Ballistics involves the comparative analysis of two samples. A bullet must be recovered from a discharged weapon and the original weapon must also be recovered for analysis. Thus at the very minimum, analysis involves two items:
- A discharged bullet
- A suspected weapon
A scientific panel of the National Research Council conducted a $300,000 yearlong study of F.B.I. ballistics analysis and concluded that while the method was generally reliable, forensic scientists at the F.B.I. repeatedly overstated the scientific accuracy of their conclusions.
Prior to the study F.B.I. experts would testify that a particular bullet found at a crime scene came from a certain box of ammunition or was manufacturered on a certain date. Researchers concluded that these findings were wrong.
Ballistics examination process
- Eric Lichtblau, Report Questions the Reliability of an F.B.I. Ballistics Test, N.Y. Times, Feb. 11, 2004