The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched the NIST Ballistics Toolmark Research Database, a freely accessible database designed to improve forensic techniques used to match bullets to the gun that fired them. The database consists of microscopic images and 3D topographical information known as “toolmark data”—distinct physical characteristics imprinted on bullets and cartridges by a gun, such as striations a rifle barrel scrapes into a bullet or the impressions a firing pin makes on a cartridge. Forensic researchers use visual matching techniques based on this toolmark data to match bullets to the gun that fired them, however these techniques are imperfect and can limit the value of this data to aid investigations. With NIST’s new database, researchers can easily share toolmark data and use this data to develop and validate new algorithms and statistical techniques that can improve firearm identification.
Image: Niels Noordhoek.