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EFSGV and Brady Campaign: New Ballistics Technology Enjoys High Rate of Success With Current Generation of Firearms

MAY 8, 2007
2:40 PM

CONTACT: EFSGV / Brady Campaign
Ladd Everitt (EFSGV) 202-408-0061 x103
Peter Hamm (Brady) 202-289-5792

New Ballistics Technology Enjoys High Rate of Success With Current Generation of Firearms

WASHINGTON - May 8 - A recent study by UC Davis graduate student Michael Beddow has drawn inaccurate and misleading conclusions about the efficacy of microstamping technology.

Microstamping technology utilizes lasers to make precise, microscopic engravings on the breech face and firing pin of a gun. As the gun is fired, information indicating the make, model and serial number of the gun is stamped onto the cartridge as numbers and letters (and also in a variety of coded formats). The technology promises to greatly aid law enforcement officials in investigating homicides and other crimes by allowing them to trace firearms through cartridge casings found at crime scenes (officials would not need to recover the crime gun itself). Currently, 45% of homicide investigations in California do not result in the arrest of a suspect, primarily because of a lack of evidence.

Beddow's study utilized vintage firearms that had never been considered for testing previously because of their model age (10-50+ years) and mechanical condition. They were acquired from the California Department of Justice firearm library. ID Dynamics / NanoMark Technologies, which holds the patent for microstamping technology, provided firing pins for the study, but they were not optimized due to Beddow's budget constraints. Beddow also lacked access to information that would allow him to read the bar- or gear-codes on the pins, so he could not determine if they remained legible enough to be useful.

The study reported that microstamping technology "is feasible, but does not work well for all guns and ammunition tested." Beddow and Fred Tulleners, Director of the Forensics Program at UC Davis, have called for more testing of the technology with a wider range of firearms in order to determine the advisability of a statewide microstamping program.

"The Beddow study actually indicates the great promise of microstamping technology," said Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence President Paul Helmke. "Some of the more recent firearms used in the study actually showed remarkable results."

Six Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handguns in the study (which had been issued to California Highway Patrol cadets for use in weapons training) tested to 2,500 rounds with little wear on the character tip codes and gear codes on the non-optimized firing pins.

"Even without an optimized process, the firing pins in Beddow's study created a readable mark that would give law enforcement important information in the vast majority of test fires," said Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence Executive Director Joshua Horwitz. "But the simple fact is that in the real world, guns employing microstamping technology-in California or elsewhere-will be brand new and utilize NanoMark's most optimized technology. Under such conditions, microstamping will present spectacular results."

A bill that would mandate manufacturer microstamping of all newly semiautomatic handgun models sold in California by 2010, AB 1471, has been introduced in the state legislature by Assemblyman Mike Feuer. The bill was approved by the Assembly Committee on Public Safety by a 5-2 vote on April 24. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence are committed to working with state legislators and the governor to enact the bill into law.

# # #

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence was founded in 1978 as a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to ending firearm violence, particularly as it affects children. Our mission is to stop gun violence by fostering effective community and national action. For more information about the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, visit

As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign, working with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities. For more information about the Brady Campaign, visit



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