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Self-Constructed Shooting Devices Utilizing Manually-Impacted Firing-Pins (Suicide Machines)

Hartwig, Sven MD*; Tsokos, Michael MD, PhD*; Schmidt, Sven MD*; Byard, Roger W. MD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2010 - Volume 31 - Issue 2 - p 192-194
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181c297f5
Case Report

Three cases of suicide are described where deaths were due to single gunshot wounds to the head from self-constructed shooting devices. The victims were twin brothers aged 27 years, and a 53-year-old male. The firearms were manufactured by the victims who used machined metal tubes with 12-gauge shotgun and 7.65 mm ammunition, respectively. The mechanism of action in all cases relied upon direct impact on the firing pin rod; with a hammer in 2 cases, and a rock in the third. Homemade firearms are manufactured globally for use in criminal activities, although they tend to be found more often in countries and among groups where there is limited access to commercially manufactured weapons due to economic or legal constraints. Most devices use either a standard sprung hammer or trigger mechanisms. Given the unusual and cumbersome nature of the firing mechanism in the reported cases, it is likely that these firearms were specifically manufactured for the purpose of suicide.

From the *Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany; and †Discipline of Pathology, The University of Adelaide and Forensic Science SA, Adelaide, Australia.

Manuscript received June 5, 2008; accepted January 4, 2009.

Reprints: Roger W. Byard, Discipline of Pathology, Level 3 Medical School North Building, The University of Adelaide, Frome Road, Adelaide 5005, Australia. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.