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Thread: What would you do??? Ballistic fingerprinting.

  1. #1
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    Okay, so as most who post under this state know, I was arrested for OCing back in May. Well now that the charges are dropped and I have my weapon (which was held for four months) back, I have been thinking about something.

    Do most police departments do a ballistic fingerprinting of weapons that are confiscated? I did notice when I got my gun back, that it was unusually well lubricated considering it had been locked in an evidence locker for 4 months. Also the solvent/lubricant that I use has a distinct (almost fruity for some reason) odor. What my gun was lubricated with when I got it back last week was obviously not the same lubrication, and itmade me think thatthe weaponhas been disassembled and cleaned. Why would the police do this unless they had fired it, and why would they have fired it unless they were doing a ballistic fingerprinting? I am going to contact the custodian of evidence at Andalusia Police Department tomorrow and ask him about it, though I'm sure they would never reveal this to me even if they did do it.

    I'm not so sure that I am comfortable being the owner of a pistol that the police have information on, especially a way to track a bullet back to me. Not that I intend to do anything that is illegal in the first place, but accidents do happen, and if my name and my gun are in some database, it seems possible to me that there could be a mistake made where a bullet dug out of someone's skull comes back to match MY gun (people have been wrongfully sent up on murder charges with way less evidence)!

    My concerns may or may not be well-founded, but it does raise a question in the back of my mind: do I really want to keep this gun if something like the above mentioned scenario is possible? Don't get me wrong, I love my XD .45 Compact. It is my favorite gun, and certainly if I did sell it I would replace it with another, but the idea of carrying THIS one in particular bothers me a little. Any suggestions? What would you guys do?

  2. #2
    Regular Member Kingfish's Avatar
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    This is a pretty good read...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistic_fingerprinting

    There is more out there but it will give you some good info.

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    If you are that concerned, you could always get a new barrel, extractor, and a new firing pin installed...

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    IIRC, ballistic fingerprinting doesn't match after 300 rounds or so have been fired through a weapon.... so go have a range trip :P

  5. #5
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    SIGguy229 wrote:
    If you are that concerned, you could always get a new barrel, extractor, and a new firing pin installed...
    That is wonderful advice, and honestly, something that i hadn't even thought of. I have long been interested in acquiring a tactical barrel for my XD as Alabama does not restrict the posession of silencers (at least to my knowledge). I may well go ahead and make this investment, as it would allow me to keep my gun, and alleviate the worries that having it ballistically fingerprinted raise.

    Something that also comes to mind: Aren't ball ammo rounds the only rounds that can be accurately fingerprinted??? Maybe I would be able to establish a defense in any case that involved me being accused by proving that when not at the range, all I pack are Speer GDHPs. After a hollow point round expands, isn't it impossible to accurately examine the markings on the jacket to prove which gun it was fired from? Maybe this is misinformation on my part, and if it is, please correct me, but this seems like another way to avoid any such situation as mentioned above.

    In any case, I am going to contact the man who was in charge of my weapon for the last four months tomorrow. If he gives me any reason to believe that any such documentation has occurred, I am going to order a new barrel tomorrow for the gun.

    And hey, if nothing else, this finally gives me a good reason to justify carrying my 1500 dollar custom Taurus 1911 as a primary. It's so gorgeous; I just can't bring myself to carry it . But if I had a good reason to.... then I don't see why it would be a problem .

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    Regular Member Kingfish's Avatar
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    vmathis12019 wrote:
    my 1500 dollar custom Taurus 1911
    How about a pic?

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    Only SBRs and SBSs are illegal in Alabama iirc. Which is a little weird that they are outright illegal, considering you would have to jump through all the BATFE hoops to get one anyways.

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    kingfish wrote:
    vmathis12019 wrote:
    my 1500 dollar custom Taurus 1911
    How about a pic?
    No digital camera, just imagine the blue stainless one on the Taurus website with crimson trace grips, tritium sights, and a tungsten guide rod. My Dad had some other stuff done to it too but I can't remmeber what all it was (It was his gun until he gave it to me).

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    For the price of a new barrel, striker, etc... you could buy a case or two of ammo and the effect on the ability to identify your gun will be the same.

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  11. #11
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    molonlabetn wrote:
    For the price of a new barrel, striker, etc... you could buy a case or two of ammo and the effect on the ability to identify your gun will be the same.
    +1......400-500 rnds will change the characteristics enough that their "evidence" would be useless....I've read that as few as 200 will do it but I'd go a bit above that just to be sure.

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    Can they fingerprint ruber bullets?
    I remember the crowd conrtrol incident in CA, and thought that just deny,
    I fired into gound/air, how can a rubber bullet be traced to a gun.
    as a non-leathal ammo it should be too soft to get a match.

    I've asked several LEO's and get at best a blank stare.
    The two times I was around the crime lab, they were closed.

  13. #13
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    Don't use rubber bullets in a firearm. There are lots of good reasons not to.

    Mainly though, if you shoot somebody at close range you will still kill them. And when the jury looks over your case they will say you didn't have proper cause to shoot him since you were using less-lethal ammo and it's only legal to shoot when your life is in danger, and if your life was in danger you would use lethal ammo. Yes... it's more legal to kill someone than to try not to kill them.

    Also.. rubber bullets are expensive.

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    Would never consider it. I was just curious wether they could be matched
    to a gun. I remembered thinking when the 'riot' was squelched, could they prove
    who shot what. In which case why would any LEO not plead it wasn't my bullet.
    Although political firestorm doesn't equal justice much anymore. If the mayor
    can sell a few cops down the river then no great loss from his point of view.


  15. #15
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    Yeah. Ballistic fingerprinting is bogus, I wouldn't worry about it.

    @Slackware. Please let the computer do the linebreaks automatically. It may look fine on your screen but over here it looks like you are writing lines of poetry or something.

  16. #16
    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    Ballistic fingerprinting works on TV and in the movies! Just look at all of the crimes solved with the data base information. And micro-stamping - now there's an idea that has come of age.

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  17. #17
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    vmathis12019 wrote:
    SIGguy229 wrote:
    If you are that concerned, you could always get a new barrel, extractor, and a new firing pin installed...
    That is wonderful advice, and honestly, something that i hadn't even thought of. I have long been interested in acquiring a tactical barrel for my XD as Alabama does not restrict the posession of silencers (at least to my knowledge). I may well go ahead and make this investment, as it would allow me to keep my gun, and alleviate the worries that having it ballistically fingerprinted raise.

    Something that also comes to mind: Aren't ball ammo rounds the only rounds that can be accurately fingerprinted??? Maybe I would be able to establish a defense in any case that involved me being accused by proving that when not at the range, all I pack are Speer GDHPs. After a hollow point round expands, isn't it impossible to accurately examine the markings on the jacket to prove which gun it was fired from? Maybe this is misinformation on my part, and if it is, please correct me, but this seems like another way to avoid any such situation as mentioned above.

    In any case, I am going to contact the man who was in charge of my weapon for the last four months tomorrow. If he gives me any reason to believe that any such documentation has occurred, I am going to order a new barrel tomorrow for the gun.

    And hey, if nothing else, this finally gives me a good reason to justify carrying my 1500 dollar custom Taurus 1911 as a primary. It's so gorgeous; I just can't bring myself to carry it . But if I had a good reason to.... then I don't see why it would be a problem .
    Ballistics testing of a hollowpoint or other expandermay or may not be matchable. What matters is not the shape of the bullet, but the condition of the jacket.

    Contrary to popular belief, most fingerprint matching and other forensics are not an exact science. If it were an exact science, you could give the same two samples, whether fingerprints or fired bullets, to anyone trained in the analysis of those samples and they'd get the same result. That is not the case with many areas of forensic analysis; an expert looks at two samples, finds similarities, figures out how likely two different sources are to have that similarity or number of similarities, and states his confidence that the two samples *probably* came from the same source.

    While this means that fingerprint or ballistic matching is contestable because it isn't a sure thing, it means that a damaged/expandedbullet can stillbe matched by someone who knows what to look for, just like a fingerprint with a large scar on it can still be matched to fingerprint records made before the finger became scarred. The confidence will necessarily be lower, but it could be the deciding factor between a suspect who owns a Glock 9mm and one who owns an XD.

    However, there is a line that is crossed at which it is simply ludicrous to believe that a projectile can be matched toa gun. Case in point, if you fire a few hundred rounds through your gun, you will wear the rifling to the point that the bullet will no longer be given the same striations. All they could tell is six lands and grooves with a right-hand twist, and that could match hundreds of guns. In fact, even giving it a thorough scrub with a copper or brass brush will change the profile enough that a match becomes difficult or impossible to make.

    Another laughable case: I recently purchased a Mossberg shotgun. Because states with a ballistic database (Maryland, Massachussetts, couple others) require an expended projectile from any firearm sold in the state, I received, in a brown paper envelope with a tester's sticker on it, a single buckshot pelletthat had been expelled through the barrel of my gun. Give whoever thought of this a ticket to a seminar on probability mechanics, cause they'll need to be an expert at it to predict the wear on any given pellet fired by my gun.

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    vmathis12019 wrote:
    Don't get me wrong, I love my XD .45 Compact. It is my favorite gun, and certainly if I did sell it I would replace it with another, but the idea of carrying THIS one in particular bothers me a little. Any suggestions? What would you guys do?
    I have been sitting here looking at my XD45C and thinking what I would do if this happened to me. I have come to two possible paths of action (and I wouldn't sell my pistol):

    I. First course of action - no new costs (what I would most likely do)

    1) Detail strip XD
    2) Gather a fine file, emery cloth, polishing compound and a Dremel
    3) Using the fine file I would very gently and very lightly touch file the extractor on all sides and edges, and then "polish" a bit with fine emery cloth.
    4) Using the emery cloth I would "smooth" the contact end of the striker a bit and possibly hit it with the Dremel polishing pad lightly for a few seconds.
    5) I would use the Dremel to polish the ejector a bit, just to make sure they didn't bur it when they disassembled and messed with my gun you know.
    6) I would also spend a little time on the loaded chamber indicator where it contacts the brass.
    7) While I had the Dremel and polisher out I would just hit the locking block ramp and barrel ramp, just to smooth them out, in case they burred anything that might mar my brass.
    8) Starting with some Hoppes #9 and a brass brush I would start polishing my barrel, moving then to whatever preferred cleaner I might use with a bore brush moving on to patches and oil until my barrel was mirror clean.
    9) Then I would detail clean everything else and reassemble.

    After that I would take about 2-300 rounds of .45 ammo to the range over a couple of visits soon after and do some hard core practice making sure that there are no jams or problems since the polishing. Afterwards, I would again detail strip and detail clean the XD as I normally do excepting that I would again clean the barrel to a mirror finish the same as above, lube and reassemble.

    II. Second possible course of action - new costs/parts

    In conjunction with all of the above, if I were more worried about it and willing to spend a little money, I might go as far as replacing a few easily replaceable parts. For example, certain factory XD parts can be purchased at http://www.pistolgear.com on this page: http://www.pistolgear.com/products.php?id=46
    The ejector is $9.50, and a new striker is $29.00 and loaded chamber indicator $5.75.

    I don't think I would spend the $125 + on a new barrel. Seems overkill to me unless I was already planning to get a match barrel installed in which case this might be an ideal time.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

  19. #19
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    A thread awoken from the dead!

    But for concerns about ballistic fingerprinting, I'd say that changing the ballistic profile of the gun is the least of your worries.

    They already have your s/n, and know that you are the owner. It doesn't really matter what a bullet looks like now from your gun, since they already have a reference sample. It's not really necessary for them to examine the gun after the shooting. The bullet in the dead guy "matches" the bullet that came from the gun a few years ago? Bingo. Maybe you did all of the work on your gun after the shooting, maybe not. The point is... you're already in the system, so it's irrelevant what you do with your gun now. Selling it might be the only viable option to avoid a false conviction.

    On the other hand, perhaps the PD was so guilt-ridden about the false charges that they decided the least they could do is clean and lube your gun for you.

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