Warning: This article contains graphic images of animial necropsies being conducted after live animal tests (ballistic tests) were performed with Le Mas BMT ammunition. "BMT" stands for "Blended Metal Technology", which is a trademark, not a description of bullet composition. Click on photos (below) to view them full-size.
The following is a DefenseReview exclusive:
The study of wound ballistics is based on a significant amount of science and a tremendous amount of art.
by Sydney Vail, M.D., F.A.C.S.
The human body has yet to be replicated in a defined way that guarantees duplication of injuries for any specific bullet design. Depth of penetration, temporary cavity, degree of fragmentation and other definable bullet characteristics including reproducible wounding has not yet been 100% correlated to any simulated media. The human body is far too complex to be able to generate a ballistic model that will consistently reveal the wounding ability of any type of bullet.
I have cared for patients in and out of the operating room that have been shot with 7.62 x 39, 30-06, 5.56, shotguns, and pistol calibers from .22 to .45 ACP. I have retrieved Hydroshoks®, Gold Dots®, Talons®, Golden Sabers®, Cor-bon® to ball ammo and continue to be impressed with the uncertainty of reliable expansion, injury and ballistic profiles. I can tell you from a practical standpoint that anything determined to be reliable in ballistic gelatin has the potential to be unreliable in the human body, i.e., intended tissue destruction, bullet expansion/function. There are too many factors that go into wound ballistics in living tissue that CAN NOT BE REPLICATED IN ANY KNOWN SIMULANT MEDIUM.
The “Miami Shootout” on April 11, 1986 gave way to the current FBI ballistic gelatin 12-18 inch testing protocols which still dictate and limit today the accepted standard for the design, testing, and utilization for all current law enforcement and military bullet designs.
Fackler, in 1987 wrote a paper “What’s Wrong With the Wound Ballistics Literature, and Why. In it he states:…
“The wound produced by a particular penetrating projectile is characterized by the amount and location of tissue crush and stretch. In our laboratory, we measure the amount and location of crush (permanent cavity) and stretch (temporary cavity) on the basis of shots fired into gelatin tissue simulant. Since we have calibrated this stimulant to reproduce the projectile characteristics equivalent to those observed in living animal tissue, measurements from these shots can be used to predict approximate animal tissue disruption.”
It is true that a tissue simulation that allows for evaluation of similar types of bullets offers great value. The FBI ballistic gelatin protocol is such an evaluation tool. But if a specific type of bullet construction could not be accurately tested in ballistic gelatin for performance in living tissue should we dismiss validated performance in living tissue because a particular testing simulant did not accurately predict that performance in living tissue? In today’s scientific world, we should instead develop new ballistic test methods which accurately predict living tissue performance or accept performance in living tissue itself as a valid test medium for bullet performance.
The “North Hollywood” attempted bank robbery on February 28, 1997 provided graphic demonstrations to the world law enforcement community that on scene responding officers were unable to either protect the public or stop soft armored criminal threats with current conventional duty handgun ammunition.
I recently attended a live fire demonstration of the Le Mas Ltd.
Law Enforcement / Military armor piercing ammunition
utilizing both bare and armored live tissue impact mediums. I attended voluntarily, with no contractual, financial or other agreements between myself and Le Mas Ltd. I paid all of my expenses (plane ticket, hotel, car, etc) and have received no funding or honorarium through any sources to attend this demonstration.
With respect to Le Mas BMT AP law enforcement bullets
, I had the opportunity to both witness and conduct living (immediately post mortem) tissue animal necropsies. Of immediate interest with respect to the Le Mas AP ammo were the dramatic tissue destructions that did not represent a wounding pattern that I have seen with any other bullet type. Fully anesthetized hog comparative thoracic cavity and then rear appendage impacts were conducted with both “conventional duty ammunition” and the Le Mas AP law enforcement/military ammunition. The study was a matched cohort, following published guidelines of live animal use, i.e., appropriate anesthetics and animal care from a research point of view.
Two board certified veterinarians were on-site ensuring the appropriate treatment of these animals. The wounds were remarkable in that both the Le Mas rifle and handgun rounds caused significantly more injury than ‘expected’, as I have seen in my practice. As an example, both the expectation for known/predictable permanent and temporary cavities with a 9mm or .45acp bullet performance depending on solid or hollow organ hits was not appreciated with the Le Mas ammunition but was with conventional JHP ammunition. The Le Mas round wounds were devastating in that it appeared that a high powered fragmenting rifle round were used when in fact it was a handgun round used to cause the injury. Large temporary cavity injuries were noted similar to wounds demonstrated with high powered rifle rounds that were not accurately predicted from conducted impacts into 10% calibrated ballistic gelatin tissue simulant.
None of the 9mm, .45, or 5.56 Le Mas armor piercing bullet impacts over penetrated thoracic cavity or rear appendages of the animals while conventional duty ammunition did over penetrate the animals.
The Le Mas 5.56 AP bullet
thoracic cavity tissue dissection additionally showed the heart of the hog, hard to the touch in areas that appeared not directly hit by the bullet fragments. There was obvious evidence of heart muscle hemorrhagic contusion (a severe bruise) which was not demonstrated from comparative point of impact current military 5.56 rifle ammunition designs. The Le Mas thoracic cavity handgun bullet impacts showed both small and large lung bullae (surface bubbles) that are usually only seen with a blast injury or high velocity rifle bullet fragmentations. The armor piercing, Limited Penetration 5.56 rounds performed as designed. They penetrated the 3/8th inch HAA armor yet still had expected effects in live target tissues (Figures 1-10). It was surprising to me to see the effects the rounds maintained after passing through armor plating. The effects were the same for handgun or rifle rounds; this keeps our military with comparable lethality if the transition to the sidearm is necessary. The overall safety of no passthrough during CQB operations should keep our troops safer during these challenging missions.
Figures 1&2. LeMas SRAP 5.56. Significant tissue injury: heart, lungs, chest wall. No over penetration, no evidence of exiting of bullet from chest cavity.
Figure 3. LeMas SRAP 5.56. Multiple wound channels, same animal.
Figure 4. Same animal showing significant heart injury with extensive hemorrhagic contusion and missing tissue.
Figure 5. M-262 5.56 77 grain OTM ammunition. Definable permanent cavity with minimal injury away from the bullet’s tract. No heart injury with wound channel just behind the heart. (+) over penetration with pass through of bullet.
Figure 6. M-855 5.56 ammunition. Significant injury to heart, minimal injury to lungs. (+) over penetration of chest cavity with complete pass through of bullet
Figure 7. LeMas APLP 9mm from handgun. Chest wall entry, no over penetration.
Figure 8. LeMas APLP 9mm from handgun. Significant injury to heart and lungs; characteristic of high velocity rifle round.
Figure 9. LeMas 9mm handgun. Same animal showing high degree of chest organ injury.
A great misconception is that ballistic gelatin relates bullet performance in the human body such that all gelatin results correlate about 100% with performance of any bullet in the body. Yet in fact only tissue media can correlate to tissue, i.e., animal or human bullet impacts, so that a valid ballistic ‘profile’ can be established. The medical literature is replete with articles using live tissue or cadavers for ballistic profiling. The theory that 10% ballistic gelatin is highly correlated to muscle density has been shown but I haven’t yet seen a person with muscle hanging out without some amount of skin and subcutaneous tissue and fat on top of it. Different muscles also have different densities and thickness of fascias (muscle coverings) as well as having tendons running inside of or along side of muscles and having a skeletal structural support; gelatin has none of these.
The human body is heterogeneous; ballistic gelatin is homogeneous, completely the same through and through. The Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies at the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory commented on the “difficulty extrapolating the data for tissue simulants to use for living human beings” in their report: Ballistic Gelatin, February 2004. Commenting on Fackler’s gelatin vs. animal research, “original data is limited, and he [Fackler] sometimes references ‘unpublished data’ to support his argument.”
Gary K. Roberts, DDS, LCDR, USNR has commented on Le Mas Ltd.
/ RBCD Performance Plus, Inc.
ammunition in a report dated March 11, 2002 titled: Preliminary Assessment of the Terminal Wounding Effects of Selected RBCD Ammunition
. In this memo testing was performed in “calibrated 10% ordnance gelatin, a tissue simulant with a well proven correlation with human tissue.”
I disagree with Dr. Robert’s assessment of ballistic gelatin “wounding effects” in that the correlation to human tissue is incorrect.
Human tissue is not homogeneous, period. The purpose of gelatin is to examine similar bullet type’s ex-vivo (not in live tissue). For example I have observed hundreds of gunshot wounds in-vivo (live tissue) and have seen jacketed hollow point bullets not expand that reliably expand in gelatin, bullets often separate from their jackets in living tissue when they don’t in gelatin; these occurrences simply demonstrate that ballistic gelatin is not a 100% accurate predictive impact medium substitute for living tissue.
The Le Mas AP 9mm round fragmented/shattered in living tissue as was advertised despite the fact that in calibrated 10% ballistic gelatin as reported by Dr. Gary Roberts, the same bullet core did not expand or fragment. Living tissue necropsy showed that the Le Mas 9mm AP bullet fragments into innumerable pieces, each causing a separate wound channel. As was demonstrated with the rifle ammunition during wound explorations, the Le Mas handgun ammunition also demonstrated devastating temporary cavity effects on adjacent tissue with greater permanent tissue destruction, higher potential for hemorrhage and a quicker end to the brain’s ability to maintain coordinated function, i.e., the ability to hurt you.
Dr. Roberts additionally stated in his report that the tissue wounding effects of the Le Mas Ltd.
9mm AP ammunition created less tissue destruction than conventional jacket hollow point ammunition. Based on the observed performance in living tissue, I have to ask why such a negative critique was given to this bullet technology. Was the evaluator (GKR) pre-biased therefore limiting fair evaluations? As a practicing Trauma Surgeon I am left with only one answer, Dr. Roberts is protecting a biased opinion that is open to scrutiny by the medical and scientific world. His allegations toward Le Mas ammunition are unfounded, non-scientific and refutable. The real world evaluation that I have witnessed refute all allegations he has made as to the non-performance of this incredible ammunition. As a concerned surgical scientist, tactical EMS physician and American, I want the best equipment in the hands of our military and law enforcement personnel. If that equipment is not of the ‘usual and customary’ type than it is up to progressive individuals to promote it’s appropriate testing and hopeful use in the future.
From a trauma surgical standpoint, I expect to see nice round holes through living tissue from any of the currently available law enforcement JHP ammunition bullets. The Le Mas ammunition creates a completely different wounding pattern that increases the potential incapacitation with respect to either thoracic cavity or appendage impacts. Unlike conventional JHP ammunition, the Le Mas AP bullet designs greatly increase probability for incapacitation from a shoulder or extremity due to the greatly increased internal tissue damage that would render the limb useless in terms of continue normal neuromuscular and/or vascular function.
Figure 10, rear leg and ham tissue destruction from LeMas 9mm SMG.
Because of emergent Homeland Security threats since the events of “September 11, 2001”, law enforcement first responder duty ammunition performance should now address both the requirement to penetrate armor and effectively incapacitate threats without increasing over penetration liabilities to the public.
Current FBI ballistic gelatin testing protocols based on the single event 20 year old “Miami Shootout” after action report rationales still limit today the design parameters today for military and law enforcement ammunition.
If we were all restricted by dogma, proof in ballistic gelatin rather than experimenting in new ideas, products or techniques than we are relegated to relive the past when all we had were muskets or single shot rifles and revolvers, and the art of wound ballistics were crude and inadequate. In my world of Trauma Surgery and Critical Care, if we depended on only one ‘standard’ method to evaluate a new practice we would be living in the past with many more deaths from all types of injuries than we have today.
If a LEO or military person were to attempt to save my life, the lives of my family, or defend my country against acts of terrorism, I would want them armed with the equipment that would offer the greatest chance of operational success; reliable firearms, ammunition with maximum incapacitation potential and training. With continued reports being published in both civilian and military publications of ‘failure to stop’ issues with presently used ammunition, many ballistic experts have pushed for new caliber weapons to address lack of lethality and incapacitation. I suggest changing ammunition; effective ammunition that performs its intended ballistic mission will place the advantage in the hands of our military and law enforcement personnel. This seems a better use of resources rather than pay for new caliber weapons with repetitive bullet designs destined to have similar problems of the past at an enormous cost.
Bullets are intended to kill. With respect to Homeland Security and the current Global War on Terrorism, ‘failure to stop’ should not be an option.
Sydney Vail, M.D., F.A.C.S.
-Director of Trauma Surgery & Trauma Critical Care, Carilion
Medical Center, Roanoke, Virginia
-Operational Medical Director, Tactical Emergency Medical Support, Salem, VA, Emergency Response Team
Le Mas BMT Ammo Tissue After-Action Report (AAR) PowerPoint Presentation:
and then click on "Save Target As" (Microsoft Internet Explorer) or "Save Link As" (Mozilla Firefox) to download and view Dr. Sydney Vail, M.D.’s PowerPoint-format "Le Mas Tissue After-Action Report" (AAR) on Le Mas BMT ammo tests on live animals.
Le Mas Ltd. Contact Info:
Blended Metal Technology (BMT) Armor-Piercing Limited-Penetration (APLP) ammo is currently only available to verified and authorized military and law enforcement personnel for official use. If you are Mil/LE, and would like to learn more about or acquire Le Mas BMT APLP ammo (or you would like to get a copy of the Le Mas video CD on their BMT APLP ammo), you can contact Stan Bulmer
by phone at 509-951-4968, or via email at [email protected]
. You can also contact Stan’s associate, John Hamilton
, by phone at 501-960-5847, or via email at [email protected]
Previous DefRev articles on Le Mas BMT ammo: