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Danger Assessment of a Spring-Gun Device (Muzzleloader) Loaded Only With Black Powder

Voisard, Matthias X. MD; Kneubuehl, Beat P. PhD

American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology: March 2010 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - pp 95-97
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181c65e49
Case Report

We report a case involving a spring-gun device (muzzleloader) loaded solely with gunpowder, installed next to shoes to prevent the neighbors' puppy from removing them. The booby trap was triggered by the 15-year-old dog-owners son when he tried to put the shoes out of the reach of the puppy. The boy suffered second degree superficial burns located mainly at the dorsal side of the right hand and fingers. To estimate the danger of the used weapon, several tests were undertaken on soap blocks from different distances and with different loads of black powder. The particle density per mm2 and the depth of black powder tattooing in the soap was compared with the boy's injuries, and found conclusive with the gun-owners statement regarding the loading of the weapon. Furthermore, our experiments indicated that the gunpowder load involved was not able to inflict permanent damage, not even to the eyes, at the here estimated firing distance.

From the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Manuscript received May 19, 2008; accepted October 14, 2008.

Reprints: Matthias X. Voisard, MD, University of Zürich, Institute of Forensic Medicine, Winterthurerstrasse 190/52, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland. E-mail: matthias.voisard@irm.uzh.ch.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.