High Speed Ballistics Photography

This page is currently the most comprehensive information source for visual transition phase ballistics and it focuses on precision ballistic photography. It also emphasizes the importance of firearm safety so please keep your eyes open on what really happens during the moment when gun fires and listen to our warnings. [103 photos total]

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This is B12 vitamin tablet. This one had red filmcoating on it and putting bullet in it makes good show. Contrast between tablet core and coating helps us visualize impact nicely. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Air guns. Couple words of warning: You better not shoot any harmful of even any medicines at all if you don’t know exact safety profiles of them. Tablets tend to disintegrate into fine dust and inhaling that dust is not usually a good thing to do. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
They’re not using safety clothing and respiration filters in medicinal factories for nothing. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Ice you say? When I was young it was quite common for kids to shoot around with air rifles and during winter we got good supply of blocks of ice. It was normal and pretty harmless most of the times. Nowadays we live in very different world where you get yourself arrested even walking outside with toy gun. People are panicking just about anything these days. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
For example in my home town old man was stopped by police when he was returning from hardware store with an axe. Yes, someone got worried about his plans. Come on, 70% of Finland is covered by forests, rest is usually water and in this case ice during winter time. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
So, what happens when you shoot ice cube with air shot rifle. Well, cube goes away but interesting is that it actually forms some kind of solid/gas spray upon impact. Check yourself. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Have you ever wondered what happens when nitroglycerin tablets are shot with air rifle? In this experiment 0,5mg glyceryl tri nitrate tablets were shot with 4,5 cal air rifle. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Unfortunately result was less spectacular than anticipated. There was no explosion or even combustion of any kind. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Of course amount in each tablet was rather small but this should assure your safety walking nitroglycerin tablets in your pocket and even falling down on them. No, you don’t lose your leg like stepping on a land mine. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Coloured modelling clay makes perfect show but nasty mess to clean. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This applies also to kids playing with it. Impact is worth the mess though and it reminds me of asteroid hitting planet or something. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Air rifle bullet hitting fluoride tablet. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Despite of relatively low kinetic energy the impact is nevertheless so tense that tablet dissintegrates to fine dust. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
If you look closely the middle picture you can spot bullet clearly flattened on impact. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Air rifle bullet travelling ~190m/s hitting match head. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
In red head match pictures bullet was aimed just to scrape match head. Interestingly some matches ignited on impact although they were so called safety ones. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Safety point of view it may not be the most wise thing to shoot incendiary targets indoors ;) In blue head image bullet hit stick below match head. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Cal 4,5 (.177) Air rifle bullet travelling ~190m/s suspended in mid air by high speed flash. Note rifle marks on bullet head and tail. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Pistols. Smith & Wesson 645 .45ACP aka Sonny Crockett. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Do you remember Miami Vice? Of course you do, a silly question. This is Smith & Wesson SW 645 .45ACP single stack pistol model, which James "Sonny" Crockett used for couple of seasons before upgrading it. Interestingly 645 was produced only for couple of years before S&W updated it. Some people say that there were reasons behind the fast update cycle but I think it's not that bad. Well, to be honest there is something quite bad in it and that's the trigger pull, which is really long without clear feeling of break. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
I've been asked to provide normal 2D images every time 3D is posted so that people with eye injuries or just unable to view them can also fully enjoy pictures. Below you can see 3D stereo pictures of the same stuff. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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CAA Tactical RONI G1 conversion kit. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This is Roni G1. A carbine conversion kit for Glock by CAA Tactical. It's a interesting modular concept, which can be built around your standard pistol making it real tactical carbine. This is 9mm conversion version and it is equipped with additional gear like red dot sight, laser, tactical light. So, it's not just a pistol anymore although it's classified such in many countries including Finland. Key point being that it can be out together and dismantled without any tools. How it makes the handling then? With low recoiling 9mm rounds and good grips the handling is nice. Also retractable stock makes gun feel solid. In pictures you can see the muzzle flash hider push some flames up but still there is plenty of stuff going forward. Overall this conversion kit delivers what it promises. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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Veteran 1911 Colt. Time to present you more results and this time we got nothing less than legendary Colt 1911 .45ACP. I’m sure this piece of history needs no introduction but for those who are not familiar with it I can say that it is one if not the most iconic self loading pistol all time. Especially for US guys but elsewhere too. It has long history and yes, 1911 stands for the year. Like previous tests have shown used cartridge makes large effect on muzzle flash and particle cloud. For 1911 we used Magtech 12,6g (200gr) lead semi wad cutter (LSWC) and like previously there are unburnt particles visible. Theory however says that lead bullet seals barrel better than FMJ and that may reduce spray. Cloud of smoke is very predominant and somewhat thicker than with 9mm. I’d expect this difference to be clear on forensics point of view. There also seems to be a bit more glowing particles than with 9mm. Pistol itself is not much visible behind cloud and you just need to trust on us that it is there. Muzzle flash seems to be, at least with this Magtech, quite mild. I’d estimate that CCI Blazer Brass with 9mm makes bigger visible flash than this .45ACP. Both some and flash characteristics may have something to do pressure difference between 9mm and .45ACP, where latter run roughly half of the pressure of 9mm. Just look the barrel thickness of 1911 and you know what I mean. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
9mm Beretta 92 FS. Warming up again, huge flame warning given! (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Eye candy for enthusiasts. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Why do I like so much small caliber .22lr? It's so modest, well controlled and you can do very precise things with it. You know what I mean. That small lead bullet makes good seal for powder and lets it burn without spaying it shot gun like what happens with 9mm. These are pictures of my friend's pistol. Old Browning Target model but manufactured under license by Belgium FN. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
I can say it's really good gun to shoot with. Not a real competition pistol but a good gun. He asked me to take some pics of it and make them look good. As good as .22lr can be done so here are the pics. I think they came out quite decent. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Wobbling bullets (Herra Kuulapaa) #
You may have noticed that bullet seems to be tilted in certain pictures. Barrel angle may be slightly off horizontal axis in some cases but bullets really are tilted. Well, they're not actually tilted in any fixed direction as they rotate and wobbling of the bullet is dynamic during flight. In other words bullets can either stabilize or tumble during their flight. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Pistol caliber bullets often tend to wobble when they leave barrel and theory says they stabilize during flight. These images show you how much bullets actually can wobble. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
How much smoke is too much? Nothing beats black powder pistols, right? Well, I guess not, but what you're looking at is once again just .22LR. What in earth is that cloud of smoke then. Answer is the Remington Thunderbolt. It makes smoke like nothing else. Picture is little boosted to make those fine structures visible but not much. CCI standard is a pale comparison. But surely Remington Thunderbolt makes good bunch with higher velocity? It does, on average but if you shoot pistol then it may not be your number one choice. Why, you ask? Because by my experience and based on test results performed by shooting range friend there was no .22LR cartridge available with higher variance on pistol muzzle speed than Thunderbolt. It is important to notice that it may function differently and much better in rifle but in pistol muzzle speed variance between slowest and fastest shot was high = ~58 m/s (189fps) n=50. Slowest shot was 260 m/s (855fps) and fastest 318m/s (1044fps). Statistical parameters were Avg=301,7 m/s (990fps), Median=303,5m/s (995,7fps), Stdev=9,64. It kicks good and makes loud bang and smoke. Even a bit too much. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
These are 9x19 (9mm) test shots, a proof of concept for faster shot detection. Colors may look a bit odd but that is because I have reduced muzzle flash effect and removed excess blue haze out of the burn gasses. Backround sucks but thiese are just test shots. Gun used was 2011 frame STI. There was surprisingly strong blue haze in air after only couple of shots and that shifted color balance. Ammunition used was standard Magtech 9mm 124gr (8.04g) FMJ with measured ~340 m/s muzzle velocity. We noticed it takes ~600 µs for bullet to exit from barrel, which complies well to simulated estimate (thank you, guy who recognizes himself in here). Dwell time is much shorter when compared to .22LR we shot previously. For .22LR it takes ~2700 µs although velocities are not so different (286 m/s vs. 340 m/s). Reason is pressure and powder burn rate. But let us get to the pictures. First thing that draws attention is massive amount of debris flying after but also in front of the bullet. That is both residue from barrel and unburnt powder following bullet. Interesting is that the cloud traveling in front of the bullet is so thick and much ahead bullet. I expected only some individual grains but there really is much of it. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Let's call picture in left upper corner as number one and picture on right as number two and so on. In picture one you can see first pressure wave have pushed pre bullet residue out of barrel and second, higher pressure wave have just exited barrel after bullet. This pushes gas around the bullet. There is thicker cloud of powder debris following bullet. If you look closely you can see round pressure distortion circling around muzzle hole. There is also second wave traveling in front of bullet but that is very hard to spot in these images. In second picture pressure continues to decrease inside of barrel and more debris is being pushed out. It starts to look like shotgun at this point. You can see same bubble like pressure distortion traveling in front of the bullet but fainter. Check also how soon slide starts to move and how little it actually moves compared to bullet. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Third picture serves as science example. I boosted image a bit more to make pressure bubble properly visible. Also gas flows are more clear in this picture. in fourth picture bullet has almost left frame and is out of the gas doughnut area. Gas doughnut appears to expand only to up and down but that is optical illusion as lens is focused in the center of the cloud and dissects it leaving side clouds out focus. Gas continues to exit from barrel decreasing pressure. Shotgun like powder residue spray has expanded wide but still there is residue flying out from barrel. This amount was really unexpected. I'd thought 9mm to be cleaner than .22LR but confirming this would require more reference shots. Maybe we get to it some day. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
One thing to learn and remember: Safety glasses - you'd better not shoot without them. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This is Benelli MP90 World Cup. It’s semi automatic .22lr competition pistol quite commonly used in sports. In this experiment it shoots CCI standard .22lr ammunition with measured average speed 286m/s (n=50, Chrony). Aim of the experiment was to capture exiting bullet at variable distances from barrel and image events happening there. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
In first image you can see bullet that has just left barrel and pressure releasing behind it. If you look closely you can also see pressure wave forming round bubble around the bullet. In second image pressure has already formed doughnut like cloud around barrel hole. Pressure bubble has traveled further away. If you look closely the bullet you can see odd marks, a bit like extending shards of lead leaning out from side of the bullet. Just where rifle marks start. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
In third image bullet has moved few more centimeters and pressure in barrel has decreased more. At this point you can see bigger muzzle cloud formed by burn gasses and pressure still exiting is pushing burn residue consisting unburnt and still burning nitrocellulose and other particles out of the barrel. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Riffles. Ferfrans CQB Modular Muzzle Brake System (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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This is the Ferfrans CQB modular muzzle brake system, which is a novel concept featuring both conventional muzzle brake but also something that Ferfrans calls a concussion reduction device or CRD as abbreviated. CRD function is a quickly attachable/detachable shield with small holes in it and it works directing muzzle blast forward but also let some gas escape through the shield. This reduces effectively both backward recoil and side blast effect. It also reduces muzzle blast felt by shooter. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
We put the CQB into indoors test while taking these pictures and I must once again say that shooting compensated AR-15 indoors with Nato spec rounds is not the most enjoyable thing to do. Especially for me behind the cameras it was simply terrifying and the blast really beat me up good. When we attached CRD the blast effect was greatly reduced and it was tolerable without the blast banging my nasal cavities and loosening the tooth fillings. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
With the brake option the blast distribution is comparable to both previous Japan Type89 and Checkmate comps. With CRD attached the blast is rendered to very different. Some of the gas is let through CRD shield reducing forward blast velocity. I have no method to measure forward directed gas velocity but I’d expect it to be reduced because most of the gas flows though brake chambers and then redirects its path by CRD shield while some is let through the shield on the way. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Ferfrans CQB is a novel concept bringing increased comfort to shooters next to you and it’s interesting to see how it works at range. I personally shoot often on ranges with dusty concrete floors and flying dust is sometimes pretty annoying. This should be a partial cure to that. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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Strike Industries comp set Part III - Checkmate Comp (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Chamber AR-15 comp with a crown type flash hider. Structurally it resembles more traditional comps and Type89 photographed below than FAT comp 01. Side blast can be compared to Type89 comp but form of the blast is slightly rounder. It may be because chamber volume is larger in checkmate although there is one of them. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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Strike Industries comp set Part II - Fat Comp 01 (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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This is the second part of Strike Industries comp project and this time we introduce you Fat comp 01. It is a three port comp; two sectors directing gas up to both sides and one down. There are four holes in every fin and they're tilted slightly backwards to compensate recoil. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Open chambers of Type89 comp directs the blast to sides very straight and effectively while Fat comp 01 administers gas along the longer and narrower channels and this may make the difference in blast effect. This effect is best seen in the first pictures of both side and front angle series where bullet is still inside of the comp or barely left it. First holes from the rear are venting gas and it gradually decreases towards to the tip of the comp. - just like you'd expect to happen. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
There are some interesting differences between Japan Type89 comp and Fat comp 01. First is of course that already mentioned side blast intensity. Japan Type89 comp makes two very large blast formations on both sides of the comp and Fat comp 01 forms three rounder blasts. I cannot measure pressure or quantify blasts but I’d make an educated guess that rounder and longer shapes mean slightly lower overall pressure and longer push like gas streams. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Also front blast is different between the comps. There is a round and almost uncompensated looking front blast formation with Fat comp 01 and more streamlined arrow type flow with Japan Type89 comp. It means that there is more gas directing forward with Fat comp 01. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
It’s however important to remember that although Fat comp 01 front blast looks like uncompensated barrel it actually isn’t such because major amount of high pressure gas has already been directed to sideways and the bubble like cloud is made by only partial amount of gas with perhaps reduced pressure when compared to uncompensated barrel. Similarity is interesting though. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
at comp 01 felt not so loud (indoors) like the previously studied Japan Type89 comp. Quite interesting comp I'd say. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Strike Industries comp set Part I - Japan Type89 Comp (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This is the first part of Strike Industries comp project. Background is that some time ago we received AR-15 comps to be photographed from weapons accessories company called Strike Industries. We have first comp data set ready and that is called Japan Type89 Comp (J-COMP). It’s based on Japanese Howa type-89 assault rifle comp / flash hider. This comp has three chambers, two standard vertical comp chambers and one front open horizontal chamber. Idea is to reduce both recoil and muzzle flash. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
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Art of rifle (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This is it. The .500S&W Magnum, Fifty cal., 12.7mm - it goes by many names but common to them all is that they represent the ultimate bad assness. It's hard to describe it but .500S&W Magnum makes .44 Magnum look weak and that's a pretty good analogue. Of course .44 Mag isn't weak by any means but when you compare both cartridges in your hand the .500S&W just is the hard core one. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Why did man invent this beast? It's hard to say like it is hard to define whether this is a handgun or a rifle if you know what I mean. One thing is certain though. It was designed to be the most powerful handgun in the world and it's all that matters. Let's look into the numbers and put them in context. In Finland we can hunt moose with 10 g (154 gr) rifle cartridges if they have 2000 Joules of hit energy at 100 meters (110 yards) away. Bullets of this monster weight usually between 20-30 grams (300-500 gr). It means hit energy of 3000 - 3500 Joules at the muzzle. But you can push it over 4000 J if you dare. That is a massive amount of hit energy. It's roughly double the .44 Magnum and ten times the 9mm energy !!! Ok, you need to remember that the .500 S&W Magnum was designed to be primarily a handgun hunting cartridge. But it acts also as a back-up survival handgun cartridge in defense purposes against large carnivores to persuade them not to consider you as a meal again. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .44 Magnum (Herra Kuulapaa) #
I have received many emails asking when shall we do "Dirty Harry Magnum". To be honest that would be a bit dull because of long barrel suppressing much of the flame. We give you something better though. A Ruger Super Redhawn Alaskan .44 Magnum with 2 1/2 inch barrel. No, you don't shoot long range with it and it isn't even meant to do so. It's purely intended to save your life in wilderness. Why, you ask? well, there are some hairy animals with sharp teeth, big claws and pointy ears out there and I don't mean rabbits. If you find yourself in situation being charged by big dangerous creature you'd probably wish to have something in your hand than just gloves. But don't do this in Finland because if you do then you end up losing this and every other gun in your collection due to hunting violation, firearm law violation and several other interesting things. And as a bonus you'll pay up to 15.000€ (nearly 20.000$) fine for saving your life. So, you better save your life in Alaska than in Finland. It's cheaper and safer to let bear eat you in here. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
IMI Desert Eagle .50AE (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Magnum Research Inc.designed and Israel Military Industries manufactured it. It is considered the first line "defense" of pistols against high caliber revolvers. Yes, we're talking about Desert Eagle .50AE. With AR rifle type bolt and gas piston operated reload cycle it resembles more of rifle than pistols we're used to. Those design methods make it look big and it does also really feel such. It practically radiates the fact it uses the biggest self loading pistol cartridge there is: .50 Action Express. Small remark should be made though: Even with equally bold diameter with its revolver counterparts .50AE cannot compete in hit energy with longer S&W versions due to lower bullet velocity but we'll come back to that later. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Previous couple of weeks have been a bit silent but now I have some really interesting news. We've setup a joint project with West Shooters ry. a Finnish shooting range and store to provide you some hefty material. First test was done yesterday and I'm happy to say that we have great amount of new and impressing stuff coming up. Here are couple teasers. Let's warm up with Guy shooting 9mm Beretta 92FS Brigadier INOX on above and some shiny revolver gear with smallest bore of .44 on the left. They really make your palms sore! I'd like to remember you all that purpose of the site site is to serve as international information provider of firearms ballistics and behavior. Although pictures have certain entertainment value the main motivation for us is to provide you information. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Preparing for next major :) event (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Colorful explosions (Herra Kuulapaa) #
I've received a couple of emails asking why are the firecracker pictures black and white? There is a reason for that. I believe these color images are so overwhelming rich in fine details and strong colors that they are somehow difficult to understand. Don't get me wrong though. They look awesome but for some natural reason it's slightly hard for brains to interpret all that is happening in them. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Yes, I may be slightly simple person but I think you notice it too. This is actually a very important notion because what we're planning to do next may be visually too complex to comprehend. Big words, I know. But wait and you'll see I mean ;) (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This is the second test of firecracker high speed precision photography. Now the firecracker is slightly bigger and more traditional one meaning that there is no flash powder but instead just good old black powder. This helps us taking actual high speed photo of the explosion. Unlike previous small and bright flash bang now we're dealing only bang with only minor flames. Bad news are that these won't go off instantly but there is increasing high pressure fizz first lasting few milliseconds and this makes timing really difficult. We can detect the pressure change but it's hard to separate fizz from the bang. We also need to have some pressure in the air so imminent bursting photo is quite difficult to time. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
But what we can do is get picture just after cracker has burst open and then there is spectacular amount of things happening. Above is high resolution picture of that event. I don't even try to explain all that but just mentioning one thing is that there is clay dust and nice amount fragments flying around. Be sure to click picture big on your screen. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Let's try something different / small firecrackers (Herra Kuulapaa) #
This is something many of you have emailed me about. I got some firecrackers from fellow shooter to be photographed.I figured these small ones to be perfect subjects due to their small size and therefore minimal obstructing flash and flame. Well, my theory didn't meet reality this time. Apparently there was some kind of magnesium powder in them and that resulted bright flash and big blast of burning stuff flying around. That flash was was so bright that it hid all the small details of explosion. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Pen is mightier or is it? (yes, I know it's a crayon;) (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Here is some material made just for fun and as a test. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
I confiscated some crayons from my kids and made couple of test shots. I don't even pretend it to be some kind of science. Just a test :) (Herra Kuulapaa) #
I once heard a story about marksman, who could hit tip of the cartridge 15 meters (~yards) away with handgun and even with single shot. Story didn't specify what handgun it was or what kind of cartridge was hit. I have tested that few times placing brass on top of the pole and trying to hit it, rather close I must admit. It is doable but takes much more than single shot. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Now things get interesting; what happens if you actually manage hitting cartridge at tip of it? It's probably not very wise thing to do and to minimize risks I rather start small scale so .22LR it is. Picture has been taken on exact moment bullet is in middle of the stationary one. Not much science or wisdom in these shots but they look good so enjoy. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Word of warning: Don't try this without proper shielding. Some high speed lead is directed downwards through casing and it most likely compresses powder and primer to ignition point. This then causes explosion of casing and brass fragmentation. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Deck of cards (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Splitting card in half by shooting is popular trick performed by exhibition shooters. But what really happens at that exact moment? Well, net is of course half full by these images but usually really small and what I try to do differently this time is to provide you high resolution pictures. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Anyway, these pictures didn't come easy. Well, to be honest the right ones needed only pulling the trigger but I wasted half of the deck making these. It was great fun though and very educating experience. I must say that I really appreciate real marksmans who are able to take shot like this at longer distances. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Are these still only recreational, I think not because we can learn something from them. One thing is that bullet is actually affected quite much by the card. .22LR is very light weight and relatively low speed ammunition with not so gear kinetic energy. This is quite well noticed in joker picture. Bullet is heavily tilted after card split. Also top row Ace of hearts have bullet climbing up. Well, line of fire is little tilted but you know what I mean. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
You may notice that bullets look different. Ace of diamonds was shot by Remington yellow jacket, which has much higher velocity (1500fps or 450m/s) than dark bullet CCI standard and silver colored Federal Champion. (Herra Kuulapaa) #
Enjoy, I have more stuff coming up soon :) (Herra Kuulapaa) #

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