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Behavior of Expelled Glass Fragments During Projectile Penetration and Perforation of Glass

Haag, Lucien C. BS

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2012 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 47–53
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e318219888c
Original Articles

Bullets striking common forms of flat glass with an orthogonal intercept angle result in a cloud of ejected glass fragments that are in concert with the exiting bullet’s flight path. This is not the case with strikes at angles other than orthogonal. In these situations, the expelled glass fragments follow a very different course from that of the exiting projectile. This is both counterintuitive and a potential source of serious error in the evaluation and reconstruction of a shooting victim’s position and orientation at the moment the victim was struck by a bullet that has passed through a nearby source of glass such as a vehicle side window or a window in a building. The flight path of the ejected glass fragments is, however, predictable and is dictated by the orientation of the plane of the glass opposite the projectile’s impact site.

In all cases, these expelled glass particles have considerable velocity and can produce pseudostippling of the skin in individuals located downrange of bullet-struck glass and near the projectile’s exit site. The distribution and location of such pseudostippling and its relationship to the associated bullet hole in glass have important reconstructive value. A proper and reliable reconstruction of the victim’s position in such cases will require the integration of scene information with the autopsy findings.

From the Forensic Science Services, Carefree, AZ.

Manuscript received December 20, 2010; accepted February 25, 2011.

The author reports no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Lucien C. Haag, BS, Forensic Science Services, PO Box 5347, Carefree, AZ 85377. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.