Essay Example on Crime Scene Investigation: Firearms and Ammunition (Ballistics) Evidence

Published: 2023-01-13
Essay Example on Crime Scene Investigation: Firearms and Ammunition (Ballistics) Evidence
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Gun violence Criminal justice
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 927 words
8 min read

During the crime scene investigation, firearm-related evidence should be collected and handled meticulously to eliminate chances of compromised evidence. Firearm evidence should be identified appropriately with details of date and time, location, case number, collector's name, and evidence number; however, the details should not be marked on the bullets or firearms, but on the container, the evidence is stored (FBI Laboratory Division, 2013). During collection, firearms should be unloaded and stored in a wrapping paper or a cardboard box; the bullets should be stored in a labeled package to avoid mixing with other bullet and identified to the gun used to fire. The attributes of a bullet that are examined bullet design, caliber, weight; in case the gun used are not found at the crime scene; the bullet characteristics can be used identify the type of gun that was used to fire. In some cases, firearms can be investigated for biological evidence; also, firearm images can be used to investigate the features of a gun (FBI Laboratory Division, 2013).

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Forensic ballistics examinations major on cartridge or bullet analysis, bullet holes, gun serial number, fingerprints, and any other useful piece of evidence found at a crime scene. Different guns have different specifications; therefore, examining bullet holes, bullet type, size, and weight is essential in identifying the type of firearm used, if it is not recovered at the crime scene. If a firearm is found, General Riffling Characteristics (GRC) are identified by conducting a direct microscopic comparison between the bullets obtained at the crime scene, and the bullets obtained during test-firing. If no gun is found at the crime scene, the GRC results obtained are searched in the FBI Laboratory's GRC database to find potential firearms that could have been used to fire the bullets gun (FBI Laboratory Division, 2013).

Although the standards and method used for collecting and examining ballistics evidence are active, there are possible cases of errors. According to a research article by Song et al. (2018), the Congruent Matching Cells (CMC) image comparison method can be used to estimate the error rates in ballistics evidence.

An article on The New York Times by Urbina (2018) tells of a ruthless robber who attacks his victims, steals from them, and at times shoots at them, leaving them injured. Also, the robber leaves ejected shell casings at the scene, besides going uncaught after a series of crimes. However, a nine millimeter Glock handgun discovered in an unrelated event after his fourth robbery is matched to the spent bullets left at his robbery scenes; further investigations lead to the arrest of Amin Ackridge. According to one respondent, the case would never have been solved were it not for the bullet match, and ballistics forensics. In 2017, Amin Ackridge was arraigned to court and charged with multiple 2015 robberies, shootings, and injuring four people leaving one paralyzed. Later, Mr. Ackridge was sentenced to a period of 178 years in prison, which is equivalent to life imprisonment. This incidence is among the many that have made various police department to increasingly incorporate the use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) in criminal investigations.

Criminal investigations on firearm-related crimes can be improved with the use of the NIBIN by enhancing the quality of the systems. The databases can be continually updates to become more productive by giving information relevant to the ongoing investigations. Also, investigators, who are the end users of NIBIM, can interact more with the crime laboratories to ensure that NIBIM reports are more instrumental in the identification, investigation, and prosecution process. Also, the evidence processing speed of the NIBIM system should be improved; according to Ritter (2014), delays in the processing of ballistic evidence are a significant threat to the usefulness of the NIBIM system. Ritter further states that sometimes, criminal investigators do not use the NIBIM system to find unknown suspects because they can find them and make arrests before NIBIM reports are made. NIBIM can take up to 101 days to process results; therefore, it is not very reliable.

Proper collection and management of ballistics evidence can be instrumental in reducing the number of firearm-related crimes and solving the cases that might still be under investigation. Also, forensic ballistics evidence can match a specific gun to a crime scene; thereby, there is ease of investigation and linking criminals to their crimes. It is vital to make a crime scene under study accessible to the investigators, to ensure that no evidence is contaminated; contaminated evidence can lead to inaccurate results, which means that crimes can go unpunished. The slightest details such as gunpowder residues are important during investigation since they can be used to estimate the range from which a weapon is fired. Also, bullet holes can be used to indicate the direction from which a bullet is fired, and the position of the shooter; the same can be deduced from the magnitude of tissue damage from bullet injuries. Finally, it is a gun that can be a tool to identify a suspect due to unique serial numbers and fingerprints on the surface of the gun; therefore, it is possible to curb firearm crimes.


FBI Laboratory Division. (2013). Handbook of Forensic Services. Retrieved from

Ritter, N. (2014). Study Identifies Ways to improve ATF Ballistic Evidence Program. NIJ Journal, (274), 12.

Song, J., Vorburger, T. V., Chu, W., Yen, J., Soons, J. A., Ott, D. B., & Zhang, N.F. (2018). Estimating errors for firearm evidence identifications in forensic science. Forensic science international, 284, 15-32.

Urbina, I. (2019, March 12). Catching Killers by Matching Tiny Marks on Bullets. Retrieved from

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