Examination of Ricochet Gunshot Wounds from Commonly Encountered Surfaces

Hlavaty, L., Avedschmidt, S., Root, K., Amley, J., & Sung, L. (2016). Examination of ricochet gunshot wounds from commonly encountered surfaces. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology37(4), 284-290.


Proper interpretation of gunshot wounds is vital for the forensic pathologist and requires experience and expertise, as well as consultation with a firearms and ballistics expert and careful scene investigation in cases of atypical gunshot wounds. This study is the first large-series examining ricochet gunshot wounds involving different firearm calibers. Typical gunshot wounds created from 4 handgun calibers (22 Long Rifle, 9 × 19 mm Parabellum, .40 Smith &Wesson, and .45 Automatic Colt Pistol) and 2 rifle calibers (5.56 and 7.62 mm) were compared with wounds caused by bullets of those same calibers ricocheting off commonly encountered surfaces (concrete, asphalt, aluminum traffic signs, clay brick, and dry wall). Porcine skin, a human skin analog, attached to sheets of cardboard serviced as witness panels for capturing the entrance wounds. Examination of over 150 handgun and rifle entrance wounds established that every caliber and every ricochet surface resulted in atypical features, including irregularity in size or shape, lack of marginal abrasion, or other injuries on the surrounding skin. The most significant factor influencing the variability of the ricochet wounds was the surface the bullet deflected off before striking the body.