Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 204–209 | Cite as

Ballistics reviews: mechanisms of bullet wound trauma

  • Nicholas MaidenEmail author


The location of an entrance wound (bullet placement) and the projectile path are the most important factors in causing significant injury or death following a shooting. The head followed by the torso are the most vulnerable areas, with incapacitation resulting from central nervous system (brain or cord) disruption, or massive organ destruction with hemorrhage. Tissue and organ trauma result from the permanent wound cavity caused by direct destruction by the bullet, and also from radial stretching of surrounding tissues causing a temporary wound cavity. The extent of tissue damage is influenced by the type of bullet, its velocity and mass, as well as the physical characteristics of the tissues. The latter includes resistance to strain, physical dimensions of an organ, and the presence or absence of surrounding anatomical constraints. Bullet shape and construction will also affect tissue damage and bullets which display greater yaw will be associated with increased temporary cavitation. Military bullet designs do not include bullets that will expand or flatten as these cause greater wound trauma and are regulated by convention.


Ballistics Bullet placement Temporary cavity Permanent cavity Tissue damage Bullet design Fragmentation Yaw Forensic Temporary cavitation Permanent cavitation Centre of mass 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Pathology, Level 3 Medical School North BuildingThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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