Detection of Gunshot Primer Residue on Bone in an Experimental Setting—An Unexpected Finding*


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    Presented at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 18–23, 2008, in Washington, DC. This paper received the Physical Anthropology Section’s Ellis R. Kerley Award.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Hugh E. Berryman, Ph.D., D-ABFA
Director, Forensic Institute for Research and Education
Middle Tennessee State University
PO Box 89
Murfreesboro, TN 37132


Abstract:  Pork ribs with intact muscle tissue were used in an experimental attempt to identify bullet wipe on bone at distances from 1 to 6 feet with 0.45 caliber, full metal jacket ammunition. This resulted in the unexpected finding of primer-derived gunshot residue (GSR) deep within the wound tract. Of significance is the fact that the GSR was deposited on the bone, under the periosteum, after the bullet passed through a Ziploc® bag and c. 1 inch of muscle tissue. It is also important to note that the GSR persisted on the bone after the periosteum was forcibly removed. The presence of primer-derived GSR on bone provides the potential to differentiate gunshot trauma from blunt trauma when the bone presents an atypical gunshot wound. In this study, the presence of gunshot primer residue at a distance of 6 feet demonstrates the potential for establishing maximum gun-to-target distance for remote shootings.