It’s an all-too-common scenario: A person is found dead at a crime scene, the victim of a gunshot wound. Whether it’s a cold-blooded robbery/homicide or a heated crime of passion, investigators must uncover the evidence and piece together the clues that will lead to the murder weapon. And with solid detective work and a bit of good fortune, the weapon will hopefully lead to the shooter.

The field of forensic firearms identification, sometimes called ballistics, is at its heart the ability of a firearms examiner to determine if a particular bullet or cartridge case was fired from a specific firearm. This determination can be made thanks to small, often microscopic markings on bullets or cartridge cases that are unique to ammunition fired from that firearm. Although the examiner cannot determine who actually fired a weapon, matching the ammunition to a weapon provides vital facts for the investigation.

In conjunction with this, the examiner has the ability to explain how a firearm functions and what safety features a firearm might have. This can have an impact on investigations of suicides, unintentional shootings and accidental firearm discharge.

close-up view of bullets inside chambers of revolver. Used for decoration only.

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