Firearms / Toolmarks

Firearm & Toolmark examiners routinely perform examination of firearms for proper functioning and or possible defects. Fired bullets and cartridge cases can be examined and may possess unique characteristics that help identify the firearm from which they were fired or suggest the possible make and model of the weapon. Gunshot residue patterns can be examined to determine the proximity of a firearm muzzle to a victim.  Tools used during the commissions of crimes may leave unique, identifiable marks on surfaces that may link suspects to crimes. Specialists in this area of examination can also restore serial numbers that have been altered on metallic surfaces such as firearms, automobile engines, etc.  ISPFS is also an active participant in utilizing the ATF’s NIBIN database system to assist law enforcement agencies with investigative leads, regarding fired cartridge cases from scenes and recovered firearms.

Services Provided by the ISPFS Firearms/Toolmark Discipline:

  • Type and Caliber Determinations – bullets recovered can be submitted to determine possible caliber and firearm type the bullet was fired from.
  • Firearm Examination and function testing – Is the firearm functional? Examination and analysis of a submitted firearm to determine proper functionality.
  • Bullet &/or Cartridge Case Comparisons – Was a bullet or cartridge case fired from the recovered firearm or when no firearm is recovered, were the items fired from the same firearm? Fired components and recovered firearm must be submitted.
  • Tool Mark comparison – Was the item damaged by the suspected or recovered tool? (Was the submitted lock cut using the found bolt cutters?)
  • Proximity Determinations – What approximate distance was the firearm muzzle from the material being tested (example materials include clothing or possible autopsy photographs if only evidence was on the individual).  This is not considered GSR examination.
  • Serial Number restoration – Serial number/VIN number has been intentionally damaged to conceal identifying information, recovery processing can be completed by the lab.
  • NIBIN Entry for Cartridge Cases – National Database used for potential linking of firearm related crimes.  Cartridge cases recovered from scenes or test fires from recovered firearms will be entered into the NIBIN Database, when eligible.

NOTE:    For additional details regarding the Services provided or the NIBIN Program, please contact the Firearms Section of ISPFS Coeur d’Alene Lab at 208-209-8700

Services NOT provided by ISPFS:

  • GSR (Gunshot Residue Analysis)– the testing for the presence of residue on an individuals’ hands.
  • NCIC Trace/eTrace– ISPFS does not perform serial number searches on firearms submitted

FAQ for Firearms

Analytical Methods

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