University of Huddersfield Researchers, Hannah Smith, Dr Katie Addinall and Prof Liam Blunt investigated whether X-Ray Computerised Tomography (XCT) can be used as a potential tool for forensic examiners to non-destructively view the inner firearm barrel toolmarks, whilst leaving other evidential entities undamaged. The overall aim of the research is to provide law enforcement agencies with a non-destructive and safe method to identify modifications to firearms.
The UK and Europe have some of the strictest laws on the use and possession of firearms, however, this does not stop the use of firearms in crime.
Firearms are often modified and converted to ‘legal to own’ firearms such as blank firing, deactivated or antique firearms into live firing weapons. Modifications can range from removing obstructions, enlarging the inner diameter of the barrel to accept modern ammunition, sleeving the barrel, or even replacing the entire barrel completely. These modifications typically occur within the inner firearm barrel which means standard forensic investigation techniques cannot view the distinctive tool-marks made by the criminals.
The toolmarks made when modification occurs can aid forensic examiners in identification of the methods of modification, the suspect and the individual tools used for the modification.
The 3M BIC houses an X-Ray Computerised Tomography (XCT) machine which is more powerful and able to achieve higher resolution than standard XCTs. In this case the MXCT was used to investigate whether more identifying toolmarks could be observed on the modified barrel sections used for the research project.
The research is part of an ongoing PhD project with the aim to offer forensic examiners a tool used to investigate modified and converted firearms. The research will show XCT as a novel method of barrel toolmark identification in which the forensic evidence is fully preserved and all internal geometries can be analysed in 3D. Using XCT, the firearm does not need to be dismantled for analysis and will not need to be removed from the evidence packaging to be scanned. The whole firearm including firing pin and breech face can be viewed, as well as previously inaccessible toolmarks. Firearms can also be safely analysed to determine whether they are still loaded with ammunition and evidence files can be easily shared with other law enforcement agencies, uploaded to a database and used as a 3D model in court for the jury.
The results from the scans taken from the 3M BIC’s XCT enables us to determine whether those taken on our XCT at the University give an acceptable level of forensic detail in comparison. We would recommend the 3M BIC for anyone needing XCT work as the machine gives incredible levels of detail.
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