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Firearms Examiner Training

Medical and Autopsy Procedures

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Medical and Autopsy Procedures

When a bullet is recovered from a living victim, it may bear additional microscopic marks that are caused by the actions of medical staff providing care (e.g., forcep impressions on the bearing surface). These marks may alter or obliterate the marks that occurred during firing.

Medical staff should make every effort to preserve the condition of evidence bullets recovered during autopsies. This can be reinforced through training and communication between medical examiners and forensic firearm examiners.


Conclusions expressed in reports relating to a fired bullet in no gun cases will contain a number of categories of information based on the remaining observable physical characteristics:

  • A description of the fired bullet in terms of its caliber, construction, and the cartridge types possibly represented and its manufacturer
  • The general rifling characteristics observed
  • A list of the brands and types of firearms that could have produced the general rifling characteristics observed in its surface
  • The evidentiary potential of the fired bullet in terms of whether or not it bears sufficient microscopic marks for later comparison if a suspect firearm is recovered

It is essential to express the conclusions reached in examinations in a formal report in terms meaningful to investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and all members of the court. This generally means the use of laymans terms to the extent possible without sacrificing technical accuracy.


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