Forensic scientists have started to look more into the analysis of bullet wounds. By doing so, scientists are able to figure out when are where a crime took place. The results from the wound are usually the deciding factor for the verdict.

An example of a penetrating bullet wound.


Bullet wounds can be perforating or penetrating. Penetrating means the bullet enters the body but does not exit, it remains inside. A perforating wound means the bullet passes through the body completely. A wound can be both perforating and penetrating; for example, the bullet can enter through the midriff and penetrated the stomach but not exit through the back.

Perforating bullet wounds create exit wounds along with the entrance wound. The exit wound is significantly different from the entrance wound. The entrance wound is surrounded by the abrasion ring – reddish-brown abraded skin. Through this wound, a smaller amount of blood escapes compared to the exit wound. The exit wound is considerably larger than the entrance wound. It is more irregular and does not have an abrasion ring.

An example of a perforating bullet wound.

Because of the skin’s elasticity, it retracts if a bullet enters. When the skin retracts it creates the illusion that the wound is smaller than the bullet that came in contact. Bullets generally travel in a straight line. However, if it comes in contact with bone,the direction then becomes unknown. When bones come in contact with bullets they may shatter; it can also deflect the bullet causing it to change direction and possibly strike vital organs or another bone.


By examining gunshot wounds, a forensic scientist can figure out the distance of the shooter from the victim. Wounds are based off of classifications of the range from the muzzle on the gun to the target shot. The classifications are distant, intermediate, near-contact, contact wounds.

Distant wounds only leave the mark of the bullet coming in contact with the skin. An intermediate-range wound is when the gun is held at a distance from the target but is close enough to produce powder tattooing. Near contact wounds is when the gun is very close to being in contact with the target but it never actually touches.

A contact wound is when the muzzle is against the target at the time the gun discharges. This kind of contact can be subdivided into hard, loose, angled and incomplete. A hard-contact wound is when the gun is pushed rigorously into the skin at the time of discharge. These wounds are hard to distinguish as a contact wound because of the distortion. Loose-contact wounds are when the gun is applied loosely to the skin, hence the name. In angled-contact, the gun is held at an acute angle to the target. Incomplete-contact wounds are when the gun is held up to the skin but where the skin does not lay flat.
Video Analysis

Diagram of a bullet entering a body.

If there is an orange-red or red-brown powder present ten the victim was alive when they were shot. If the powder has yellow or grey marks then it indicates that the individual was dead when the shooting occurred.

The wound on the body can help indicate which type of gun was used. The wound can help identify the type of shot, and the gauge of gun along with the type. Today the shotgun is the most deadly weapon in America, when fired at a close range it can be very destructive with massive amounts of tissue and embedded wadding.
Rimfire weapons produces smaller and less prominent tattoo patterns than handguns because of the use of ball powder. With handguns and .22 caliber rimfire weapons, the damage is usually restricted to the tissues and organs directly hit.

Center-fire rifles are different from other weapons due to their higher velocities and higher kinetic energies. These guns can damage organs, tissues, and bones without coming in contact with them; the wounds from these guns can be very severe. The forces are strong enough to disintegrate organs, fracture bones and rupture vessels within the proximity of the wound. The shot can be powerful enough to push skin out both the entrance and exit wounds.


If a bullet perforates clothing it can distort the appearance of the wound and can alter judgments on details. If clothing is present, the common traces are not left behind on the skin so using the methods of finding the distance of the shooter is not probable.
However, clothing can sometimes help in positioning the victim when they were shot. To figure out the victim’s position they line up the bullet wounds on the victim with the holes in the clothing.

In 1835 Henry Goddard was the first to use bullet comparison to solve a case. The case involved Joseph Randall, a butler, who exchanged fire with ‘burglars’. He used the physical analysis to connect the bullet to the gun used.

Some examples of cases that were solved using this technique were: the Jimmy Garcia case, the Keystone Diamond, The Mistress of Hollywood: June Cassandra Mincher, and the Sandwich Shop Murders.


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