The Rifle wound inflicted on the body are similar to pistol but produce more damage. They vary considerably and produce most unexpected results. The flame may extend up to 15 to 20 cm. Unburnt powder grains and small metallic particles are not found beyond 75 cm. Smoke is absent beyond 30 cm. from the muzzle.

In contact wounds, the burning and tattooing is not much. The blast effects are also much less and the splitting of the clothes or tissues is the sinie as that with the revolvers. The entrance and exit may be of the same size and shape, if the bullet passes through the body without touching the bone, but even when no resistant structure is touched, there may be explosive effects and severe lacerated exit.

The entrance is usually smaller than the diameter of it and looks like a rifle wound made by forcing lead pencil into skin. The edges are depressed, may have micro tears 1 to 2 mm in length, radiating from the surface, and surrounded by a reddish zone which becomes brown on drying.

Bruising of the deeper tissues around the track of it is seen. If it strikes at an angle, the skin may split or be turned up. If it strikes a bone, extensive shattering and comminution of bone takes place.

In such cases, the rfle wound of exit is usually a lacerated hole, varying from about 2.5 cm. to the size of the palm of the hand. Frequently, several small holes will be found around the large exit caused by fragments of bone being driven out.

Bullet fragmentation is much more common in rifle injuries than those due to handguns. In rifle wounds of the head within 300 meters, the brain is frequently pulped and a great part of the cranium slashed into fragments.

A bullet leaving the muzzle of service rifle rotates or spins round its long axis at the rate of about 2,500 revolutions per second, and for the first 200 to 300 meters, the base of the projectile has also a circular motion round the axis of flight, gradually losing this motion and continuing to spin in the true axis.

If a resistant body is struck within a range of 200 to 300 meters, the effect produced by the spin of it together with the intense liberation of energy is similar to that of an explosion, the tissues themselves exploding, not it.

This explains the shattering of bones such as pelvis, femur, skull, etc. It also explains the severe laceration seen even when a rifle bullet fired at short range passes through soft tissues only. At these ranges, it commonly disintegrates, and causes effects which give the impression that more than one shot has been fired.

Between 300 to 1,000 meters, the spin of it becomes regular, and it passes easily through the tissues and cuts a clean hole through the bones. Beyond this, it behaves like a low-velocity bullet.


The appearance of a gunshot wound can be altered by the following conditions:

  • Drying of margins of opening.
  • Decomposition of the body.
  • Healing itself.
  • Interference by emergency care personnel.
  • Surgical operation.
  • Interference by non-professional personnel at scene of death.
  • Washing or cleaning of after death.

X-ray Examination of Gunshot Wound Victims

It helps to

  • locate the bullet or pellets,
  • locate bullet fragments or jackets,
  • show the track of it. Internal ricochet within the skull may be demonstrated, which helps to determine the direction of the fire,
  • determine the break up pattern of it. This may also indicate the type of ammunition used,
  • determine defects in bone,
  • locate air embolism accompanying large vessel damage by the missile.