Volume 26, Issue 2 (April 1981)
Characteristics and Wounding Effects of a Black Powder Handgun
Commercial exploitation of the recent increase in interest in American history has led to an increased availability of weapons designed to use black powder (gunpowder). In some states, controls on these weapons are poor or nonexistent. In this study a .44-caliber black powder revolver is described and compared with a .45 ACP modern revolver. The kinetic energies of their missiles were very similar. In addition to the usual wound appearances determined by range and direction of fire, it was noted that the soot associated with wounds from the black powder handgun was much greater than from the control and had a characteristic sulfurous smell. Much more true tattooing was present around the black powder wounds. The spherical shape of the missile and the presence of black powder in crypts in the missile base were both characteristic of a black powder revolver. Striations were well represented on the ball but were easily destroyed during recovery because the lead was so soft. Swabs from around the wounds and from the shooter's hand revealed a large deposit of barium but little antimony. Wounds inflicted by black powder handguns may be detected more or less reliably.