View Full Version : Need suggestions about ballistics course for radiographers

Odd Job
August 26, 2006, 07:26 AM
Ladies and gents

There is the possibility that I setup a ballistics study weekend for forensic radiographers here in the UK. These radiographers will probably be members of the UK Forensic Response Team, which has been setup nationally to deal with mass casualty imaging in the incident mortuary. Some of the work is related to victim identification (such as European victims of the Asian tsunami) but the rest involves screening for dangerous and significant artefacts or foreign bodies related to bomb victims and other mass fatalities involving violence. These radiographers were involved in the screening of the victims and terrorists in the London bombings. Also these radiographers are going to be involved in the handling of gunshot victims, both deceased and living and therefore the medical imaging may have an immediate clinical bias but will be of long-term forensic value.

Now here is the problem: the recognition of various projectile types and the effects of these on the body or clothing of the victim, requires a basic knowledge of small arms and ammunition. I'm willing to stick to handguns for now because those are the weapons being used in the most shootings with firearms here in the UK and indeed in most civilian populations world-wide.
To put it mildly, these radiographers here (and most other medical staff) don't know a lot about handguns and ammunition. Most of them don't know the difference between a cartridge and a bullet, and cannot explain which components of a cartridge have the potential to be left at the scene of the shooting, and cannot describe the basic differences between a revolver and a pistol, nevermind handle these items safely. There are also various forensic aspects of gunshot wounds that need to be covered so that they have better pattern recognition skills when it comes to screening patients or bodies who have suffered suspected projectile injuries. With these facts in mind, I want to give these people at least a basic course that will cover the following key topics:

1) Handgun cartridges and their components
2) Pistols and revolvers (general differences)
3) Terminal ballistics in human targets
4) Types of projectiles as identified radiologically
5) The clinical hazards of retained projectiles in live victims
6) Contamination of evidence
7) The hazards of projectile retrieval in the incident mortuary
8) Basic trajectory reconstruction (terminal trajectory only)

I have already handled all of those topics at various lectures here in the UK, except for number (7) but that is easy enough to do. However what I want to do is give these people a better understanding of how pistols and revolvers work, how they are used and what the safe handling of these items is. They may be sent abroad and may find themselves dealing with armed patients, or otherwise having contact with handguns and ammunition. So I need to get them handling and shooting handguns.

Here is what I propose to do:

1) Start with the Four Rules
2) Have them handle an airsoft pistol first. I recently got a SIG P226R replica that has all the basic controls and behaves like a real pistol in terms of slide movement, slide catch, decocker, SA/DA trigger and mag release. The magazines are different and obviously I can't do anything related to failure to feed, but generally I think the airsoft pistol is a good start because at close ranges it can fire reasonable groups and there is less chance for apprehension related to recoil, noise and the danger of live ammunition.
3) I can also get a replica revolver but that will probably fire pellets rather than airsoft.

Once I have seen that they can safely handle the replicas and that they know the theory behind real cartridges (I will have components available for them to handle) then I want to get them to handle a real pistol and revolver, preferably the same models as the replicas. This will have to be done by the police because of handgun restrictions here in the UK. I will try to get some gel targets or something similar so we can have them fire an assortment of rounds and then examine the recovered projectiles.

So my question is: does this sound reasonable? I'm not trying to make these people expert shooters (I am not an expert anyway), I just want them to have some exposure to handguns to broaded their experience and knowledge base as it may be helpful in the future. Are there any problems that I need to look out for when using a replica first and a real pistol later?

August 26, 2006, 08:58 AM
In the intrest of saftey , skip the live fire exercise. Its hard enough to keep an eye on one "newbee" than a group of them .Have them observe someone firing so they can see the dynamics of a firearm in use , and then show the pre vs post fired projectiles. A slide show of radiographs showing gsw will help them recognize the various findings that they will see down the road.
I am a radiographer and a shooter.

Odd Job
August 26, 2006, 10:01 AM

Heh, we have much in common then, I am also a radiographer and a shooter. Where are you based?

I was thinking of making the group quite small (about 10), with one-on-one tuition only. It means the other guys have to do something else while we live-fire one guy at a time. This shouldn't be a problem, I can give them materials to examine or a multiple-choice test if necessary.

August 26, 2006, 12:24 PM
I'm in upstate N.Y. USA. I've been a radiographer 32 years , 18 of those years as an instructor for the V.A.. been shooting longer than that !! I've also done work for the Suffolk county Coroners office when TWA flight 800 hit the drink. Your course sounds interesting. Like I stated in my previous response, the only thing that would scare me would be the firing drill. Just observing a shooting session should give them enough of a perspective as to what happens on the recieving end of a firearm.