Firearms, the Law, and Forensic Ballistics  book cover
3rd Edition

Firearms, the Law, and Forensic Ballistics

ISBN 9781439818275
Published November 17, 2011 by CRC Press
518 Pages 245 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

While gun design has undergone only minimal change over the centuries, investigative tools surrounding firearm use have grown significantly in sophistication. Now in its third edition, Firearms, the Law, and Forensic Ballistics has been updated to reflect recently published research and new technology developed since the last volume. Beginning with a discussion of the development of arms and ammunition from the fourteenth century to the present day, this book examines:

  • Firearms laws around the world, including legal challenges raised in the U.S. by the Daubert decision
  • Firearms manufacturing processes, the mechanisms of various firearms, and the linking of a particular bullet or spent cartridge with a suspected weapon
  • The origins and development of new science in firearms, including controversies, pioneers, and an exposé of the "quack" purveyors of pseudo-science
  • Internal, external, and terminal (wound) ballistics
  • The nature, composition, and analytical detection of discharge residue left on a suspect
  • The role of the ballistics expert at all stages of a case, ranging from the scene of the shooting incident, the post mortem examinations, the examination and testing of exhibits at the laboratory, and the presentation of evidence in court
  • Recently introduced computer search techniques applied to captured and digitally stored images of marks left on fired bullets and spent cartridge cases
  • Manual microscopic comparison work and computer-based searches on digital images of bullet and cartridge case marks to determine if a particular weapon has been fired in previous cases

Written by an expert with more than 50 years of experience using and handling firearms, this text is enhanced with nearly 250 illustrations, making it a premier guide to the fundamentals of firearms and related evidentiary considerations.

Table of Contents

The Beginnings

Blowpipes, Air, and Gas Guns

Percussion Ignition

Modern Rim-Fire and Center-Fire Cartridges

Smokeless Powders and Modern Arms

Firearms Legislation and the Definition of a Firearm

History of Weapons Legislation in Britain

Legislation and Gun Control

Firearms and Crime

The Firearms Consultative Committee

The European Weapons Directive

Legislation in the U.S.

Marks and Microscopy – The Emergence of a New Science: Firearms Manufacturing Processes and their Implications Concerning the Daubert Challenge

The Pioneers

Experts and Charlatans—The American Experience

Court Battles—The English Experience

The Recent "Daubert Challenge"

Processes Used in the Manufacture of Firearms

Mechanisms and Design Aspects of Firearms

Hinged Barrel Designs

Hammer Shotguns

Accidental Discharge

Repeating Arms

Magazine Systems

Bolt-Action Weapons

Lever-Action Rifles

The Revolver

Accident by Design, Manufacture, or Wear

Safety Catches and Internal Safeguards

Decocking Devices and Alternative Designs

Hazard Indicator Devices

Trigger Pulls

Blow-Back and Locked Breech Designs

Gas-Operated Arms

Gas and Air Weapon Designs


Automatic Arms

Internal Ballistics

Basic Principles

The Efficiency of Energy Transfer

Powders and Pressures

Control of Powder Burning Rates

Drachms and Drams

The Residues of Combustion

Primer Formulations

Gunshot Residue Analysis

The Transfer of Marks to Missiles and Cartridge Cases

The Microscopy of Air Weapon Missiles

Recoil and Barrel Flip

Choke Boring of Shotguns

Gauges and Bore Sizes

External Ballistics and Cartridge Loadings

Basic Principles

Bullet Stability and Instability

The Bullet’s Flight

Bullet Shape, Sectional Density, and Ballistic Coefficient

External Ballistics and Their Calculation


Fin and Aerodynamic Stabilization

The Question of Range

The Spent Bullet Myth

Secondary Ejecta

The Behavior of Shotgun Cartridge Wadding

Sabot Loadings

Choke Boring—Shotgun Pellet Spread and Velocity

Pellet Deformation within the Bore

Choke Operation

Soft and Hard Shot—Shotgun Pellet Ballistics

Steel Shot Loadings

Alternative Non-Lead Materials

Pellet Sizes and Weights

The Propensity for Ricochet

Gunfire and the Sounds Made during the Flight of Missiles

Terminal/Wound Ballistics and Distance Firing

Mass, Momentum, and Kinetic Energy

Incidence of Ricochet

Consequences of Impact and Penetration

Armor-Piercing Ammunition

Explosive Anti-Armor Munitions

Ballistic Body Armor and Screening Materials

Shotgun Missile Injuries

Pistol Bullet Injuries and Expanding Bullets

High-Velocity Wound Effects

Range Determination of Single-Missile Injuries

The Scene of the Shooting Incident

The On-Call Rota System

Arrival at the Scene

Scene Examination

Initial Examination of the Body

X-Ray Examination

The First Samples and Observations

The Wound Sites

Arrow and Crossbow Bolt Injuries

Blank-Operated Tool and Humane Killer Injuries

The Wound Track

Examination of Postmortem Exhibits Back at the Laboratory

Examination of Exhibits at the Laboratory

Initial Examination of Firearms

Trigger Pulls and Mechanical Tests

Firing Range Tests

Incomplete, Defective, and Converted Arms

Recovery of Serial Marks

Examination of Ammunition

Tear Gas and Irritant Loadings

Electric Shock Devices and Stun Guns

Recovered Cartridge Cases, Bullets, Pellets, and Wadding

Examination of Bullet- or Pellet-Damaged Items

Analysis of Bullets, Fragments, and Shotgun Pellets

Comparison Microscopy

Image Capture, Data Storage, and Computer Searches

The Electron Microscope

Analysis of Firearms Discharge Residues

Laboratory Reference Collections

Presentation of Evidence to the Courts

The Prosecution Witness

The Defense Expert

Proof Marks and the Proof of Firearms

UK Proof Markings Updated to include 2006 Marks and Specifications

Austrian Proof Marks

Belgian Proof Marks

Chilean Proof Marks

Czech Republic Proof Marks

French Proof Marks

German Proof Marks

Finnish Proof Marks

Hungarian Proof Marks

Italian Proof Marks

Spanish Proof Marks

Yugoslav Proof Marks

The Russian Federation


Austro-Hungarian Empire


Military Arms

Hunting Weapons



Irish Proof Marks

Swedish Proof Marks

Swiss Proof Marks

Slovak Republic Proof Marks

American Proof Marks

Choke Markings


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Tom Warlow has more than 50 years of experience using and handling firearms and was for nine years a member of the statutory Firearms Consultative Committee, which advisedthe U.K. Government on firearms and firearms legislation as well as providing an annual report to Parliament. He was a casework reporting officer for more than 25 years in the national Firearms Unit in the U.K., a division with oversight of 50 million persons in England and Wales and covering 43 police force areas. Mr. Warlow has a keen interest in gun sports.


'I … was amazed at the encyclopedic knowledge [Tom Warlow] has acquired over a lifetime of work as a forensic scientist. … This book is … an enjoyable read. … Forensic science trainees and death scene investigators will find this text fascinating, and I would certainly recommend that they read this book.'

'…the book is more suitable for the novice based in the UK. …the author offers some good advice to the novice, and as well for the advanced reader… .The author's extensive knowledge of the subject matter is clearly demonstrated…'
-Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal

'This book has clearly been written by a very experienced firearm examiner and it deals with all areas of work that an examiner might encounter… There is a vast amount of information packed into this book and there is something of value for anyone connected with the investigation of crimes involving firearms. The book will be of particular value as an aid to those training in the forensic examination of firearms.'

- in Science and Justice