Dave Barham

Dave makes his own bal­lis­tic gel - and you can, too, with his step-by-step guide

Airgun World - - Contents -

Af­ter read­ing through Gary Wain’s ex­cel­lent bal­lis­tic test fea­tures in re­cent is­sues of AGW it got me think­ing about the pel­lets I use, some brands I’ve liked the look of, and I won­dered if it were pos­si­ble to make bal­lis­tic gel, like the stuff they use on CSI and NCIS on the telly, so I turned to my old friend Google to find out.

A quick search soon threw up the name DE­FEN­SI­BLE, which turned out to be very well-es­tab­lished com­pany based in the UK. I spent the next half an hour pe­rus­ing their web­site, dur­ing which time I learned that the com­pany ac­tu­ally makes bal­lis­tic gel blocks and dum­mies for the po­lice and de­fence in­dus­tries. They also make prod­ucts for the med­i­cal in­dus­try, tele­vi­sion props … and more im­por­tantly for me, for recre­ational shoot­ers.

A quick phone call to Jake Pear­son, the main man at DE­FEN­SI­BLE, soon had one of their pro­fes­sion­ally-made bal­lis­tic gel blocks wing­ing its way to me, as well as one of their su­perb DIY gel block kits, de­signed specif­i­cally for air­gun en­thu­si­asts.

PER­SONAL RE­SEARCH

I de­cided to per­form this ex­per­i­ment purely for my own cu­rios­ity, but I thought I’d share it with you all from start to fin­ish, so you can get an idea of just how easy it is to make your own gel, and how much fun it is to shoot it. Plus, of course, I’ll be test­ing four types of pel­lets that I use reg­u­larly, which seem to pop up on pretty much ev­ery ques­tion I see on var­i­ous Face­book pages and groups.

WHAT IS IT?

Okay, so back to the gel it­self. The bal­lis­tic gel pow­der that comes with the kit is a spe­cific tech­ni­cal gela­tine de­rived from pigs, which when mixed to a spe­cific den­sity cre­ates an ana­logue for hu­man tis­sue. The stuff that DE­FEN­SI­BLE makes is the orig­i­nal ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tic ana­logue, and is the only ma­te­rial ac­cepted as ev­i­dence in courts all around the world – so you re­ally can’t get any­thing bet­ter for a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how a spe­cific type of air­gun pel­let per­forms on live quarry.

The kit comes with two ‘weight to wa­ter’ den­sity charts in the in­struc­tions. The first chart is for 10% bal­lis­tic gel – the stan­dard used for foren­sic test­ing around the world. The sec­ond chart is for a 20% NATO mix­ture, which is used for high ve­loc­ity pro­jec­tiles that are ar­mour pen­e­trat­ing! Ob­vi­ously, I stuck to the 10% mix­ture.

EASY AND FUN

I’ll get straight into how to make your own gel blocks now, but be­fore I do, I’ll just add that I found the whole process to be ex­tremely good fun, and next month I’ll show you just how ef­fec­tive a medium this bal­lis­tic gel re­ally is, with some rather sur­pris­ing re­sults.

MAKE IT YOUR­SELF

STEP 1: Here’s my kit, ready to cook up. I haven’t had this much fun in the kitchen for years.

STEP 2: The first job was to read the in­struc­tions that came with the kit; in par­tic­u­lar, the weights and mea­sures for the per­fect 10% gel block.

STEP 3: Jake sent me a small sa­chet of ‘ex­ten­der’, which is enough for one block and gives the bal­lis­tic gel a ‘fridge life’ of up to six weeks.

STEP 4: It’s im­por­tant to get the mea­sure­ments right, so to be­gin with I mea­sured out 1800ml of cold wa­ter into a mea­sur­ing jug, as per the chart in the in­struc­tions – 900ml per 100g of pow­der.

STEP 5: Be­cause I was us­ing 18ml of ex­ten­der in the block, I had to re­move 18ml of the cold wa­ter, so it all added up.

STEP 6: Now it was time to add the 200g of gel pow­der to the wa­ter, stir­ring as I went to en­sure that all the pow­der was well mixed into the wa­ter.

STEP 7: As per the in­struc­tions, the pow­der/ wa­ter mix must go into the fridge for two-anda-half-hours to ‘bloom’ – ba­si­cally al­low­ing the pow­der to soak up the wa­ter.

STEP 8: Af­ter the al­lot­ted time, I re­moved the gel mix­ture from the fridge and got ready to melt it down in a saucepan on the hob. You can do this in a mi­crowave, but I wanted to do it prop­erly.

STEP 9: Plop! The gel flopped out of the mea­sur­ing jug into the pan in a wa­tery blob. It looked rather like slushy snow at this point – a far cry from a shiny, clear bal­lis­tic gel block.

STEP 10: It’s im­por­tant to heat the gel mix­ture over a medium heat, whilst stir­ring all the time. DO NOT let it boil. Ideally, it needs to be 39 Cel­cius, the tem­per­a­ture of a hot bath. I didn’t have a ther­mome­ter though.

“The stuff that DE­FEN­SI­BLE makes is the orig­i­nal ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tic ana­logue”

STEP 11: You will soon tell that it’s ready as the gel melts into a wa­tery ‘syrup’. Now it’s time to add the ex­ten­der and mix thor­oughly.

STEP 12: As soon as the ex­ten­der has been mixed in, care­fully pour the mix­ture into the mould pro­vided.

STEP 13: You’ll no­tice that there is a form of scum on the sur­face of the liq­uid. This is caused by stir­ring and the adding of the ex­ten­der.

STEP 14: I chose to re­move as much of this ‘scum’ as I could with a large serv­ing spoon. It was re­ally quite easy to get most of it off.

STEP 15: If you’ve done your sums cor­rectly, the liq­uid should be sit­ting bang on the fill line marked on the mould. Now it’s sim­ply a case of putting the lid on and pop­ping the lot into the fridge.

STEP 16: The in­struc­tions say, ‘leave the block in the fridge for 24 hours’. I had to leave it for 48 hours be­cause I was fish­ing the next day (yes, I got a tad sun­burned). It was re­ally easy to re­move the block by pulling slightly on the two longer sides of the mould whilst it was in­verted.I

NEXT MONTH

In the next is­sue, Dave re­veals just how good the home­made bal­lis­tic gel is com­pared to the pro­fes­sional block, when he tests four types of pel­lets with some rather in­ter­est­ing re­sults.

INFO

To get your own kit, visit: www.de­fen­si­ble.co.uk

Air­gun Block Kit - £18.99, com­prises 200g bal­lis­tic gel pow­der, a re­us­able 19x10x10cm mould, plus sim­ple in­struc­tions. The ‘ex­ten­der’ is also avail­able on the web­site.

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