Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Surface Topography Analysis for a Feasibility Assessment of a National Ballistics Imaging Database



Theodore V. Vorburger, James H. Yen, B Bachrach, Thomas B. Renegar, Li Ma, Hyug-Gyo Rhee, Xiaoyu A. Zheng, Jun-Feng Song, Charles D. Foreman


This document reports on a study to determine the feasibility and utility of a national ballistics database of casing and bullet images. The purpose of such a proposed database would be to provide a reference collection of ballistic images against which casings or bullets found at the scene of a crime may be compared, with the intent of uniquely identifying the weapon that generated the spent casing or bullet. In the same fashion that the national fingerprint database serves as a forensics tool for person identification for law enforcement officers, this ballistics database would serve as an important tool for weapon identification. To construct the database, the proposed plan would be to conduct test firings for every weapon sold over the counter, with the hope that if any such weapon is subsequently used in a crime, it may be identified and traced back to the original owner. The study was conducted in support of a National Academies (NA) Committee to Assess the Feasibility, Accuracy, and Technical Capability of a National Ballistics Database. The study was sponsored by the Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice (NIJ), through the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) under the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory (EEEL) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The study was conducted by members of OLES, NIST's Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory (MEL), NIST's Information Technology Laboratory (ITL), and the private company, Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI). The purpose of this report is to inform the NA Committee about the results and observations of the NIST study. The NA Committee issues its own report of its investigations and findings, which may include results from this report.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7362
Report Number


Vorburger, T. , Yen, J. , Bachrach, B. , Renegar, T. , Ma, L. , Rhee, H. , Zheng, X. , Song, J. and Foreman, C. (2007), Surface Topography Analysis for a Feasibility Assessment of a National Ballistics Imaging Database, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed June 22, 2021)
Created May 1, 2007, Updated November 10, 2018