Is In-House or Outsourced Ballistics Testing Best?

Sydor Technologies Ballistics, with over 30 years’ experience in the field, explains the considerations that weapon, ammunition and armor manufacturers must evaluate before deciding on the best path. Build an in-house ballistics test range or use an external test and evaluation range service.

Why the choice?

History is full of weapon platforms, ammunition systems and armor systems that eventually proved unsuitable when it came to actual use, often resulting in disastrous consequences. Today, suppliers of defense products as well as military and police forces around the world who use them, know that they must all play a role to ensure the products are fit for purpose. These products must meet design specifications, regulatory requirements, and specific field use needs. However, it is the manufacturers that need to choose the best facilities and process to ensure the right level of testing is conducted prior to final use.

Manufacturers need to be capable of proving that reasonable tests were performed during the product manufacturing process. To meet these goals, ballistic testing should be carried out at the component, final product manufacture, and end-use levels. In fact, the need for satisfactory performance of any weapons system extends much later in the product’s life cycle. Spotting production problems early during testing is also important for manufacturers to minimize scrap and overall waste, thus reducing costs.

Before choosing whether to use a test and evaluation service provider or build your own facility, the following factors need to be considered:

In-House – Building your own test range facility

When considering the design of a test range, it is essential to review the following at a minimum:

  • The requirements of all current and future test specifications. It can be expensive but sometimes unavoidable when upgrading a range.
  • Test range length and cross-section sufficient for gun blast access and instrumentation.
  • Safety, armor protection and ricochet prevention requirements.
  • Noise, blast, pollution and hygiene.
  • Security and access.

Specialist companies such as Sydor Technologies can offer expert consulting services to assist with range designs and provide critical recommendations before a building permit is sought.

Equipping a new or existing range

Suppliers of equipment and service must have the expertise to completely equip a small to medium calibre test range from gun to target. This assumes the supplier is given details of the range design and total requirement, as well as any unusual factors.

Potential Range Equipment Needs:

Universal receiver or test gun

  • A system to launch projectiles is common for both ammunition and armor testing facilities. Sydor can offer a variety of test guns to suit a wide range of calibres:
    • Small Calibre: .22 up to 12.7 x99mm.
    • Medium Calibre: 12.7 x 108mm up to 30mm Autocannon
      • This system can also fire sub 12.7 x 99 rounds with an adaptor.
    • Large Calibre Test Gun: 35 and 40mm Autocannon.

Pressure Measurement – Ammunition Ranges Only

  • When conducting Quality Assurance tests on ammunition, manufacturers need to measure the pressure generated for multiple reasons such as:
    • Obtaining correct velocities
    • Adhering to international standards such as NATO, CIP or SAAMI
  • This normally requires a test barrel tapped for a pressure transducer (normally piezo electric).
    • Associated accessories such as cabling, sealing joints and tools will be required.
    • Data acquisition system like the Integrated Range Instrumentation System.

Velocity Measurement

  • Most tests require the velocity of the projectile to be known, with the most common measurement methods being:
    • Optical or Infra-red based screens such as Sydor’s Sky screens or infra-red velocity screens.
    • Doppler Radar.

Target or Sample Supports

  • Many tests require the projectile either to impact a target (possibly armor for armor testing) or a targetry system to measure accuracy of the round.
    • Sydor has a wide range of sample support devices and targetry systems.

Outsourcing to a Test and Evaluation Service

At present many suppliers of defense equipment outsource their accreditation and quality assurance to independent ranges, labs and dedicated test and evaluation services.

The advantages to outsourcing the tests include:

  • As an independent test facility, results can be verified by alternate parties such as clients or governing bodies.
  • Supplier’s labor time can be reduced and the product certified.

However, the down side to outsourcing the tests are:

  • Cost
    • Since there are limited number of facilities that can conduct ballistic testing globally, the price of testing can be cost restrictive.
  • Lead time
    • Again, due to the limited number of facilities offering these services, lead time for tests can run into months.

Decision Table

Before contacting Sydor Technologies for services or equipment, please take a look at the table below to get an idea of what may fit your needs the most:

Decision FactorTest and Evaluation Range ServiceBuild Own Range
Country Specific (Legalization Etc.)Usually not a problem once service establishedAccess to firearms is very restricted in some countries. There may be limits to calibres or types of ammunition
Calibre rangeMay be limitedMay be limited
Skills and trainingA broad base of skills may be availableSignificant training requirement of suitable ex-forces or police personnel
Initial Set-Up CostsMinimalCan be significant depending on location available (container-based ranges also a possibility)
Ongoing costsCan be significantCan be lower, provided range is well used
FlexibilityCannot trial at own convenience – may be limited to other clients’ schedulesUnder complete control, so can re-schedule work or do ad-hoc trials etc.
Health and SafetyIf a broad spectrum of activities can be complex and bureaucraticA narrow focus on scope of work can simplify procedures but needs care

Over several decades of serving the ballistic testing range community, many projects included both test guns and ballistic test instrumentation. Often, the customer required assistance with the test range design, which is now a standard service offered by Sydor Technologies.

If you need more help in deciding on which path to take, our ballistics experts are happy to assist you. Please click on the link below to see more of what Sydor Technologies offers and arrange a personalized meeting with an expert.