Big game copper bullet test PART 2


Test day

The day came at last! Test day for shooting some gelatin blocks and doing some research on how the bullets will perform on a simulated (gelatin) game tissue.

Last Monday I was at the same test range shooting for groups and doing velocity analysis for the same bullets so that we could simulate the distances we would want to use today, which were 50 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters. Here is the blog about that. Unless you have not read the previous blog, now would be a great time do so, as it will give a lot more information to the follow-up to this part.

At the Hausjärvi test range I met Arto Määttä who is a reporter at a Finnish hunting magazine called Riistalehti and Janne Heimonen and Jukka Hänninen, two gentlemen from a blog of cartridge/bullets testing called Hard Hitting Shooting Lab. I got some feedback about the test not being unbiased, since its done at Sako owned test range, so this time is should be obvious that it would not be the case, since there are parties involved that has absolutely no intention to favor any one bullet  over the other. I think it would be simply dumb to write some fabricated results since the facts would be out there anyway. Agreed?

How the test was done?

Once more, let me tell you how the test was done and what kind of performance we can get out of it.

We chose six commonly used copper bullets for our test. The goal was to find out what kind of a wound channel they would do, how well they expand on impact, when will it stop after the hit, and how does it perform and how small would the groups be.

All the participants from left to right:
TARVAS (10,7g)

The fact that we would only be shooting gel-blocks from a factory loaded cartridges from close distance would not bring any satisfying results, since no one really cares what happens to the gel-blocks. Our intention was to find out how those bullets work on different distances. It would have also been awesome to try and simulate some bone hits, but let’s leave that to another time or for some other enthusiast blogger.

As said, we wanted to find out three different distances. First; 50 meters which is pretty common distance when hunting a deer either on a driven hunt or from a high seat/blind. Second distance was 100m, which is at least the most common distance for scope zeroing in Finland. Last but not least; 200 meters, it’s consider by some to be the start of long distance shot in hunting, but still do-able for many hunters.

So how would we be able to execute these distances? The easiest way would of course is to just shoot those distances. The fact that we are using a high speed camera brings a lot or limits. The camera shoots 27000 frames per second which is 1080 times more than most common video cameras. Because of that, we would need a lot of understanding and power for lighting and other necessity to be able to shoot in a dark shooting tunnel for a great quality video. Thankfully all this was sorted out by Sako when we arrived at the range.

Aaaand back to the limitations.

It would be one thing to get electric cables at 200m in a tunnel of 100m, but the next thing would be to hit right in the middle of an 8″ x 8″ gelatin block which each and every shot. That would require zeroing the scope after every shot and that would take too much cartridges and time… way too much!

Gelatin block needs to be stored in +4 celsius temperature. This way they will keep the right density and work as they are supposed to. They also weigh 10kg (22lbs), so carrying those 200m after every shot would have been a spoiler of the fun. I just realized that we shot 360kg worth of gelatin during a day, what a jello-shot that could have been.

Well, back to business…

So, what if those blocks would have been out there and I would have made a bad shot at 200m, was the out-of-my-budged high speed camera filming right next to it? In case of a bad shot, the bullet would not have hit right in the middle of the block, it might turn (which they do, as you will see later) and come out of the block centered, we would not get comparable and equal results. In both cases there is a chance of the bullet hitting the camera, and as you will see from the videos, some bullet will fly out of the block almost as fast as it comes into it.

At this point it seems only fair to explain the amount of work and the required equipment it takes to prepare the gelatin blocks, so it is clear that it is mandatory to simulate the long range shots rather than actually shoot that far.

We were using a 10% gel that complies with FBI regulations. In each 10kg block included 9 litres of water and 1 kg of animal origin gelatin powder. The process itself it now very complicated but it requires a lot of cold storage.


-Take 30 litres of lukewarm water and slowly mix 6kg of powder

-Mix it slowly with 24 litres of 80 °C (176°F) water. Try to keep the foam as minimum as possible. Mix as long as all the powder is dissolved.

-Pour the liquid to containers, in this 10kg worth of gelatin into a 40cm long vessel.

-Let it cool down in room temperature for 24 hours and put it in a refrigerator or a cold room to cool down for at least 24 hours, as it needs to cool down to 4°C (39°F)

As said before we had 38 pieces of 10kg blocks, you can’t do this in your average apartment where you have one basic refrigerator. It needs a lot of space.

The gelatin need to be 4°C (39°F) or as close as possible because it simulates real muscle tissue. You need to keep it on the fridge as long as possible before shooting it, because for example 10°C(50°F) block versus 4°c block has 50% difference when it comes to bullet penetration.

If you are more interested on these FBI specs, just google them, there is plenty of info around there. Let’s continue on with the test.

36 of theese blocks were carried from the fridge during the day, overall 360kg worth of gelatin.

As stated before, we needed to figure out a solution that would keep the camera safe and give each bullet the same equal advantages.

One option would have been to just reduce the load of the cartridges, but as I said before, it would not have been fair to all bullets, since the spinning speed will reduce so much that for sure some of the bullets will fall after hitting the gelatin. If you shoot the bullets with factory load at 200m the spinning will not reduce so much, but we could not do this way at all.

We decided to use the short barrel with 1:8″ twist rate, the same barrel we used in the Part 1 -test. The explaining and reasoning of this solution, once again, can be read in the Part 1. I try to repeat myself as little as possible.

Let’s shoot!

I will go through all the shots and results starting from the shortest distance. Below you can find all the videos and information about the bullets. After we checked all the videos and looked through the data, we can do some speculations on how they performed and what was the difference between them.

First test is the simulated 50 meters. In reality the distance was 15 meters, but as we shot the bullets with my Sako S20 rifle with (510mm) 20″ barrel, the speeds, comparing with the TRG, came out as simulated ~50 meter distance. We used factory loaded cartridges in this test.

The reason for that 50 meter distance is that as the TRG has 655mm barrel, the speeds of the bullets are much higher at 15m than with the S20 510mm barrel. All the calculations are done from the test we did last time. They did not all simulate exactly 50 meters, but all the distances are shown at the end of this article.

SAKO S20 HUNTER (510mm barrel)

Test results as a video
Simulated ~50 meters

In the first test you can see the wound channel and the penetration of the bullet. There is actually only one bullet that stands out and it’s the one on the top right corner, Tarvas. From the worksheet below you see all the data of the test, by using that info and watching the videos we can all make our own opinion on how they perform.

Test results as numbers
Simulated ~50 meters

After each shot we walked to the blocks and dug out the bullets form the gelatin blocks (or the bullet proof vest), and examined how they had opened up and what kind of mushroom they had made. All the test results will be shown in the same order in every test. Below you can see the cartridges and the bullets. Reading from the left:

TARVAS (10,7g)

50m testi results as a photo
Simulated ~50 meters

On the photo pair above, two bullets stand out. The Barnes TTSX and Tarvas. TTSX lost all the points from the tip, and from the video you can see at 23 second how one of them flies out of the gelatin block. As all the other bullets stopped between 57cm and 66c, Tarvas went through 95cm of gelatin and didn’t stop until the second bullet proof vest. All this it did without basically opening at all. Well ok, it did open up a little, a bit over one millimeter which is 0.039″ or 3/63”. 

Let’s go through all the results and after that we can come to a conclusion on how the bullets work, and more importantly, do they work as advertised.

SAKO TRG M10 (355mm barrel)

Next up would be the 100 meters distance, which prove to be something else than exactly 100m. We did this simulation by shooting the factory loaded cartridges using the short barrel Sako TRG with 1:8″ twist rate and it looked like that simulates the speed of 100m. As it happened the first two bullets I shot on that test day, were Barnes TTSX and Lapua Naturalis and after those two shots, we did our own conclusion of the 100 meters distance since those two actually were pretty close to what we were aiming at. Now when we did the gelatin test, we calculated the distances by their ballistic co-efficiency and noticed that not all the bullets matched to 100m. All the right distances are shown in the video and on the worksheet.

results as a video
Simulated ~100 meters

Test results as numbers
Simulated ~100 meters

As some of you may have noticed, I have weighed the bullets before shooting them. Why? Well the answers can be seen on the sheet above.

I went to a friend’s house to use his industrial scale to weigh the remaining weights of the bullets. We found out that some of the bullets looked to be too heavy. Since I had cleaned the entire gelatin residue out very thoroughly, there was only one choice; the bullet was heavier to begin with. So we took out some tools, defused all the cartridges and weighed all the bullets. Blade was 0, 1 grams (1, 54 grains) heavier than the box said. Actually none of the bullets were 100% correct, but that seems to be pretty irrelevant to this test.

The scale used to weigh the bullets
AND EK300i
Test results as a photo
Simulated ~100 meters

SAKO TRG M10 (355mm barrel)

results as a video
Simulated ~200m distance

Test results as numbers
Simulated ~200 meters

This was the first distance where it looked like the TTSX worked as it was supposed to. All the parts were attached and it was 14, 47 millimeters wide on the top.

At this distance, the only bullet that started to lose its power was the Norma Ecostrike. It didn’t open well, fell and hit the table. Tarvas on the other hand looked the same in all of the tests, no variation here either.

Test results as a photo
Simulated ~200 meters

Final words

As can you see, I didn’t speculate too much of the results, I rather let everyone make their own conclusions. In any case, I am not a gelatin specialist, so it seems pointless for me to give my opinions on the gel-blocks, how it expands and in which direction it moves etc… Etc.

Just by looking at all the data we’ve gathered and can study here, I want to say that three bullets stood out in all of them.  Sako Blade, Lapua Naturalis and Hornady GMX. Up until 100m, none of the bullets performed poorly, IF compared to how the manufacturer has intended for them to work. And what I mean but am saying is that I’m obviously talking about the Tarvas bullet, since it was sooooo different comparing to others. I’m not even sure it belonged in this test at all.
Well anyway, the reasons Norma and Barnes was not in the top three was:

-Norma did not open well in 200m and felt and hit the table

-Barnes TTSX broke a part on 50m and also in 100m and I do not think that is how they have planned it to work.

But to be fair, the bullets compared well in the PART ONE test, where I shot for groups. Five bullets grouping with Norma was 27, 45 millimeters and Barnes TTSX 27, 45 millimeters.

Although I have said that Tarvas worked as its manufacturer has stated, I still can’t get rid of the thought of how it compares to a FMJ (full metal jacket) bullet.

So, I found myself on YouTube searching for some slow motion videos of that.

Found it, and as you can see below, there were some differences. As tarvas makes a small “trumpet” in front of the bullet, the FMJ doesn’t, so that makes the wound channel bigger as soon as it hits the gelatin, but after that they seem to be pretty much the same up until the point where the frm bullet falls down inside the block and goes crazy.

There is no way for me to escape the thought of tarvas in a driven hunt. It flies so fast through the target that I don’t even want to guess how far it will go before it stops being lethal. I want my bullet to stop as soon as possible after it has exited the target animal.

Below you can see a video of a full metal jacket bullet going through a gelatin block; it also makes a lot of damage.7.62x51mm M80 147gr FMJ ballistic gelatin slow motionThe bullet speed on this video is 2768ft/s which is 843ms that is only slightly faster than Tarvas in the first 50m test.


-Yrssi, Nordicshot-

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To Read

Big game copper bullet test PART 1

I had a great opportunity to conduct a test that had been on my mind for a while. It took me well over a year to make the necessary coordination and to get access to a test, and since Sako launched their own copper bullet this year, they were willing to let me use their testing range and equipment at Hausjärvi, Finland.

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