Throughout history, the field of Firearms Identification has routinely been mislabeled “Ballistics”.
Forensic scientists in the Firearm and Toolmark Section practice firearms identification. Firearms identification is a discipline of forensic science which has its primary function to determine if a bullet, cartridge case or other ammunition component was fired by a particular firearm. Ballistics, on the other hand, refers to the science of projectiles in motion.
Firearm examiners benefit from knowledge and study of ballistics in their work. Examiners consider the interior ballistics, movement within the firearm, when evaluating a firearm or fired bullets in their examinations. They may also rely on their knowledge of terminal ballistics, the effects of a projectile’s impact on a target, when participating in a shooting reconstruction or evaluating evidence for proximity determinations.
Although firearm examiners consider the motion of projectiles in their work, ballistics constitutes only a portion of their focus. The term “Ballistics”, however, continues to be erroneously substituted for the title of the entire field of Firearms Identification.