One of the specialisms within Forensic Science is Forensic Firearms or 'Ballistics' as it is sometimes known. The work can involve the following:
• Classification and identification firearms and ammunition
• Testing and classification of air weapons
• Testing of firearms to determine working condition
The scientists will find themselves involved with all crime types from simple possession of a firearm through to murder.
As well as specialising in the examination of firearms these scientists are also firearm crime scene experts. If a weapon is discharged or found at a crime scene, the crime scene manager will require the services of a firearms specialist. The firearms expert's role at a scene is to determine items such as the number of shots fired, the angle and direction of fire, and if possible, the type and calibre of weapon utilised; once the recovered items are submitted to the laboratory it is the expert's responsibility to try and determine if possible the number of weapons, make and model and if a recovered firearm is linked to the actual shooting. Also the experts are available for Heath and Safety purposes to make safe unusual or difficult firearms.
To become a firearms specialist, while most staff are educated to degree level, a significant proportion of the training is received on the job. For the day to day job within the laboratory a forensic firearms scientist must learn about all the different types of weapons and ammunition and how these differ from one another. They must be capable of analysing firearms and related items as the results are submitted as evidence in the form of a written report.
Owning a Firearm
In the UK the ownership of firearms is heavily regulated. It is illegal to own handguns, self loading rifles or fully automatic firearms and only possible to own other types of firearms, with the exception of the majority of air weapons, with a Firearms Certificate.