New software to match bullets to firing weapons

Automated matching of bullets and guns becomes reality

Innovative software will bring forensic science closer to TV-style capabilities by automatically matching bullets and firing weapons.

Contrary to popular beliefs, such a system is not yet existent and each bullet has to be examined visually by a qualified expert in ballistics to establish whether the marks it carries match a gun or another bullet.

However, thanks to the efforts of University of Huddersfield researchers, the reality of investigating crimes involving guns could soon move closer to the science fiction.

“The sort of things you see on television programmes like 'CSI' are a total fallacy,” said Professor Liam Blunt, a director of the University’s EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology.

“People tend to think that comparing bullets is like DNA matching, but it’s not.  A 20 to 30 per cent success rate at matching is about as good as it gets.”

Prof Blunt’s team is now developing a system that would use data from optical scanners to quickly map scratches on the bullets and compare them with information about other previously scanned bullets.

Working closely with private company Forensic Pathways, the Huddersfield researchers hope the invention will represent a breakthrough in forensics.

Forensic Pathways has provided financial backing and looks forward to taking advantage of the University’s rich database of fired bullets and their markings.

“We did a large controlled test, firing 400 bullets, mixing them up and seeing if we could pick out which guns they were fired from,” Prof Blunt said about earlier testing. “That’s how we know that existing systems for doing this are not very good,” he added.  

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