Muzzle to target distance determinations

The investigation of the muzzle to target distance must carefully consider several factors.  These include:

  1. Know the weapon - specifically its barrel length and overall operational condition. It is best to use the actual firearm..
  2. Know the specific ammunition used in the shooting - do not rely on the results that uses “comparable” ammunition.  It may be of a different vintage, manufacture or many other forms of variation that can make a big difference.
  3. Know the environmental factors at the time of the incident.
  4. Know the subsequent treatment of the target surfaces. (Skin gets washed in the emergency room or morgue; powder on clothing maybe altered by “body bag:” effect or other general evidence collection techniques)  It is best to isolate the target surface at scene and not wait for the morgue (or pathologist) “estimate”.  Preserve the garments and or recover the pattern while at the scene (even from the dead body) - see the text for ideas.

Two manufacturers of the same type of .45 ACP ammunition are shown in the picture at the right.

Each pattern was generated at a distance of 8 inches using the same firearm.  Though the diameter of the patterns is about the same, note that the concentration of the powder residues is quite different. Some ammo is “cleaner-burning” than others.

Use the same ammunition and same firearm AND know the treatment of the target since the shooting. 

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