Covering All the Angles

Firearms examiners use old-fashioned and high-tech methods to reconstruct shooting incidents and help solve crimes.

Video Transcript

A bullet can travel thousands of feet per second.

The path that bullet travels may be a key piece of evidence in a crime scene investigation.

Deciphering bullet trajectories—including what happens when bullets strike objects—is the job of firearms examiners at the FBI’s Laboratory.

Investigators use high-speed video and 3D graphics, as well as old-fashioned tape measures and trigonometry, to reconstruct how a particular shooting unfolded.

At crime scenes, investigators take precise measurements, locating all the bullet holes and determining their origin.

Wooden dowels called “trajectory rods” are inserted through holes to help determine angles.

In some cases, scenes are digitally recreated in 3D graphics, giving investigators a unique viewpoint.

Bullet fragments and shell casing can be compared at the Lab’s headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, where we maintain an inventory of thousands of types of ammunition and firearms.

Reconstructed crime scenes can tell a lot about a shooting. The process can be painstaking, but the result may be the discovery of a clue that solves a crime.

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