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