The relationship between pellet size and shotgun dispersion patterns

Wim Kerkhoff, Keanu Maitimu, K. Dieter H. Pater, Markus A. de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleProfessional

Abstract

When reconstructing a shooting incident with a shotgun, the muzzle-to-target distance can be determined by relating the size of a dispersion pattern found on a crime scene to that of test shots. Ideally, the test shots are performed with the weapon and ammunition that were used in the incident. But sometimes examiners will have to resort to alternatives, such as using cartridges of the same brand and type but with another pellet size. For this reason, the relationship between pellet size and shotgun dispersion patterns was studied with both lead and steel shotgun pellets. Cartridges were loaded with identical cartridge cases, powder charges, and wads but with different pellet sizes, below size B. The cartridges were fired, and the dispersion patterns at 5 m in front of the muzzle were measured and compared. The results provide strong support for the proposition that shotgun dispersion patterns with both lead and steel shot increase with decreasing pellet size if all other relevant parameters are kept equal. The results also provide an indicative measure of the magnitude of the effect. Pattern sizes were approximately 1.7 times larger with #9 than with #0 lead shot and 1.4 times larger with #9 than with #1 steel shot. The differences between consecutive shot sizes were generally smaller. This means that cartridges of equal brand and type but with the next nearest shot number can be used for a muzzle-to-target distance determination, keeping the information of the current study in mind in the final interpretation of the results.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2023

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