A new hybrid recipe makes a better ballistic gelatin, a team of scientists report.

The mixture of gelatin, particles and fibers, shaped like organs and even supplemented with tinges of red dye, better mimics the damage done by a bullet or a knife blade, report the team of Romanian researchers in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

The novel gelatin was shaped into anatomical shapes and also compared in experiments to real animal organs, they report. The new mix proved more reliable than the traditional jiggly blocks used as targets, they conclude.

“The hybrid gelatin obtained presents similar properties with the animal organs (porcine liver, bovine liver, and porcine heart) in terms of rheology and stabbing behavior and a narrower distribution of penetration depths versus the standard gelatin, while submitted to ballistic tests,” they write.

The gelatin was made with a precise recipe, involving melting down Gelita Bloom edible pig gelatin, then stirring in certain silicones and propionic acid and the dye, which were placed in the molds to cool and harden.

They collected the resulting organ “surrogates,” along with the real cow and pig livers, and pig hearts bought from a nearby farm.

Then they took all the materials to the local shooting range.

The scientists from the Military Technical Academy in Bucharest and the Scientific Research Center for CBRN Defense and Ecology had several particular criteria they were measuring.

Those determinations included the damage at certain contact angles, the evaluation of depth penetration from stabbing and ballistic wounds, and the wave mechanics that occur within the thoracic cavity upon penetration, they write.

Traditional ballistic gelatin, which was originally developed in the 1960s but significantly improved in the 1980s, has limitations, according to the latest study. It can rapidly degrade, and has different rheological (matter flow) properties when mass produced. Overall, it can show ballistic dynamics varying greatly from organs—particularly when it comes to bullet deflection.

Tests at the Romanian shooting range included 30 shots at the special gelatins. They also included other trials pinpointing the amounts of force needed in certain stabbing wounds, and effects on the liver and its sometimes-unpredictable level of fatal damage.

The new gelatin produced improved scientific consistency and durability, they contend.

“It has been seen that the hybrid ballistic gelatin conducts to more reliable and reproducible values of perforation/penetration versus standard gelatin, making from it a real candidate for use in forensic tests,” they add.

Trying to scientifically capture the effects of violence and decay on the human body has been a challenge for forensic experts, who have strictly limited access to human cadavers. Pigs are often an analog—leading to some fatal experiments conducted on the animals in the recent past. But other research has shown that anatomical variance between the two species means that porcine specimens are not good stand-ins for humans