Shots fired from close range leave tell-tale marks called stippling, or tattooing. Evidence of contact with hot gunpowder can be seen just above and to the sides of the “V” opening of the shirt (the blackened area) in the photograph below.
The person who wore this shirt was the victim of a shooting at close range—less than a foot away—with a 9mm pistol. Notice there’s no hole in the back of the shirt. No hole, no exit wound. The bullet remained lodged inside the body, even from a shot at this short distance.
The next photograph (post autopsy) – *WARNING. REAL GUNSHOT WOUND – GRAPHIC *– is of the victim’s wound (received in the upper image).
The wound is round and neat and it’s approximately the diameter of an ink pen. It’s not like the ones we see on television where half the guy’s body is blown into oblivion, or beyond, by a couple of bullets from a hero’s gun.
Sometimes exit wounds are nearly, or as small as the entrance wound. The amount of damage and path of travel depends on the type ammunition used and what the bullet struck as it makes it way through the body. They do not display signs associated with entrance wounds—imprint of the muzzle, stippling, or blackening of the skin edges.
I’ve witnessed officers who easily mistook exit wounds for entrance wounds, at first glance. A close examination reveals stark differences. Exit wounds normally present pieces of avulsed flesh angled slightly away from the wound. Typically, there’s also no trace of gunshot residue around the outside of the wound.
Again, the image below is graphic!
In the picture below, the hot bullet entered the flesh leaving a gray-black ring around the wound. The tiny black dots are the stippling, or tattooing.
The impact of the bullet and gases striking the tissue also left a distinct bruising (ecchymosis) around the wound. Notice the stitching of the “Y” incision.
Contact wounds caused by the barrel of a gun touching the skin when the weapon is fired may present the imprint of the muzzle. The wounds sometimes show an abrasion ring (a dark circle around the wound) that’s caused as the hot gases from the weapon enters the flesh. The force of the gas blows the skin and tissue back against the gun’s muzzle, leaving the circular imprint.
Contact wounds occur when the muzzle is pressed against the skin when the weapon is fired
- In areas of “loose” skin, such as the abdomen or even the chest area, wounds likely present as circular with blackened, seared skin surrounding the wound opening.
- On the head, entry wounds often appear as round punctures, again with blackened, seared skin surrounding the wound opening.
Near-contact wounds are caused when the muzzle of the gun is held a short distance from the skin. These wounds generally present as circular with blackened and seared edges. However, the searing and blackening cover a wider space than seen with contact wounds
- Stippling is due to burned and unburned powder grains exiting from the firearm causing pinpoint, blackened abrasions on the skin.
Entrance and Exit Wounds in Bone
Entrance wounds in flat bones such as the skull are often round and show internal beveling in the direction of the bullet’s path. The shape and nature is quite similar to that of a cone.
Exit wounds in bone are most likely more irregular in shape than entry wounds and may show external beveling (a reverse cone), the opposite effect of the entrance wound.