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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • ballistics;
  • gunshot residue;
  • cartridge discharge residue;
  • firearm discharge residue;
  • scanning electron microscopy;
  • gas chromatography;
  • liquid chromatography;
  • environmental sources

Abstract:  A comprehensive review of the scientific literature on gunshot residue (GSR) is presented. Aspects of both inorganic and organic GSR are discussed, from formation and distribution, to sample collection, preparation, and analysis using a variety of techniques. The interpretation of GSR results is also considered including issues surrounding the contamination, distribution, and transfer of GSR. Potential problems with ulterior sources of GSR like particles have been reported in the literature. For example, particles from environmental and occupational sources have been highlighted as exhibiting similar chemical and morphological characteristics to GSR. These findings are put into context with regard to interpreting samples. A move toward a “case by case” approach is argued to be more preferable to a “formal” classification system where possible. The analysis of both inorganic and organic compositions of residue samples as well as morphological considerations is considered to be a more ideal approach to GSR analysis, whereever practicable.