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DIY Ballistics Gel – The Easiest Method

Ok, I’m not going to give you a back story instead I’m going right to the directions. If you’d like a more detailed history and discussion about Ballistics Gel, that’ll be at the bottom of the page. The problem is every time I tried to find a formula, the page would bore me first then finally give me half-baked directions. I intend to resolve both those issues here, so without further ado:

The Video

THE WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS

If you watch the video and read the instructions, you’ll notice that they’re slightly different methods. That’s OK, because as it turns out the key is the ratio of gelatine to water. But the written instructions do provide a more methodical approach that will get you a better product, but both will work!

DIY Ballistics Gel – The Easiest Method On The Internet

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First you’re going to need 3 basic things:

  1. A Mold – 4x3x8 inch pan. I got mine from Dollar Tree
  2. Gelatin – Knox Original Gelatine Unflavored. I got mine from Amazon.
  3. A Releasing Agent – Cooking Spray – I got mine from Smith’s.

Second, follow these steps:
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Stir 3 oz. of gelatin (12 packets) slowly, as to avoid air bubbles, into 4 1/2 cups HOT water. You can boil it, but hot from the tap will work. This is a 1 oz gelatin to 1.5 cups water ratio if you want to use a different size mold.

Place the mold into the fridge and allow to set overnight. When it’s done it’ll look like this:

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Take a large pot, fill with water and turn it onto high. Place the pan into the water. For ease of removal, because the gel is mostly water and as a result will float level with the water in the pan, I rigged mine just above the surface with a couple butter knives. Just be careful whatever you do.

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The mixture will turn to liquid. Once the entire thing is liquid again (check with a butter knife, not your finger), remove it from heat and place it back in the fridge overnight. Remove it the next morning, and it will look something like this:

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Remove it from the pan and Voila! you have DIY Ballistics Gel:

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Store in a cool place (like a fridge…) until you’re ready to use it.

Alright if you’re interested, here are some notes on the process, and a little bit of a look into Ballistics Gel and what it is, and what it is not.

The Process & History of DIY Ballistics Gel

As many of you know, especially if you stumbled onto this site, ballistics gel is a medium used by forensic investigators to examine the characteristics of a round after it is fired. The gel is meant to mimic human flesh, and was made popular by MythBusters. Also, as many of you know, it’s not cheap nor should it be. The results obtained with it can affect human lives in a court of law, so it’s manufactured to the highest of standards. However, for most firearms enthusiasts the extra stuff isn’t necessary, so a nice DIY option that is cheap is always something they’re interested in. I know, because I was super interested myself. But every search I performed yield barely satisfactory results. That’s not to say there aren’t good sources, but either the instructions weren’t clear or involved some complicated processes. I aimed to fix that and I believe I did a good job. Here are the tweaks and things I did. If you have suggestions please leave them in the comments.

I used less water to begin with. While most instructions will use less water than on the box and have you boil your water to remove some of the excess while also helping with the dissolving of the gel, this can lead to different water amounts per batch if the timing isn’t exact between the two. By using only 3/4 of a cup, the need to boil is removed, and you get a more consistent texture from batch to batch. Many will cry foul, saying you can’t get proper dissolution without boiling, but that’s simply not true. Stir slowly and always add the powder to the water, not vice-versa, and you’ll be fine. I actually did a bad job of stirring while photographing for this article but still came out with a great product. Less water also creates a more solid gel that is less likely to bust when handling by hand, and will last longer as it gets warmer. I also believe this better mimics the professional stuff.

The point of melting the gel is to help remove any blobs or air bubbles the gel received during the initial mix. I’ve used hot water from the tap instead of boiling, but that can take forever. Steaming it is the best process in my opinion. Just be careful not to leave it on too long or it will begin to boil itself, giving you all sorts of air bubbles. This step can also be repeated as many times as you’d like until you get the right ‘purity’ for your taste.

Speaking of things taking too long, one of the biggest variances I’ve seen in other instructions is how long to let it set. I left mine overnight in these instructions, but that makes it a 3 day process. I mostly did it because of my personal schedule and convenience, but since I didn’t try 3-4 hours as a set time (which is what some instructions say) I put overnight in the instructions. However, I have done it with the 3-4 hour set time and seen success. Just make sure it is solid, and not, “Well I really want to shoot it now and that seems solid enough” solid. Your results when you shoot won’t be good, if you can even handle it without breaking it apart first. So experiment, but know 3-4 hours should work, and overnight definitely works.

You may have also noticed I said get cooking spray, but I didn’t mention it at all in the instructions. This is because I didn’t use it. Some people prefer to spray their pans first to help with the release of the block, but I was able to pull the gel out of the pan with my fingers with no destruction to the block or any of it sticking to the pan. So use it if you like, but I found it unnecessary (that statement will probably come back to haunt me in future batches).

Finally some history on Ballistics Gel. The most commonly used professional mix is made by Knox, and as you may have noticed so is the stuff we used here. It’s because they kind of have the market cornered on gelatin. That’s good news though because it means we have the same fundamental ingredients in the consumer food product. The difference is that Knox adds some proprietary ingredients to help it hold its structure at room temperature and to ensure a close resemblance to human flesh. We only have the basic gel here, but with a few tweaks as listed above and careful handling we can still get a very similar result. Just don’t try to use those results in a court room…

Well there you have it: The Easiest DIY Ballistics Gel Method on the Internet. As always I’m open to suggestions and critique. If you think there’s a better way to do it, please let us know in the comments. This place is about knowledge, so please share it if you have it. Also be sure to look out for a video in the next few days using this exact block of gel. It should be fun.

21 thoughts on “DIY Ballistics Gel – The Easiest Method

  1. Hmmmmm, wonder if using borax would help it be stable at room temps? I know there are a bunch of things you can use it in including a homemade slime for your kids with glue so substituting glue with your mixture may give it the intended results.

  2. Here’s a suggestion on how to remove the gel from the pan without having to physically handle it…being a cook for many years, when removing jello, cakes, etc. from molds, we always placed a plate, board, etc – that is larger/wider than the mold – on top of the pan and then simply flipped it over. Also, if there was any fear of the item sticking to the pan we would take a butter knife – and using the spine of the blade – trace around the object to free the sides from the pan before flipping. This technique will eliminate the risk of the gel breaking from physical handling. I hope this helps.

  3. Did you have a chance to use the gel in a live fire test? I’m just wondering as it seems that the DIY gel might not hold up as well to hollow point or flangable rounds during live fire demo.

  4. I bought a couple of pounds of gelatin online from Bulk Foods a while back and it was very inexpensive. They give you a lot of bang for the buck.

  5. You want a lot of bang for your buck? Mix in a pound of Tannerite. That should liven things up a bit.
    Just kidding!
    Good informatoin on the gel, thank you…

  6. Pingback: Anonymous
  7. Thanks for the DIY, it’s the only one I could find that is black and white.
    Worked great for me. 🙂

    I was extra meticulous about stirring that I didnt melt it down and set it again, and i only waited 4 hours. It came out easily, twisted the plastic container to separate it and then i used a spatular to plop it out.

    I’ve uploaded some pics. was testing penetration of .177 pellets with a gamo extreme co2 at 8m on a extra hot day.

    Gamo Match Diablo 7.56 gr – Penetrated 10cm
    http://postimg.org/image/clqtkeewn/

    H&N Sport Baracuda Magnum 16.36 gr – Penetrated 15cm (full length of gel mold)
    http://postimg.org/image/l31mjlfzt/

  8. I have made this for a long time and something worth mentioning too is you can reuse this by putting it over the hot water again, melt it down , clean out the lead and any other debris and remold.

    • I think so! But whatever color you use may come out darker than expected given the already semi translucent color of the gelatin. Let us know what you find out.

  9. Thanks for this info.

    I think I’ve managed a small improvement in the process. Namely, using a blender to mix the gelatin and water. I stirred and stirred by hand, but removing clumps was at best tedious, and all the attempts to break up clumps seemed to introduce air. I went for broke and threw the whole mess in the Ninja blender. (For those who don’t know, the Ninja is a blender that uses a tall stack of food processor type blades to do the mixing and chopping.) The mixture looks quite foamy when done, but the “foam” (air trapped in the gelatin) quickly rises to the top and will nearly disappear after the first set. Once I did the melt and second set, I had an amber block of gelatin that was absolutely free of clumps. None.

    I tried it again this morning, without any hand-stirring at all. I added the boiling water to the Ninja, poured in 6 oz of gelatin, and powered it up. I had to stop briefly to push a clump stuck to the side into the mix using a silicone spatula, but otherwise just let it blend it for 60 seconds. I poured it into a loaf pan and saw no clumps at all. The foam has already separated into its own 1/2″ layer on top, with a very clear bottom layer. The foam will shrink down to perhaps 1/8″ by the time the block sets

    One this loaf is set up, I’ll melt it and the original and combine into a single larger block that’s easier to hit than the 2.5″ tall first block I achieved from 8 oz of gelatin.

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