Tonight's news detailed the circumstances surrounding another shooting in our community. Resulting in another victim and another case to be investigated by law enforcement.

News Clip

Most law enforcement agencies have access to a forensic laboratory to aid in their investigations. Forensic laboratories can be found in federal, state, and local police departments. Additionally, a number of independent laboratories can be utilized. Each contains highly skilled experts who conduct examinations on many different types of evidence collected at crime scenes, autopsies, etc.

This web site will be focusing on just one of the disciplines of Forensic Science, Firearms Identification.  Sometimes incorrectly referred to as ballistics, firearms identification can be defined as, 

The identification of fired bullets, cartridge cases or other ammunition components as having been fired from a specific firearm.

Firearms identification is actually a form of Toolmark Identification where the firearm, because it is made of a material harder than the ammunition components, acts as a tool to leave impressed or striated marks on the various ammunition components that come into contact with the firearm.

Firearms evidence submitted to a lab's Firearms Section will typically include a firearm, fired bullets, spent cartridge cases, spent shot shells, shot, shot shell wadding, live ammunition, clothing, and you wouldn't believe me if I told you. 

Various Bullets Walther Pistol Cartridge Cases

In addition to comparing ammunition components to firearms, firearm examiners conduct other examinations that usually include the following:

  • Testing firearms to determine if they function properly.

  • Examine clothing and other items for gunshot residues and/or shot patterns in an attempt to determine a muzzle-to-garment distance.

  • Determine caliber and manufacturer of ammunition components.  Including the examination of various shotshell components.

  • Determine the manufacturer or manufacturers of firearms that may have fired a particular bullet or cartridge case.

Firearm examiners will perform specific scientific examinations upon the evidence submitted.  Once the examinations are completed reports detailing their findings are forwarded to the investigating officer and eventually to all parties involved in any subsequent criminal proceedings.

Firearm examiners finish their involvement of a case by presenting their findings in a court of law.

So by now you're probably asking yourself "how can they do that?" It is my hope that after you read the various pages of my site that you will understand the science and fundamental principles behind the exciting field of Firearms Identification.  Click the Next button below to continue.


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