Jell-o shots.

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The big day has arrived. I pulled the two blocks of gel from the fridge and remove them from their molds. A short blast from air hose and the block is free. Both blocks look good and free from air bubbles. They feel pretty firm and so I get the BB gun to calibrate. 3.25 inches of penetration. Just where it should be.

I had realized earlier getting the velocity reading with my chronograph was a little hit or miss. I was only getting about one reading in every five shots or so. I discovered that 11 pumps and a shot at two feet away put me in the velocity range to calibrate the blocks. So lacking the ability to record the actual velocity of the BB I’m going to have to assume it’s hitting in the correct range.

The blocks came out at 5 inches by 6 inches instead of the 6×6 I was expecting. I’m not sure why, I used the FBI method and it should have given me 6×6 inches on the face of the blocks. Other then that, I was happy with the way they turned out.

I set up everything before taking the blocks out of the fridge. The FBI method recommends shooting the blocks within 20 of removal so I wanted to make sure everything was set. With the blocks in place and the chronograph and camera on it was time to load and shoot.

I started off shooting 6 rounds of Federal Hydra-Shoks but that will be posted later. This post will focus on the second block that was shot. With this block, I picked a sampling of rounds I had shot in the past. I was thinking it would make a good comparison of past performance.

I chose six loads consisting of one round of each type. Remington .380 102 grain BJHP, Federal .38Spl 130 grain HST, Federal 135 grain Hydra-Shok Deep, Federal HST 180 grain in .40 S&W, 230 grain HST in .45 ACP, and Speer 200 grain Gold Dot in 10mm. I didn’t set up the chrony for this series of tests.

Theses are all rounds I have previously tested in Clear Ballistics Gel allowing us to see what difference there is between the two. It’s well known that Clear Gel and real gel are not going to agree. I know that Clear Gel has made the claim that the results will be the same but it’s been documented several times that it doesn’t. This is one reason I bit the bullet and decided to give real gel a try. So on to the test.

The first round tried was the Remington .380 ACP 102-grain Golden Saber. This bullet penetrated to 13 inches but only partially expanded to .52 inches and probably explains why it went deeper in this test by 3.5 inches. In the last test, it went 9.5 inches.

The next round fired was the Federal .38Spl 130-grain +P HST. This bullet went to the 11.5 inches mark and expansion was .63 inches. This was very similar to the last test that had an average penetration of the two rounds of 11.5 inches.

Next up is the Federal Hydra-Shot deep in 9mm. I’m not sure if hitting the Remington Golden Saber affected this bullet or not but it went to 14 inches and expanded to .54 inches. In the last test, it went past the 17-inch mark.

The .45 was up next with the Federal 230 grain HST. The bullet went to 12.75 inches and expanded to 1 inch! It went to the 15-inch mark last time.

Now the Speer 200 grain Gold Dot 10mm. It just barely stuck in the second block so I cave it 16.25 inches. The expansion was .68 inches. It did 16 inches in the last test so no real change here.

And now bringing up the rear is the .40 S&W Federal 180 grain HST. It expanded to .89 inches and penetrated to 12.5 inches. Last time its penetration was around the 15-inch mark.

So while Clear Gel and real gel don’t tend to agree it’s not consistent on how they disagree. Earlier in this post, I eluded to having tested some Federal Hydra-Shock’s. I also repeated the test using a block of Clear Ballistics Gel. My thought was this would be a way to do an apple to apple comparison. I will be posting both of them later but I wanted to share a picture of the bullets from the test. The top row is from the real gel and the bottom is from the Clear Gel test. As you can see there was quite a difference.

Moving forward I’m going use real gel on most tests but not all. Field Loads will continue to use Clear Gel. Since all we are doing is comparing penetration depth and since there is no standard for comparison I see no reason to use the more expensive gel. When you consider I have to use four blocks for that testing its just cost-prohibitive. I will also shoot most handloads in Clear Gel. Loose Rounds and rifle will also be using Clear Gel.

However, all factory pistol round that don’t fit in the above will move to real gel testing. I will continue to use the same format of two rounds in bare gel, two rounds in heavy clothing gel, and two rounds from a subcompact if available.

Please feel free to leave a comment on what you think about this new plan.


  1. Thanks for doing this. The difference is what I expected from having read the previous comparisons in PoliceOne.
    If you calibrate your Clear Gel with a BB shot and periodically do a real gel comparison when practical to do so, that will eventually generate a good volume of data for comparisons. I agree with the idea of continuing Clear Gel for sporting ammunition and handloads, and limiting the use of real gel for the serious defense loads, but when possible it would be great to fire side-by-side comparisons of those also with Clear Gel from the same gun and on the same day.

    Bravo Zulu for your efforts.


  2. I’m starting to get the bad feeling that these will only correlate well and correlate well to field performance with a multivariate analysis, which means lots of data under otherwise tightly controlled conditions.

    I’d also guess that few outside national level professional organizations have done this work, and that it’s likely they can’t share this info.


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