Small Arms Testing

Contact Information

Donald J. Grosch
Ballistics & Explosives Range
(210) 522-3176

Carl E. Weiss
Ballistics & Explosives Engineering
(210) 522-3996


image: Universal gun system and various test rounds

Universal gun system and various test rounds

At the Ballistics and Explosives Range and Small Arms Test Facility operated by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), engineering dynamics experts are noted for their ability to effectively combine experimentation and numerical simulations to provide clients with answers and solutions to problems in penetration and armor mechanics.

SwRI has conducted many different types of small arms projects for more than 25 years, from complex programs involving considerable experimentation, materials evaluation and computations to simple, quickly executed projects that require only ballistic testing.

Small Arms Testing Capabilities

  • Testing with:
    • Universal gun system with all standard cartridge reloading equipment
    • Rifled and smooth-bore barrels from .17 cal to 50 mm; all common pistol, rifle and shotgun barrels
    • U.S. and foreign ball, armor-piercing and fragment-simulating ammunition
  • Live-fire testing of numerous handguns and rifles of various calibers
  • High-speed digital video of impacts up to 200,000,000 frames per second
  • High-speed data acquisition up to 200 MHz
  • ISO-compliant quality assurance
  • Computational impact simulations
  • Generation and storage of classified documents, materials and targets
image: Ultra-high-speed image of a 7.62-mm bullet impacting a ceramic tile, showing formation and growth 
						of cracks including the fracture conoid

Ultra-high-speed image of a 7.62-mm bullet impacting a ceramic tile, showing formation and growth of cracks including the fracture conoid


image: Side and back views of the deformation of a ballistic fabric

Side and back views of the deformation of a ballistic fabric after impact (the grid structure on the fabric is used to assist in deformation-time measurements)


image: Small Arms Test Facility

Small Arms Test Facility (left to right: Control Room, Gun Room, Target Room #1, Target Room #2)

Small Arms Test Experience

  • Ultra-lightweight body armor design and development–DARPA / US Army Natick
  • Modeling and testing of fabrics and ceramic-faced armor–US Army Natick
  • Enhanced concealed armor: analysis, modifications, and testing–U.S. Secret Service
  • Evaluation and development of projectiles and/or armor systems–DOD and private industry
  • Shooting of various protective structures such as windows and doors–Commercial clients
  • Evaluation and modeling of transparent armor
  • Helmet performance and deflection studies

Small Arms Test Facility

The Small Arms Test Facility houses:

  • Indoor ballistics range
  • Laser-based gun alignment system
  • Test fixture fabrication, machine shop and welding
  • Outdoor test areas up to 1,000 yards

The target rooms are located so targets can be positioned approximately 20 feet, 50 feet, and 150 feet from the gun. Adjustable target fixtures are available to provide quick vertical and horizontal adjustments of the target position.

Ballistics and Explosives Range

SwRI operates and maintains the Ballistics and Explosives Range on the San Antonio campus. This 10-acre facility permits a wide variety of experimental programs to be conducted, including:

  • Explosive loading
  • Hazards evaluation and mitigation
  • Foreign object damage
  • Ballistic impact
  • Armor testing
  • Hypervelocity impact

SwRI technicians provide expert support for handling explosives, firing gas and powder guns, and collecting high-rate electronic data. A complement of equipment, including an on-site machine shop, digital data acquisition and transient recorders, high-speed imaging equipment, and data processors, supports range activities.

Related Terminology

small arms testing  •  rifles  •  pistols  •  universal gun systems  •  NIJ 0101.04  •  lightweight armor  •  personnel protection  •  body armor  •  ballistics testing  •  high-speed imaging  •  MIL-STD-662E  •  nonlethal weapons development  •  nonlethal weapons testing  •  homeland security

Benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.