Forensic Ballistics

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Forensic Ballistics
Most of us will have heard the term ballistics at some time or other-more often than not when we have been watching fictionalized accounts of police work on television or in the cinema. When you think of forensics you may think of something like “The Forensic Files”, “NCIS”, or even “Law and Order”. Although, ballistics is a part of forensics first we will look at forensics itself and how it came about. After getting the basics about the foundation in forensics we will look at ballistics and how the specifics of ballistics started, who is the founder as well as what ballistics consist of. To the best of my ability, we will review different types of test preformed by a ballistic analyst. After gaining all of the knowledge of ballistics and forensics itself, we can then look at detailed steps in how to become a forensic ballistics analyst.

Without question, the field of forensic science has come a very long way since its recorded beginnings in the 700s, when the Chinese used fingerprints to establish the identity of documents and clay sculptures. This field is one of the few areas of law enforcement where science, technology and crime-solving meet. This combination supports the Theory of Transfer: "When two objects meet, some evidence of that meeting can later be found and verified." A few significant advances occurred in the years prior to 1800. In 1248, a book, Hsi DuanYu (the Washing Away of Wrongs) published by the Chinese, described how to distinguish drowning from strangulation. It was the first recorded application of medical knowledge to the solution of crime. In 1609, the first treatise on systematic document examination was published in France. Then in 1784, one of the first documented uses of physical matching saw an Englishman convicted of murder based on the torn edge of a wad of newspaper in a pistol that matched a piece remaining in his pocket.

Throughout the nineteenth century, many developments took place. Ballistics is the study of the functioning of firearms, the flight of the bullet and the effects of different types of ammunition. Ballistics in crime investigation was first formally established in 1923 when Charles Waite and Philip Garavell set up the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics (BFB). Later, Colonel Calvin Goddar joined the team and together they developed their own specialized equipment. At the scene of a crime, police look for bullets and spent cartridge cases. When police find a suspect's weapon, lab technicians take the gun and fire test bullets from the gun into a cotton wall or a water tank. Under a microscope, the technician can compare the striations on the test bullets with the marks on the bullet from the crime scene. He looks for the direction and degree of the twist, the depth of the grooves, and any imperfections. If the two bullets match, they are from the same gun. Ballistic science can also be used to determine whether or not a person was present when a gun crime was committed. When a gun is fired, tiny specks of primer residue and gunpowder remain on the hand of the person who fired it. The police take residue samples from the suspect's hands, and a lab analyzes the samples for traces of the chemicals antimony, barium, and lead. Ballistics is obviously a very important part of forensics science.

Forensic science reflects multidisciplinary scientific approach to examining crime scenes and in examining evidence to be used in legal proceedings. Forensic science techniques are also used to verify compliance with international treaties and resolutions regarding weapons production and use. Forensic science techniques incorporate techniques and principles of biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, computer science, geology, and psychology. Forensic science is the application of science to matters of law. Both defense and prosecuting attorneys sometimes use information gleaned by forensic scientists in attempting to prove the innocence or guilt of a person accused of...
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