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Proceedings Paper

Detecting organic gunpowder residues from handgun use
Author(s): William A. MacCrehan; K. Michelle Ricketts; Richard A. Baltzersen; Walter F. Rowe
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Paper Abstract

The gunpowder residues that remain after the use of handguns or improvised explosive devices pose a challenge for the forensic investigator. Can these residues be reliably linked to a specific gunpowder or ammunition? We investigated the possibility by recovering and measuring the composition of organic additives in smokeless powder and its post-firing residues. By determining gunpowder additives such as nitroglycerin, dinitrotoluene, ethyl- and methylcentralite, and diphenylamine, we hope to identify the type of gunpowder in the residues and perhaps to provide evidence of a match to a sample of unfired powder. The gunpowder additives were extracted using an automated technique, pressurized fluid extraction (PFE). The conditions for the quantitative extraction of the additives using neat and solvent-modified supercritical carbon dioxide were investigated. All of the major gunpowder additives can be determined with baseline resolution using capillary electrophoresis (CE) with a micellar agent and UV absorbance detection. A study of candidate internal standards for use in the CE method is also presented. The PFE/CE technique is used to evaluate a new residue sampling protocol--asking shooters to blow their noses. In addition, an initial investigation of the compositional differences among unfired and post-fired .22 handgun residues is presented.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 February 1999
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 3576, Investigation and Forensic Science Technologies, (4 February 1999); doi: 10.1117/12.334522
Show Author Affiliations
William A. MacCrehan, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)
K. Michelle Ricketts, National Institute of Standards and Technology and George Washington Univ. (United States)
Richard A. Baltzersen, National Institute of Standards and Technology and George Washington Univ. (United States)
Walter F. Rowe, George Washington Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3576:
Investigation and Forensic Science Technologies
Kathleen Higgins, Editor(s)

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