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Analysis of Bullet Wipe Patterns on Cloth Targets

NCJ Number
210507
Journal
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 55 Issue: 4 Dated: July/August 2005 Pages: 448-460
Author(s)
James A. Bailey
Date Published
July 2005
Length
13 pages
Annotation
This study examined the reliability of "bullet wipe" patterns on cloth targets in reconstructing events at a crime scene.
Abstract
A "bullet wipe" is a gray or black ring around an entrance bullet hole. The ring is formed by and contains bullet lubricant, byproducts of propellant, traces of bullet metal, and residue in the gun barrel from previous use. When a weapon is fired from a distance greater than 3 feet, there will not usually be any visible gunshot residue on the target's surface; however, as the bullet passes through the target, bullet lubricant and propellant byproducts are wiped off and deposited around the edges of the entrance hole. The current study focuses only on bullet wipe deposited on cloth targets. It tested patterns of bullet wipe left by a Smith & Wesson, model 686, revolver with a 4-inch barrel. Ten shots were fired from the revolver prior to the tests in order to maximize propellant byproducts in the gun's cylinder and barrel. The first set of tests was conducted to determine whether bullet-wipe coloration on the fabric varied with target distance. The second set of tests was conducted to determine whether bullet-wipe measurements on the cloth varied at different distances from the gun to the target. The third set of tests was conducted to determine whether bullet-wipe measurements on the cloth varied with four types of ammunition at a specific distance. Implications of the findings are drawn for the interpretation of bullet-wipe patterns and the use of bullet-wipe patterns on cloth in reconstructing crime-scene events. 8 figures, 5 references, and 4 appended tables