Guide for Primer Gunshot Residue Analysis by Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometry

Publication Information:

27 Members of The Scientific Working Group on Gun Shot Residue (SWGGSR), including A.J. Schwoeble, “Guide for Primer Gunshot Residue Analysis by Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometry”, Developed by Subcommittee: E30.01 ASTM Book of Standards Volume: 14.02, pp.97 and 100

Year: 2011

Topics: Criminal Forensics, Laboratory Services, Legal, Materials Characterization, Particle Characterization

This guide covers the analysis of gunshot residue (GSR) by scanning electron microscopy/energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM/EDS) by manual and automated methods. The analysis may be performed manually, with the operator manipulating the microscope controls and the EDS system software, or in an automated fashion, where some amount of the analysis is controlled by pre-set software functions.

This document will be of use to forensic laboratory personnel who are involved in the analysis of GSR samples by SEM/EDS.

SEM/EDS analysis of GSR is a non-destructive method that provides both morphological information and the elemental profiles of individual particles.

Particle analysis contrasts with bulk sample methods, such as atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS), neutron activation analysis (NAA), inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES), and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), where the sampled material is dissolved or extracted prior to the determination of total element concentrations, thereby sacrificing morphological information and individual particle identification.

X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) is a technique that has been used to map the placement and distribution of GSR particles surrounding bullet holes in order to establish shooting distances. Unlike the solution-based bulk methods of analysis, XRF is non-destructive; however, XRF still does not provide morphological information and is incapable of individual GSR particle identification.