Cranial trauma in handgun executions: Experimental data using polyurethane proxies

Seth Taylor, Elena Kranioti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gun violence is a global phenomenon with regional variation in frequency and severity. Handguns are often used in violent deaths such as suicides and homicides. Hence, ballistic trauma is a critical subject of forensic investigations. Trauma patterns are fundamental evidence for the reconstruction of the incident and the determination of the manner of death. This study investigated the differences in trauma patterns with a series of experiments using six different calibers (.22 LR, .38 Special, .380 ACP, 9 x 19 mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP) and four different bullet types. Synbone® spheres (polyurethane bone proxies) were used for close range (30 cm) simulated executions. The polyurethane spheres constitute an excellent proxy for human crania at the macroscopic level as suggested by other studies. The results showed that the radius of the entrance wound is positively correlated (Pearson’s correlation coefficient R=0.846, p<0.05) with the caliber dimension. As muzzle velocity increased, endocranial beveling increased. Bullet weight, conversely, does not seem to have an effect on the size of the endocranial beveling present in Synbone® spheres. The ballistic experiments exhibited similarities in entrance wound morphology; radial and concentric fracture patterns, hydraulic burst effect, circumferential delamination, and endocranial beveling with that of documented forensic cases with corresponding caliber shot. Synbone spheres seem appropriate for ballistic simulations of cranial injuries; yet, more research is needed to verify these observations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-167
JournalForensic Science International
Early online date27 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • gunshot wound
  • ballistics
  • cranial trauma
  • polyurethane spheres
  • Synbone
  • execution


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