchen measuring cup to add (sprinkle) the gel slowly, 8 ounces (1 cup) at a time. It is important that you very slowly sprinkle the gelatin into the water, stirring constantly, to get it to dissolve completely. We�ve found that using two people, one stirring and one sprinkling, seems to work best. The stirrer never stops stirring, and the sprinkler takes about ten minutes to add all the gelatin, then continue to stir for another ten minutes. The cinnamon oil can be added about a third to half way through adding the gelatin. The final solution should look really clear (with some foam and bubbles on top) by the time you are done. Some foam and bubbles are normal, and can�t be avoided. They are the stuff that has refused to dissolve into the solution. If you�re adding the gel too quickly or aren�t stirring constantly, you�ll get more junk on top or a cloudier solution, so remember to go slowly. When you�ve got it thoroughly mixed/stirred (after 15-20 minutes), then carefully scoop the foam and bubbles off the top (and into a plastic bag that you throw away). When you are done, it should look like a huge tub of clear/yellowish liquid with no bubbles or foam on top and no globs of undissolved gelatin visibly floating around. Now you need to cool the block to about 36 degrees F. If you freeze it, it doesn�t stay clear. If you don�t chill it enough, it�s not the right density for your tests. One easy option is a place in your garage that gets down to between 32 and 40 degrees F. Barring that, you must make a huge space available to fit the block into your refrigerator. (Hint: Check that you can fit the container into your refrigerator before you make the gel.) It needs to cool about eight hours, or overnight. Once the gel has set up, carefully turn the container over on a large, flat, clean surface (kitchen counter or a big cookie sheet). Use your hands to help slow and guide it as it comes out of the container to avoid cracking the gel.

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A large knife can easily be used to cut the block in half, making two long, narrow rectangles. Again, using two people is easier, as one cuts while the other gently separates the blocks behind the knife. Then carefully wrap the two rectangles separately in plastic wrap, covering every surface. Any evaporation will change the density of the blocks, so you are doing this to maintain the moisture/density balance. We�ve found that cutting rectangles of stiff cardboard to slightly smaller than one long edge of the blocks, and then wrapping that inside a second layer of plastic wrap around the blocks makes them easier to transport. Return the wrapped blocks to the refrigerator or someplace where they will remain at 40 degrees or cooler. They can be transported to the range in a big cooler, or anything that helps to keep them cool. However, don�t over-worry it, as they seem to retain their temperature fairly well when you take reasonable precautions. About an hour at cool room/car temperature doesn�t seem to hurt them. Shooting: Again, it�s best to have two people move the blocks. There are few things more frustrating than spending all this time and effort to make the blocks and then have them crack before you shoot them. Be careful in unwrapping the plastic wrap from the blocks (again, danger of cracking). We placed them on a sheet of plywood on two sawhorses for our actual shooting. If you are shooting a block with a particularly powerful cartridge, we recommend you place a cement block directly behind it. The energy to the gel block from big calibers is such that it can cause the entire block to leap off the plywood onto the ground, especially if the surface the block is sitting on is smooth (little friction). Normal tests are shooting from a ten foot distance into the gelatin block (a) “naked” (nothing on or in front of the block), (b) lightly clothed (two layers of T-shirt in front of the block), and (c) heavily clothed (two layers of T-shirt and 2 layers of jeans in front of the block). Photos: Paint the plywood white that you are placing the blocks on, and bring a thin, white sheet or garbage bag with you. It is easiest to see the wound channels and bullet fragments in bright sunlight. Having a plain, white background to photograph against seems to produce the best photos. However, you need to lightly shade the blocks to photograph them if you are in direct sunlight to prevent glare. Other: If you have any questions, please don�t hesitate to call us at (805) 967-1138 (M-F, 1-4 pm Pacific time is best) or send email ([email protected]). We�re hoping that sharing what we�ve learned in this process will make it easier for others to avoid our early mistakes. (Copyright 2002 Custom Cartridge Inc.)

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Update on the above:

I built my mold box today, I didn’t have anything suitable so I cut up a tray I’d made to hold the batteries in an off-road camper I’m also building that successive delays have turned into a forever project.

It’s 6"x6"×25" internaly and screwed together so I don’t gave fight to remove the set gel.

I have 1200g of gelatin lined up, it’s fear the walking dead time on Thursday, trip to civilisation for supplies, so I’ll pick it up then…


Thats cool mate. Its one of those things I’ve often thought of doing but never got past the idea stage.
Have you crunched the numbers on what each block will cost you?

Thanks man.

More than I first thought but not prohibitively, the gelatin is $17/600g, the 10% recipe calls for 13 ounces per gallon and states that one 6x6x20 block will need 9 gallons.

My mold is 25", but I made it to pull apart and I can slide an end plate inward.

For one 9 gallon(34lt) block I’ll need 3317g or six 600g packets of gelatin.

Comes out to $102 per block.

I’m also considering;

Clear Ballistics

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Thats not real cheap when you also consider all the work involved. You must really want to have a play with some bullets looking for comparisons.

Why not just line up plastic water bottles and one will catch it…

Wow, while i can appreciate the effort and love my ‘for science’ 100 bucks a shot would count me out of it when like JS says you could use water bottle’s.
Not that i want to discourage you from doing it as i really wanna see your results.

Could you melt the gel and recast it?

From memory, gelatin based compounds are fairly thermoplastic.

Edit: Found this on the website you linked.


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It has given me pause, I admit.
Wishing a little that I’d worked that out before butchering my battery tray.

That’s great for catching them and great fun.
I’m looking to generate wound tracks for comparisons, like 55gn soft nose vs 55gn ballistic tip etc
I also have some NATO SS109 62gn steel core pills, that should be interesting.

That’s ok mate, it takes more than common sense to dampen the mad hermit impulses.

I do, however, appreciate all input. :beers:

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Yeah, that’s the plan.
More time and power involved but I couldn’t do what I’ve seen some do, firing multiple shots into one block and trying to interpret which was what in the resulting chaos.

The clear inorganic gel must have a formula.

LMAO Silence! I load for 577 Snider and 1895 Nagant - there is no common sense! There is only sciencing and sciencing harder!

As for gel… Are you positive that this is the only product available?

Now, $100 is actually not that much, since it will take multiple shots and can be reused almost indefinitely (I assume), but… I guess you may want to make a lot of blocks and what not, so…

I am ‘guesestimating’ here, however a good example is brass wet tumbling ‘detergents’. A lot of US videos on wet tumbling brass use Lemi Shine. Of course, Australians are like, oooo I need that magical stuff, without asking a fundamental question of what’s in it? And this ends up being about $25+ a bottle. Then some guy reverse engineered (properly) it and essentially called it as Citric Acid for an active ingredient. Maybe some additives for dirty US water, not an issue in AU. And of course citric acid is like $2-$3 at Woolies. Using the same rationale, have you looked at the ingredients and/or the Safety Data Sheet for it? Maybe we have a local equivalent for fraction of the price?

My task for today is that very search, and YES, cue fist pump emoji, I have been trying to work out how to get hold of the recipe for the 100% synthetic gel and the MSDS is what has been escaping my brain cell.

Thank you JS

Selfish bastards.
From the Clearballistics MSDS:


Hardly a surprise, I suppose if I’d invented it I’d be cagey too.

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I will not be deterred.
I was often da piss, but never de turd…

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Good for you. I bet there is not one person on the site that is not interested in seeing your results.

Do you have a 62 grain Hornady Tap to test against the other 223 projectiles? Happy to send you some.

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Just had a look, regardless of what gelatin you get locally, you are still looking at the same price for that quantity. Proceed. Keen to see results.

I would welcome a couple to test, thanks.

I have Nosler 50gn ballistic tip it turns out, not 55 which is an embuggerance, but the very least one.
Hornady 35gn b tip
55gn Roo Max sp
68gn match
SS109 62gn fmj steel core
Nosler 70gn RDF match
Berger 70gn VLD match
I also have some 40gn from .22WMR, fully jacketed and hp but have not been successful in seating them.

My main limitation is primers, I’ve got 11 and when the LGS had some last, they were 30c each and sold out the day he put them on the shelf.

On the quest for the holy gellant :pensive:

There are synthetics but the farther away from good old pig skin gellatin you get the price/weight ratio becomes silly.

That is no doubt one of the good reasons the feebs etc use it.

Hindsight, it’s my superpower, I see that now.

PM sent mate.

Why not just buy half a pig?

Or, use clay. Apparently it represents flesh much better than balistics gel