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"Bun is such a sad word, is it not?" -- Watt, "Waiting for Godot"
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If you watch procedural cop shows, there's always these
questions about bullets - who shot what, how many, who
What if the bullet could tell you?
Now, criminals, they won't cooperate. But law abiding
citizens and police will.
How about a system that lets you know when and where
bullet was fired?
Both the bullets and the guns could be altered to arrange
First, the lead part of the bullet - the slug - could be made
special, including a combination of two isotopes or other
types of metals. These would be trace elements, and the
type included could tell you which slug was which. If used
in a handgun, you'd only need 100 or so different
combinations, just to rule out two different bullets being
misidentified, although having a greater breadth of
combinations would help.
Next, the casings would also have identifying marks on
them, so that each one was unique. Those markings could
be read by the weapon as the bullets enter the chamber
from a clip. This would not likely work readily in a
revolver, but maybe there's a way. The energy from the
bullet could be used to power the internal system
(therefore, no battery needed), which would track the
bullet number in a memory chip. A low power battery
would be used to keep a clock running. Any interruption
would be noted.
The serial number of the bullet, noted at the time the
bullet is fired, would include info about the composition of
the slug. And maybe its metal composition could even help
you find the bullet.
But so long as the slug and casing were found, you could
confirm the location of the slug, approximate the location
where the shot was fired, and then know exactly when the
shot was fired.
In addition, if a GPS system were either in the gun, or
connected to say a smart phone or other police device, the
location could also be made more accurate by the system.
Could also work without the slug being special, so long as
the weapon could read a unique serial number on the back
of the casing.
related [Voice, Jan 09 2014]
As mentioned in an annotation. [Vernon, Jan 09 2014]
Training that tracks shot by shot
Criminals won't wear the tracking vests, but in a training situation this works. The shot of blank or live round triggers an aligned laser [popbottle, Jan 12 2014]
Looks like one part now exists [simpleknight, Jun 09 2014]
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||This would also be helpful in determining whether a hunter
took his shot within legal hunting hours (since deer are
most active around dawn and dusk, which can be
||This would help a LOT with preventing ammunition
theft. Imagine bullets no criminal wants. Depending
on how integrated it is with the firearm it may help
prevent gun theft as well.
||Smart dust is a related idea. Sprinkle a little onto
your item and it's all but impossible to ever get it all
out making tracing easy.
||Some ammunition manufacturers (led by Hornady*) are
etching serial numbers into the tail of their bullets, which
helps identify end-users even more specifically than
telltale chemicals in the powder. In addition to being
inaccessible until the round is fired, the tail of a FMJ bullet
nearly always survives impact.
||It occurs to me that one could deliberately remove the
numbered bullet and load it into another casing, but in that
case the mismatched telltales and serial number would be
an immediate giveaway that would narrow the search
parameters to people with hand loading knowledge and
||* and vehemently opposed by Black Hills...quelle suprise...
||What, this Idea is not about putting a stamp on a
bullet while it slowly goes by, during "bullet time"?
||//It occurs to me that one could deliberately remove
the numbered bullet and load it into another casing,
but in that case the mismatched telltales and serial
number would be an immediate giveaway that would
narrow the search parameters to people with//
access to Wikipedia and Amazon.
||If criminals can figure out how to clandestinely make
crystal meth, I'm pretty sure they can figure out how
to operate a kinetic bullet puller.
||very small electronic chronometers are dirt cheap. All
you need is one connected to a ROM chip that
records the time. When the chronometer stops
(because you didn't select one that's resistant to
huge G force), you will know the time of firing by
looking at the last ROM dump.
||// , I'm pretty sure they can figure out how to operate a
kinetic bullet puller. //
||Agreed, but getting the bullet into another casing is
trickier. It's not juggling space shuttles, but handloading is
a skill that takes patience, practice, financial investment,
and book-larnin' (and it's boring as all fuck); it truly is not a
mainstream hobby. At a rough guess, I'd say 1 in 10 of my
fellow hardcore gun nuts load their own (the rest just
mooch off of those who do).
||Thus, using hand-loaded ammo in a crime is a bad idea,
because while they may not be able to determine who
loaded the rounds, it _will_ send the police looking for a
dedicated firearms enthusiast rather than just any violent
criminal with a gun, and they can also start interviewing
handloaders, narrowing their search further by the caliber
and type of bullet, the shape of the brass, the composition
of the powder, and a gazillion other things that make each
handload unique. I can tell at a glance the difference
between my loads and those of four other handloaders in
my extended community, and I'll happily spend as long as
anyone wants to listen explaining how and why mine are
the best. So will the other four guys, which is why it
wouldn't the cops long to find out who made the cartridge,
and it won't be long after that when they find out who fired
||Actually, scratch that. There are electronics rated to
survive in artillery shells including those that can
direct the shell.
||A simplified version would just be a chronometer and
a g recorder. You could then work out time of firing
and the time/G profile of it's journey. You could
probably infer a lot about what the bullet hits by the
||//It's not juggling space shuttles, but handloading is a skill that takes
patience, practice, financial investment, and book-larnin'//
||I used to hand-load (mostly .357 Mag and .308 Win). Still have the
equipment in my garage somewhere. But taking a bullet out and putting
it back in isn't really that difficult, even without a press.
||Remember, you're not having to deal with case trimming, priming,
resizing, measuring powder, or anything more complicated than
removing a bullet and putting it back in the casewhich can be done
without so much as a single reloading die. A 9mm round will headspace
and fire just fine without re-crimping the case mouth.
||And there's really no way to tell ballistically that a bullet has been
removed and replaced before firing. Yes, it would be a bad idea to
murder someone with my custom low-charge moly coat competition .357
rounds, but that's not what we're talking about here. If criminals
discover that there's a real benefit to switching bullets around before
loading them, they'll find a way to do it.
||Why do criminals use anything other than shotguns?
If I were involved in street level turf wars, having all
your guys using shotguns would undermine any
ballistics evidence. Or can you trace a shotgun?
||Ever try to walk down the street carrying a concealed
||the old violin-case trick from the 30's should come
into place here. Or is being seen with a violin case
worse than death for a modern gangster?
||// taking a bullet out and putting it back in isn't really
that difficult, even without a press.
||It is if you're putting it in different brass with different
powder; then you most likely will be trimming, sizing,
pouring, and priming. Removing the bullet and then putting
it back in the same casing for forensic misdirection
purposes makes no sense, even if you switch the powder.
||// Or can you trace a shotgun? //
||Yes and no. Projectiles fired from a smooth-bore shotgun
cannot be matched to that specific gun, but the tool mark
and firing pin imprints left on the brass part of a spent shell
casing can be matched.
||Eject the shells inside the car during a drive-by.
Check. Education's a marvelous thing.
||(rushes off to pistol ammunition with magnesium
driving rings... all your rifling marks burned away...
||//It is if you're putting it in different brass with different powder; then you most likely will be trimming, sizing, pouring, and priming. Removing the bullet and then putting it back in the same casing for forensic misdirection purposes makes no sense, even if you switch the powder.//
||I think the idea ytk is getting at is that a criminal in the supply chain switches bullets between casings of two boxes in a batch of serial-numbered ammo, sells one to a mark (ideally, someone who gets through a lot of ammo) then sells the other one as "alibi ammo" to a hitman.
||Erm, something very lightweight technology-wise, like a slow version of silver nitrate on the back of the bullet, as it's going from a dark place into sunlight...or a small-ish solar cell that sends a ping to a server.
||Also some pulls the bullet from the case, the bullet gets exposed to light etc...
||Or an obelisk on the moon...sorry, wrong annotation..
||No need to mess around with photosensitive markings that
might not function at night or in a darkened room; just use
a chemical that reacts with the propellant gases. It'll work
||It occurs to me that if a substance could be engineered to
gradually decay at a fixed rate once 'activated' by exposure
to propellant gas (or the shock of discharge, maybe) then it
wouldn't even have to be a legible stamp, just a small
pellet embedded in the tail of the bullet. Determining the
degree of decay would give forensic examiners an exact
elapsed time since the bullet was fired.
||// exact elapsed time // sp. "approximate elapsed time". Other than radioactive decay (which is difficult to control the start time), most decay processes are sensitive to environmental conditions and the exact composition of the material. But that could be a fairly low-cost way to implement a time stamp.
||Hey back to radioactive decay... If there was an element XX that underwent radioactive decay to become element YY, and YY was chemically reactive with lead or some other chemical that could be mixed into the bullet, but that chemical reaction would only take place at temperatures that would only be seen when the bullet was fired, then by comparing the concentration of ZZ, reacted YY and unreacted YY, the approximate time of manufacture and time of firing could be determined. Assuming all YY would react when the bullet is fired, the only innaccuracy would be based on how fast the bullet cooled (less than a minute?), as well as the accuracy of the instruments used to measure the concentrations.
||a tiny amount of tritium in the very closest bit of
propellant would work, add a small amount of
material in the base which would capture the
||This would only tell you how old the cartridge was
||For clarification - in my mind, this was more for
law abiding citizens than it was for criminals.
Criminals will always find a way around legal limits.
||But if you're a police officer or legal gun owner,
knowing exactly when and where your shots went,
in order, can be very helpful in piecing together
what happened in a gun fight. And it seems to me
that even if only half of the bullets used had this
information, it would add credence to the
chronology of an exchange of gunfire.
||For law enforcement officers, it's simpler,
cheaper, and much more useful evidentially
to equip them with body cams.
||For legitimate private users, the percentage
of occasions where this would be useful
doesn't justify the cost and complexity.
||Criminals will simply disable or circumvent
||//And it seems to me that even if only half of the
bullets used had this information, it would add
credence to the chronology of an exchange of
||The knowledge that firing time and other
information is hard-coded into bullets may be very
beneficial to our hard-working law enforcement
officials who occasionally have
selective/jumbled/missing memories in court.
||Actually, the Taser equipment does data log,
which is useful, adding simple data logging to guns
used by officials would be similarly useful.
||A tiny discharge sensor with corresponding time stamp
could probably be built into existing (but rare) biometric
palm sensor grips. Add some kind of simple GPS hardware
(don't know how small that can be made) and you've got a
gun that knows where, when, by whom, and how many
times it was fired.
||One high tech gun is much better than a box of high tech
||Note a few additional items:
||There are many situations where body cams either
aren't possible, likely, or effective:
||Certain undercover ops and running and shooting
come to mind.
||Also, while adding this feature to a high-tech gun
would be ideal, it would only make sense if that
price of gun was standard. I'm not sure, but I think
that a weapon like this would be less expensive
than a palm locked gun, and I doubt bullets would
be significantly more expensive depending on
what material was added to the rounds. Putting
numerical info on the back of the casing would
seem to be a matter of laser etching or variable
stamping, both technologies that already exist.
||I do agree, though, that a smart weapon could
(and arguably should) add this as a feature.
However, if the bullets could be identified to the
gun more easily and their shoot order somehow
established, I would think that would still be a
||I agree this might be of limited interest to a
private citizen, although one imagines you could
get an insurance reduction if you owned such a
||GPS can be made tiny now, they're in watches.
The added benefit, of course, is that GPS provides
a hyper-accurate external time reference, since
GPS satellites are just orbital speaking clocks.
||However, if you have 10 officers firing 10 guns,
you may end up with 100 bullets in and around
people/things, the gun information will tell you
that they were fired at roughly the same time in
roughly the same place. Some robust way of
gaining more information from bullets would
Shirley be useful? Especially if a gun gets "lost" or
"accidentally destroyed". Equally, "secure"
electronics are often found to be ludicrously easy
to spoof/hack/clone a few years down the line
(e.g. 50% of hotel door locks were found to be
vulnerable to a simple hack).
||I think you could make bullets using lead doped
with traceable isotopes. Even mildly radioactive
ones would be fine, bury radionuclides on the
bullet interior. Or as suggested, microdots may
also be incorporated. Both could be combined by
manufacturers so that a bullet found could be
traced> manufacture date, shipping date, shipping
||The other "gun end" solution should just be stolen
from WW2. Fighter pilots claimed to have shot
down more planes than wrecks were found. So
they put "gun cameras" on aircraft. Modern
cameras are good enough and cheap enough that a
gun could have hours of recording. Simply have it
activated by the palm readery thingy.
||// although one imagines you could get an insurance
reduction if you owned such a combination //
||Unlikely in my estimation. Insurance companies distrust
new tech and don't like anything that even
resembles a gun, choosing to rely on social stigma and
ignorance rather than credible statistics when calculating
homeowner policies (i.e. the idea that ownership of more
than one firearm increases the likelihood of accidental
||My guns are insured as part of my policy, and I get a
nominal discount because I own safes and strongboxes and
trigger locks. Not all companies insure firearms, and not all
that do offer these discounts. Some offer a discount for
owning a safe but not for trigger locks. Some only offer a
discount if the policy holder also owns a separate safe for
their ammunition. I had to jump through a great many
hoops to get my discount since I fabricated my gun safe
myself (I defy anyone to break into it in less than an hour);
finally an adjuster came to our home and examined it
before signing off on my policy, and even then she tried to
gig me for undeclared firearms when she spotted several
non-functional .45s in the bottom drawer.
||Given all this experience, I'd be surprised if the penny
shavers would put any faith in firearms security measures
more modern than a combination lock.
||Hmm. at least in my experience, the insurance
industry is rarely swayed by stigma and opinion.
They tend to rely on the costs generated by
previous policies and the resultant claims.
||Anything that increases the complexity of a claim,
and crucially, the likelihood of it going to court,
are going to have a strong effect on policy cost.
They want 0 man hours, or as close as possible, on
any claim, as the admin costs alone can quickly
outstrip the size of any checks written.
||I agree with that assessment in general, and they certainly
go to great detail in defining their criteria, but that seems
to go all out the window when they discover you're a gun
owner. So many people who live outside of 'gun culture' (I
dislike the term) see 'gun' and think 'violence', and it seems
to spill over here. In addition to the claim that more guns =
more mishaps, they also seem to think that more guns =
more break-ins. I can find no credible evidence to support
these claims, but I've had it told straight to my face just
the same. They don't go about it the same way as insuring a
car or a boat or Heidi Klum's legs; the questions they ask
about your firearms are inane, and the answers you give
need to be very carefully considered. They won't even
ensure my most valuable rifle, which I custom built myself,
because the serial numbers on the barrel and lower
receiver don't match.
||//They don't go about it the same way as insuring
a car or a boat or Heidi Klum's legs;//
||That's because it is unlikely that one of Heidi
Klum's legs will be stolen and used kill a clerk in a
botched convenience-store robbery. Remember,
they're gambling their money. They only have to
screw up once to be liable for a whole lot of
money. Which is why anything new and different
makes them nervous, because they have no
historical data to go on. Normal they like, millions
of cars used for millions of hours, lots of data. Few
||These things that you say make excellent sense. Are you
sure you're on the right forum?
||Let's build a space elevator out of Hemp!!!
||Just read an article (see nano RFID link) that shows a
way to track particular substances to their source.
Granted, this is designed for a small amount of
tracking. But I imagine that combining a handful of
different nano RFID tracers could lead to a system
that would allow batches of bullets to be traced. At
minimum, you could have police ammunition for
each precinct have a tracer embedded. Of course
then you'd have to make sure nobody got their
hands on those.