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Israel Police

Israel Police

Investigation Department

Division of Identification

& Forensic science (DIFS)

National Police Headquarters

Jerusalem 91906, Israel 

Tel:  972 – 2- 5309410

Fax: 972 – 2 – 5308688 

e-mails:

DIFS Director: alzit@netvision.net.il

Firearms Identification Lab: neshek@netvision.net.il 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Prepared by: 

         Arie Zeichner, Ph.D., Commander

         Baruch Glattstein, M.Sc., Chief Superintendent

         Tzipi Kahana, Ph.D., Superintendent  

 

Sptember 2001 
Introduction:

This Speaking Paper covers advances made in scientific methods applied to forensic firearms ballistics, chemistry and wound ballistics since the 12th Interpol Forensic Science Symposium in October 1998. Major forensic laboratories from around the world were asked to provide both previously published and unpublished research papers, technical notes, and case reports. 

We would like to thank all the forensic science laboratories and Interpol agencies that provided us with their articles. 

Chapter #1: Firearms - Ballistics

Firearms Toolmarks Identification

Objective Criteria for Identification –

 
 

Consecutively Manufactured Firearms - The possibility of "carry-over" or reproduction of sub-class characteristics that occur in consecutively manufactured barrels was investigated.

 
 
 
 

Literature Review - Bonfanti and De-Kinder8,9 prepared a literature review of consecutively (or closely) manufactured parts of a firearm and a review of papers concerning the evolution of characteristics on bullets and cartridge cases resulting from the discharge of many rounds in a firearm.

Automated Systems for Identification

IBIS - The Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), which is based on an automated and computerized image analysis, has inspired firearm examiners to investigate the system performances and its capabilities.

Thompson10 performed studies on the hardware and software components of IBIS and on a technical overview of the IBIS technology, trial assessments by law enforcement agencies, the effect of this technology in actual laboratory use, and the future use of this technology as a portable field instrument. 

Silverwater (et al.)11, Koffman (et al.)12 and Giverts (et al.)13, carried out some researches, recommending the followings:

 
 

In addition to the IBIS and Drugfire systems, several other systems are commercially available. These databases store images of cartridge cases. One research, written by Geradts (et al.)15 concentrated on the various methods of feature selection and pattern recognition used in the comparison procedure. 

 
 

New Systems & Equipment & Techniques

TriggerScan19,20,21- A computerized trigger pull-measuring device, which has been developed by Dvorak Instruments, is becoming popular and beneficial to the firearms examiners. The TriggerScan system supercedes traditional methods of trigger pull measurement, some of which are subjective in nature.

The TriggerScan system is currently being used in the FBI Laboratory to create a database of trigger-pulls. Once completed, this database will serve as a statistical reference database for firearms examiners, complementing and supporting their reports and testimony involving trigger-pull analysis. 

Surface Topology of Bullet Striations - De-Kinder (et al.) 22,23,24 suggested a new method of laser topography, which is based on a profilometer equipped with a translation and rotational stage, for the following purposes:

Frangible Bullets25 - 30

A new generation of lead-free, non-toxic, frangible ammunition in a variety of calibers is becoming popular in indoor shooting ranges, law enforcement agencies and in the United States military. This ammunition has been developed using powder metallurgy techniques for the production of metal matrix composite simulants for lead. 

The frangible ammunition was assessed for wounding performance and comparison microscope matching:

 
 

Internet

The following two sites can be used as portals to the firearms examiners, forensic scientists, students, and trainees:

www.afte.org, www.firearmsid.com

Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) – 30th Anniversary

The AFTE Journal published an extended issue on summer 1999, which was dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of the AFTE (1969-1999). 
 

Chapter #2: Firearms - Chemistry 

Primer gunshot residues (GSR)

Compositions and Classification

The problem of classification of various compositions of GSR particles continued to be of interest for research. In particular the alleged unique compositions to GSR of (a) lead, antimony and barium, (b) antimony and barium were examined among particles produced by fireworks (Mosher et al.31) and particles collected from various parts of cars and individuals involved in various automobile related jobs (Garofano et al.32). It was observed that particular particles of composition (b) might be found, although in very small amounts, in residues from fireworks and among cars’ related particles. Very few particles of composition (a) were found in the residues of one of the types of the tested fireworks. However, an additional element of magnesium (unusual to GSR) was present in those particles. In quite extensive study, Levin et al.33 showed that the composition of GSR particles from Sintox lead free ammunition is very characteristic and can be included in the consistent category for classification of GSR. Zeichner et al.34 showed that there is a small probability of finding GSR containing a considerable concentration of antimony if the primer of the fired ammunition is antimony-free, even when the surface of the bullet is highly enriched by this element. Miayauchi et al.35, demonstrated contribution of trace elements from smokeless powder to primer residues.

Instrumentation

SEM/EDX continues to be the method of choice for the GSR detection and identification in samples from suspects of shooting in casework. Continuous improvements in the SEM and the EDX technologies are also reflected in the GSR analysis by SEM/EDX. Schwoeble et al.36 demonstrated the use of VPSEM for the GSR detection and identification. Other instrumental techniques have been studied for the analysis of GSR such as micro-XRF (Flynn et al37, Charpentier et al.38), ICP/MS (Koons39), FIB (Niewohner et al.40) and Raman microscopy (Stich et al.41). However, micro-XRF cannot be used for single particle examinations due to the problems of spatial resolution, ICP/MS has the drawback of the bulk analysis method, and the other two methods are still in the phase of research and cannot be used for casework.

Proficiency tests for GSR examination by SEM/EDX

Recently proficiency tests for GSR particles examination were designed. For example the tests prepared by Collaborative Testing Services, Inc. (CTS) were based on GSR suspensions in organic solvents. Small volumes of these, containing 10-20 GSR particles were dropped on the SEM stubs. Due to the large variation among the samples, it was impossible to assess and compare precisely the proficiency of the various labs participating in the test. Lately a major advance was achieved in the 2nd ENFSI proficiency test. In this test conducted by Niewohner from the BKA the stubs were prepared by microelectronics technology. All the participating laboratories received the same samples, namely stubs with the same number of pseudo-particles, in the same locations on the stub and with the same size distribution. Thus precise proficiency of the procedures and the SEM/EDX equipment could be evaluated.

Sampling of GSR and their persistence on various surfaces

Zeichner42 showed that there is no substantial danger of concealing GSR particles by continuous dabbings of hands up to 50 times using double-side adhesive coated stubs. Pukkila et al.43 studied the analysis of primer GSR and gunpowder GSR from the same sample. In the proposed method, the adhesive tape mounted on the stub is first examined by SEM/EDX for the inorganic GSR residues and after removing the tape from a stub it is used for the detection of organic residues by SFE/GC analysis. Jalanti et al.44 conducted a study on the persistence of GSR on shooters’ hands. They observed again the known experimental result that there is a rapid GSR particle count drop as a function of postfiring collection time, with the largest loss occurring in the first two to four hours. The study showed a poor reproducibility in particle counts from shot to shot. Chavez et al.45 showed that laundering clothing does not always completely remove GSR. Kimmett46 conducted a study on the incidence of GSR transferred to paper bag hand covers.

Time since discharge

In a series of papers Andrasko47, 48, 49, 50 et al. presented a novel method for estimation of time since discharge for some types of weapons and spent cartridge cases. Using SPME, samples are taken from the atmosphere inside the barrel of the weapon or the cartridge case and analyzed by either GC/TEA or GC/FID (MS), both of which can detect a variety of combustion products. Estimation of time since last discharge is based on the escape rate of the volatile discharge residues from the barrel or the cartridge case as a function of time. The method was studied for shotguns, rifles and spent cartridges cases. For the former the method could give an indication whether a weapon was fired, e.g., 2 to 3 days, 1 to 2 weeks or more than 3 weeks ago.

Shooting Distance Estimation

In a series of papers Glattstein et al.51, 52, 53 presented improved method for shooting distance estimation on clothing, exhibits that many of them cannot be brought to the laboratory for examination (e.g., cars, walls, doors and windows) and human bodies. The novel part of the method includes transfer of the gunpowder residues from an exhibit to an adhesive lifter. The Modified Griess Test (MGT) is carried out after alkaline hydrolysis of the gunpowder residues on the adhesive lifter. The widely used MGT detects only free nitrite ions. The unburned smokeless powder particles cannot be detected by MGT without the hydrolysis step. In some ammunition the effect of this step may be very dramatic. Haag et al.54 conducted a study comparing various simulants to human skin regarding shooting distance estimation, based on the visual examination of the obtained patterns around the bullet entrance hole. They found that the best simulant was fresh pig skin, twill jean cloth, Whatman #1 blotter paper and Whatman #10 Benchkote. Brown et al.55 reported in two papers about an automated image analysis of GSR in and around gunshot wound. They found that there was a non-linear decreasing relationship between firing range and amount of GSR deposited, and that there was significant variation in the amount of GSR deposited from repeated shots fired from the same distance. Vinokurov et al.56 examined the influence of machine washing or brushing of clothing on shooting distance estimation. Results show that those treatments decrease considerably the amount and density of GSR around the bullet entrance hole.

Chapter #3: Firearms - Wound ballistics

Understanding the mechanisms by which penetrating projectiles disrupt the living tissues permits a good estimation of the bullet's mass, velocity shape and construction. Quatrehomme et al.57 and Berryman et al.58 published two papers on the subject. Peculiar wound characteristics which result from odd behavior of the bullets, from the use of unusual ammunition or weapons were examined by Druid et al.59, De Roux et al.60, Rothschild et al.61, and Karger et al.62. In-depth description of wound ballistics in modern war and injuries secondary to ammunitions are presented by Kopchinski et al.63, Hiss et al.64, Grellner et al.65 and Di Maio66. Mortality from firearms depends not only on the technology of the weapon or its ammunition, but also on the context in which it is used. An exhaustive review of the literature related various factors explained in terms of wound ballistics was described by Coupland et al.67. 

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