Black Powder Firearms

Black powder weapons, on rare occasions, are involved in fatal shootings. Most of these cases involve percussion revolvers. As these weapons have rifled barrels, rifling marks will appear on the spherical or conical bullets fired from them. In addition, the loading rammer used to seat the bullet in the chamber may leave markings on the bullet of sufficient clarity and with individual characteristics to make ballistics comparison possible.

Figure 2.9 shows a .44-caliber ball removed from the arm of a woman accidentally shot with a percussion revolver. Examination of the bullet revealed absence of rifling, shearing of one surface, and markings from a loading rammer. The first two findings indicated that this bullet was not fired down the barrel but came out the side of a gun from a chamber that was not in line with the barrel. When a black powder revolver is fired, a large amount of flame and sparks are produced. This may ignite the powder in an adjacent chamber causing a ball or bullet to come out the cylinder. In such a case, no rifling will be imparted to the missile and lead will be sheared off the side of it. The markings on the ball from the rammer might possibly have been useful for a ballistics comparison.

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