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A Look at Firearms and Ballistics in Forensic Science

The culture of carrying a gun is strong in the U.S. and has deep historical and cultural roots. The majority of households have at least one firearm at their disposal. It is also relatively easy to become an owner of a weapon. Most people purchase guns in order to be able to defend themselves against possible threats. Having a firearm at one’s side provides the sensation of safety and helps a person deliver a firm response to those with ill intent. Partly due to the availability and the general quantity of weapons in possession of individuals, not excluding illegal ones, firearms have become the tool of crime. Many violent crimes in the U.S. are performed with the usage of guns. According to statistics provided by King, Campbell, Matusiak, and Katz (2017), firearms were involved in more than 67% of homicide cases. Modern forensic science is often able to solve them using a variety of investigation procedures regarding guns. The urgency and significance of the topic make it is paramount to closely review firearms, their types, and how forensic experts use them in their investigations.

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Firearms and Types of Firearms

In order to clarify the subject of the research, there is a need to identify the term ‘firearm’ and identify how they are classified. According to the glossary of firearm terms by Cole (2017), a firearm is a portable ranged weapon that launches one or several projectiles by the use of exothermic combustion within ammunition in order to inflict damage to a target. A firearm is differentiated from air guns. The difference is that the latter uses mechanical gas compression to drive ammunition, while firearms, as it can be derived from their name, use the force of explosion, fire, and gas (ATF, n.d.b). Guns or their predecessors are believed to be created as early as in 10th century China.

Those guns used explosive gunpowder that was poured into a bamboo tube with a spear put from the other side of the tube. The construction of the first firearms was far from fail-safe and reliable. Many Chinese warriors got hurt in the process of arming the gun as it was relatively easy for bamboo to crack or for a gunfighter to insert too much gunpowder, which often resulted in terrible injuries. Nevertheless, such firearms were effective not much due to their effectiveness as a tool for infantry elimination but as a tool for horrification of an enemy. In some form, firearms retained that purpose even now. Knowing that a person has a gun at their disposal prevents others from engaging in an open confrontation.

Throughout the history of warfare, the configuration has changed thousands of times with many gunsmiths and firearm companies trying to invent an ideal weapon. A vast variety of guns gives a reason to classify them for the purpose of structuring the information. There are several classification bases such as configuration, purpose, and action.

By configuration, firearms are ranged from the smallest to the biggest ones that a single person can carry. The smallest guns are also called handguns as they can usually be wielded by one hand. Handguns embody a large family of different designs ranging from single-shot guns and revolvers to semi-automatic pistols. Long guns are the firearms the design of which does not allow holding it with one hand and requires both hands to fire. They are typically larger and heavier than handguns with a scalable difference in firepower and resulting potential to inflict damage to more targets within a limited time. Long guns in accordance with their name have a long barrel that ranges between 10 and 30 inches. The length is usually dictated by the practical application. However, different states have their own definitions of what needs to be called a long gun due to the restrictions on their possession, usage, and other legal aspects.

Long firearms consist of several types of weapons including rifles, automatic rifles, shotguns, carbines, machine-and-submachine guns. Each of the types has a different designation, peculiar mechanism of action and usage in combat. Munitions for each type may be similar or even interchangeable as there is a variety of modifications.

As for action, firearms are subdivided into those with the manual, semi-automatic, and automatic action. Action refers to the design of the system of munition loading, unloading, and usage process. Manual action weapons presuppose a user to insert each bullet into the chamber before firing. Manual firearms may be either of single-shot or repeating type, the difference being that in the latter one could load ammo and fire several times without reloading. Semi-automatic firearms use cartridges or magazines that only require a user to load them once and fire one bullet each time he or she pulls the trigger. If manual guns require charging or loading, semi-automatic weapons allow relatively continuous and uninterrupted fire until the magazine is depleted. Automatic firearms are differentiated from manual and semi-automatic by the character of firing regime. As long as the trigger is pressed, such weapon automatically feeds and fires the bullets until the magazine is empty or there is no more ammunition. Modern firearms allow firing either in semi-automatic or fully automatic mode.

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By purpose, firearms may be subdivided on self-defense and assault weapons. Self-defense in a civil urban environment may require a weapon that possesses low weight, is easy to use, and can be relatively safe for the owner. Handguns usually fall under such conditions and are the most used firearm for self-defense. This type of firearm is not suited for dealing massive damage to multiple targets and is aimed at defense rather than offense. However, the cases of the latter are also unrare in criminal circles. Assault weapons are, on the other hand, are suited for military-class combat and designed to inflict massive lethal damage. Such firearms are usually suited with ammunition appropriate to deal with a variety of targets with or without bullet protection.

Firearms and Forensic Science

Forensic scientists serve the law enforcement as agents who collect, preserve, and analyze criminal evidence in order to establish a solid connection between the victim and suspected criminal or to identify the latter. They also create proof that could be later used as evidence in court. Since many crimes in the U.S. and world involve firearms, they become a subject of forensic investigation. The crime scene may contain the weapon itself or the products of its usage such as bullet casings or marks on surfaces and bodies. Depending on the availability of evidence, forensic experts are able to reconstruct the scene of the crime and identify victims and initiators of armed conflict. By analyzing the weapon and its components, forensic science can trace it to its owner and therefore, help the criminal investigation. A multitude of techniques exists to help the police find a criminal and build evidence against him or her.

Identification and Differentiation of Firearms in Forensics

Forensic science does not seem to have a classification different from the one established in other the scientific and popular literature. One of the reasons is because both of the typologies are based on legal definitions set out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF, n.d.a). According to the ATF (n.d.a), National Firearms Act Definitions identify firearm as practically any destructive device that uses a force of the explosion to propel a projectile or a frame part of such device. Since forensics is to a great extent tied to a legal investigation, being, essentially, an integral part of it, it uses the official definitions and classifications. Under firearms, the law typically considers:

  1. Handguns (pistols, revolvers);
  2. Bolt action rifles;
  3. Lever action rifles;
  4. Self-loading action (semi-automatic) firearms;
  5. Slide/pump action weapons;
  6. Top break action firearms.
  7. Antique weapons;
  8. Explosives;
  9. Machineguns (ATF, n.d.a).

It is paramount to note, that explosive and machineguns are prohibited to import and sell to the public on the territory of the U.S. ATF also documents the specially regulated types of firearms in National Firearms Act. That document classifies as firearms devices that are made from shotguns and rifles by adding attachments to their frame, shortening their barrel, or otherwise modifying the gun. It also states that weapons disguised as non-military objects such as cigarette lighter, umbrella, pen, and other items. Forensic science recognizes and uses this classification to operate and define weapons as firearms. It additionally draws other types of firearms that fall under ‘self-made’ guns such as blowpipes and gas guns (Warlow, 2016). Depending on whether the firearm is prohibited in the state, where the crime took place, the legislation may take different action regarding punitive measures. By determining and helping locate the firearm that has been used for a criminal act is one of the tasks that forensic team is assigned.

For analysis, forensic investigation uses the evidence it obtains from a crime scene. If a firearm was not obtained from the crime scene and its surroundings, then the team analyses whatever trace a gun left. Usually, it is bullet casings, the bullets or its parts in the victim (if there are any), bullet marks, residue, and other signs that a firearm can leave. If the gun itself is present and available for study, forensic experts need to match the wounds, bullets used, and other signs to answer the question of whether this gun is a murder weapon or a crime tool

Typically, a forensic examination of a weapon found at the crime scene starts with fingerprint recovery. It is one of the least time-consuming methods of establishing a connection between a person and the item in question. However, such procedure might be undermined by either absence of fingerprints, the texture of a grip or bad condition of a recovered weapon. Fingerprints can be recovered using cyanoacrylate fuming. Fingerprints, if recovered, can be checked against those stored in the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Additionally, modern technology allows analyzing DNA samples left on the gun. This technique is not yet perfected, and the DNA samples can easily be contaminated or misinterpreted. Nonetheless, with the advancement of forensic science and microbiology, it will become more reliable.

Another method of identifying and locating the owner or the user of the firearm is serial number recovery. The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires all firearms manufacturers and importers to mark each weapon they produce with a number. This method can also be disrupted by the presence of two or more serial numbers in the guns produced before 1968 or presence of a non-unique number that several manufacturers use. This procedure, if successful, can help determine the owner by reviewing the gun’s history that may be stored in National Crime Information Center or in INTERPOL’s Firearm Reference Table.

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In cases when the potential criminal is in possession of a firearm that may have been used for crime, forensic experts may analyze cartridges or shells found at the crime scene. Routine analysis of basic identifiers such as caliber, lands and groves, and rifling twist may tell help the expert narrow down the list of potential firearms the bullet may have come from.

Each shell has a unique mark that is left by the fingering pin or ejector. These marks are compared to the database of all known similar weapon types. The procedure is requires a microscope to determine the type of firearm from which the bullet was presumably fired. Additionally, fingerprint analysis may be implemented in cases when there is a reason to believe that the bullet was loaded manually. However, such cases are quite rare. A recent technique was introduced to aid forensic experts to examine cartridges such as pin microstamping. Manufacturing firearm fingering pins in a manner that the tip of a pin contains a micro stamp with a serial number that is hammered into a shell could help identify the gun more easily. However, the technique is currently not yet in use as the substantial opposition is seen from manufacturers who are concerned with increased costs of production (Mather, 2014).

A forensic examination of firearms, their parts and ammunition can be made easier. Experts from ATF (2005), for instance, recommend forensic teams to recover as many samples from a gun as possible. Collecting the results of shooting tests, bullet marks, fingering pin stamps and uploading them to Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) could help streamline the process of examination and investigation.

Ballistics

Ballistics is a part of mechanics that explains the movement of bodies launched in a flight. Through a series of calculations, it is possible to know the details of the path the body has made, the force, with which it has been launched, and place from where the movement was initiated. The forces that ballistics examines were demonstrated since the earliest history, when first humans used to throw spears, and shot arrows at their enemies. Even though the knowledge of ballistics was primitive and mostly intuitive, its application to weapons had and still has a tremendous significance. In modern times, the speed of projectiles has increased manifold but so has the accuracy and knowledge basis of ballistics. Without ballistics, humankind would not be able to launch space shuttles. It would not be possible to design fireworks, ejection seats, and many other items.

Different Types of Ballistic Examinations

There are different types of ballistic examinations including external, internal, transition, and terminal (Vincent & DiMaio, 2015). Each of them is designed to measure a specific timeframe of the bullet’s time in mid-air and at the end of its path.

Internal ballistics examines the behavior of the bullet and evidence one can obtain from the point of propellant ignition till the projectile exits the barrel. This period could leave significant trails and evidence on the gun, casing, and the bullet itself. The process of study has three keyframes such as pre-ignition time, ignition time, and barrel time. For all three stages, different equations are used. The main parameters are propellant burn time that depends on many factors including the quantity, quality of the propellant itself, the volume of the chamber, and design of barrel groves. The marks that are left on the bullet’s casing by the barrel, from which it was fired, are called class characteristics. According to Vincent and DiMaio (2015), they typically include the following:

  1. Number and diameter of lands and groves;
  2. Grove depth;
  3. Direction of rifling twist;
  4. Twist degree.

The material of the bullet can with varying degree of visibility depict those characteristics. For instance, a soft-metal bullet would reveal more pronounced markings that a hard-metal one. In addition, the combination of the above-mentioned characteristics is distinct for different weapon types and even two similar weapon manufacturers. For example, Colt has a left twist direction for handguns, while Smith and Wesson have a right one.

The knowledge of those factors could determine the type of the firearm that was used. By the marks and residue left on the casing, it is possible to determine the type of primer and therefore, the bullet producer. The burning gases deform the casing while it travels within the barrel. The deformation pattern is very specific to each weapon type and even manufacturer, which lets the examiner narrow down the search for the weapon.

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In order to increase the speed of matching the deformation pattern, Reference Ballistic Image Database (RBID) is used. It allows researchers to upload and download images and characteristics of different casings and results of test firings found at crime scenes. Despite the fact, that currently, the matching process is often optimized for using automatic or semi-automatic data processing mechanisms excluding the possibility of human error, professional experts are still in demand. Internal ballistics specialists generate new data and verify the accuracy of computer analysis results.

Additionally, if the gun is presented for examination, experts conduct a test firing after which they inspect the barrel markings, firing pin, extractor and other parts together with inspecting the shell and the bullet comparing it with the same or different guns to determine if the presented firearm was the one used during the criminal event.

In physics, the intermediate time before the projectile exits the muzzle is called transitional and studied by transitional ballistics. Its use in the forensic expertise is doubtful as this field of study is rather complex and yet inconclusive. However, the processes that occur during this stage also contribute to unique deformation of the shell, which may become paramount once adequate research procedures are established.

External ballistics studies the projectile in flight. It examines the velocity, range and height changes during the mid-air time. Similar to internal ballistics, the characteristics of a bullet, its effectiveness, and the information it could provide about the position of the shooter can become a valuable proof in court. Many typically used in the U.S. firearms were already tested and examined, which leaves further expertise the task of comparing the results and confirming the evidence accuracy. The range of variables measured during external ballistic examination is rather large and includes, bullet mass, gravity, wind speed, direction, air density, potential accuracy of a firearm and projectile, and many more. The calculation results could help determine the exact spot where the projectile should hit the target if the shooter is positioned at a particular distance or height from a target. It can verify the accuracy of self-reported data, and help reconstruct the events of a crime. It is known, that for a projectile to hit a distant target with higher accuracy, the shooter must be located at an elevated point. This fact is due to the term called bullet drop that is, essentially, a vertical distance below the muzzle departure line. This postulates that a bullet always travels by an arched trajectory, which is critical for determining the alleged sniper location.

Terminal or wound ballistics study the behavior of a projectile at the moment and shortly after it collides with the target. By examining the deformation of the target’s body, the expert can determine the type of firearm, and type of the ammunition. Ballistic gel is often used to mimic the body and model the behavior of the bullet when it hits the target. The experts usually determine mass, velocity, the force of impact and other factors. In the ballistic databases, there are calculations that determine how much tissue should be ‘absent’ from a body after being hit with a certain type of ammunition.

However, Warlow (2016) argues that such calculations are far from being accurate. The experiments and measurements are often conducted on a ballistic gel that presents a homogenous block with equal density and composition. A human body, on the other hand, is not. It is composed of tissues, organs, and bones of different density and state of curvature that may change the behavior of a projectile. Therefore, such data could be used only for reference and not as a basis for decision making. Warlow (2016) notes that extreme variety is present when it comes to real life bullet-body interactions. He notices that each person and each situation is unique and can hardly be predicted or explained by routinely made laboratory templates and data.

Bullet Wounds and Marks in Forensic Science

Despite Warlow’s (2016) remarks on the relative unpredictability of the gunshot wounds due to the peculiarities of the human body, it could be argued that the cases when the bullet is deflected by the bone causing it to travel in a different direction are the example of an isolated incidents. In certain types of ammunition can be identified by the type of the mark or wound they usually leave.

Gunshot Wounds by Shot Distance

According to Bartlett (2003), gunshot wounds are usually classified by the distance including low-velocity and high-velocity wounds, which, to some extent, is misleading. In assessing the wound and determining the type of ammunition that caused it a variety of factors should be considered besides velocity. Among those factors are deformation and fragmentation of the projectile, its kinetic energy, depth of penetration, entrance profile, and the type and characteristics of the tissue that sustained damage.

Directly after the impact and penetration of the bullet into tissue, it leaves a temporary cavity, the size of which is determined by the kinetic energy of the bullet at the start of the penetration and the relative resistance or density of the tissue. As it is evident, that different tissues have varied density, they are mostly the same among humans, leaving only the bullet type as a variable. Typical interactions such as bone-bullet, or muscle-bullet are documented and allow to form stable marking patterns that can be relatively safely attributed to one or another bullet type.

Thus, handgun bullets usually exhibit direct and narrow destruction path that cannot inflict structural damage to the surrounding organs due to leaving a small temporary cavity. The exception is the bullet hitting the vital organs or structural elements such as spine, neck, heart, and so on. It should be mentioned, however, that in this case, standard semi-automatic handgun ammunition (9 mm) is referred to.

Rifle or long guns with higher bullet speed and caliber the trail of the bullet is much more devastating. The diameter of the temporal cavity in such occasions could ten times exceed the diameter of a projectile (Vincent & DiMaio, 2015). The distance between the shooter and the victim also plays a dramatic role in the characteristics of the bullet wounds. According to the classification proposed by Vincent and DiMaio (2015), there are contact, near-contact, intermediate, and distant gunshot wounds. Each of the categories leaves a unique and identifiable mark.

Thus, contact wound is characterized by a hard burnt area of flesh with an entrance at the middle point. The distinctive feature of this wound class is a burnt mark resulting from the release of gas combustion products through a muzzle pushed hard against the contact point. Near-contact wounds are identified by wider areas of gas residue that is dispersed to the opposite direction of the firearm’s turning angle. Clumps of ignition material residue are also unrare. Intermediate range wounds may be identified by even wider residue are dispersion. What differentiates this wound type from near-contact ones is the ‘dotted’ pattern of the burn area. The dots are the clumps of gas release residue. It is of particular notice that such wounds may be difficult to identify since clothing or hair could stop the residue from burning the skin enough to form a pattern described above. Vincent and DiMaio (2015) also point out that that the color of the residue may indicate whether the victim was alive or dead before the shot.

As for the distant gunshot wounds, the powder may not be an indicator that could be easily located (if at all) at the body of the victim. According to Vincent and DiMaio (2015), the residue is rarely found on the body of the victim at a range of 15-25 cm. Wind could occasionally carry some of it to the clothes or the skin of the victim. In such cases, it is a non-telling argument that does not let the experts accurately define the specifics of the shot and the shooter. However, residue could be carried by the bullet that could leave a mark on the skin at the entrance point or on the clothes of the victim. Here wound ballistics may determine the type of weapon, range, caliber, and angle of a shot. The circular pattern would with utmost certainty identify a 90-degree angle shot. A stellar or ragged pattern of a wound could indicate a long barrel rifle shot from a considerable distance with little or no residue at the entrance point. As for the exit wounds, they could resemble any of shape or form described above no matter the range. The difference will only be in the size of the exit wound that will most likely vary due to the caliber (Vincent & DiMaio, 2015).

However, even this is not always the fact. Exit wounds resulting from a 9 mm gunshot wound could have a 7.65 mm exit wound and likewise. The difficulty of determining the caliber by the exit wound seems to reside in the area of the anatomy of the human body. According to Vincent and DiMaio (2015), the skin and tissue density at exit point could be a significant factor that determines the size of an exit wound. Exceptions such as shored wound the occurrence of which is attributed to the peculiarities of the clothing and/or a bullet changing trajectory within the body.

Gunshot Wounds by Ammunition Type

Different ammunition types can inflict various damage and leave various yet not very distinct enter wounds. Thus, the smallest handgun bullets,.25 ACP, inflict a gunshot wound that is similar to one of 9 mm. The.22 Magnum bullets, each of which weighs approximately 40 grams. Contact wound with this ammunition due to its size and velocity even though shot from a handgun is able to leave a 5-inch enter point, which exit point could be as wide as 10-15 inches including fractured bones and massive tissue loss through an exit wound (Heard, 2011). Frangible ammunition of the same caliber that is frequently utilized to put down kettle shatter when they hit a hard surface such as a skull bone. The peculiar detail is that notwithstanding their fragmentation, their piercing ability is not diminished. In addition, they are almost unusable for forensic investigation as the parts of the core quickly dissolves within a body. Although the dissolution is never complete, any barrel markings or stamps are practically invisible (Vincent & DiMaio, 2015). However, this feature also provides an opportunity to exclude other non-dissolvable types of ammunition, which slightly helps narrow the search.

A standing problem in analyzing high-caliber contact wounds is the fact that residue can no longer be used as a differentiating factor between contact and distant wounds. In particular, Rimfire ammunition leaves almost no powder. Together with the large entrance could be mistaken for a distant wound. In this case, Vincent and DiMaio, (2015) suggest using a microscope and internal tissue examination to achieve certainty in the question.

As such, flat point bullets can inflict heavy damage due to their tip that is flattened up to 90 of the bullet diameter. Their penetrative ability is lower due to the understandably worse aerodynamic qualities. So is the velocity of the bullet, which allows speculating on the relatively close distance at which this ammunition type is usually effective. Fragmenting bullets are also easily identified through wound ballistics, as they are peculiar for splitting into many pieces. The effect is achieved due to the intentionally-fragile composition of the jacket and the core.

The Impact of Ballistics on Forensic Science

In application to forensics, ballistics helps reconstruct the events of a crime and determine the location for searching evidence, finding the criminal, or simplifying the weapon analysis. Before the advent of ballistics in the forensic investigation process, experts used to manually compare the results of test firings. This process required considerable time, and the results were far from accurate. Today, ballistic technology were implemented into automatic forensic examination tools that compare images to those of the database in a matter of seconds, allowing to produce results much faster than before. In addition, the quantity of processed data increased several times. Partly, the advancements in ballistics were made possible by the creation and usage of the high-speed camera. Test firings can now be recorded and analyzed in detail. The bullet path from a gun to a target could be documented and processed frame by frame, increasing the quality of the produced evidence. The implementation of automatic trajectory analysis mechanisms also improved the process and made it even more significant for criminal investigation.

Boston Police Department reported that the success of accurate matching of casings and firearms as a result of ballistics imaging introduction increased six times (King et al., 2017). This has led to the increased alertness of the crime scene investigation teams to analyzing and gathering cartridges by five times. This may indicate the growth and development of the field.

On the other hand, King et al. (2017) argue that forensics might not have benefitted from ballistics as much as it is commonly accepted. The limitations of the method are driven by a variety of factors. One of them is the negligence of police officers eligible for submitting the ballistics evidence to forensics laboratory. Such cases according to King et al. (2017) constitute up to 14%. Judging from the fact that these data are based on the open homicide cases in the U.S. the data is rather reliable. This creates problems with large quantities of data being simply unprocessed, which creates doubt of the examination significance in the eyes of police officers.

Time delays present another issue that undermines the positive effect of ballistics evidence on the forensic process. When criminal is still not in custody time is of essence, and ballistics expertise could take a lot of time. Even though with the advent of technology the process of evidence examination has sped up, the bureaucratic nature of data processing in the forensics lab hinders the significance of retrieved data. As such, prior to sending the data to firearms section, each recovered casing or firearm undergoes fingerprint and DNA analysis (King et al., 2017). The delays due to that could reach up to 30 days. Understaffing and the workloads in the labs are also the factors that impede the process of analysis, and, consequently, investigation. The other issue that investigators face is the low availability of the evidence. The cases when ballistic expertise was timely and ready before an arrest are reported to be as infrequent as 6.7% (King et al., 2017).

On the other hand, researchers argue that the ultimate purpose of ballistic expertise is not in aiding in arresting criminals but helping the prosecution to build a solid case against the defendant. Since due to the peculiarities of the analysis procedures, the average time for ballistic examination to be completed is estimated at 181 day (King et al., 2017). Given that, even if the time required for competing data processing is halved, the evidence seems still unusable for investigation. In court cases, however, where each and every piece of evidence is valuable, the results of ballistic expertise could prove invaluable.

Forensic Investigation of Firearms and Ballistics for Solving Crimes

Despite the fact, that ballistics report rarely comes in time to aid the enforcement agencies in arresting the guilty; their practical significance is rather high. A ballistics report could provide detailed information on the process of crime regarding the position of the victim and the shooter by the type of the wound and the soot residue around it. It could identify the tool of crime and the type of ammo it used by the fingering pin mark, barrel markings on a casing and other characteristic features. Recovering a serial number of the firearm allows tracking its owner or at least giving the lead to where it was bought.

The process of crime solving is not always a matter of days. Sometimes, traditional investigation tools as witness questioning or fingerprint analysis lead to a deadlock. A Firearms and Ballistics expertise can give a valuable hint on where to start or continue the search for a criminal. In addition, this type of expertise provides additional proof of coherence of the prosecutor’s theory in court. Unlike other types of evidence, a gunshot wound cannot be hidden, and the reliability of evidence it provides is backed by substantial research.

On the other hand, due to the aforementioned barriers towards the swift and timely presentation of the official forensic report, ballistics is still viewed as conformational and secondary evidence collecting and analysis technique. In addition, King et al. (2017) argue that investigation officers often experience difficulties with assessing the reports and utilizing the beneficial information in order to continue the search. The results of the firearms investigation can also be controversial. In criminal or near-criminal environment guns often change multiple owners, and it is challenging to establish a solid connection between the killer and the firearm. Additionally, the nature of evidence handling does not allow ballistics investigation access other information about the case and likewise. This state of affairs produces a situation where forensic experts and police forces both have incomplete information (King et al., 2017).

Nonetheless, investigating officers tend to agree that every bit of information on the case helps, and nothing should be set aside as non-incriminating or inconclusive evidence. In addition, with the advancements in microbiology, development of the methodological basis of forensic science, and the establishment of clear and comfortable data management and exchange, firearms and ballistics could become more effective at crime solving.

Conclusion

All things considered, firearms and ballistics expertise is an essential process and area of study within the framework of forensic science. Despite some intellectuals claim that this type of gathering and analyzing data is rather inconclusive and theoretical, the majority of the discussed data and practices was supported by reliable research. It is undoubtful that the ballistics expertise lacks the speed and weight but, nonetheless, it stays a prominent sphere of forensic investigation that has all the chances to be more effective. Necessary adjustments in the process of data handling and overall de-bureaucratization of evidence processing could help firearms and ballistics advance and become a valuable source of data that helps solve crimes more effectively.

References

Bartlett, C. S. (2003). Clinical update: Gunshot wound ballistics. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®, 408, 28-57.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). (2005). Bullets, casings, and you. Web.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). (n.d.a). ATF guidebook – Importation & verification of firearms, ammunition, and implements of war. Web.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). (n.d.b). Chapter 2. What are “firearms” under the NFA? Web.

Cole, S. N. (2017). Glossary of firearm terms: 2017-2018 edition. New York, NY: Association of Firearm Instructors.

Heard, B. J. (2011). Handbook of firearms and ballistics: Examining and interpreting forensic evidence (Vol. 1). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

King, W. R., Campbell, B. A., Matusiak, M. C., & Katz, C. M. (2017). Forensic evidence and criminal investigations: The impact of ballistics information on the investigation of violent crime in nine cities. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 62(4), 874-880.

Mather, K. (2014). Smith & Wesson says it won’t follow California ‘microstamping’ law. Los Angeles Times. Web.

Vincent J.M., & DiMaio, V. J. (2015). Gunshot wounds: Practical aspects of firearms, ballistics, and forensic techniques (3rd ed.). New York, NY: CRC Press.

Warlow, T. (2016). Firearms, the law, and forensic ballistics (3rd ed.). New York, NY: CRC Press.

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