Tuesday, March 8, 2011

RESEARCH: Bullet Wounds

Again with the pathology! Hmm, I wish I could find out what a sword cut or arrow shot looks like. Anyone know any markers of medieval-style wounds? As a disclaimer, this research is helpful for you when writing up your draft but always make sure to always double check your facts with your professional. After all, different types of guns, different places shot, and different types of ammunition may all lead to very different wounds. The only way to know for sure is to ask a pathologist or other specialist.

Anywho, to bullets:

The entrance wound for a bullet is often circular with a darker abrasion rim that shows where the bullet had scraped against the skin while the exit wound is more uneven and ragged due to all the bunched up flesh that's being knocked out. The range of the gun from the victim also affects the wound. If the area where the bullet exits was pressed against the floor, or otherwise supported by something solid, you'll have a "shored" wound.

Tight-contact wound: A gunman standing behind a woman with the gun pressed against her back would leave a tight-contact wound. Gas and residue from the gun would be blown into the wound and the wound itself would be more ragged. Tight contact wounds, especially against the scalp, are more star-shaped.

Near-contact wound: If that same gunman was standing pretty close but the gun wasn't quite pressed up against her, say, it's 1 inch away, there would be 'fouling' (residue) around the wound but not so much blown into the wound.

Close-range wound: Have the gunman take a step back so the gun is fired about 6 - 10 inches away. You can still see fouling but now you can also see stippling, or tattoing, which is caused by the various powder grains burning around the wound in dots.

Intermediate-range wound: Have the gunman take yet another step back so the gun is between 10 to 36 inches away and you'll see stippling but no fouling around the wound.

Distance-ranged wound: Have the gunman anywhere beyond three feet away and the wound will be clean. No stippling. no fouling. Distance wounds are more round and small.

Anyone know of any other wound markings? Especially from bows, crossbows, maces, or other more fantasy-style weapons?


  1. Wow. I could totally write a coroner's scene off of this information. Thanks!

  2. Some bullets fragment on going in and don't exit. Larger caliber punches a larger hole. Force and velocity determines if the star-shaped pattern appears. Also, blood splatter is a wealth of information. An expert can recreate the crime using just the splatter. It's creepy-accurate.

    Bows generally have a cleaner entry and exit, if they have enough force to punch through. Modern compound bows pack a whallop. They generally will slice rather than push, but it depends on the arrowhead used. Old longbows required too much strength to be both accurate and power. Longbowmen used to stand on their bows, using their feet to draw the string. It's why they were great en mass to rain arrows on an opposing army: accuracy not a concern.

    Crossbows have more force and accuracy, take forever to reload unless you have a speed loader.

    Maces and most good medieval weaponry are for crushing opponents in fat armor. Smash in a metal breastplate, the guy can't breath. Swords, despite their prevelance in fantasy-lit, were not as realistic. Polearms were best for crowd control. Morning stars for armored enemies.

    Wow, I have went on way too long. I'm sorry. I didn't realize how much I knew about this stuff. I scare myself.

    Scribbler to Scribe

  3. Hey, I LOVE long comments. Especially when it's information I didn't know myself. Feel free to come along and update me as much as you like!

  4. Sword marks depend on lots of factors. Type of weapon?

    Hack? Slash? Stab?

    Was the victim wearing armor?


    By the way, swords were used often in midievel times... For sweetspots: aim for the sides of the neck, under the arms and at the inner thighs. Anywhere where the armor is weaker and where there are veins and arteries...

  5. True, swords were used, they just weren't as effective as crushing weapons. Rapiers and the lighter, thinner blades were the best to penetrate the sweetspots, but it took a lot of skill and no small amount of luck. They became more prevelent toward the end of the Dark Ages.

    Keep in mind that I'm talking fully plated combatants, which were wealthy knights and landed gentry. Peasants used shortbows and pitchforks. Polearms were very popular for calvary. A long sweep with a broadsword also worked to take out the legs of unarmored masses, except that same sword was so heavy a man could only lift it a few times before tiring.

    Against light or unarmored opponents, slashing weapons are devastating. Knives are always popular, no matter the era. Slashes can result in blood loss, severed tendons, and are best used to disable your opponent (taking out the joints is a favorite). Stabs or lunges are for additional blood loss and killing blows. Thinner blades won't slice bone, but will destroy muscles. The point is to disable them as quickly and with as little energy expenditure as possible. Most fights are won by sheer endurance.

    The reality of swordplay is less fancy and more brutal than the fantasy version. Fencing is beautiful and effective, but even an unskilled peon can kill a man with a brick to the head.

  6. Wow, it's a rare fantasy novel that allows its hero to tire of swinging a broad sword! They can normally swing one of those all day! Despite the fact that their shoddy nutrition and busy schedules probably kept them from reaching the Swartzeneggar-style muscularity that is all the rage in fantasy warriors.