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Virtual Comparison Microscope- Update

Since FLASH no longer works with browsers my VCM exercises don't work. Years ago we created a stand alone and smaller version of the VCM for the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. They were having an exhibit titled "Murder in the Museum". They used these VCM (bullet & cartridge case) exercises in the exhibit to allow students/visitors to try and determine who killed the museum director.

To fill the void of the online VCM exercises I'm making this smaller exercise available to everyone. You will need to have FLASH installed on your computer (download links are included). This poses no security issues since you are running the file locally.

The download is a zipped file and you'll have to unzip it when you download the file. You'll see two folders (Cartridge case ID and Bullet ID) in the unzipped file. Those folders contain all of the images used in each exercise and a single FLASH file. Once you have FLASH installed simply run the flash file and the exercise will launch. Read the Readme_01.doc included for additional instructions.

The download can be found here:


Virtual Comparison Microscope/Member's Area

Unfortunately, the VCM exercises were written in Adobe FLASH.  Adobe dropped support for this programming language and all of the internet browsers ( Chrome, Firefox, Explorer and Edge) are dropping support as well.  So, the exercises have stopped working. 

I have looked into alternatives to FLASH and unfortunately nothing is working as a replacement yet.  Also, having the applications reprogrammed to the latest html5 programming language would be cost prohibitive.  This has always been offered for free and I don't plan to start charging a fee.

I'll likely just open up the resource area to anyone without registration but the VCM, classroom and instructor sections will be removed.

Sorry but it had it's run for almost 14 years.

Thanks for everyone's support!

Scott Doyle



The online quizzes still do not work properly. We have been trying to find the problem since the move to the new server but the fix eludes us! I have converted the Firearms Identification 50 question quiz into a WORD Form Document and if you are an instructor and would like a copy of the quiz (and answers) please submit a Help Desk ticket and I'll sent it to you. Sorry for the continued problems with the quizzes!

Scott Doyle

Registration and Classroom Issues!

Some adjustments made and everything should be working now. If you register or create your first classroom and don't receive notification please let me know by filing a trouble ticket with the help desk.

Scott Doyle


Most functions of the site appear to be back to normal now. The site has a new Help Desk ticket system in place so now when you have trouble there will be a record of your submissions for you to refer to. The FirearmsID Quizzes still have a glitch in them. You can take the quizzes but when you get to the end they don't display a score, they simply serve up endless blank questions. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

Scott Doyle

Virtual Comparison Microscope

Register for the Resource Area and try your hand at the Virtual Comparison Microscope™ (VCM™)! The VCM simulates what it is like to microscopically compare both bullets and cartridge cases. Several exercises for each are provided and get progressively harder. A printable certificate is provided when you successfully complete an exercise. Get yours today!

SWGGUN Systemic Requirements/Recommendations
for the Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Laboratory

The Scientific Working Groups have been tasked by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the report entitled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward 2 with directing the forensic science communities in the establishment of standardized procedures and protocols. The following document is in response from the Scientific Working Group for Firearms and Toolmarks (SWGGUN) to this request.

"The Science of Firearm/Toolmark Identification continues to be challenged by critics within the legal community and the media. The National Academy of Sciences has issued reports critical of the scientific foundations of the discipline.2,3 Other critics in the legal and academic fields have identified mistakes made by crime laboratories which have resulted in massive overhauls of the identified systems and evaluations of previous casework of the affected examiners.9-13 These critics have argued that there is a lack of empirical research and that the validity of the science has yet to be established.9-13 They also claim that the methods which examiners employ during the examination and evaluation of firearm and toolmark evidence have yet to be standardized.9-12"

Click here to read to full response

National Academies Report on Forensic Science


On February 18, 2009 the National Research Counsel issued a report that outlined several deficiencies in the nation's forensic science system.  The report detailed what they perceived to be serious problems in training, certification, accreditation, protocols, standards, and reporting on evidence. 

Also, the report was critical of a number of the disciplines of forensic science.  One of which was the science of Firearm and Toolmark Identification.  The report implies that FA/TM ID is lacking peer-reviewed studies and its validity and reliability has not been fully established.

While most of the recommendations coming from the NAS study are highly commendable and long overdue, their attack on the validity of FA/TM ID appear to ignore the extensive history of peer reviewed validation studies on the uniqueness of toolmarks.  Both the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) and the Scientific Working Group on Firearms and Toolmarks (SWGGUN) are working to address this and other perceived issues with the report.

A number of links to learn more about the NAS study are below.

Executive Summary
Webcast News Briefing
View Full Report
National Academies Website

New York Commission on Forensic Science Meeting


On December 11, 2008, Gregory Klees, Firearms and Toolmark Examiner, Forensic Science Laboratory-Washington (FSL-W) and Chair of the Scientific Working Group of Firearm and Toolmarks (SWGGUN) was a speaker and panel participant at the New York Commission on Forensic Science conference in New York City.

Mr. Klees represented and supported the Firearms and Toolmark Identification forensic discipline. Mr. Klees’ participation included a presentation entitled “The Science and Reliability of Firearms and Toolmark Identification” followed by a panel discussion on the current Daubert rulings in the Firearms and Toolmark discipline.

Read more and view the WEBCAST by clicking here...

The History of Firearm and Toolmark Identification


By: James E. Hamby, Ph.D., Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency, Indianapolis, IN 46204 and James W Thorpe, Ph.D., Forensic Science Unit, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland GI 1XW

Originally published in the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Journal, Summer 1999, and revised April 2008.  Now includes an extensive reference section.

"One of the earliest references concerning the rifling of firearms is in a book authored by Harold Peterson wherein he discusses the rifling of firearms by Emperor Maximilian of Germany between 1493 and 1508. Although some firearms were rifled - helical grooves in the bore of a firearm barrel to impart rotary motion to a projectile - the recognition that this rifling was of value for identifying a fired projectile to the firearm did not occur until late in the l9th century."

Read the paper by clicking here...

Scientific Working Group for Firearms and Toolmarks (SWGGUN)


The SWGGUN met in Missoula, Montana for their semi-annual meeting from October 20-23, 2008. Fifteen members of the Board members were present for the meeting with three members absent and two Board vacancies through recent resignations. Topics and issues covered during this meeting are listed below.

The Board reviewed the following proposed guidelines and then voted that these guidelines be adopted and placed on the website for final posting:

The Board reviewed the following guideline and voted to post this document on the website for review:

The Admissibility Resource Kit (ARK) Maintenance Committee presented the following reports and updates to the Board:

  • Eight new court ruling citations and summaries have recently been added to the Admissibility Resource Kit (ARK). Many of these rulings involved reference to the NAS/NRC Report on Ballistic Imaging.

Visit for more information and additional resources

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