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What We Do
All firearms leave unique microscopic marks on the surfaces of the bullets and cartridge cases they fire. Law enforcement agencies have been using these marks to link bullets and cartridge cases to suspect firearms for almost a century.
At NIST, we are using our expertise in forensic science, metrology, and engineering to advance the science of firearms identification. To do this, we are working with partners in academia, law enforcement, and private industry on advanced methods for characterizing the microscopic surface topography of fired bullets and cartridge cases, new data exchange formats for sharing that data across platforms, and new algorithms that can objectively measure the degree of similarity between two surfaces.
The goal of these efforts is to allow a firearms examiner, when testifying whether or not a bullet came from a suspect weapon, to attach an objective, statistically meaningful measure of certainty to their testimony.