Obviously it is important to collect test bullets in such a manner that additional marks will not be put on them after they leave the muzzle of the barrel. The most common procedure is to fire bullets from low powered guns into clean cotton waste, or into cotton batting. For high powered guns, such as many rifles, a better procedure is to fire them into oiled sawdust. The author uses a wooden box, 8 by 8 inches by 6 feet, set horizontally and open at the top. One end is also open and over this is placed a sheet of thin cardboard or heavy paper, through which the bullet is fired. Vertical sheets of cardboard or paper are placed as partitions across the box at intervals of 14 to 16 inches and the box is filled with sawdust which has been sifted to remove any pieces of wood or other undesirable material and then mixed with lubricating oil. The amount of oil used should be such that when a handful of the sawdust is squeezed tightly oil will exude. After the test bullet is fired, the paper partitions are removed one by one, from the firing end, until an unperforated one is found. The sawdust in the section in front of this is then scooped out and placed on a large (2- X 2-foot) sieve made of 1/4-inch-mesh galvanized wire. The bullet is soon found.
A number of examiners use tanks filled with water, some being set horizontally and others vertically. Excellent results are reported. The vertical tank, with a cone-shaped bottom to direct the falling bullet into a wire basket which can be removed from the top of the tank or into a large gate valve at the bottom of the cone which, upon rotation, allows the bullet to fall out with a minimum loss of water, would seem preferable to the horizontal tank. The latter takes up much more floor space, the removal of the fired bullet is not so simple, and the firing must be through a self-sealing membrane of some kind to avoid a considerable loss of water. To prevent the growth of organisms in the water a small amount of bichloride of mercury or a little toluene may be added.
A rather unusual procedure for catching fired bullets is to fire them into a block of ice. Lead bullets of .22 cal. when fired into ice retain even the microscopic markings put on them by the gun and they show no perceptible deformation. The heat and pressure of the bullet cause the ice to melt, and the bullet decelerates without damage to its shape or to its surface markings. (Fig. 12) This is not a practical method for routine work but might be of use in special situations.
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