A ballistics expert is a type of forensic science technician who has specialized in weapons, bullets and other munitions. The job description of a ballistics expert contains many components that require a strong knowledge of various types of guns, ammunition and even basic legal proceedings.
A ballistics expert has the task of matching any bullets, fragments of bullets and other projectiles that are collected from crime scenes with the weapons of any alleged suspects or other individuals involved in a case.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities of a Ballistics Expert
- Comparing the marks of a barrel’s rifling to striations on the bullet
- Reenacting a crime scene in order to determine how and when a weapon was used
- Performing chemical testing to determine whether or not a gun was fired or if an individual has recently fired a gun
- Presenting statistical data, graphs and other pieces of information to a judge or jury in court when called upon to testify
- Presenting information to law enforcement officials as it is uncovered
- Determining a bullet’s trajectory and how passing through objects may change the bullet’s trajectory
Required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
- Must have the knowledge and ability required to understand the markings left on bullets when they are fired from guns.
- Have a broad knowledge of firearms and weapons, and possess knowledge about court proceedings for the purpose of explaining findings to judges and juries.
- Must be highly analytical and detail oriented in order to benefit law enforcement officials, and a basic knowledge of photography is essential for the proper documentation and recording of crime scene evidence.
- Must be able to work long hours that may include weekends, holidays and overnights.
Education and Experience
- Bachelors or Master’s degree in biology or physics, and these should include courses in trigonometry as well as geometry which are essential for understanding and calculating trajectory.
- Firm knowledge of metallurgy and the materials from which guns and ammunition are created as well as a basic understanding of photography.
- Participate in ongoing post-degree studies in order to stay abreast of current trends in the industry.
- Time will be spent in an office preparing reports, out in the field collecting evidence from crime scenes, and in laboratories performing chemical analyses as well as recreating crime scenes and the events that took place.
- Must expect to be able to report for duty on short notice during important cases or upon the discovery of a new crime scene.
- Must be willing to travel for the purposes of attending seminars or reviewing suspected related crime scenes in other locations.
- Starting salaries average $30,000 – $40,000
- Salaries for experienced personnel average $80,000 – $90,000