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Pseudo-Gunpowder Stippling Caused by Fragmentation of a Plated Bullet

Prahlow, Joseph A. MD; Allen, Susan B. BS; Spinder, Travis BS; Poole, Robert A. MA

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 2003 - Volume 24 - Issue 3 - p 243-247
doi: 10.1097/01.paf.0000083361.31429.60
Case Report

In this report we present a case of pseudo-gunpowder stippling caused by fragmentation of a plated bullet. Investigation of the incident revealed absence of an interposed target, no evidence of ricochet, and a normally functioning, undamaged weapon. Electroplated (“plated” or “coated”) bullets are relatively uncommon. They look similar to jacketed bullets in that the lead core is covered by a copper-colored jacketlike material. However, the copper-colored plating material is thinner than the typical jacket material. In certain instances, the plating may strip away from the lead core during transit through the barrel of the weapon and can produce injuries that mimic gunpowder stippling. Forensic pathologists are advised to be aware of this phenomenon. Misinterpretation of such wounds could result in improper classification of range of fire or improper conclusions about the presence or absence of an interposed target or ricochet.

From the South Bend Medical Foundation and Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend Center for Medical Education at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana (J.A.P.), and the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, Dallas, Texas (S.B.A., T.S., R.A.P.).

Manuscript received August 2, 2002 accepted November 14, 2002.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Joseph A. Prahlow, MD, South Bend Medical Foundation, 530 N. Lafayette Boulevard, South Bend, IN 46601. E-mail:

This paper was presented at the National Association of Medical Examiners 2001 Annual Meeting in Richmond, Virginia.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.