Forensic Evidence Ties Shell Casings To Criminals (Hopefully)

(0:53) – If there’s a match, a forensics lab can identify the specific firearm used in a crime.

No, they can only identify the specific firearm that case came from!  Just because there are things scattered around a crime scene, it doesn’t mean they necessary relevant.

It’s not talked about in the video, but the whole micro-stamping thing is going to be such a disaster if it ever goes mainstream.  First of all the fact it can be defeated by filing down or swapping out the firing pin is hilarious.  Second of all, it would (or should anyway) bring the average law abiding shooter’s spent brass collection efforts to an all time high.  Why would I want shell casings linking back to me left around for someone else to pick up and sprinkle at a crime scene or preemptively at random places in the hood?  In fact the thought of that already bothers me if convictions are happening on the basis of shell casings alone.




nachotexas August 19, 2012 at 12:54 am

thats is why always carry a revolver when i do iligal activities… o.O glock sucks for that


Vhyrus August 19, 2012 at 01:24 am

git yoself a shell keepah son!


Chad August 19, 2012 at 02:10 am

Firing pins filed/sanded/ground with a rock or whatever will be no different than removing the serial number from the frame of a gun. Oh wait, that’s been illegal for decades. Silly me, that obviously solved the ‘guns & crime’ problem.


Hard_Harry August 19, 2012 at 07:50 am

Yeah I’m gonna have to call bullshit on all this so called scientific evidence. If two guns are made with the same tooling and made within minutes of one another, than by default they should have the same tooling marks. Obviously there would be microscopic differences from tool wear and the equipment they use might pick it up, but what about the human eyes looking at that data? I doubt they would/could see any difference. I hate to use the word propaganda but I think this is nothing more than an advertising pitch to sell the idea that they are actually worth the money being laid out for them to exist. I might do some searching to see how many crimes these folks have actually solved.


JonMac August 24, 2012 at 04:49 pm

Those human eyes are augmented with extremely powerful comparison and electron microscopes. Trust me, they can tell the difference. Most criminals are too dumb to think about swapping out barrel, firing pin, extractor etc, just as they’re too dumb to avoid other, much older detection techniques.


Chuck August 19, 2012 at 08:15 am

I predict plastic bags of random-pickup fired brass will be big sellers in certain convenience stores. At my club, between IPSC, IDPA, 3 Gun, general practice and just plain plinkers, we have 600-1,000 shooters a month using some sort of 9MM handgun, and as one would expect the brass is everywhere, including the buckets at the firing line. I’d wager a busy indoor range would have about that many, probably with very little overlap between user groups and guns, and I know of one indoor range that sells swept-up once-fired handgun brass for $50 per 5 gallon bucket. I’ll pick it up, put it in vacuum-sealed plastic bags and sell it, 50 randomly selected pieces in the usual caliber assortment for $9.99. Purchasers should feel free to use it to decorate whatever location they want.

Thinking about it, I can foresee gangs buying used brass in bulk and spreading a couple hundred pieces at a time in various places around the ‘hood to “seed” them as a prophylactic treatment. Delicious irony would be buying used brass from the local PD and adding some of that in.


Jim P. August 19, 2012 at 09:38 am

If the cops are getting down to identifying the brass to brass and trying to tie a gun — they generally will not have any other solid evidence, or suspects.

And if I’m going out to shoot someone — I would find a gun that I can drop in the river or a lake on my way home.


PJ August 19, 2012 at 01:22 pm

^^This. CSI and the like have done immense damage to the criminal justice system. They have given so much credence in the popular imagination to crime lab results that people will believe whatever the lab reports say, regardless of other evidence. More than one lab has gotten into trouble for falsifying, hiding, or straight up fabricating results in a rush to get a conviction. About the only thing scarier is how good police and prosecutors are at getting confessions.


Al T. August 19, 2012 at 09:49 am

Silly crap. Waste of tax payers money. IIRC, more than half of the guns used by bad guys are stolen guns anyway.


Alan Chambers August 19, 2012 at 02:16 pm

All they’ve done is standardized the test information. Cartridge case Identification has been around for decades.


Church August 19, 2012 at 06:00 pm

This video has the dumbest smart guys in it ever.


hydepark August 19, 2012 at 08:56 pm

Just out of curiosity, if they did start serializing the tips of firing pins, wouldn’t some law have to be passed in order for us not to just file them off? Also, what about ranges where they don’t let you take your brass out? I mean, if that brass is now serialized to my firearm(s), wouldn’t it be in my best interest to gather it up and take it home to either reload or destroy it? If anything, this technology in general might be best used in police and military applications to accurately reconstruct an engagement quickly after it occurs.

P.S. I just bought a Taurus TCP and it has an RFID imprinted to the right of the serial number on the left side of the frame. Any ideas on what this means??


Jim P. August 19, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Doing some quick googling — it looks to be part of the inventory control system for Taursu/Italian customs to match the gun in the box to the serial number on the box during export processing. They can be removed with no issue.

They’re like the tag on a bed.


hydepark August 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Thanks, Jim. I did some google’ing and all I could find was the usual conspiracy rantings. This rfid system sounds like it’s probably a really good method to assure compliance and quality control.


Bleddyn August 20, 2012 at 08:47 am

The science of ballistic identification is sound, but here in reality land it’s only used once you have a suspect and their gun to link them to the crime scene. The true problem with microstamping is that the success rate on reading the number is abysmally low. It’s more probable that Ice-dog shoots someone and leaves his cases, then the lab guy reads an incorrect serial number which is actually yours.


Saxon August 20, 2012 at 02:01 pm

Just like any gun law, this wouldnt stop criminals in any way. I’m not a gunsmith, but I hear that firing pins are easy to make. Microstamped pins would amount to less than a speed bump for criminals.


ENDO-Mike August 20, 2012 at 02:05 pm
Davey August 20, 2012 at 04:07 pm

Yup. Another use for once-fired brass. Make sure you wear gloves when you pick it up – you want to keep the other poor guy’s fingerprints intact. Oh, yeah. Another reason to pick up your own brass!


B_gerk August 20, 2012 at 08:39 pm

lets just say for instance this is the end all gun crime stopping resolution (as if that would ever happen) well reloads would certainly fuck their findings up wouldnt it. and even if you knew what gun it came from ummmm… you still need the gun and the person that used it.


PT August 20, 2012 at 09:09 pm

Lol. Removing a firing pin and running steel wool down the barrel a few times ain’t that difficult.

That’s why I commit all my train heists with a Colt SAA. Not a chance of me leaving my casings behind.


Jim P. August 20, 2012 at 09:13 pm

Well with a 9MM wouldn’t a 9MM threaded rod do about the same thing? ;-)


adam August 20, 2012 at 09:21 pm

man i wanna know what kind of can that was in the beginning. that thing was quiet :)


Quint Young August 21, 2012 at 08:13 am

First wouldn’t reloaded ammunition destroy the evidence, or corrupt it? Secondly isn’t it possible that 2 guns could have similar markings or leave the same markings.


Jeff August 21, 2012 at 03:07 pm

Thats what I always wondered: With all the conversion kits out these days, wouldn’t it be really hard to trace the firearm?
For example, if someone was using a Sig p250, it could be one of 4 calibers.
This is not even mentioning revolvers, where the casing is retained, or even the Dan Wesson Revolvers, where the ballistic of the bullet changes as you change barrels


Jim P. August 21, 2012 at 08:11 pm

The whole micro-stamping system is a big problem, let alone case identification standard.

About the only time it will be used as evidence is in cases where there were 3 or more weapons of the same caliber in a “combat” zone. As in you have 20+ rounds fired by a bunch of gang-bangers and bystanders were also injured. The cops have the guns and want to reconstruct the scene.

The other way it would be used is that about all the evidence that is left behind in a totally anonymous shooting. A C-Store was robbed and the clerk killed. The cameras were broken. The round is fragmented and buried in the wall. Most manufacturers have some kind of trait that says this shell was fired by a Taurus or Sig-Sauer 9MM or something along those lines. So the cops come up with a bad guy that was caught holding up a C-Store with a Taurus 9MM. They’ll match the case and use it as evidence in the first case.

But if a reload is used — there may be two distinct marks, they may overlap, or not. But an experienced tech should generally be able to tell which came first.

But how many BGs are going to use reloads?


Big L August 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Yo, Can’t I just save my spent brass in my Spiderman pillowcase when doing a drive by?


Jim P. August 25, 2012 at 01:42 am

It needs to be a Hannah Montana blanket instead.



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