Firing Distance Estimation Through the Analysis of the Gunshot Residue Deposit Pattern Around the Bullet Entrance Hole by Inductively Coupled Plasma–Mass Spectrometry: An Experimental Study

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The use of inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in the study of gunshot residues (GSR) is relatively recent, and only a few studies have been published on the subject. In the present paper, this instrumental technique has been used to study the deposit pattern of the GSR around the bullet entrance hole, through the analysis of antimony (Sb), barium (Ba), and lead (Pb). The data obtained were used to establish a mathematical model for estimating the firing distance.

Test shots using a 6.35-mm pistol were made against a target of cotton tissue, and the amounts of Sb, Ba, and Pb deposited in quadrangular pieces of the target, cut from 4 radial positions, were determined by ICP-MS. In these experimental conditions, it was possible to estimate the firing distance on the interval [20–80] cm. The best linear correlation between ln m and d, where m is the mass of Sb, Ba, or Pb in the samples, expressed in μg/g of target tissue, and d the firing distance, was obtained at radial distances between 3.5 cm and 4.5 cm from the entrance hole.

The best regression curve which adjusted to the data was a linear multiple regression between the firing distance and the logarithm of the mass of each element: d = a + b1X1 + b2X2 + b3X3, where X1 = ln m (Sb), X2 = ln m(Ba) and X3= ln m (Pb).

The accuracy of firing distance estimation using only 1 or 2 elements was not significantly different from the one obtained with the 3 elements.

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