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Old September 23, 2009, 02:42 PM   #1
jg0001
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My brass, sold to a reloader, a legal risk?

Perhaps this is in the very unlikely category, but it's a question that's been nagging me...

I shoot 200-400 rounds every time I go to my local indoor range. I do not collect the brass, but the range does. They sell it to reloaders.

My question is this: to what extent do my fingerprints survive the reloading process? If someone bought reloaded ammo made from my original brass and used it for nefarious purposes, would it then possibly be traced back to me (having been fingerprinted in NJ just to get an FPID to buy ammo in the first place)?

I know this is probably a super remote thing, but it does bother me that I leave the place with up to 400 copies of my fingerprints lying on the floor.

[In a more remote scenario, has it ever happened that someone purposely collected someone else's brass to reload, with the intent of having that other person's prints on ammo used for nefarious purposes? I'd imagine THAT person could take steps to avoid smudging the prints in the reloading process that might otherwise destroy prints in a more automated process.]

Please help quell my paranoia on this (or confirm it and make me reconsider collecting my own brass or loading my magazines with gloves on).

[If it matters, assume we are talking 9mm, 45ACP, and rifle caliber brass for the above (i.e. not tiny ammo like 22lR).]
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Old September 23, 2009, 02:55 PM   #2
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CSI paranoia for sure
Ideally, fingerprints alone cannot be used to convict you of a crime. In the real work, fingerprint comparison is simply not an exact science...

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar...ion/oe-felch20
Quote:
In 2007, a Maryland judge threw out fingerprint evidence in a death penalty case, calling it "a subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports to be infallible."
Quote:
There are no national standards for declaring a fingerprint "match." As a result, fingerprint identifications are largely subjective.
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Old September 23, 2009, 02:58 PM   #3
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In a commercial or even home setup environment, assuming someone wasn't trying to preserve my prints, would the 'process' clean off the brass anyway to a good extent? Excuse my ignorance on this matter as I do not myself reload.
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Old September 23, 2009, 03:02 PM   #4
Farmland
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I would say that since most people clean their brass it would remove most finger prints. If they didn't clean it I think the chances of having enough of your finger print after it has been touched a few more times, put through a resizing die etc would be very unlikely.
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Old September 23, 2009, 03:30 PM   #5
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Even if the handloader doesn't clean their brass- some leave the leftover powder residue on the cases as a form of resizing lube- IMHO the chances of anyone lifting an intact identifiable print off a shell casing is fairly minimal.

First, the handloader must usually handle the casings several times during the loading process, which will probably smudge or obscure any residual prints regardless of whether the cases were cleaned. Also keep in mind that the range employees probably handled the case before it even got to the handloader, most likely sweeping it across a dusty floor with a dirty broom.

Second, a shell casing is a small, curved surface. Watch your fingers as you place the cartridges in your handgun's magazine or cylinder; you most likely aren't touching the casing with your entire finger, you're only using a small portion of your fingertips. The smaller the portion of the fingerprint, the less likely it can be identified. Furthermore, your fingers are probably rubbing against the cartridges during loading, smearing the prints.

Reread KLRANGL's post. In addition to the fact that fingerprinting is inexact, it's often hard to lift usable prints under the most ideal circumstances. The police like to tout cases in which fingerprints were successfully used to solve crimes, but this is a case of selective reporting; in reality, you might be surprised at the number of crime scene investigations that fail to yield a single usable print.
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Old September 23, 2009, 03:53 PM   #6
Glenn E. Meyer
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This is probably urban myth or CSI BS but I've heard that if you used a 'drop' piece (from the stupid advice to carry a cheap gun to give to an unarmed BG corpse) - that's been broken by having your prints on the ammo or inside parts of the gun.

No references, though!
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Old September 23, 2009, 04:05 PM   #7
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In the event that your prints were lifted off some brass loaded by someone else and subsequently used in a crime, I think it highly unlikely that you'd be convicted.... unless of course the prosecution could prove you had means, motive and opportunity.
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Old September 23, 2009, 04:55 PM   #8
KLRANGL
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Quote:
This is probably urban myth or CSI BS but I've heard that if you used a 'drop' piece (from the stupid advice to carry a cheap gun to give to an unarmed BG corpse) - that's been broken by having your prints on the ammo or inside parts of the gun.
That could very well be true, but it doesn't exactly shed light on whether fired brass could still have fingerprints left on it.

Besides my earlier point that any partial fingerprints that remain on the brass would be useless, I don't beleive fingerprints could make it through the high heat and wear of being fired, then handled by unknown parties, then reloaded to any sort of fire-able state.

But without any sort of testing data on the matter, we can really only speculate...
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Old September 23, 2009, 05:02 PM   #9
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as stated already in previous posts.... i doubt they would be still on the brass if either tumbled or resized.... both of which i would do if i had gotten brass from someone else.
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Old September 23, 2009, 05:43 PM   #10
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jg0001,

Can you hear your mother's preaching coming back to you?
"Clean up after yourself!"

You could have avoided this concern if you had tumbled the brass before giving up possession of it.

Muhahahaha (foreboding organ music in the back ground)
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Old September 23, 2009, 05:45 PM   #11
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I read a while back that finger prints on brass do not survive the firing process. I can't give you the reference but it was in a paper discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of the concept of "fingerprinting" guns. In that article there was a blurb about how fired brass does not have recoverable prints.


Not that I think it matters in the context of the OP. There's no way on Gods green earth that any print would survive the firing, recovery, packaging, unpacking, mixing, reloading, boxing, shipping....
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Old September 23, 2009, 05:51 PM   #12
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Could always wear gloves while handling ammo - no prints to worry about.

I'd think that someone stealing the license plates off your car, putting them on a similar car, using that vehicle in the commission of a crime and then putting the plates back on your car would be a bigger problem than the fingerprint issue.
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Old September 23, 2009, 09:10 PM   #13
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"...beyond a shadow of doubt..."


... but stranger things have happened. You should probably start wearing gloves when you buy/load/shoot.
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Old September 23, 2009, 10:00 PM   #14
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That saw cuts both ways ya know.

This is why I keep brass that I find like this. The state FBI agents are always very good about picking up their brass and leaving it for me. A box FULL of once fired 40 S&W and 9mm cases with this on the label.

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Old September 24, 2009, 10:38 PM   #15
jg0001
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These are some curious answers... I'm really going to have to do a solid check next time. I'll put a very strong, easily discernable print on an otherwise polished clean brass casing of a 45acp or 6.8 rifle round, load it very carefully, fire it, and recover it and see just what is left behind. I'm really shocked that there wouldn't be enough of a print left, even without TV level CSI gadgetry.
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Old September 25, 2009, 08:20 PM   #16
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I would think it highly unlikely any print would remain

After the reloading process. It may be entriely possible for a print, more likely a partial, to remain after the firing cycle, but I would think that the reloading process would obliterate it.

Consider, first, the curved surface of the cartridge case is unlikely to hold enough of a print for a good match. The base of the case, however is flat, and if you "thumbed home" a round, a print might be found there.

Second, fingerprints are the oily residue from our skin. The heat of firing might not bake the oils to the point of not being detectable, on the body of the case, and seldom will do it on the base of the case. A fired case with a fingerprint on it, is likely to be able to be "printed". Enough of a print for a match (a positive match) would depend on the specific case.

Water does not remove fingerprints. Wiping does. Reloading fired brass usually involves lubricants, and almost always involves some wiping of the cases, at some point. Perhaps the resizing die is enough to smear fingerprints, (even carbide dies using no lube), I do not know for sure.

Anyway, considering the original premise, that police found your fired brass at a crime scene, and got your fingerprints off of it, if the fired brass was reloaded and used in the crime, then there will be telltale markings on the brass to indicate it was fired in more than one gun. This would go a long way to indicate that you are not the suspect. If the perp simply dropped some of your fired brass at the scene, to confuse the cops, you might have some explaining to do, if they were actually able to connect it to you. However, a rational, reasonable explanation (and hopefully an alibi) should clear you of suspicion easily. All in all, I think you are at a greater risk of being accused because your car has the same model tires as the one they are looking for, than because some of your fired (and reloaded) brass turned up at a crime scene.
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Old September 25, 2009, 11:29 PM   #17
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Even Gil Grissom found your finger print he could also tell if the shell had been reloaded.
Since you don't reload that would mediate against you being the bad guy.
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Old September 26, 2009, 09:56 PM   #18
jg0001
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Quote:
If the perp simply dropped some of your fired brass at the scene, to confuse the cops, you might have some explaining to do, if they were actually able to connect it to you.


I hadn't even thought of that! I was suggesting someone might pickup my brass and reload it carefully... but I suppose just picking it up and dumping it somewhere else would be even more spooky.
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Old September 27, 2009, 07:21 AM   #19
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Quote:
Please help quell my paranoia on this (or confirm it and make me reconsider collecting my own brass or loading my magazines with gloves on).
Paranoia running rampant on this one.

First, I doubt that your prints would survive the reloading process for the reasons mentioned.

Secondly, I doubt many reloaders are committing crimes with their reloads thus leaving a shell casing with your prints all over it at the crime scene.

Finally, if someone was trying to get your brass for nefarious reasons, I'm guessing they could come up with a better plan than picking it up off the range floor.

Relax and go shoot. If you still worried about it, rather than load with gloves on and get those odd looks at the range, perhaps you could file your prints off or burn them off with a type of acid?
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Old September 27, 2009, 09:07 AM   #20
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Use a revolver.
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Old September 27, 2009, 09:31 AM   #21
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Jeez - now I've got something else to worry about....
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Old September 27, 2009, 10:18 AM   #22
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Worrying will get you faster than not worrying...hell I still leave the reloads in my guns when I run to town for errands.

Mom's advice still applies- Do right, avoid trouble when you can and when you can't avoid it, give it back in spades.
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Old September 27, 2009, 10:20 AM   #23
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Quote:
Use a revolver.
and through down someone else's 38 spl cases at the scene.

that ought to get the police to thinking hard
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Old September 29, 2009, 09:06 PM   #24
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For all that assumed the brass would be tumbled etc-I think the original question involved someone trying to set someone up. They sure as hexx would not tumbled to clean or wipe clean-they want the print on the case.
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Old September 29, 2009, 09:21 PM   #25
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I don't see how a fingerprint on brass case could survive the sliding friction contact during resizing step of reloading.
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