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Standards, NIST Traceability, and Laboratory Accreditation

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Standards, NIST Traceability, and Laboratory Accreditation

Standards used in measuring weight and dimensions in an accredited laboratory should be traceable to and fall within the tolerances of a standard maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a part of the Technology Administration under the United States Department of Commerce.

Click here to visit the NIST website

Certificate of traceability
Certificate of traceability
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Vendors selling items with measurements falling within the specified tolerances can apply for NIST certification. NIST can provide the vendor with a Certificate of Traceability, documenting and supporting the unbroken chain of comparisons of measurements back to the NIST standard.

Click here to visit the NIST definitions

NIST traceable standards may or may not be used for forensic firearms work in a given laboratory. However, firearm examiners can expect increasing challenges relating to NIST standards and traceability in the future.

The momentum of these challenges is growing and is a direct outgrowth of such factors as the these:

  • Widespread recognition of a need for accreditation of forensic laboratories. Laboratory accreditation can be achieved through the following accreditation bodies and their respective programs:
    • American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors / Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).
      • ASCLD/LAB Legacy: The original accreditation program offered by this agency. This program will be phased out in favor of ASCLD/LAB ISO.
      • ASCLD/LAB ISO: Based on ISO/IEC 17025:2005 the international standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) applicable to forensic laboratory accreditation.
    • Forensic Quality Services (FQS).
      • FQS ISO: Also based on ISO/IEC 17025:2005.
  • Support of accreditation programs by the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners

Click here to visit the AFTE Accreditation Advisory Committee Duties and Procedures.

  • Emphasis placed on formalized laboratory technical protocols by professional groups, such as the Scientific Working Group for Firearms and Toolmarks (SWGGUN).

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