Texas State (USA) Court in 1883. The court allowed an individual to provide expert testimony on the elapsed time since the evidence firearm was last fired. His testimony was based on his examination of the fired wadding (paper patch), the percussion cap (a small metallic cup containing a primary explosive used to ignite the muzzle charge in muzzle loading firearms), and the barrel of the firearm.
In 1907, in Brownsville, Texas (USA), several soldiers from a nearby US Army Infantry Regiment was allegedly involved in a riot (later referred to in the popular press as the Affray at Brownsville) in the small Texas town of Brownsville. During the hours of darkness, and during a ten-minute period, the soldiers were alleged to have fired some 150 to 200 shots from their assigned rifles throughout the entire town. The facts surrounding the ‘riot’ are very much in question and although the case was supposedly investigated, it was never determined if any soldier actually participated in the riot. The importance of this event for the field of firearms identification is that it was the first time that a serious study was undertaken to attempt and identify fired cartridge cases to specific rifles and represents one of the first recorded examinations of fired cartridge cases. Following the alleged riot, some townspeople ‘found’ in a back alley of the town a grand total of 39 fired 30-caliber cartridge cases and some fired bullets. These items, and numerous rifles belonging to three infantry companies, were collected and sent to the staff of Frankfort Arsenal for their examination. The arsenal staff studied the submitted evidence and then devised a method of attempting to identify the fired cartridge casings to the submitted rifles. The arsenal staff, after spending a lengthy period of time test firing the rifles, was able identify 33 of the fired cartridge casings as having been fired from four of the submitted rifles. The remaining six cartridge casings could not be associated with any of the submitted rifles and no conclusions were reached concerning any of the fired bullet evidence. A report titled “Study of the Fired Bullets and Shells in Brownsville, Texas, Riot” was published in 1907 by the US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, as part of the Annual Report of the Chief of Ordnance, US Army. This exhaustive examination of evidence, and subsequent written report, is the first recorded instance of fired cartridge casings being evaluated as evidence and represents a milestone in firearms identification history.
This has contributed to modern-day forensic science because it has influenced and jump started how we evaluate and determine if or how a gun was used and even what kind.