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Preview – When Guns Go Kaboom

A Forensic Engineer Takes Us Behind the Scenes of Catastrophic Weapon Failures

My work as a forensic engineer allows me to see another side of the firearms industry that not a lot of people experience. While many of the actual cases I work on can’t be discussed due to legal reasons, there are lessons that can be learned from them by all of us who shoot. There’s always a common thread when a fatality occurs — at least two events compounded to create the lethal conditions, meaning that at least two of the four fundamental gun safety rules were violated. Repeat after me: it’s always loaded, don’t point it at anything you don’t want to destroy, keep your finger off the trigger, and be sure of your target.

My analysis of cases follows certain standards and rules of evidence. While witness statements and observations are taken into account, they’re really only used to support tests that can be observed, repeated, and are consistent with the fundamentals of engineering. I deal in cold, hard facts.

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Below are summaries of some cases I have worked on that provide some important lessons and represent a typical cross section of my workload. For obvious reasons, specific details of the cases have been altered to preserve confidentiality.

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One of the most interesting cases I worked on involved an alleged attempted murder over a property boundary dispute. By sheer coincidence, the shooting occurred at a spot that was about 900 yards from the edge of a shooting range. The defendant argued that the bullet that hit the victim didn’t come from his gun, but instead was a stray round from the range that just happened to have been launched in that direction. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time…

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