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Characterisation of gunshot residues from non-toxic ammunition and their persistence on the shooter’s hands


The aim of this work was to characterise three non-toxic ammunition (NTA) from the GECO and Fiocchi brands, which are available in the Italian market. Characterisation was carried out by considering both the elemental chemical composition and morphology, using scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM-EDS). Particles were collected from both the cartridge cases and the shooters’ hands after shooting tests. Six volunteers fired two shots for each ammunition. Several elements, such as aluminium, potassium, silicon, sulphur, titanium and zinc were found in gunshot residue (GSR) particles from different ammunition. We also studied the persistence of these types of GSR on the hands of the shooters in a range between 1 and 6 h after shooting. The GSR particles from the three NTA tested were found on the hands of shooters until 6 h after the shots. The characterisations undertaken in this work will be useful for specialists in forensic science and legal medicine to evaluate trace evidence from these new NTA in casework, as such formulations are in growth.

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The authors would like to thank Ten. Col. Abate, all “shooter’s people” and all employed at Italian Scientific Investigation Department (Carabinieri RIS) (Rome 00191), Italy, for the scientific collaboration. The authors thank Fiocchi and Geco brands for providing cartridges.

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Correspondence to Fabio De-Giorgio.

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Complete anonymity was achieved in all cases.

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Romanò, S., De-Giorgio, F., D’Onofrio, C. et al. Characterisation of gunshot residues from non-toxic ammunition and their persistence on the shooter’s hands. Int J Legal Med (2020).

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  • Firearms discharge residue (FDR)
  • Forensic science
  • Gunshot residue (GSR)
  • Heavy metal free ammunitions (HMF)
  • Lead-free ammunitions, non-toxic ammunitions (NTA)
  • Scanning electron microscope (SEM)
  • Energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX)