Automated ballistic identification systems are specialized computer hardware and software combinations designed to capture, store and rapidly compare digital images of bullets and cartridge casings. Before ABI systems firearms examiners compared bullet and cartridge casing marks using comparison microscopes that could only compare two bullets or casings at a time. This was a very tedious process and the sharing of the results was generally done locally. These new systems generate candidate lists of probable matches of a suspect bullet/cartridge against the ballistic database. The firearm examiners then use these candidate lists to select the actual bullets they will visually compare with the suspect bullet/cartridge. They are the ones that make final decision and certification of a ballistic match and the Firearms Examiners are the ones who testify in court.
The moment you pull the trigger to a gun you’re leaving unique prints on the bullet that can be traced back to that particular firearm. These unique marks are called “tool marks” they are reproducible whenever you fire the same firearm you will leave the same tool mark on the bullet casings. The tool marks together function as the ballistic signature of the firearm. Traditional firearm identification involves examiners using comparison microscopes. Examiners compare the micro- and macroscopic features of the tool-marked items with the known questioned tools that may have produced the markings on them. Forensic firearms examinations are based on the firearms being identified. The identification involves the identification of a bullet, cartridge case, or other ammunition component as having been fire by or in a particular firearm. Automated ballistic identification systems are specialized computer hardware/software combinations designed to capture, store and rapidly compare digital images of bullets and cartridge casings. ABIS systems have four key components the ballistic scanner, the signature extraction unit, the date storage unit and the correlation server. The ballistic key component of ABIS captures the images of the bullets and cartridges. The signature extraction unit uses a mathematical algorithm to extract unique signatures from the images. Computer simulations alone cannot be relied on in developing a reliable algorithm. At some point these algorithms must be field tested against a real life database. The larger the database the more reliable the algorithm will be. The data storage unit component serves as the main storage. The correlation server component handles the actual comparison of images. These systems have facilitated the old method of having to use a comparison microscope to examine tool marks on bullets or any other ammunition component. There was a time period where the Federal Bureau of Investigation came under pressure by the public to respond the wave of gun violence in American cities during the crack cocaine epidemic. As a result of this pressure the first ballistic identification system called Drugfire was created in 1993 by Mnemonics Systems Inc. The Drugfire system enabled law enforcement agencies to capture images of cartridge casings into computers. It also automated the process of comparing a suspect cartridge against the database. Drugfire was later upgraded to handle bullet imaging as well. The integrated ballistic system began in 1993 by the Bureau of alcohol, Tobacco and firearms. Unlike the FBI instead of having a custom made system they chose to build their network on a platform developed by Forensic Technology WAI Inc, a private Canadian company. At the start of the system it was named “Bullet proof” and only imaged bullets, later it was upgraded to handle casings as well and was renamed to its current name the Integrated Ballistics Identification System