Ballistics

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What is ballistics?
The study of the functioning of firearms-firing, the flight of the bullet, and the effects of different types of ammunition. 
When was ballistics first used in crime investigation?
Ballistics in crime investigation was first formally established in 1923. Charles Waite and Philip Garavell set up the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics (BFB).
What were important developments in ballistics?
The most important development in ballistics was the comparison microscope. It contained an optical bridge which allowed two objects to be compared. 
What are the most important principles in gathering ballistic evidence?
Bullets can be traced from a spent cartridge. The design of the firearm enables this.
When gun is fired, the bullet travels down barrel, through striations: a series of parallel lines of varying width, depth, and separation. Scratch marks on the surface of the bullet.
Striations are unique to each gun. 
The police can measure the trajectory of the bullet to determine what happened at a crime scene. 
Ballistic science can be used to determine whether or not a person was present when a gun crime was committed through the tiny specks of primer residue and gunpowder which remains on the hands of the person whom fired it. 

 Ballistics Timeline
Time Who Role
1835 Henry Goddard, Scotland Yard First used bullet comparison to catch a murderer based on a visible flaw in the bullet which could be traced back to the mold.
1889 Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, Professor of forensic medicine at the University of Lyons, France First to try to individualize bullets to a gun barrel. His comparisons at the time were based simply on the number of lands and grooves
1898 Paul Jesrich, forensic chemist Took photomicrographs of two bullets to compare, and subsequently individualize them through the minute differences.
1913 Dr. Victor Balthazard, Professor of forensic medicine at the Sorbonne Published the first article individualizing bullet markings.
1926 The first case when bullet comparision was used was in the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in Bridgewater, Mass.

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Last updated: May 09, 1999
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