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Home > Toolmark Identification > Introduction

Toolmark examinations and comparisons represent the core area of study for firearm and toolmark examiners. The conceptual and practical aspects of toolmark identification provide the skills necessary for firearms identification; firearm identification is a specialized subset of toolmark identification. There are potentially many more variables in terms of the marks to be examined.

As a forensic discipline, microscopic comparison and potential identification of striated or impressed toolmarks as having been made by the same tool are central to the identification of toolmarks.

The foundation for this technique is based on the following concepts:

  • A tool is defined as the harder of two objects which, when brought into contact with each other, results in the softer object receiving a toolmark.
  • Tools (e.g., screwdrivers, firearms, bolt cutters, etc.) will bear unique microscopic characteristics due to the manufacturing processes they undergo and use and abuse.
  • These characteristics will mark surfaces (e.g., locks, cut wires, fired bullets, etc.) with class and individual characteristics.
  • These class and individual characteristics are reproducible and identifiable with a particular tool.

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