Distortion of the temporary cavity and its influence on staining in firearm barrels
After contact shots to the head, biological traces can be found inside the barrel of the firearm. Experimental protocols to generate this sort of staining, using 12 cm gelatin cubes containing thin foil bags filled with acrylic paint, human blood, and radiocontrast agent, have been developed. Previous research on shots fired at a distance has shown the underlay sustaining these gelatin cubes has an influence on experimental results. This study was conducted to investigate the role of the sustaining base of the gelatin blocks during contact shots, and its influence on the staining result inside firearm barrels. Eighteen contact shots were performed using 22 LR, 32 ACP (7.65 Browning) and 9 mm Luger semi-automatic pistols. With each pistol, shots were fired onto six gelatin cubes; three placed upon a rigid platform and three upon an elastic underlay. The shots were recorded by a high-speed video camera as they penetrated the gelatin cube. Any staining present inside the firearm barrels after the shots were fired was documented by endoscopy. Cross sections of the gelatin blocks were then compared to the high-speed video. It was found that the nature of the staining inside the barrel was not influenced by the underlay sustaining the target model. In the experiment using a 9 mm Luger, the rigid counterfort provoked a visible distortion of the temporary cavity, but, cross sectional analysis of the gelatin cubes did not reveal a relevant influence of the sustaining underlay on the crack length in the gelatin. This could be explained by a secondary expansion of the temporary cavity left by the projectile as a consequence of subsequent inflow of muzzle gases.
KeywordsSuicide Firearm barrel Wound ballistics Backspatter Biological traces Muzzle gases
The expert technical assistance of Nicole Schwendener (Bern) is gratefully acknowledged.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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