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Forensic Ballistics in Court: Interpretation and Presentation of Firearms Evidence

ISBN: 978-1-119-96268-7
396 pages
May 2013
Forensic Ballistics in Court: Interpretation and Presentation of Firearms Evidence (1119962684) cover image

Forensic Ballistics in Court: Interpretation and Presentation of Firearms Evidence is an accessible introduction to firearms and ballistics evidence and how this is analysed and presented as evidence in a court of law.

The book approaches the subject in terms of the realities of case work, opening with a clear and illustrated explanation of the correct nomenclature for various weapon types and their parts. Ammunition is also extensively covered, again with annotated illustrations. Basic external and terminal ballistics, wounding capabilities are likewise covered to give an overview of the subject. A key aspect of the book covers the theory and philosophy behind striation matches and the associated statistics, how positive matches should be peer reviewed and the importance accreditation has on this subject.

Gunshot residue formation and identification and the various methods used in its analysis are reviewed in depth. This includes a critical examination of the pros and cons of each type of examination and the evidential weight which can be applied to each method.

  • Accessible and reader-friendly introduction to firearms and ballistics.
  • Clarifies the limitations of firearms evidence.
  • Extensive use of global case-studies throughout.
  • Focus on the interpretation and assessment of the weight of firearms/ballistics evidence presented at court.
  • Covers the importance of witness and accused statements and their interpretation in relation to the investigation under review.
  • Includes coverage of gunshot residue collection, examination and interpretation and the potential for contamination of GSR samples.
  • Includes numerous real life case studies that the author has dealt with over the past 45 years.
  • Takes an applied approach to the subject.
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About the Author xiii

Introduction xv

About the companion website xix

1.0 Firearms History 1

1.0.1 Introduction 1

1.0.2 The flintlock 1

1.0.3 The percussion system 3

1.0.4 The pinfire system 3

1.0.5 The rimfire system 4

1.0.6 The Dreyse needle fire system 4

1.0.7 The centre fire system 5

1.0.8 The revolver 5

1.0.9 The self-loading pistol 6

Further reading 8

2.0 Weapon Types and Their Operation 9

2.0.1 Introduction 9

2.0.2 Handguns 9

2.0.3 Rifles 13

2.0.4 Shotguns 14

2.0.5 Combination weapons 15

2.0.6 Sub-machine guns 15

2.0.7 Assault rifles 16

2.0.8 Machine guns and heavy machine guns 16

2.0.9 Muzzle attachments 16

2.0.10 Important parts of a weapons mechanism 19

2.0.11 Bent and sear 20

2.0.12 Other important parts of a revolver mechanism 22

2.0.13 Hand and ratchet 23

Further reading 24

2.1 Gas and Air Powered Weapons 25

2.1.1 Introduction 25

2.1.2 Weapon types 25

2.1.3 Ammunition 28

2.1.4 Considerations 30

Further reading 31

2.2 Rifling Types and Their Identification 33

2.2.1 Introduction 33

2.2.2 Basics 34

2.2.3 Class characteristics 37

2.2.4 General introduction to rifling 38

Additional reading 42

2.3 Home-made, Improvised and Converted Firearms 43

2.3.1 Introduction 43

2.3.2 Improvised firearms 43

2.3.3 Converting air weapons 44

2.3.4 Home-made and converted toys and replica weapons 45

2.3.5 Home-made ammunition 48

Further reading 50

2.4 Antique Weapons 51

2.4.1 Introduction 51

2.4.2 Background 51

2.4.3 Defining ‘antique’ 52

3.0 Proof Marks 55

3.0.1 Introduction 55

3.0.2 Proof marks 55

3.0.3 Types of proof 56

3.0.4 Proof marks and the examiner 56

3.0.5 Examples of proof marks 56

Further reading 61

4.0 A Brief History of Ammunition 63

4.0.1 Introduction 63

4.0.2 Basics 63

Further reading 66

4.1 Ammunition Components 67

4.1.1 Introduction 67

4.1.2 Basics 67

4.1.3 Ammunition types 68

4.1.4 Primer cap types 69

4.1.5 Cartridge cases 70

4.1.6 Shotgun ammunition 73

Further reading 79

4.2 Bullet Types 81

4.2.1 Introduction 81

4.2.2 Basics 81

4.2.3 Bullet materials 81

4.2.4 Other bullet types 83

4.2.5 Bullet nose configuration 83

4.2.6 Bullet base configuration 85

4.2.7 Bullet lubrication 85

Further reading 86

4.3 Headstamps and Other Identifying Features on Ammunition 87

4.3.1 Introduction 87

4.3.2 Basics 88

4.3.3 Clandestine ammunition 89

4.3.4 Colour coding of ammunition 90

Further reading 91

4.4 Non-toxic and Frangible Bullets 93

4.4.1 Introduction 93

4.4.2 Elimination of lead in ammunition 93

4.4.3 Materials used in non-toxic ammunition 94

4.4.4 The current situation 94

Further reading 96

4.5 Non-toxic Shot 97

4.5.1 Introduction 97

4.5.2 Materials used in non-toxic shotgun ammunition 97

Suggested further reading 100

4.6 A Brief History of Propellants 101

4.6.1 Introduction 101

4.6.2 Basics 101

4.6.3 Black powder 102

4.6.4 Nitro propellants 104

4.6.5 Dating of ammunition 107

4.6.6 Reduced loads for target shooting 107

Further reading 108

4.7 Priming Compounds 109

4.7.1 Introduction 109

4.7.2 Basics 110

4.7.3 A short history of priming compounds 110

4.7.4 Manufacture 113

4.7.5 Accidental discharge of primers 113

Further reading 114

5.0 An Introduction to Ballistics 115

5.0.1 Introduction 115

5.0.2 Basics 115

5.0.3 Background 115

Further reading 116

5.1 Internal Ballistics 117

5.1.1 Introduction 117

5.1.2 Basics 117

5.1.3 Recoil 118

5.1.4 Barrel pressure 120

Further reading 121

5.2 External Ballistics 123

5.2.1 Introduction 123

5.2.2 Basics 124

5.2.3 Maximum range of missiles 126

5.2.4 Maximum altitude that a bullet will attain 130

5.2.5 Terminal velocity 131

5.2.6 Use of sight to compensate for bullet drop 132

5.2.7 Other influencing factors 132

5.2.8 Muzzle energy 134

5.2.9 Momentum 135

Further reading 135

5.3 Terminal Ballistics 137

5.3.1 Introduction 137

5.3.2 Basics 137

5.3.3 General wound ballistic concepts 139

5.3.4 Other factors influencing the wounding capabilities of a missile 144

5.3.5 Bullet performance and ‘wounding capabilities’ 145

5.3.6 Relative stopping power (RSP) 147

5.3.7 Bullet resistant vests (BRV) 149

Further reading 152

6.0 A Brief History of Forensic Firearms Identification 153

6.0.1 Introduction 153

6.0.2 Early cases involving bullet identification 154

6.0.3 Use of photomicrographs 154

6.0.4 Identification of weapon from breech face markings 155

6.0.5 Early use of comparison microscope 155

6.0.6 Introduction of the binocular comparison microscope 156

6.0.7 Improvements in illumination 157

6.0.8 Photography of stria 157

6.0.9 Modern technology for stria comparison 157

Suggested further reading 160

7.0 Basic Concepts of Striation Matching 161

7.0.1 Introduction 161

7.0.2 Basics 162

7.0.3 Identification of weapon type 164

7.0.4 Individual characteristics on cartridge cases 165

7.0.5 Formation of stria 166

7.0.6 Problematical areas 167

Further reading 172

7.1 Basic Concepts in Comparison Microscopy 173

7.1.1 Introduction 173

7.1.2 Basic methodology and background to stria comparisons 174

7.1.3 Lighting used for comparison microscopy 175

7.1.4 The concept of consecutive matching stria 177

7.1.5 Obtaining control samples 177

7.1.6 Manufacturing marks on ammunition 178

7.1.7 Recovery methods for fired bullets 178

7.1.8 Conclusion 180

Further reading 181

7.2 The Concept of Consecutive Matching Stria 183

7.2.1 Introduction 183

7.2.2 Basics 183

7.2.3 Arguments for and against the concept of stria comparisons 186

Further reading 187

7.3 A Statistical Model to Illustrate the Concept of Individuality in Striation Matches 189

7.3.1 Introduction 189

7.3.2 Basics 189

7.3.3 Stria individuality 190

7.3.4 Philosophy 191

References 193

8.0 Accidental Discharge 195

8.0.1 Introduction 195

8.0.2 Basics 197

8.0.3 Trigger mechanisms 197

8.0.4 Reasons for an accidental discharge 198

8.0.5 Negligent discharges 203

Further reading 204

9.0 Identification of Calibre from the Bullet Entry Hole 205

9.0.1 Introduction 205

9.0.2 Basics 206

9.0.3 Determination of bullet type 207

Further reading 208

10.0 Ricochet Analysis 209

10.0.1 Introduction 209

10.0.2 Basics 209

10.0.3 Variables influencing the liability of a missile to ricochet 210

Further reading 213

11.0 Bullet Penetration and Trajectory through Glass 215

11.0.1 Introduction 215

11.0.2 Glass types and glass substitutes 215

11.0.3 Deviation of missile after penetrating glass 217

11.0.4 Penetration of normal window glass 217

11.0.5 Penetration of laminated and bullet-resistant glass 218

11.0.6 Penetration of tempered or toughened glass 219

11.0.7 Determination of bullet type from the entry hole 220

11.0.8 Deflection of bullet by glass 221

Further reading and references 223

12.0 Range of Firing Estimations and Bullet Hole Examinations 225

12.0.1 Introduction 225

12.0.2 Basics 225

12.0.3 Range of firing estimations for pistols and rifles 227

12.0.4 Extended range of fire estimations 230

12.0.5 Range of firing estimations on badly decomposed bodies 231

12.0.6 Bullet wipe marks 231

12.1 Chemical Tests for Range of Fire Estimations and Bullet Entry/Exit Hole Identification 235

12.1.1 Introduction 235

12.1.2 Chemical tests for range of firing estimations 235

12.1.3 Range of firing estimations on heavily bloodstained garments 237

12.1.4 Range of firing estimations for non-toxic non-lead primers 238

Further reading 239

12.2 Range of Fire Estimations for Shotguns 241

12.2.1 Introduction 241

12.2.2 Basics 242

12.2.3 Shotgun cartridges fired in revolvers 246

Suggested further reading 247

13.0 The Use of X-ray Photography for Projectile Identification 249

13.0.1 Introduction 249

13.0.2 Estimation of calibre from X-ray photographs 250

Further reading 254

14.0 Gunshot Residue Examination 255

14.0.1 Introduction 255

14.0.2 Basics 256

14.0.3 Identification of GSR Particles 257

14.0.4 The use of the scanning electron microscope (SEM) with energy dispersive X-Ray analysis (EDX) for the detection and analysis of GSR particles 259

14.0.5 Sample collection 260

14.0.6 GSR retention 263

14.0.7 Interpretation of results 264

14.0.8 Identification of type of ammunition and country or origin from GSR composition 265

14.0.9 Environmental contaminants 267

14.0.10 Extending the period over which GSR particles can be recovered 269

14.0.11 General considerations to be made when examining GSR analysis results 272

14.0.12 Discussion 274

References 275

15.0 Gun Handling Tests 277

15.0.1 Introduction 277

15.0.2 History 278

15.0.3 Methodology for the use of Ferrozine 279

Further reading 283

16.0 Laser-etched Serial Numbers and Bar Codes 285

16.0.1 Introduction 285

16.0.2 Laser-etched serial numbers 285

16.0.3 Bar codes 286

16.0.4 Conclusion 287

Further reading 287

17.0 Classification of Firearms-related Death 289

17.0.1 Introduction 289

17.0.2 Basics 289

17.0.3 Multiple shot suicides 290

References and further reading 293

18.0 Practical Considerations in a Firearms Case from a Legal Point of View 295

18.0.1 Introduction 295

18.0.2 Key questions 296

18.0.3 Legal challenges to forensic firearms evidence in the USA 298

18.0.4 Conclusion 300

Further reading and references 300

19.0 Qualifying the Expert and Cross-examination Questions 301

19.0.1 Definition 301

19.0.2 Introduction 301

19.0.3 Qualifying the expert 302

19.0.4 General background questions 303

19.0.5 Comparison microscopy 303

19.0.6 Gunshot residue 306

19.0.7 Ferrozine test 308

Further reading 308

20.0 Chain of Custody 309

20.0.1 Introduction 309

20.0.2 Basics 309

20.0.3 Process 310

20.0.4 In court 310

Further reading 311

Appendix 1 Standard of Review: ‘Daubert Trilogy’ 313

Appendix 2 Commercial and General Abbreviations for Bullet Configurations 317

Appendix 3 Some of the More Common Trade Names 323

Appendix 4 Important dates in the History of Firearms from 1247 335

Appendix 5 Dates for the Introduction of Various Cartridges by Calibre 341

Appendix 6 Some Trademarks Found on Guns 345

Appendix 7 General Firearms Values Conversion Table 349

Appendix 8 Hearing Loss 351

Appendix 9 A List of Handgun Cartridges 355

Appendix 10 A List of Rifle Cartridges 357

Appendix 11 Air Weapon Legislation 361

Index 367

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