Firearm wounds


  • Types of firearms

    • Shotguns - which fire a number of shots together, with barrels varying in size from 22 to 30 bore are smooth inside and are commonly used to kill birds and small animals. An average shotgun cartridge varies in size from 2 to 3 inches. Ordinarily shotguns are effective within a range of thirty to forty yards.
    • Rifled firearms - These are firearms which fire a single bullet and have one barrel only. These have firing range of upto 1000 yards and can cause serious or fatal injury to man or animals.
  • Firearms generally produce two wounds or apertures, viz., one of entrance and the other of exit of the projectile. The wound of entrance is usually smaller than the projectile because of the elasticity of the skin, and is round when the projectile strikes the body at right angles and oval when it strikes obliquely. When a wound of entrance is present, but not the wound of exit, it means that a bullet is lodged in the body, except in those cases where the bullet has been coughed up after entering the respiratory passages or lost in the stool after entering the intestinal tract and also when a hard bullet coming in contact with a bone is so deflected as to pass out through the same orifice by which it entered. If a bullet is lodged in the body it must be taken out if death has occurred, and forwarded to the Superintendent of Police in a sealed envelope containing its description in the Veterinary Officer's handwriting as it forms evidence of the greatest value. While searching for a bullet it must be borne in mind that it may take a very erratic and circuitous course while passing through the body. In a case where death has not occurred, the bullet should be located by means of X-ray, if possible.
  • The flame and the forceful expansion of the gases of explosion in the skin and subcutaneous tissues usually cause a large entry wound, the edges of which are ragged and everted. Wadding or debris may be found lodged in the wound with the skin surrounding it being scorched and tattooed with particles of unconsumed gunpowder. The entry wound of a revolver fired very near or in contact with the skin is stellate or cruciform in shape instead of being circular. When it is fired from beyond a distance of12 inches, there are no gunpowder marks around the wound. If the revolver is fired close to the skin but held at an angle, the smudging and tattooing is limited only to one side of the bullet hole. The wound of exit is often larger than the wound of entrance, and its edges are irregular and everted, but free from scorching and tattooing. The edges of both the wounds of entrance and exit may be everted in fat animals due to protrusion of fat into the wounds, and in decomposed bodies because of the expansible action of the gases of putrefaction. The edges of the wound of exit may be very ragged and torn, if the projectile was discharged at close quarters, had passed through the bone or was deformed by striking elsewhere first (wound by recoil). These characters of the wound are due to the wobble of the projectile, its deformed condition, laceration of the skin by fragments of bone expelled from the body along with the projectile or by the splintered pieces of the projectile itself.
  • Large bullets cause greater damage to the internal organs than small ones. Round bullets produce larger wounds than conical ones. They cause extensive laceration of the tissues and comminuted fracture of the bones if 'hey strike the body at a different angle and sometimes their course is arrested by coming in contact with chains or other hard articles. Conical bullets produce much less laceration than round ones, and the rounds caused by them are punctured in appearance. Conical bullets rarely split in the tissues, though round ones often do.
  • Modern, steel-jacketed bullets used in army weapons have the shape of an elongated cone and owing to their great velocity usually pass straight d directly through the body without any deflection or deviation, and without causing much damage. The wounds of entry and exit are almost circular and similar in appearance, without any bruising or laceration of the surrounding parts. Such wounds heal very rapidly. Even wounds caused by such bullets in the brain, lungs, or intestines often run a perfectly normal course, and heal without any difficulty. Expanding, grooved, dumdum bullets are very destructive and produce extensive wounds with ragged margins.
  • Fragments of shell are also destructive and cause extensive wounds. Irregular missiles, such as pieces of stone, iron, kankar, beads of brass or nickel anklets or wristlets, seeds etc. used in muzzle-loading guns produce several irregular, lacerated wounds, and the exit wounds are larger than the entrance wounds. It is possible for a single pellet or shot to cause death. Wadding or gunpowder may cause laceration and may produce death by penetrating the internal organs of the body, even if a blank cartridge is discharged close to the body.
Last modified: Tuesday, 5 June 2012, 11:47 AM