NIST 'Standard Bullet' fights gang violence

Jan 19, 2007
NIST 'Standard Bullet' fights gang violence
A NIST Standard Reference Material 2460 "standard bullet" mounted on a blue stub. Each one has six signature markings typically found in a fired bullet. SRM 2460 is intended primarily for use as a check for crime laboratories to help verify that the computerized optical equipment for bullet imaging and profiling is operating properly. Credit: NIST

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a copper bullet designed to help end criminal sprees without once being fired. Crime laboratories can use NIST's "Standard Bullet" to optimize the settings of computerized optical imaging instruments used to match markings on fired bullets from a suspected weapon.

Analyzing bullet markings in order to trace guns used in multiple crimes, such as gang activities, is possible because a gun's firing pin, rifling, breech face and ejection mechanism can impart unique markings, called "signatures" on fired bullets or ejected casings. Comparison (dual) optical microscopes allow forensic experts to compare signature features as small as a micrometer or one fortieth the width of a human hair.

Digital imaging systems are used to gather and store bullet signatures in forensic databases, and it's important for these systems to record the best possible images. Crime labs can test the quality of their imaging systems by taking pictures of NIST's Standard Bullet and evaluating how well their system's analysis of the bullet's signature matches up with a certified signature provided by the Institute.

To make the Standard Bullet, NIST traced surface topography profiles on six master bullets fired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Researchers fed the data to a computer-controlled diamond turning machine to engrave six typical bullet signatures on the standard. After machining, a specially designed chemical etching process was used to roughen the surface of the bullet to make it appear like a real bullet when observed under an optical microscope.

Earlier efforts at standard bullets produced by real guns could show minute changes in signatures due to gun wear and environmental conditions. However, since the signatures and dimensions of the NIST Standard Bullet are recorded for manufacture, subsequent copies are essentially identical. The etched and corrosion-protected NIST Standard Bullet is certified for use until June 30, 2016. In 2007, NIST hopes to produce a complementary standard for ejected casings by a different fabrication procedure. The bullet and casing reference standards will support the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) goal of establishing nationwide ballistics traceability, measurement unification and quality control. NIBIN is a joint project of the FBI and the ATF.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: Austrian computer visionary Zemanek dies aged 94

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google made failed bid for Spotify

3 hours ago

Internet titan Google tried last year to buy streaming music service Spotify but backed off for reasons including a whopping price tag, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Thieves got into 1K StubHub accounts

3 hours ago

(AP)—Cyber thieves got into more than 1,000 StubHub customers' accounts and fraudulently bought tickets for events through the online ticket reseller, a law enforcement official and the company said Tuesday.

Microsoft CEO sees 'bold' plan as 4Q tops Street

4 hours ago

(AP)—Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella painted an upbeat vision of the future Tuesday, saying that the next version of Windows will be unified across screens of all sizes and that two money-losing units—Nokia ...

Recommended for you

Surveillance a part of everyday life

18 minutes ago

Details of casual conversations and a comprehensive store of 'deleted' information were just some of what Victoria University of Wellington students found during a project to uncover what records companies ...

European Central Bank hit by data theft

48 minutes ago

(AP)—The European Central Bank said Thursday that email addresses and other contact information have been stolen from a database that serves its public website, though it stressed that no internal systems or market-sensitive ...

Nokia profits rise after sale of handset division

1 hour ago

(AP)—Telecommunications and wireless equipment maker Nokia Corp. saw its shares surge on Thursday after it reported higher profits and an improved earnings outlook in the wake of its sale to Microsoft of its troubled handset ...

Twitter admits to diversity problem in workforce

3 hours ago

(AP)—Twitter acknowledged Wednesday that it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, just like several other major companies in Silicon Valley.

User comments : 0