Ballistics is the section of Forensic Science that deals with all sorts of firearms, it looks at how they are used, why they are used and determines the type of firearm that has been used in a murder. For many people the first time that they have come into contact with the term ‘ballistics’ is through watching a murder mystery or police drama on television on the television or on a movie at the cinema.
Sometimes it is not just murder victims that get shot. But whether you have a dead body or a victim that has been shot, there is a lot that you can find out about the firearm that was used and the type of ammunition that was used. Different types of guns can produce different types of wounds. A shot gun will give a ‘peppered’ display that is spread over a large area, and damage will be determined by how close the gun was discharged to the victim. A rifle will give a site of entry and possibly if it does not get logged in the body or ricochet on a bone will give an exit wound as well. A BB gun will give a single wound that generally does not penetrate too far into the body. Wounds from shot guns and rifles will certainly have evidence of gunpowder residue at the entry site and the type of gunpowder will also help narrow down a profile of the guns used and may also hold some interesting information about the person who used the gun.
Sometimes the shooter will panic when they realise that they have shot someone, so they will drop the gun and run. If they were not wearing gloves at the time may have left fingerprints that can be lifted and may be identified through those or they have left valuable DNA evidence.
Most firearms have a serial number on them so it means that their legal owner can be identified. But the legal owner may not have been the person who shot the gun, the gun may have been stolen or borrowed, but at least with knowing who the legal owner is the story can start to unravel.
If the gun has been traced back to its owner there is still a vital piece of work that needs to be completed through ballistics and that is to make sure that it was the actual gun that was used and that the bullet or shot that made the wound in the victim matches the gun and that the gun was recently fired. This can be determined by inspection of the inside of the barrel which has small grooves which in inspection of the bullet will match if that was the gun.
Ant that is just the start of the amount evidence that ballistics can uncover. And that is a fact.