Original Article

International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 126, Issue 4, pp 525-531

First online:

The survival of metallic residues from gunshot wounds in cremated bone: a SEM–EDX study

  • Alberto AmadasiAffiliated withSezione di Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , Alberto BrandoneAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università degli Studi di Pavia
  • , Agostino RizziAffiliated withDipartimento di Geologia - CNR, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , Debora MazzarelliAffiliated withSezione di Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , Cristina CattaneoAffiliated withSezione di Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Milano Email author 

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The research and analysis of gunshot residues has a relevant role in the examination of gunshot wounds. Nevertheless, very little literature exists concerning gunshot wounds on charred material. In this study, 16 adult bovine ribs (eight still with soft tissues and eight totally skeletonized) underwent a shooting test with two types of projectiles (9 mm full metal-jacketed bullet and 9 mm unjacketed bullet). Each rib then underwent a charring process in an electric oven, reaching the stage of complete calcination at 800°C. The area of each entrance wound was analyzed before and after the carbonization process via a scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipped with an energy dispersive X-ray analyzer (EDX). In each sample, metallic residues composed of lead, barium, and antimony were found. These metallic residues were thus preserved also after exposure to the extremely high temperatures reached within the oven, especially with unjacketed bullets, although the particles seem to be more irregular in shape as a result of the heating process. In conclusion, this study proved that gunshot residues survive extremely high temperatures and can be detected via SEM/EDX even in cases of charred tissues.


Forensic anthropology Gunshot residues Gunshot wound SEM–EDX Carbonization Burning