Using Forensic Methods to Study Historic Rifle Data

2017 Grant, Colorado State University, $30,741

Most archaeologists and curators can only identify a bullet or cartridge case to caliber. This project is an innovate use of microscopically accurate forensic casting technology and digital imaging technology that will result in a database of rifling characteristics that can be used to identify 18th and 19th century rifled firearm ammunition components to type, model, or brand. The intent is to produce a web-based searchable database to be made publicly available. The database will include for each gun listed: land and groove measurements, number of land and grooves, twist or rifling direction, an image of the rifling cast, as well as reference information. The project will also employ a 3-D scanner to make highly accurate copies of the land and groove casts. Images or 3-D printed copies can be sent to various institutions and laboratories so that multiple sets of the data can be maintained and used in research and training.
The database is designed to allow users to identify or at least narrow possible identifications to gun types based on land and groove measurements and cartridge case firing pin imprints. The information will allow researchers and interpreters to determine with greater accuracy the type of guns used at sites where ammunition components are found, potentially leading to greater accuracy in the interpretation of firearms use, troop deployment, and possibly small unit actions on battlefields. It will also allow a greater understanding of the actual arms used at sites and in battles employing physical evidence as a primary identification method.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
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