Published Online: 1 April 1981
Page Count: 24
Legal counsel, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C.
British exchange pathologist and chief, Missile Trauma Pathology Branch, Washington, D.C.
Senior firearms enforcement officer, U.S. Treasury Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Washington, D.C.
(Received 12 February 1980; accepted 25 September 1980)
The rate of seizure of illegally held silenced handguns has risen dramatically in recent years. Despite this, there are apparently no reports of wounds caused by these weapons. The efficiency, in terms of noise reduction, of silenced handguns is largely determined by construction, and homemade weapons are frequently more efficient than their commercially manufactured counterparts. Wounds are likely to be inflicted at either contact or close range. Muzzle imprints are erythematous rather than abraded and disproportionately large for the size of the wound. Close-range wounds frequently exhibit atypical entrances. Examination of wound edges by energy-dispersive analysis of X-rays may demonstrate the presence of unusual elements, sometimes associated with components of the silencer. Also, inspection of recovered bullets with the naked eye may reveal damage indicative of modifications to the barrel or misalignment of the device. With these criteria it should be possible in many cases to support or refute the suggestion that a silenced weapon had been used to inflict a given wound.
Paper ID: JFS11360J