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Firearms Examiner Training

Module 15: Safety

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illustration of a gun being fired
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).


Author: John H. Dillon, Jr.
Headshot of Author John H. Dillon, Jr
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).
Jack Dillon earned a B. S. from the United States Naval Academy and an M. Ed. from the University of Virginia. Commissioned in the United States Marine Corps in 1964, he attained the rank of Captain of Marines. Appointed a Special Agent, FBI, in 1970, he investigated diverse criminal violations, including organized crime, bank robberies, extortions, and kidnappings. In 1976 he received orders to the Firearms/Toolmarks Unit of the FBI Laboratory for training as an examiner, where he evaluated evidence and provided on-site field support in domestic cases, as well as abroad. He also designed and taught basic and management-level forensic courses at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia, 1982-1988. Jack retired from the FBI as Chief of the Firearms/Toolmarks Unit in 1994, and continues to consult in forensic firearm cases and in training design and delivery.



Safety is the first priority in conducting any laboratory examination. Laboratory safety protocols are implemented for the protection of all laboratory staff.

Safety procedures addressed in this module include

  • firearms,
  • biohazards,
  • chemical.
In any given laboratory, the safety protocols of that laboratory should be followed and will take precedence over any procedures outlined in this module or other modules.



At the conclusion of this module the student should be able to do the following:

  • Summarize biohazard procedures generally, in regard to the importance of
    • biohazard stickers,
    • air drying bloody clothing and similar items,
    • disinfectants for bullets,
    • cleaning bullets bearing potential biohazards,
    • particulate masks if appropriate,
    • an awareness of possible parasites in clothing and other items.
  • Describe chemical safety precautions relating to
    • prevention of
      • ingestion,
      • inhalation,
      • skin contact,
    • reagent preparation,
    • reagent storage,
    • reagent marking,
    • reagent disposal.
  • Describe the rules for the safe handling of firearms-related evidence, including firearms, bullets, unfired ammunition, and blood-soaked clothing
    • as they may apply to firearms in any circumstance,
    • at a crime scene,
    • upon receipt at the laboratory bench,
    • during test firing,
    • when using bullet recovery equipment,
    • when firing known-distance gunshot residue patterns,
    • in the courtroom.
  • Articulate the appropriate safety precautions that should be taken in regard to toolmark-related evidence, including
    • edged or pointed items (sharps),
    • biohazards commonly encountered with edged tools.
  • Provide an overview of firearms laboratory safety management and supervisory responsibilities, including these:
    • Protection of personnel, to include
      • general safety training,
      • personal protective equipment,
      • preventive health measures.
    • Physical plant responsibilities, to include
      • expendable supplies for evidence decontamination,
      • lead abatement,
      • ventilation,
      • sound abatement.
    • Emergency response preparation, to include
      • planning concerns,
      • emergency response training,
      • emergency equipment,
      • communications.

AFTE Knowledge and Ability Factors

130. Knowledge of the potential hazardous properties of biological hazards (such as hepatitis, AIDS, etc.)
131. Knowledge of the potential hazardous properties of parasites.
132. Knowledge of the potential hazardous properties of toxic and reactive chemicals
133. Knowledge of the potential hazardous properties of gunshot residues
134. Knowledge of the proper methods for the handling and disposing of hazardous materials
135. Knowledge of how to safely handle potentially dangerous items, such as defective firearms, ammunition, and explosives for laboratory examination
138. Knowledge of the proper use of safety equipment and materials (such as protective clothing, eye and ear protective devices, and disinfectants)
139. Knowledge of safety procedures and the potential hazardous properties regarding test firing various firearms
140. Knowledge of safety procedures associated with the use of laboratory equipment
141. Knowledge of safety procedures associated with the use of handtools, woodworking machinery, and metalworking machinery
94. Ability to recognize unsafe conditions
95. Ability to employ safe work practices
96. Ability to render conditions safe

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