Firearms & Toolmark Unit
The New Mexico Department of Public Safety (DPS) Forensic Laboratory Bureau has an established Firearm/Tool Mark Unit located in the Santa Fe Forensic Laboratory and provides forensic firearm analysis for the entire state of New Mexico. In addition, the Firearm/Tool Mark Unit also provides forensic services in the sub-disciplines of tool mark comparison, serial number restoration, distance determination tests, and fracture match comparisons.
Forensic firearms analysis involves the microscopic comparison of bullets, cartridge cases, and/or other ammunition components in an attempt to make associations as having been fired by or cycled through a particular firearm. Similar techniques are used in the examination of suspect tool marks made by typical hand tools (screwdrivers, bolt cutters, etc.). Chemical application and other methods are used to attempt the restoration of serial numbers, usually on firearms. Lastly, the examination of a shooting victim’s clothing may reveal a range of distance that the shot was fired from. The firearm and ammunition in question is required for this analysis.
Forensic Databases IBIS / NIBIN
The Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS)/National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) is a national computerized database which stores digital images of cartridge cases recovered from crime scenes as well as cartridge cases that were test fired from recovered weapons. The digital images are compared with each other in an attempt to identify potential associations. Associations may allow examiners to link cases on a local, regional, or national level. Cartridge cases fired in revolvers are no longer entered into IBIS/NIBIN because these items are not routinely found at crime scenes.
- Never submit a loaded firearm to the laboratory. If you have concerns that further handling the weapon may affect the analysis, please contact the laboratory for instructions.
- Ensure to package any firearm separate from any live ammunition.
Firearms Unit Frequently Asked Questions: