Terminal ballistics – The study of how a projectile behaves when it hits it intended target. Thanks to the folks over at Viper Weapons and their extensive study and research into terminal ballistics. We will be discussing the human target as that is what most people are concerned about when buying home defense, carry, or duty ammo. Starting things off there are four kinds of tissues
1. Epithelial: Covers the body surface (skin) and forms the lining of most internal cavities and
organs. “The skin is tough and flexible. Experiments have shown that it has the same resistance
to bullet passage as approximately four inches of muscle tissue.” (Fackler, M.L., M.D., Director, Wound Ballistics Laboratory, letter: “Bullet Performance
Misconceptions”, International Defense Review 3, 1987.)
2. Nervous: Thin nerve tissue which constitutes the smallest percentage of human tissue.
3. Connective: Tissue providing a variety of functions to include support and protection. Bone,
cartilage and blood vessels are the most common types of connective tissue. Bone is an excellent
protective barrier and is similar but stronger than the plywood that is used in 2 phases of testing as
a consistent barrier IAW IWBA and FBI/DoD standards.
4. Muscular: Muscles and internal organs are the most common type of human tissue in the thoracic
cavity which is the target area or center of mass. In our testing during phase 4 and phase 5 we use
animal tissue to as closely as possible consistently replicate human muscular tissue.
Whenever someone is inflicted with a gunshot wound (GSW) there are really only three ways that target is incapacitated those being:
1. Severing/destroying parts of the Central Nervous System (CNS). Sufficient damage to the brain
and or spine.
2. Extreme damage to a vital organ required for immediate activity (heart, lungs and liver).
Sufficient damage to these organs may cause immediate incapacitation. The larger the hole and
the more the damage the greater the chance of elimination of body activity. “Structures that are
less dense and have elasticity may sustain less damage than structures with greater density and
more rigidity. For example, lung tissue has low density with high elasticity and tends to be less
damaged than muscle with higher density and some elasticity. The liver, spleen, brain and adipose
tissue have little elasticity and are easily injured. Organs that are fluid-filled, such as the bladder,
heart, great vessels and bowel, may rupture due to the pressure waves from extremely high velocity
projectiles (>2000 feet per second) (Emergency Medicine Practice article. “Ballistic Injuries In The Emergency Department
(Trauma CME)”, 2022
3. Large amount of blood loss or a large enough drop in blood pressure which is required for
muscular and systems function. The human body has a positive pressure and external holes
depressurize the system and allow for more blood loss than only internal holes.
“Incapacitation results from central nervous system (brain or spinal cord) disruption, massive
organ destruction and hemorrhage (critical loss of blood and blood pressure” – National Library of Medicine: “Ballistics reviews: mechanisms of bullet wound trauma”, 2009
In the next blog posts we will be going over the interactions between projectiles and these tissues which includes the differences between temporary and permanent wound cavities and lastly bullet selection. Thanks again to the folks over at Viper Weapons for making this all possible. They are truly experts in the field of terminal ballistics. This post would not be possible without their document “The Human Target”