The measurement of the organic additives in smokeless gunpowder is an attractive approach for the detection of handgun use because it provides compositional information that can help associate residues and unfired gunpowder. We investigate several factors that will be required to advance the characterization of organic gunshot residue (OGSR) as a useful forensic tool, including evaluating residue contamination from previously fired ammunition, particle-to-particle compositional variability, and compositional features resulting from the type of firing primer used. Using ammunition loaded with known smokeless powders containing different stabilizers, a sequence of shots was fired from a .357 magnum revolver, and the muzzle exit residues were collected. Compositional analysis of the residues, both in bulk and as single particles, showed only a trace of the previously fired powder in the first shot and none in subsequent shots. In an additional experiment testing conventional leaded and the new lead-free firing primers, the OGSR composition was found not to depend on the primer type.
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