Ballistic skin simulant

Forensic Sci Int. 2005 May 28;150(1):63-71. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.06.039.


Hydrogels prepared from water solutions containing 10-20 mass% gelatine are generally accepted muscle tissue simulants in terminal ballistic research. They, however, do not have a surface layer which simulates the effect of human skin. The purpose of this research was to find a suitable skin simulant for enhancing the testing fidelity and the credibility of the results with gelatine-based materials when assessing the injury potential of not only high energy bullets, but also especially that of non-penetrating "less lethal" kinetic impact ammunition and relatively low energy ricochet fragments. A skin simulant also permits the simulation and assessment of exit wounds. The mechanical and ballistic properties of human skin and target simulant were established on the basis of results found in the literature. Some errors in these were found. The corrected values are included in this paper for comparison. The target values of the mechanical properties of the skin simulant were the following: threshold velocity v(th)=94+/-4 m/s, tensile strength 18+/-2 N/mm2 and elongation at break 65+/-5%. A selection of synthetic and natural materials was evaluated as skin simulants by analysing their mechanical and ballistic properties. The results were compared to literature values obtained with human cadavers. The tests showed that the best skin simulant of the ones evaluated was semi-finished chrome tanned upholstery "crust" cowhide of 0.9-1.1 mm nominal thickness. Its threshold velocity was 90.7 m/s, tensile strength 20.89+/-4.11 MPa and elongation at break 61+/-9%. These values are the same as the average values of human skin. Of the synthetic materials evaluated, 1mm thick natural rubber can be used on impact side as a threshold velocity filter with some reservations although its theoretical threshold velocity is only 82.9 m/s.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Skin / injuries*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Tensile Strength
  • Wounds, Gunshot / pathology*