Forensic Ballistics Expert

Forensic ballistics is the examination of evidence relating to firearms at a crime scene, as well as the effects of the projectiles of an explosive device. A forensic ballistics expert is tasked with matching the bullets, fragments or other evidence with weapons of alleged suspects or others involved with a case. They may be asked to provide testimony during criminal or civil trials, and are asked to explain their findings to juries.

Ballistics Expert Job Description and Common Tasks

A ballistics expert applies and understanding of the different marks that firearms leave upon bullets when they are fired, including the marks of the rifling on a barrel and other striations on the projectile. They may also perform modeling of the scene to identify where a firearm was used and perform chemical analysis to determine when a gun was used. They generally cannot demonstrate their findings in court, but they can display graphics or other results of their analysis.

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Ballistics Expert Requirements and Training

Ballistics experts generally follow similar coursework to other forensic scientists, such as biology and physics. Similar to accident reconstruction experts, classes may also include trigonometry and the use of computer-based modeling programs. Other coursework in chemistry and metallurgy may be needed to flesh out the curriculum. A bachelor’s degree in forensic science or ballistic forensic science is a common, and aspiring ballistic experts may perform post-bachelor’s training to keep up with the latest trends.

Ballistics Expert Salary, Job Outlook, and Employers

Ballistics experts generally find positions in the forensic science section of police departments at the federal, state or county level. Because of their specialization, they may be able to obtain positions with higher salaries than entry-level forensic science technicians. In addition to the public sector, private consultants also perform work on behalf of firearms manufacturers and law firms, and obtain salaries in the upper five figures as they gain experience.


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Page Edited by Charles Sipe.