Physical Components of Soft-Tissue Ballistic Wounding and Their Involvement in the Generation of Blood Backspatter


  • Supported by a Crown Research Institute Capability Fund Grant from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR), New Zealand.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Peter L. Davidson, Ph.D.
Injury Prevention Research Unit
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand


Abstract:  Gunshot backspatter comprises biological material expelled backward through bullet entry holes. Crime scene investigators analyze backspatter patterns to infer wounding circumstances. An understanding of the mechanism of backspatter generation, and the relationship between spatter patterns and bullet and tissue characteristics, would enhance the predictive value of such analysis. We examined soft-tissue ballistic wounding responses to determine the underlying components and how these might be relevant to the generation of backspatter. We identified five mechanistic components to ballistic wounding (elastic, viscous, crushing, cutting, and thermal), each related to mechanical disciplines (respectively, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, fracture mechanics, rheology, and thermodynamics). We identified potential roles for these five components in backspatter formation and provide a scenario whereby a sequence of events incorporating these components could lead to backspatter generation and expulsion. This research provides a framework for the mathematical representation, and subsequent computational predictive modeling, of backspatter generation and pattern formation.