Ammunition and Firearms

Ammunition and Firearms Testing

Ballistic Clay forms for ammunition and firearm testing
Ballistic Clay Forms at the NTS Chesapeake Lab

With one of the nation’s largest networks of ISO/IEC 17025 accredited test laboratories, NTS has been providing MIL-STD turnkey testing solutions, including ammunition testing and firearm testing, to the U.S. military, government, and commercial enterprises for more than 50 years. All of our facilities are state-of-the-art, and our personnel — always willing to share their knowledge and insights to determine the right tests for your needs — are among of the best in the industry.

At our NTS facility in Camden, AR, you’ll find one of the most extensive weapons and ordnance testing labs in the entire country, where we can help you efficiently navigate the steps and processes that comprise MIL-STD testing. NTS Camden features a drop tower and a 3,000-meter firing range, as well as vibration testing systems capable of producing 40,000 force pounds with hazardous material shakers that can operate at temperatures ranging from -150° to 300 °F.

For quality small arms and body armor testing — including indoor and outdoor ranges, X-ray CT scanning, Doppler radar, FARO laser scanning and Phantom high-speed cameras — our Wichita and Chesapeake NTS facilities are great resources. Each facility has a staff of engineers and experts in ballistics testing for law enforcement and defense applications.

Developing custom ordnance requires strict testing protocols. If you’re looking for reliable test results in this field, the team at our Dana Point, CA facility is ready to share its expertise.

Testing the Forces of Ballistics

Time, experience, and a continual evolution of knowledge has rendered our engineers innately familiar with the field of ballistics. We’re keenly aware of the extreme physical forces involved in testing, as well as the high standards of safety expected for members of the military, law enforcement, and others tasked with operating firearms and ammunition.

To better understand ballistic testing’s unique thermodynamic release of energy,  we’ll dive into pressure, velocity, accuracy and dispersion. These are some of the key forces and areas of performance examined by firearms and ammunition testing that produce such accurate results.

Ballistics Testing: Pressure

In the simplest view, a firearm can be considered a highly specialized form of a piston engine, in which the bullet becomes the functioning piston. Of course, with a firearm, the delivery of the force produced by the ignition of fuel is a firing pin striking a cartridge, which should be focused on the intended target. Simultaneously, the minimum amount of energy — or recoil — should be felt by the shooter.

To accomplish this task, the pressures exerted inside the barrels and cartridges of firearms and ammunition are considerable. Precisely why need to be tested under controlled lab conditions when new forms of either one are being developed. The pressures inside firearms are measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) and are extremely high.

Let’s compare such elevated levels of internal PSI to other physical objects. The average toy balloon has an internal pressure of roughly 15 PSI, an unopened champagne bottle comes in at about 90 PSI, and a high-performance rocket engine can exceed 3,500 PSI. Yet these numbers pale in comparison to the average .22 caliber long rifle that’s expected to operate under a pressure of 25,000 PSI with a cartridge that can exceed 60,000 PSI.

Ballistics Testing: Velocity (SAAMI)

Pinpointing the speed or velocity of ammunitions is critical for a number of reasons — not the least of which is the fact that gravity can pull a bullet downward and off its intended target. All the more reason  ammunitions and firearms manufacturers rely on NTS’ quality testing to inform them about important measurements like muzzle velocity — or the speed of a bullet as it leaves the barrel of a gun.

Want to be on the edge of new in the field of ballistics in ballistics? Partner with NTS. We make it our top priority to stay informed of new developments and all standards issued from the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI ) especially as they relate to emerging trends in ammunition velocity rates.

Ballistic Testing: Accuracy

In military and law enforcement, lives, missions, and outcomes often wholly depend on accuracy of firearms, ammunition, missiles, and other trajectory delivery systems. Testing experts typically employ the Ballistic Accuracy Classification (BAC) system to validate the accuracy of firearms and related components to hit an intended target with flawless precision.

Under the BAC system, firearms may be classified according to the ability to repeatedly and meticulously hit the same target. In theory, a perfect shot would go through the same hole as the previous shot; scoring a BAC rating of 0.  For this reason, in real-world conditions, the lowest BAC rating possible is 1, with higher ratings indicating a less accurate firearm.

Ballistics Testing: Dispersion

Just like the energy from a beam of light is dispersed over the area it’s cast upon, firing a projectile results in it hitting a target. Once it hits the target, the degree to which it deviates from its intended contact point is known as dispersion.

Ammunition can be fired from any number of stationary or mobile pieces of equipment — from a prone sniper with a long-range rifle to a fighter pilot seated in a supersonic jet equipped with a high-velocity missile system. The results of testing for the dispersion of projectiles reveals critical information for ammunition and firearms manufacturers.

Indoor Ballistic Test Range
Indoor Ballistic Test Range

NTS: Full-Service Ammunition and Firearms Testing

At NTS, you’ll find air-conditioned ammunition firing on our fully instrumented 300-meter and 3,000-meter ballistic test ranges against a full spectrum of range and engagement azimuths. Weapons can be fired from a wide variety of advanced, fully instrumented firing positions.

Multiple high-speed digital video cameras with  typical framing rates to 160,000 frames per second (fps) are available at each range. Our engineers have the technology and knowledge to execute:

  • Characterization, penetration, performance, and functional arena testing, including ITOP 4-2-813 and FM 101-51-3 Z-data to determine fragment mass and velocity spatial distributions to support lethality assessment.
  • Comprehensive environmental testing IAW MIL-STD-810 of component and full scale all up rounds, including vibration, shock, temperature, humidity, altitude, blowing rain, sand and dust, fungus, and pyrotechnic shock.
  • MIL-STD-331 Fuze and Fuze Systems testing, including Jolt, Jumble, Environmental, and ESD.

Types of Ammunition Testing

Our state-of-the-art facilty includes in-house case calibration for greater repeatability, more accurate data sets, and faster turnaround time. It also features Piezo-electric transducers for pressure measurement, and various SAAMI and NATO compliance test barrels. Ammunition testing is conducted in accordance with SAAMI, FBI, and NATO protocols. We can provide customized test plans upon request. NTS engineers expertly perform the following ammunition tests:

  • Pressure and velocity measurement
  • Proof testing
  • Cook-off testing
  • Less-than-lethal testing
  • Projectile characterization
  • Quality control inspection
  • Performance evaluations for accuracy and dispersion
  • Corrosive primer testing
  • Primer sensitivity testing
  • Environmental testing

Types of Firearms Testing

NTS testing IAW test standards and test methods, including:

  • California Department of Justice
  • Massachusetts Handgun
  • NIJ 0112.03
  • TOP-3-2-045

Firearm Tests Include:

  • Accuracy & Dispersion
  • Rate-of-fire
  • Barrel erosion and barrel life
  • Weapon endurance
  • Trigger pull
  • Recoil
  • Shock transmittance
  • Proof testing
  • Indoor and outdoor range options

Firearm Safety Device (FSD) Testing For:

  • Lockboxes
  • Gun cabinets
  • Gun safes
  • Cable locks
  • Chamber locks
  • Magazine blocks
  • Padlocks
  • Trigger locks

State-of-the-art instrumentation and measuring equipment including:

  • FARO laser scanners and point probles
  • Doppler Radar System for continuous velocity measurements
  • High-speed video cameras (color and monochrome)
  • – 1ms exposure, up to 100,000 frames per second
  • – 2D & 3D video analysis (velocity tracking)
  • Highly accurate and calibrated velocity measurement equipment
  • – Optical Screens
  • – Magnetic Screens (for small fragments)
  • – Paper break screens for special requirements
  • Ballistic clay and gel testing (US Army, FBI, DEA, DHS)
  • Various environmental chambers
  • Accelerometers and force transducers
  • X-ray computed tomography
  • Digital radiography
  • Ultrasound
  • Dye penetrant
  • Magnetic Particle Inspection

NTS: For the Best in Ballistics Testing

Technical competency. Well-calibrated equipment. State-of-the-art facilities. NTS is the leader in providing  specifically designed, reliable, and consistent testing services.

We exist to support and partner with manufacturers that serve the vital needs of the U.S. military, government, and law enforcement organizations. Together, we supply ultimately safe and consistently compliant products. You’ll always find us ready to help on your next project in a respectful, professional and creative manner that provides you with tailored and timely solutions.

Contact us today to learn more about NTS ammunition and firearms testing services, or request a free quote for your upcoming project.

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