Can You Tell What Type of Bullet Caused the Wound?

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June 25, 2013 by msashtonwriter

By: Joseph L. Giacalone

How many times have you seen or read this in a crime show? The detective is on the scene of a murder, hovers over the body and states, “Looks like a .45 caliber.” Well, I have some news that maybe important for you crime writers and police buffs: you can’t identify the type of round that caused the wound. The type of bullet tells us nothing about our perpetrator.

I understand that the drama needs to play out in the scene, but don’t you think it can be done in other ways? Most likely, the investigator will not learn about the bullet until it is removed from the victim at autopsy. A complete external examination is made at the scene, but the detectives won’t know for sure until the medical examiner / coroner does their examination, takes a complete set of X-Rays and prepares what is known as the “Wound Chart.” The “Wound Chart” documents where and how many wounds were on the body.

There are only two types of gunshot wounds that your character can sustain: Penetrating and Perforating. A penetrating gunshot wound is when the bullet enters the body, but remains inside. This is the most common type of gunshot wound. The odds that the bullet strikes bone or gets lodged within an organ are high. The rarer of the two, a perforating gunshot wound means that the bullet enters the body and exits. Therefore the victim has two wounds: an entrance and exit wound. An entrance wound tends to be smoother and an exit wound tends to be jagged. If any speculation is made in real life at the crime scene, this is when it’s done.

It is more important to know which wound is an entrance and which is an exit wound because it gives detectives an idea whether the person was fleeing or facing their attacker or where approximately the two were positioned. This can help determine areas to canvass and search for evidence.

Author and retired NYPD Detective Sergeant Joe Giacalone

Author and retired NYPD Detective Sergeant Joe Giacalone

Joseph L. Giacalone is a retired Detective Sergeant with an extensive background in criminal investigations. He has held many prestigious positions, but his favorite was the Commanding Officer of a Cold Case Homicide Squad. Joe has personally worked on hundreds of murders, suicides and missing person cases throughout his career and is always willing to share his knowledge and experiences with others.

He obtained a Master of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice with a Specialty in Crime and Deviance from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2005. He has been an Adjunct Professor at John Jay since January of 2006.

In his spare time, he writes his own criminal investigation Blog,

You can follow Joe and the Cold Case Squad on Twitter: @ColdCaseSquad and @JoeGiacalone or through his website

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