Volume 44, Issue 3 (May 1999)
Characteristics of Gunshot Wounds in the Skull
The analysis of trauma to the skeleton is an important aspect of forensic case work, but most pathology references devote limited attention to this topic. This paper describes various aspects of gunshot wounds, including entrance and exit patterns, angle and path, range of fire and velocity, and caliber of the bullet, based on observations of a series of known cases. Skeletal remains of 21 victims of gunshot wounds were studied. In most cases, there was documentation of the investigation, autopsy, and victim's identity. Each case was analyzed in terms of wound location, shape, size and exit/entry surface area ratio, beveling, and direction of shooting. Skull entry wounds were most often round or oval. Unusual shapes were observed in bones like the mandible and mastoid process, but were also found to be triangular, nearly rectangular or irregular. Tunneling was observed in the mastoid process. The expected internal beveling was obvious in all but one skull. External beveling of an entry wound was only observed in one case (parietal bone). Exit wounds were roughly round, oval, square, and rectangular and were always more irregular than entry wounds. External beveling of exit wounds was observed in most vault bones, but there was none in the orbit, maxilla, greater wing of the sphenoid, temporal, or left occipital bone. Tangential gunshot wounds were seen in a mastoid process, zygomatic process, mandibular ramus and condyle, and occipital condyle. Most of the exit to entry surface area ratios (cm2) varied from 1.4 to 2.0. In four cases the ratio indicated that entrances were larger than exists. In conclusion, understanding of gunshot wound characteristics is an important matter to interpret distance, velocity, direction and sometimes caliber size. Assessment of this nature of gunshot wounds helps reconstruct events surrounding the death.