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The Effect of Intermediate Clothing Targets on Shotgun Ballistics

Cail, Kenneth BS; Klatt, Edward MD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: December 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 4 - p 348–351
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000051
Original Articles

The ballistic properties of shotgun shells are complex because of multiple projectiles fired simultaneously that interact and spread out to affect their energy relayed to a human target. Intermediate targets such as clothing can affect penetration into tissues. We studied the effect of common clothing fabrics as intermediate targets on penetration of shotgun shell pellets, using ordnance gelatin to simulate soft tissue and thin cowhide to simulate skin. A standard 12-gauge shotgun with modified choke was used with no. 8 shot ammunition. We found that protection afforded by fabrics to reduce penetration of shotgun pellets into tissues was greater at increasing distance from the muzzle beyond 40 yd (36.6 m). The thicker denim and cotton fabrics provided slightly greater protection than polyester. This study demonstrates that clothing modifies the potential wound patterns to victims of shotgun injuries.

From the Mercer University School of Medicine, Savannah, GA.

Manuscript received October 25, 2012; accepted March 28, 2013.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Edward Klatt, MD, Mercer University School of Medicine, 4700 Waters Avenue, Savannah, GA 31404. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.