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The present invention is typically embodied as a method for studying ballistic resistance of one or more steel materials. A projectile is caused to strike groups of steel samples made of the same steel material, and the ballistic limit V50 of each steel material is determined. Prior to the V50 testing, a sample of each steel material is metallographically imaged so as to reveal austenitic bodies therein. The austenitic volume fraction of a sample of each steel material is measured via VSM at least once prior to the V50 testing and at least once subsequent to the V50 testing. Subsequent to the V50 testing, a microhardness distribution is mapped characterizing a sample of each steel material in the vicinity of the ballistic crater. The empirical results are assessed in light of the inventively discovered mechanism of plasticity of the steel that is ballistically induced in relation to austenite-to-martensite transformation.