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Forensic Ballistics: Changing the Way Gun Crimes Are Solved

With technology continually advancing, forensic investigators are now able to gather a host of information from a bullet, bullet fragments, or bullet tracings left at a crime scene. This branch of forensic science is called ballistics, and it examines the bullet's launch, trajectory, and effects. With sophisticated technology, forensic scientists can link specific firearms to their crimes. Below, we discuss how forensic ballistics enables investigators to solve gun crimes.

Examination of Bullet Fragments

Forensic ballistics specialists are tasked with examining bullet fragments and casings to identify the firearm that the bullet was discharged from. Using a forensic microscope, they examine the evidence, looking for engravings (unique scratches and marks) left on the bullet during the rifling stage when discharged from the gun. These distinct engravings can allow the firearm examiner to tie the bullet to the gun.

If a cartridge case has been recovered from the scene of the crime, the forensic specialist can look for characteristic indentations left on it by the firing pin, the extracting pin, and the ejector. If the specialist can capture images of these impressions or tool marks, they can link a particular firearm to a crime scene.

In the lab, a forensic comparison microscope is used to compare two separate bullet fragments or casings to each other. In the event that the specialists have the firearm in question in their possession, they can fire a bullet in their lab then compare the two bullets using this comparison microscope.

Detection of Gunpowder Patterns

Forensic ballistic experts can use the distinct patterns gunpowder residue leaves behind on objects close to the barrel to link criminals or guns to the crime. These patterns can be compared to other criminal cases being investigated or experiments performed in their labs.

Discovery of Fingerprints

In addition to examining bullet fragments for distinct impressions, ballistics experts can recover fingerprints from the surface of the pieces found. It's likely the gunman handled the bullets without gloves, leaving sweat and salt from his fingers behind. Exposing the fragments to superglue fumes and fingerprint powder reveals fingerprints that can then be run through a fingerprint database to discover a suspect.

Analysis of Trajectory

Recreating a crime scene that involved the use of a firearm requires experts to determine the bullet's trajectory. When they know where the bullet ended up, they can use string or lasers to ascertain the bullet's flight path. This information can tell law enforcement agencies details on the shooter's position, height, etc., possibly the position of the victim, and more.

Examination of Tissue Damage

Even if forensic specialists cannot get information from bullet fragments, they can examine the wounds inflicted on the victims. The tissue damage resulting to the skin or bone can reveal details about the bullet type and how far and fast the bullet traveled. Microscopic investigations are especially beneficial in examining marks left on skeletal bones by the bullet. These analyses can help investigators develop a more complete picture of the events that occurred during the crime.

Solving Gun Crimes with Comparison Microscopes

Advancements in technology have enabled new digital techniques for performing forensic ballistics. Comparison microscopes may not be new technology in any sense of the word, but it has seen remarkable improvements over the years. Comparison forensic microscopes allow labs to run and document vital analyses for gun-related crimes. With this type of microscope, they can look at such things as the tool mark impressions left on bullets to connect crimes to certain firearms (and potential suspects).

As a top microscope manufacturer, UNITRON understands the importance of precision and accuracy when investigating gun crimes. UNITRON designs and manufactures professional microscopes for use in forensic laboratories. If your lab needs a microscope, contact us for quotes on high-quality comparison forensic microscopes and microscope accessories from UNITRON today!

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