International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 169–176 | Cite as

Rearward movement of the slide in semi-automatic pistols: a factor potentially influencing the configuration of muzzle imprint marks in contact shots

  • Rebecca PircherEmail author
  • Matthieu Glardon
  • Markus Große Perdekamp
  • Stefan Pollak
  • Dorothee Geisenberger
Original Article


A muzzle imprint mark is a highly diagnostic finding, which indicates a contact shot. In many cases, it also provides additional information on the type of the weapon used and on the way in which it was held at the time of firing. In semi-automatic pistols, some constructional elements constituting the muzzle plane move to the rear together with the slide, which may prevent them from causing a corresponding imprint close to the bullet entrance hole. The present study comprises 30 consecutive autopsy cases of fatal contact shots to the head inflicted with semi-automatic pistols. The imprint marks accompanying the entrance wounds were compared with the muzzle ends of the respective weapons both before and after retracting the slide. It turned out that in a considerable number of cases (3 out of 30), the retractable parts were not depicted or only to a minor degree as components of the imprint mark. In order to validate the presumed correlation, experimental shots were fired to composite models using pistols in which the movable and the stationary parts forming the muzzle plane were dyed with different paints. Thus, it could be demonstrated that the muzzle imprint preferentially mirrors the front sides of the stationary parts such as the barrel end, the recoil guide, and the gun housing. Immediately after discharge, the slide and the ballooning skin of the bullet entrance site move in the same direction. The stationary parts of the weapon block the expansion of the skin bulging towards the muzzle, so that the skin gets firmly pressed against them. The dynamic interaction between the gun and the entrance region resulting in a characteristic imprint mark could be visualized by the use of a high-speed motion camera recording test shots to different composite models.


Contact shot Muzzle imprint mark Semi-automatic pistols Slide Barrel marking Recoil spring guide Composite model 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Pircher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthieu Glardon
    • 2
  • Markus Große Perdekamp
    • 1
  • Stefan Pollak
    • 1
  • Dorothee Geisenberger
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Legal Medicine, University Medical Center, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Center of Forensic Physics and Ballistics, Institute of Legal MedicineUniversity of BerneBerneSwitzerland

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