Matching Bullets to Weapons with Ballistics Analysis

The CSI experience Las Vegas combines the fun of a game with hands-on learning about forensic science concepts. You might not even realize you are learning science.

Ballistics Basics

One forensic method you’ll use, ballistics, matches tool marks on bullets to the firearm that fired them. In production, the manufacture of a firearm produces tool marks within the barrel unique to the weapon. When the guns fires, these marks transfer to the bullet emitted.

The examination of a bullet begins with three traits:

– Its caliber determined by its size
– The rifling marks direction
– The degree of twist

Those three combined traits lead the forensic scientist to the weapon’s manufacturer.

Comparison Techniques

When police obtain a suspect’s weapon, they test-fire it to obtain a bullet for matching. They then compare the slugs, another name for fired bullets, to one another using a microscope. If the striations on the bullet match, the investigators know the bullet came from the gun.

Computer Assisted Techniques

The investigators can query databases like the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) for matches to a fired bullet. They’re now aided by 3D imaging technology that lets them analyze markings for depth and surface pattern.


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