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Thread: Capturing in-tact, undamaged bullets

  1. #1
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Question Capturing in-tact, undamaged bullets

    This is probably a really ridiculous question with an obvious answer, but...

    I will be teaching a new Forensic Science class next year at the high school I work at. One topic in the class is ballistics and matching bullets from crime scenes to the firearm. Instead of reading about it, I would like to bring in some actual bullets fired from a variety of my guns and have the students match them up. I need to be able to capture the bullet without any damage, though (or...at least that would be ideal). I know my best bet would probably be to use FMJ bullets, but some bullet expansion wouldn't be a problem if the rear end is in tact.

    What is the easiest way to recover my bullets, short of just digging through a sandpit? Surely there is something made for this purpose, as I often read of folks comparing the retention weight to the original weight. What do I need?

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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Dont they use ballistics gel for that??

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    Member tyrex13's Avatar
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    Default

    FMJ's into buckets or jugs of water should work for you.

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    Member OKElkHunter's Avatar
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    Default Ice

    There is ballistic jel, but it is probably expensive and hard to find. We used to freeze liter bottles of water, take them to the range and lay them on their side and fire into their base. Almost all the bullets were completely intact in the shattered ice. The bullets will mushroom but the bases were intact with the land and groove marks very identifyable. Of course we fired all of our shots at 100 yds, don't know about closer ranges. The best part about firing into ice is there is no residue such as sand or grit left on the bullet because ice melts and water is all that remains on the bullet.

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    Brian, my wife has some in her shop that she has pulled out of critters that hunters have turned in.

    They are hunting rounds pulled out of bears mostly but useable for your needs.

    She can get probably a couple but when do you need them by? I'm heading north for a week on staurday.

  6. #6

    Default Recovered bullets

    Hi Brian;
    Hey, I always have a pile of them I pick up in the spring, shooting into the snow does practically no damage in the slow 45 ACP...so if you can find some snow...the bullets look good enough to reload, just clean rifling cuts. I pick them up and recast.
    Always have a pile of plowed up snow by my woodpile in the winter.
    Also...years ago I was in Washington State at a range and they used old tires as their primary backstop. I was amazed that even many rifle bullets were stopped and hanging there for the picking with little damage.

    Mark
    Last edited by snowshooze; 04-30-2008 at 21:54. Reason: PS

  7. #7

    Question possibility?

    Brian, if I understand correctly, you want to get bullets from specific guns, so students can then study them and match them to the specific guns right? What about taking bullets and then tapping them through the barrels with a brass rod and mallet? I don't know if this would work, but if it did, then the bullets would be engraved and not deformed. Just a thought. Good luck.
    If you like getting kicked by a mule...then you'll "love" shooting my .458.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default water

    Just fill up a tub or barrel with water and use FMJ ammo. Very little deforming. An easy option is to get a 55 gal drum and set it up to shoot down into it. A couple inches of clean, course sand in the bottom will act as the final cushion. Most bullets will be nearly stopped after going through 3' of water. An alternate is if you can get a watering trough that's at least 3-4' long and shoot into it horizontally at an angle. Use caution here in that some bullets will ricochet off water with a low angle hit! The higher the angle, the better the chance of a good water stop.
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    Default wet newspaper

    Newspaper stacked upright in a cardboard box, then soaked with water is pretty hard to beat. Leaf through the newspaper to find your bullets. Also kind of a easy way to check penetration. Ballistic labs use the water column...but I doubt that you can take the guns and ammo to the local swimming pool and shoot.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Default

    These are some great ideas, guys. Thanks! I don't need these bullets until the middle of next school year, but since I've got summer coming up I figured I would do some "work" while I have the time. I'll likely try a few different methods mentioned here and see what works best. Again, thanks for the feedback!

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    Member RMiller's Avatar
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    I want to take forensics.
    "You have given out too much reputation in the last 24 hours, try again later".

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    Member jmg's Avatar
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    Not sure if this would be an option here, but have you tried contacting a local police force (APD, etc.) and doing your shots at the crime lab? Probably not something they allow to everyday joe, but for education purposes it might be possible. It would take some arranging, but if you have the time . . I did a science class in junior high during the summer and we took a trip to the crime lab, so for that, it might be possible. Times may have certainly changed since then, so not sure whether they'd be open to it or not.

    In college I majored in Criminology. Forensic science was at the top of my all time favorite classes for sure, and the professor ran the crime lab for the county sheriff's dept, so we had pretty open educational access. That professor now runs the state patrol crime lab for WA state and is a good friend of mine. Visited him last time I was down there for work and it is one of the jobs where you just have to say "wow, that is really cool," almost like a little kid.

  13. #13

    Default

    Checking out the crime lab option sounds like a good idea, also I was thinking maybe you could get a 6' or so lenght of 6" PVC slope it downward, fill it with water and fire into that. Not sure if it would rupture the PVC though. And try loading some real light loads in a small cal pistol?

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    Cabelas has a couple kind of ballistic type gell, supposed to be re-usable. Looks cool, might be fun to try. Otherwise water is probably your best bet. Bullets dont go very far in it, and they're easy to find.
    http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/te...tube&noImage=0

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    An added thought... if you're taking these bullets into a school setting where kids are going to handle them, you'll be best to ensure you're using FMJ so that the lead is fully encased. That will help avoid lead exposure to the kids. (still make them wash their hands after handling the bullets)
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    Brian,

    Interesting topic here. I have done some of this just for my own education and shot a lot of them into water. Around the farm there is always a horse water trough or tank and that works well. With handguns it is pretty easy but at rifle velocity you not only get wet it will destroy some soft point/hollow point bullets. I hand load various bullets at very low (for rifle) velocity and that works better. The large, 6" to 10" diameter pvc pipe helps and also if you can line the bottom of the tank with a heavy rubber pad. Also the wet news paper works very well and will expand soft points well and of course that is part of the signature of a "used" bullet.

    45 ACP 230 grain FMJ's and 308 Military ball are the best for this just to look at the engraved rifleing marks.

    I have also done this with a 55 galon barrel sunk into a pond with a rubber door matt on the bottom, but you'll need to get above it and shoot straight down or they bullets will go out the side of the barrel. It takes at leaast 4" of water to stop a rifle bullet but they do not go straight, they make a cork screw path through the water.

    There is some danger of recochet if the water is hit at an angle, try to shoot straight and a heavy cover may be in order with a hole to shoot through. Should be a fun project. Don't forget the brass case and primer signature as well. Those are usually found at the crime scene and in better shape than the bullet.
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  17. #17
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Default

    Great info, Murphy, particularly about the case and primer (I hadn't thought about that).

    Thanks again, everyone!

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    Member Alangaq's Avatar
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    Hey Brian. Although I am not especially inclined to give a specific location, I will say that the mud found around Eagle River, Knik River, 20 Mile, Ingrahm Creak and the like provides a superb bullet stopping medium with little bullet deformity. You would be looking for the peanut butter colored stuff with about the same viscosity. A rather shallow entry angle is a must unless you like digging, but with FMJ or hard cast lead the muddy silt does a great job of stopping the bullets without deforming the heck out of them. While neither condoning or recommending such a procedure, I can attest that one can safely pull off the side of the highway, wait for a lull in the traffic, hammer off a few rounds and then dig them from the mud with nobody ever being the wiser.

    If that isn’t your bag, or you run out of time, I also have a good selection of recovered bullets as well as new bullets that have been cross sectioned to aid in construction visualization. Would be happy to send you some.
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  19. #19

    Default Bullet recovery...

    Might be nice to have some that were not pristine examples too...make it more realistic although it would be harder to match up fragmented or distorted stuff. Gotta be fun either way.
    Last edited by snowshooze; 05-01-2008 at 21:02. Reason: Stickey keys...

  20. #20

    Default Or Make Your Own Gel

    If you google ballistic gel you will find several sites on making your own.

    One Example is www.myscienceproject.org/gelatin.html - 8k

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