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  1. #1
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    Shotshell ballistic and pattern testing

    Hi there folks!

    So about 10 years ago (before my kids came!), some of you may remember when I had a website where I chronicled a big ballistic gelatin shooting extravaganza I'd spent a winter doing. I tested in ballistics gel pretty much everything from #9 shot all the way through the various buckshots and even a handful of different slugs. I also did a whole bunch of .223 and .308 rounds. Not only did I have a tonne of fun in the process, but I also learned a whole lot.

    Then for various reasons, several years ago I took down the website where all the results were catalogued. I've allowed some of the photographs to survive over in one of the stickied forums at shotgunworld.com, and they occasionally get referenced in other forums (such as thehighroad.org) when folks ask about the performance/suitability of a paticular shot size for a paticular application.

    In fact, on another forum in a similarly themed thread my old ballistics gel tests came up again and it got me a bit nostalgic as I remembered how much fun it had been to do all the testing. It also got me thinking about how much better it could be in today's world of HD cameras and YouTube!

    That was pretty much it then....I knew what my next project would be and I got busy!

    In addition to better video equipment and better media delivery mechanisms, there were other improvements to make. The first was in the actual preparation of the gelatin. Previously, I had been constrained to winter gelatin testing only, as I was using my unheated garage as the source of refrigeration required to make and store the gelatin blocks. I would have to wait until it was cold outside, then use a small space heater to keep my garage at 5 degrees C. I only had one gelatin mold, so it would take me a while to make enough gelatin, and then I would have to wait until the weather was 5 degrees outside so that I could move the gelatin to the range, get setup, and then shoot it while was still the proper temperature. Talk about a pain!

    This time around I wanted the freedom to make/store gelatin at any time of the year, so I set out to make a poor-boy refrigerator that I could tow anywhere. It is pretty much a chest framed with 2x4s and lined with 4 inches of rigid board insulation. It sits on my utility trailer (so I can tow it anywhere), and is powered by a room air conditioner I've redneck-engineered to maintain 4 degrees celsius inside the chest.

    Inbetween bouts of building the refrigerated chest, I got on the phone and ordered up 50 lbs of ballistics gelatin, some dimethylpolysiloxane (de-foamer), and propionic acid (mold & fungus inhibitor). I also had a local sheet meta fabricator make me two 8.5x10x18 gelatin molds from 18 gauge stainless. The last of the materials arrived last week, and this past weekend I set up to cast the first blocks....I was thrilled when the first block slid out of the mold!












    Now a week later my refrigerated chest is pretty much full, and I'm getting organized for the long weekend to go out to the farm for the first bout of shotgun ballistics gelatin shooting! I'm starting out with a good selection of steel and lead BB, BBB, and #4 buckshot (both plated and unplaced, some with flight control wads and others with conventional wads). My second outing will focus on 00 buckshot and slugs, and I'll also do a session with a large variety of birdshot.

    My plan is to do a separate video for each shell I'm testing, and to not only do the gelatin test but also some pattern testing at various ranges, and here's where I'd like feedback from all you folks....my question relates to the patterning component of the test protocol.

    One option I'm considered is to take two shotguns - one a cylinder bored remington 870 and the other an 870 express with a screw in modified choke. I'd then do pattern testing at 10, 20, and 30 yards on a 3 foot by 3 foot patterning board. This would give a good visual representation of how a pattern grows over distance, and would also provide a preliminary contrast on the effects of choke for any given load.

    The second option I'm considering is pretty much the same test as outlined above, however with two cylinder bored guns. One would be an 870 marine magnum, and the other would be a 590 mariner. The main learning from this test would be to see if, across a large spectrum of shotshells, two cylinder bored guns from different manufacturers produce comparable patterns.

    Then the third option I was considering was to fix the patterning distance to 15 yards....close enough to have reasonably tight density but far enough away that the contrast between chokes and wad technologies is evident. I would then use 4 different guns for the pattern test - a cylinder bored 870, a cylinder bored 590, an 870 express with a modified choke, and a benelli m4 super with a modified choke. This is sort of a hybrid between the first two test outlined, and while it does not establish the maximum useful range of a choke/load combo, it gives the most amount of comparable observations across a large number of guns.

    So re test protocol - which protocol did you choose and why?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Cheers,

    Brobee
    Last edited by Brobee; 08-29-2013 at 10:00 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Satain's Avatar
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    Don't know but hell I am interested in any results that you will come to on any of your tests that you will try.

  3. #3
    Senior Member TV-PressPass's Avatar
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    I saw you mentioning ballistics gel in you M4 ad.

    Excited to see what comes next!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Strewth's Avatar
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    Hmmm, those tests cover quite the range of possibilities...I guess I like the first one the most, showing different loads at different distances with different chokes would give me the most information?
    Although I'm quite curious about the second, to see a pattern show down between two different manufacturers...I would guess off the cuff that they're the same?
    The third one interests me for the same reason, always keen to see multiple guns fired.
    Very nice set up by the way, I love the rednecked A/C, with a generator that would be a great trailer to haul meat out of the bush on a warm day.
    Thanks for doing this whichever you decide.
    CSSA CCFR

  5. #5
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    So I've had two outings on this project so far and now have a monster volume of video to cut/slice/dice together....it's gonna take a while! In the interim, here's a couple of photo teasers:


    Cross Section of inches 9 through 11 of the gel block shot with Remington T-Sized Nitro Steel:






    And here's a patterning teaser, illustrating the magnitude of different pattern performance through the same gun at the same distance:





    Hope you all had a great summer!

    Cheers,

    Brobee

  6. #6
    Senior Member Satain's Avatar
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    Interesting...
    Seems like for some reason the lower right hand side of your pattern is mostly void.
    Oh ya and thanx for this Brobee.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Strewth's Avatar
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    Wow, that difference in pattern is nuts...well, if I'm reading it right? Only difference the composition of the pellets? Everything else same-same?
    CSSA CCFR

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strewth View Post
    Wow, that difference in pattern is nuts...well, if I'm reading it right? Only difference the composition of the pellets? Everything else same-same?

    While they were different materials in the pellets (steel vs lead), the I be.ieve big difference in pattern is because of their wad technology. If they had the same wad, conventional wisdom would suggest that the steel pellets should pattern tighter as they deform less on firing (harder shot). The theory goes that round pellets deflect off air resistance less than oblong and crushed pellets. The problem with to theory is that the black cloud shells also contain steel shot that is purposely deformed with a ring around it's circumference. I thing federal calls it their "flight stopper" technology.

    I believe the difference is almost 100% wad related. The black cloud stuff has federal's flight control wad...essentially a wad that flares at the back end as it exits the muzzle, rather than petals that open up around the shot as most conventional wads. I also tested some lead loads that use the same wad technology....they had equally tight patterns at 25 yards (Hornady's varmint express coyote nickel plated bb).

    I'll take some pictures of the various wads after I get some of the video processed.

    Cheers,

    Brobee
    Last edited by Brobee; 09-04-2013 at 10:52 PM.

  9. #9
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    Yay! I finally got the first one edited together last night!

    Federal's Premium Black Cloud BB:



    As I have raw footage for more than a dozen more, I'd sure appreciate comments on format and content!

    Cheers,

    Brobee
    Last edited by Brobee; 09-14-2013 at 07:19 AM.

  10. #10
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    Very nice Brobee. Lot's of good information, moved right along. Good job.

    Cheers!

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