New Method Of Connecting A Shooter To Ammunition

Connecting shooter to ammunition

Gunshot residue tests, the tests used by law enforcement to determine if a suspect has recently fired a weapon, detect three elements—barium, antimony, and lead. If those three elements are present on the hands of a suspect, then it’s fair to say he’d recently fired a gun, or he’s been very near a gun when it was discharged. However, many manufacturers are no longer using lead in their products, and the omission of one of the three elements could render the current GSR tests nearly useless, especially if the weapon used in the crime has not been located (for comparison).

So, forensic researchers at Florida International University have developed a new method that can connect a shooter to lead-free ammunition. Instead of detecting the three standard elements, the new method of testing analyzes the entire “recipe” for the specific smokeless powder (NOT CORDITE) used in today’s ammunition. And, since each manufacturer has their own blend, well, it would be quite simple to match the power found at the scene to that found on a suspect’s hands.

8 replies
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Sorry I haven’t been around much this week, but things should return to normal soon.

    Anyway, Di, yes, they’ll know the manufacturer, but more importantly, they’ll be able to match the shooter to the ammo.

    The odor of freshly-burned powder is quite similar to the lingering smell of 4th of July fireworks that hangs in the air after the finale. Or, as Bob stated, sulfurous.

    Cordite… grrrr.

  2. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Di, there was a discussion about gunsmoke smells on CrimeSceneWriters not too long ago, I think. Seems I recall the majority thought was sulfurous. It’s an acrid odor though, and almost instantly identifiable once you’ve smelled it.

  3. Di Eats the Elephant
    Di Eats the Elephant says:

    Would the test be able to tell which manufacturer made it, and would that then provide more information for LEOs? Thanks for providing this update. And, given Karen’s comment, what would an appropriate phrase – one that doesn’t use “cordite” – look like? Not that I’m writing anything like that (seems more gumshoe story to me), but I am curious.

  4. Karen
    Karen says:

    This is really interesting! And I love how you capitalized, “NOT CORDITE”. Every time I read, “stench of cordite”, or “smell of cordite”, I think of you, Lee.

Comments are closed.