Scanning Electron Microscope Analysis of Gunshot Defects to Bone: An Underutilized Source of Information on Ballistic Trauma

Authors: Rickman, J.M. and Smith, M.J.

Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences

eISSN: 1556-4029

ISSN: 0022-1198

DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12522


Recent years have seen increasing involvement by forensic anthropologists in the interpretation of skeletal trauma. With regard to ballistic injuries, there is now a large literature detailing gross features of such trauma; however, less attention has been given to microscopic characteristics. This article presents analysis of experimentally induced gunshot trauma in animal bone (Bos taurus scapulae) using full metal jacket (FMJ), soft point (SP), and captive bolt projectiles. The results were examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Additional analysis was conducted on a purported parietal gunshot lesion in a human cranial specimen. A range of features was observed in these samples suggesting that fibrolamellar bone response to projectile impact is analogous to that observed in synthetic composite laminates. The results indicate that direction of bullet travel can be discerned microscopically even when it is ambiguous on gross examination. It was also possible to distinguish SP from FMJ lesions. SEM analysis is therefore recommended as a previously underexploited tool in the analysis of ballistic trauma. © 2014 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Source: Scopus

Preferred by: Martin Smith

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