Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Ballistics Testing Future Is Now Clear

Clear Ballistics, that is.  If you have been following the blog since it launched in June 2011, then you know all about the false-starts I've had along the way with my ballistics testing.  I really thought I had it all figured out last Winter when I constructed a 50" horizontal bullet trap from PVC pipe and HDPE sheets.  You can see that monster here.  The plan was to shoot my bullets into hyper-absorbent polymer media.  That turned out to be a total failure as the energy dump from the captured bullets kept blowing the box apart.  Then I started using SIM-TEST in the Spring up until about June when it got too hot to bring the SIM-TEST out in the sun.  I essentially shut down testing in June and have been publishing my April to June tests throughout the Summer to keep the blog updated with fresh content.  This was tolerable, but I really didn't like being shut down during the best natural video lighting time of the year.

Last weekend I was swapping YouTube messages with tnoutdoors9, who has always been incredibly helpful to me with my testing, and he mentioned that someone had told him to look into a new test media called Clear Ballistics.  I was on my way out to the range to do some terminal testing so I checked the website quickly and ordered some samples and went on out to the range.  Later that night I looked more closely at the website and discovered Clear Ballistics is based in Ft. Smith, Arkansas which is only about an hour South of me.  Also on the website, I found a photo album of their product in use.  This is what got me very interested in their product.  I hope they don't mind me using this picture in my blog.
Photo From Clear Ballistics Website - Not My Testing

Clear Ballistics takes it's name from the most interesting quality of their product.  By that, I mean their ballistics gel is literally crystal clear when formed into a test block and ready to shoot.  The pictures on their website demonstrated a product that was as clear as any of the highest quality ordinance gel blocks that I had ever seen, but without the amber tint.  They had me with just this one product attribute.  You've seen me carve enough blocks to know to only way to see what's going on inside one of my test blocks is to cut it open and potentially destroy the wound channel we're all dying to see.  Trying to hunt down every last fragment in a block is also a huge pain.  The Clear Ballistics Gel product eliminates the need to carve to find your results.

The product also has several other tributes that made it even more appealing to me.
1)  As delivered to the customer, the gel calibrates exactly to ballistics gel density specifications.  That means when when shot with a BB at 600 fps the BB will penetrate between 3.25 and 3.75 inches.  This density is maintained throughout the life of the product without any additional maintenance from the Gel user. 
2)  The gel is not temperature sensitive.  Use it when it's 100 degrees and full sun outside, or use it when it's overcast and 50 degrees.  It won't impact the density of the gel.
3)  It's reusable and recastable.  I'm not sure how many cycles yet, but I can guarantee at least one based on my testing.  I'm sure I will discover the upper limit at some point in the future and will share that with you.
4)  It's non-water soluble.  Having a bullet pass through the block and puncture a water jug is a major disaster for me or anyone else that uses a water soluble gel product.  Water immidately starts breaking down the gel media.  This problem doesn't exist with Clear Ballistics Gel.
5)  The Clear Ballistics product gives off no odor and will not mold, mildew, or break down in storage like some other water and animal protein based ballistics gel products.

So let's review what this product could do to improve my testing and overall quality of life.
1)  All gel can now live in the garage instead of in my basement.  No more lugging 60 to 80 lb coolers and buckets through the house and up and down stairs.  WIN!
2)  No more garage stink when remelting media and letting it cool.  Wife will love that.  WIN! WIN!
3)  I can test 12 months a year even when it's full sun and 100 + degrees.  WIN!
4)  100% visibility of stretch cavity and wound channel at the range immediately after taking the shot without picking up a knife and carving up the block.  HUGE WIN for me since I have no patience and HUGE WIN for you the video viewer.  How cool will that high speed camera footage be if it's positioned to capture the bullet travelling through the block.  Can't wait to see that.
5)  No more boring bullet recovery videos shot in my garage.  WIN for me and HUGE WIN for video viewers.
6)  Most importantly for me, I'll now get consistent density gel from test to test, week to week, and month to month.  You folks know how I feel about data.  My goal has always been to provide the best quality data I can.  If temperature and density can now be controlled variables in my test results, my data quality just went through the roof.  EPIC WIN!
7)  Spent test blocks must be washed and completely dry before reprocessing.  Any dirt on the gel will end up as dirt IN the gel when recast.  Not sure how difficult this will be in my dusty environment, but this is the only potential issue I see with continued re-use of the Clear Ballistics Gel product. 

I called Clear Ballistics on Monday morning at the phone number attached to my sample order confirmation and left a message for them.  I also emailed them through their website "contact us" link.  Joel Edwards is the inventor of the gel and owner of the Clear Ballistics company.  We set a time to talk on Tuesday and I spoke with him at length about the Company and Clear Ballistics gel product.  What ran though my mind at first was how was it possible that I didn't know about this product and why I didn't start using it sooner.  I learned that Clear Ballistics was just launched in 2012 so the word is still getting out on the company and their product.  As we were talking, the FedEx driver delivered my test samples that I had ordered on Sunday morning.

With product in hand, we continued to talk a bit more and review the product preparation instructions on the Clear Ballistics website.  The instructions were easy and clear enough, but Joel made sure to share his best practices on melting and recasting the product with me.  I floated the offer to come up to my test facility this weekend and bring along my start-up order of gel and maybe share some additional information about the product and company in my first Clear Ballistics Gel terminal test videos.  With that, we ended our conversation and went off to check our family schedules to see if we could get together at some point this weekend.

As I stated previously, I now had product samples in hand so I wasted no time melting the gel down and forming it into a block that I could run some calibration BBs into to see if this stuff was half as good as it sounded on the website.

The lead picture above is the result of my first casting attempt.  The 10 dollar bill is actually under the block.  The gel is exactly as clear as described after recasting/remelting.  The sides and bottom of the cast block picked up a texture from the pan it was cast in.  I ran a heat gun over the sides and bottom after taking the picture below and the sides turned as clear as the top of the block.

I fully documented the melting/casting process that turned my 10 test ingots into the one larger test block.  I took the block out in the yard and ran 5 BBs into it at 600+ fps.  The next 3 pictures show the results of those 5 test shots.

Every single shot fell within 10% ballistics gel density specification.  It's amazingly consistent across the entire block.  I think I'm really going to like using this product for my future testing.

The video below has the melting/casting action as well as the BB calibration testing.  Joel and his Product Manager will be coming up on Sunday with my initial Gel order and they will be sticking around to do some testing with me.  I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas this week.  I can't wait to start dumping some rounds into those blocks and literally see everything that I've been missing in my past testing.  I'm also really looking forward to sharing that information with all of you that have read the blog and watched my previous test videos.  It's going to be awesome.  Any requests?


  1. WoW! That looks like great stuff - cant wait to see the tests!

  2. Clear Ballistics as a company is legit and their product is even better.

    1. I published this, but I'm not sure why you posted this comment. Was there any doubt that Clear Ballistics was a legitimate company? Having dealt with them since August, I have found them to be a very professional and well run organization so I agree with you.