Classification of Gunshot Wounds

Firearms are involved in many fatal incidents in the United States. According to the Gun Violence Archives (2016), as of September 12, 2016, there have been 39,234 incidents of gun violence with 10,064 of those leading to death. Knowledge of the types of wounds firearms produce is imperative to assist in the recreation of the scene. Wounds from firearms can provide information on the range of fire, meaning the distance the firearm was from the victim, and the directionality of the bullet track with the evaluation of entrance and exit wounds.

Gunshot wounds can be broadly classified into many different categories with several subcategories defining a variety of factors involved in wound evaluation and the firearm used. In this first post, the range of fire will be discussed based on the utilization of handguns.

The classification of gunshot wounds are as follows:

  1. Contact wounds

A contact wound is when the muzzle of the firearm is held to the skin upon discharge of the firearm. In these types of wounds, typically all of the particles of combustion from the muzzle enters the wound. However, a small amount may be seen around the edges of the wound if the contact was slightly loose. The clothing or skin is typically burned in these contact type of gunshot wounds.

  • Close-range wounds

In close range wounds, the muzzle of the firearm is not in contact with the skin or clothing, but is held a short distance away. In wounds where a gun was held a few inches from the skin, the particles of combustion will be seen at the bullet hole and around the hole deposited on the skin. If the gun was held a few more inches away, the deposit of particles would be dispersed in a larger area.

  • Intermediate-range wounds

These types of gunshot wounds are seen in which the muzzle of the firearm is held at a larger distance away from the skin, but close enough to cause abrasion wounds in the skin from particles of combustion. These particles do not disperse well and land on the skin causing these abrasion wounds called “powder tattooing.”

  • Distant wounds

In these types of gunshot wounds, the particles of combustion do not reach the target and the wound only consists of the bullet hole itself.

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Works Cited

Gun Violence Archive. (2016, September 12). Gun Violence Archive 2016. Retrieved from Gun Violence Archive: