Shotgun Wounds

When a shotgun is discharged, the lead shot emerges from the muzzle as a solid mass and then progressively diverges in a cone shape as the distance from the weapon increases. The pellets are often accompanied by particles of unburned powder, flame, smoke, gases, wads, and cards, which may all affect the appearance of the entrance wound and are dependent on the range of fire. Both the estimated range and the site of the wound are crucial factors in determining whether the wound could have been self-inflicted.

If the wound has been sustained through clothing, then important residues may be found on the clothing if it is submitted for forensic examination. It is absolutely essential that the advice of the forensic science team and crime scene investigator is sought when retrieving such evidence. When clothing is being cut off in the hospital, staff should avoid cutting through any apparent holes.

Contact wounds are caused when the muzzle of the weapon is held against the skin. The entrance wound is usually a fairly neat circular hole, the margins of which may be bruised or abraded resulting from impact with the muzzle. In the case of a double-barreled weapon, the circular abraded imprint of the nonfiring muzzle may be clearly seen adjacent to the contact wound. The wound margins and the tissues within the base of the wound are usually blackened by smoke and may show signs of burning owing to the effect of flame. Because the gases from the discharge are forced into the wound, there may be subsidiary lacerations at the wound margin, giving it a stellate-like shape. This is seen particularly where the muzzle contact against the skin is tight and the skin is closely applied to underlying bone, such as in the scalp. Carbon monoxide contained within the gases may cause the surrounding skin and soft revolver, which tends to have a low muzzle velocity of 150 m/s, is a short-barreled weapon with its ammunition held in a metal drum, which rotates each time the trigger is released. The spent cartridge case is retained within the cylinder after firing. In the self-loading pistol, often called "semi-automatic" or erroneously "automatic," the ammunition is held in a metal clip-type magazine under the breach. Each time the trigger is pulled, the bullet in the breach is fired, the spent cartridge case is ejected from the weapon, and a spring mechanism pushes up the next live bullet into the breach ready to be fired. The muzzle velocity of pistols varies between 300 and 360 m/s. The rifle is a long-barreled shoulder weapon capable of firing bullets with velocities up to 1500 m/s. Most military rifles are "automatic," allowing the weapon to continue to fire while the trigger is depressed until the magazine is empty; thus, they are capable of discharging multiple rounds within seconds.

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