(Notes from "The Identification of Fire-arms and Forensic Ballistics" By Major Sir Gerald Burrard and some other authors.)
Types of fire-arms. In crimes of violence, only small arms are used. The fire-arms used in this country are. Rifles, sten guns, pistols, revolvers, shot gun, country-made pistols, hand-grenades and in rare cases sawn-off shot guns, and Kalashvnikop.
Rifled weapons are rifles, sten guns, pistols and revolvers. Rifling is made to impart spin to the elongated bullet to keep it steady in its flight to the target. The spent bullets carry tell-tale rifling marks on them by which the weapons they are fired from are identified. Empty cartridges are also used to identify the arms from which they are fired. The base of the cartridge case carries the imprint of the breechs-face, firing pin and the ejector. Misfired cartridges do not indicate any thing more than the impressions of the firing pin. Rimless cartridges are used in automatic weapons and these are ejected automatically. Rimmed cartridges are used in non-automatic weapons.
Smooth bore weapons are shot guns, country-made pistols and sawn-off shot guns. The bore or inside of the barrel is smooth from the chamber end to the muzzle end. These weapons fire round lead pellets or spherical balls. Fired lead pellets or balls do not carry any marks on them and therefore cannot help in identification of the weapons from which fired. Empty cartridges help in identifying the weapons from which they are fired as their bases carry the breech-block and firing pin marks. Country-made pistols are very short range weapons. They cause blackening to a longer distance than long barrel shot guns and the dispersion of the pellets is greater than the shot guns. Some criminals get the barrel of shot gun sawn-off to a length of one foot or so for ease of handling and concealment.
Hand-Grenade. During the last decade use of hand-grenade has been noticed in crimes of violence. The grenade is called "H.E. 36" or "Mills Bomb". It is like a miniature pineapple in shape and can be conveniently held and thrown by one hand. It can be easily thrown over walls or from behind small cover. Its effective killing range is from 25 to 35 meters from the point of explosion. Danger zone is from 100 to 150 meters. Its splinters make irregular jagged wounds. These wounds are easily distinguishable from bullet or pellet injuries, other kinds of explosives and home-made bombs are also in use.
"Tailwag" A bullet revolves round its axis, after it is fired at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 times per second. It wipes its surface grime on the skin before entering into the body. This tell-tale soling should not be mistaken for blackening. The entry hole of a bullet upto about 60 yards in a pistol and to about 200 yards in the case of a rifle will show tailwag effects. Due to tailwag the entry hole may be much larger than the calibre of the bullet.
Scorching is caused by very hot powder gases escaping from the muzzle of a firearm.
Factors affecting scorching. (i) Surface of target i.e. wet or dry. When wet range is reduced; (ii) weight of charge i.e., larger the charge longer the range; (iii) powder or propellant used; Nitroglycerine powders produce hotter gases than produced by nitrocellulose.
Distance. Service rifle scorches up to 6 inches; revolver or pistol up to 3 inches.
Blackening is the result of deposit from the dirty powder gases and is really akin to scorching. Blackening range begins where the scorching range ends. Blackening can easily be removed by a wet sponge rain or water. Factors affecting the range are the same as in scorching.
Blackening with pistol is present when it is fired from a distance of one foot and not from 4 or 5 feet. (D.B) PLJ 1996 Cr.C. (Lah) 1789, Muhammad Riaz.
Distance. With high power rifle i.e., service rifle up to 9 inches, with revolver or pistol up to 6 inches. With shotgun using black powder the range is about 12 inches, for blackening.
Shotgun range can be estimated only by dispersion of pellets.
Diameter of wound: 1 inch or less-distance is 18 inches or less. slightly over 1 inch-distance is about 24 inches. 1« inches the distance is about 36 inches.
Number of pellets in 12 bore cartridge; in cartridges made by well-known manufacturers is as follows:
In spherical ball the word is printed on the side of the cartridge case. There is no card wad at the top. It contains only one lead ball. In other cartridges there is circular disc of cardboard on which letters or numbers are printed. LG has 6 large pellets, SG 9 smaller pellets AAA has 43 pellets. No. 1 has 100 pellets BB 90 Pellets. No 4 has about 220 and No. 8 about 410 pellets. In murder cases usually LG or SG cartridges are used.
Spread of the pellets is also affected by the bore and whether the barrel of the gun is true cylinder, full choke or half choke. At 6 feet from the muzzle the spread of pellets in a true cylinder will be twice the full choke.
Spread of pellets: According to Keith Simpson's book "Forensic Medicine" 1961 Edition, page 76, "at a range of as little as 6 tp 8 feet the entry wound may show marginal pellet holes, and over this range the spread in inches may be taken roughly as equal to the distance in yards. Shots spread over 20 inches will have been fired from a range of 20 yards:"
Card wad. When overshot card wad is found in the wound the distance of the gun muzzle is less than 6 feet. According to Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence 1965 Edition, a wad may penetrate the body at 15 to 20 feet from the muzzle. Some 12 bore cartridge do not have overshot card wad.
High velocity bullet will cause greater damage to the tissue and make a large wound because of its speed and spin.
Unburnt powder grains; Since powder grains are heavier than either gas or smoke they attain a greater range which means they can be found on the target beyond the extreme limit of blackening range.
Extreme limit of blackening range is well within any normal person's arm's length.
Normally there are no unburnt powder grains projected from the muzzle of a rifle or a shotgun. However, in shotguns when combustions is incomplete unburnt powder grains are expelled from the barrel.
In normal circumstances the presence of unburnt powder grains means that the shot was fired from a pistol or revolver.
Correct range: In order to ascertain the correct range tests should be carried out with the actual weapon used and similar ammunition used.
Components of a shotgun cartridge are: (i) Powder charge over the ignition cap (ii) under felt card wad, (iii) Felt wad, 7/16" or « thick. (iv) over felt card wad 1/16" or 1/12" thick (v) shot charge (vi) over shot card wad 1/16" or 1/12" thick or no over shot card wad but cartridge is crimp turn over type.
Absence of over shot card wad in the wound in close shot wound may be due to crimp turn over type of a cartridge.
(Notes from Modi's Medical Jurisprudence)
Distance of fire-arms. If the powder is smokeless there will be no blackening of the skin but there may be grayish or white deposit on the skin round the wound. No blackening or scorching is found if the fire-arm is discharged from a distance of more than four feet.
The scattering of the shot depends on size of the barrel, whether it is choke or pure cylinder, the amount of propellant and the distance of the muzzle from the body. As the distance increases, the damage caused by a single pellet diminishes, until at about 30 yards it is only capable of penetrating the clothes and skin of the victim.
Direction from which a fire-arm is discharged is ascertained by knowing the position of the victim at the time of the impact of the projectile and by prolonging the line joining the wound of entrance and exit made by it provided there is no deflection caused by any substance in its path or the bullet has not struck after ricochet.
(Notes from Taylor's Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence, 1965 Edition).
Smokeless nitrocellulose or nitroglycerine powders show great variations. They may be in the form of flakes, discs, cylinders or in the case of cordite in long threads. Although called smokeless they emit some smoke, but never cause the same degree of blackening as with black powder.
Tracer bullets with barium peroxide and magnesium enclosed in the base or incendiary bullets containing phosphorous when used would produce smoke effects in the wounds.
Full choke shot gun fires a charge of lead pellets which spread to a pattern which measured in inches; is about the same as the distance in yards.
High velocity projectile with a small striking surface passes through the tissue without meeting with much resistance, it may drive a clean hole.
A rifle bullet when it leaves the barrel is spinning at the rate of over 3000 revolutions per second and also exhibits rotary spin or `tail wag'. Centrifugal forces thus generated are liable to radiate energy into the tissues through which the bullet passes and produce severe and extensive damage simulating an explosion. A bullet may also `yaw' or tip before it reaches the tissues and may enter broad side on, or it may turn around in the tissues and be found with the tip facing the entrance wound. A bullet may also mushroom or `set up' and produce considerable laceration. When the tip of the bullet is cut off or a hole is bored in it, mushrooms like a `dumdum' bullet.
High velocity Bullets fired at close ranges may fragment without striking any highly resistant body.
When a weapon is discharged in contact with or very close to the body, the gases, including Co, which emerge with the bullet enter the tissues and thereafter expand causing tearing of the skin or clothes, very often in the form of a cruciate or stellate split. Most of the powder is found inside the tissues and there may be blackening, burning, soiling and tattooing around the entrance hole.
With rifles, traces of powder may be found up to two or three feet. All bullet entrance wounds have a zone of denuded epithelium immediately surrounding the orifice. This is caused by the spin of the bullet and the invagination of the skin by the bullet and tends to dry and become discoloured shortly after death, it should not be confused with the marks due to powder for it gives no indication of range.
A bullet causing an entrance hole may split in the body and cause more than one exit holes.
A rifle bullet trajectory may be divided into three parts. (i) Short range up to 600 yards (ii) middle range from 600 to 1200 yards (iii) over 1200 yards. Bullets in the first group are likely to cause explosive effects, in the second group clean punctured through and through wounds are likely to be seen and in the third group irregular lacerated wounds are likely to be caused.
Cases: (1) A rifle bullet fired from 60 yards produced a very small entrance hole but produced a ragged exit wound of 4 inches, without meeting any hard object (2) A service rifle fired from 20 yards. The top of the head was blown off and the bulk of the brain destroyed by the bullet.
Blanks and wads. A gun loaded with blank wad or even with powder only may cause death. A wad may penetrate the body at 15 to 20 feet.
Velocities. Sound velocity 1,100 feet per second. British service rifle muzzle velocity 2,450 f.s.
MV of revolvers/pistols is 600 to 750 f.s.
Muzzle Velocities of British Cartridges, and normal barrels.
Weapon MV 5 yards 25 yards Velocity Feet
per second (f.s.)
.455" service revolver 600 596.5' 584' f.s.
.38 Rev/pistol 625 621 605 f.s.
ÿ9 mm para bellum 1200 1183 1135 f.s.
.32 Revolver 600 595 576 f.s.
7.63 mm mauser 1400 1378 1296 f.s.
.250 auto pistol 625 619 597 f.s.
Calibre is actual diameter of the bore across the lands i.e. the smallest possible diameter of the bore.
Bore is according to the number of spherical pure lead balls each exactly fitting the inside of the bore which go to make a pound. Examples `12 bore, `16 bore or gauge etc.
Trajectory not always straight. Bullet fired from fire-arm generally tends to continue in straight line from point of entrance to point of exit. Such wound, however, very frequently are not straight but curved due to deflection of missile by slightest obstacle. (DB) PLD 1975 Pesh. 131 Kafayatullah.
Deflection of projectile. Bullet fired from a fire-arm may take any unpredictable course on impact with bones, tissues, etc. PLD 1975 Pesh. 164 Noor Khan.
Ricochet (ri-ko-shay). A bullet or pellet or any other projectile on striking any smooth surface like water, ground or stone etc. at an angle skipping and striking some other object is called ricochet.
Scorching. According to Major Sir Gerald Burrard with a pistol or revolver scorching may occur up to 2 or 3 inches. The doctor when he says that the shot was fired from a distance of 6 feet was absolutely wrong. The opinion given in the book by the ballistics expert preferred over that of the doctor. (DB) PLD 1968 Lah. 437 (449) Ch. Zafar-ul-Haq.
Charring of entry wounds. The charring of entry wound indicating that the deceased was shot at from 6" whereas witness fixed distance between 5 to 7 feet. Held, it is too much to expect from illiterate or semi-literate person to indicate distance with scientific exactitude. (SC) PLD 1974 SC 65 Muhammad Rafiq. PLJ 1974 SC 221.
Charred wound with 2" diameter Indicates that the shot must have been fired from 4 to 5 feet distance, the pellets had not separated and had caused only one wound. (DB) 1976 P.Cr.LJ 400 Mast Ali.
Spread of pellets. Pellets spread over 5" x 4" held fired from more than 4 or 5 feet. Shots fired from blackening range would have entered almost enemas. (SC) 1976 SCMR 368 Barkat Ali.
Range of gun shot. The distance from which gun was fired can be estimated by blackening, burning, or the diameter of the wound caused by gun shot. (DB) 1972 P.Cr.LJ 1108 Mir Muhammad.
Wad can penetrate the body of a person when a gun is fired from 15 to 20 feet away. Taylor's book referred. (DB) 1970 P.Cr.LJ 87 Barkat Ali.
Expert firing only one test bullet, from crime weapon and opining after microscope comparison with the crime bullet. Held opinion even formed on the basis of one test bullet cannot be ruled out as of no value. Similarities found on ten counts. The fact that no photographs were taken is of no significance. (SC) 1970 P.Cr.LJ 987 = 1970 SCMR 450 Muhammad Aslam.
Single test bullet fired and the opinion of the expert based on it. Expert had only one year's training and had not read famous works on the subject Opinion not relied on. (DB) PLJ 1975 C. Cr. (Lah.) 387 Muhammad Siddiq. 1975 P.Cr.LJ 727.
Ballistics expert not produced nor his report exhibited in Court, held the ballistics expert's report would be presumed to be unfavourable to the prosecution. (DB) 1976 P.Cr.LJ 400 Mast Ali.
Withholding report of ballistics expert after obtaining it is deprecated. (DB) PLD 1962 Lah. 390 Ahmed Khan.
Opinion not backed by reasons. Firearm expert not recording any reasons in support of his conclusions even on his own file. Opinion not backed by reasons is of no value. (DB) PLD 1975 Pesh. 205 PLJ 1975 Cr.C. (Pesh.) 525 Yaqoob Shah.
Ballistics Report neither containing reasons for the report nor on prescribed form. The expert also not summoned as witness. Judgment set aside and the case remanded for examining the Ballistics Expert. PLJ 1985 Cr.C. (Lah.) 398. Nawab NLR 1985 Cr.421.
Ballistics expert's opinion is only corroborative. Conviction cannot solely be based on it. (DB) PLD 1964 Pesh. 59. Nisar Hussain.
Corroboration required. Empty fired firm crime pistol tallied with the empty found on the spot. Such evidence alone is not sufficient to warrant conviction unless corroborated by other evidence. (DB) 1975 P.Cr.LJ 787. PLJ 1975 Cr.C. (Lah.) 260 Muhammad Ashraf.
No empties recovered from the spot. The pistol recovered from the accused provides no corroboration as it cannot be said that the pistol was the crime weapon. (DB) PLD 1968 Lah. 437 Zafar-ul-Haq.
Pellets or bullets. Medical evidence showing gunshot pellets causing injuries, supported by ballistics expert. Ocular evidence stating firing on the deceased with a revolver. Benefit of doubt given to the accused. (DB) PLD 1976 Kar. 1160. Haji Ghulam Hussain. 1976 P.Cr.LJ 1402. Also see 1977 SCMR 161 Hussain Ali.
Recovery of gun of no value when it had not been sent to the fire-arms expert, for examination, 1995 SCMR 896, Zafar Hayat.