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A Feasibility Study of Direct Analysis in Real Time-Mass Spectrometry for Screening Organic Gunshot Residues from various Substrates

NCJ Number
Analytical Methods Issue: 36 Dated: 2023 Pages: 4619-4788
Date Published

The authors present their direct analysis of real time-mass spectrometry for the detection of organic gunshot residues in various matrices that are relevant to forensic science practitioners, customs and border patrol, and homeland security officers.


This study reports the use of direct analysis in real time-mass spectrometry (DART-MS) for the detection of organic gunshot residues (OGSR) in a variety of matrices of interest for forensics, customs, and homeland security. Detection limits ranged from (0.075 to 12) ng, with intra- and inter-day reproducibility below 0.0012 percent CV. The collection of mass spectra at multiple in-source collision-induced dissociation (is-CID) voltages produced distinctive mass spectral signatures with varying levels of fragmentation and allowed differentiation of isomers. To test method performance, a collection of 330 authentic specimens from various substrates were analyzed: (1) neat smokeless powders, (2) spent cartridge cases, (3) burnt particles removed from clothing via carbon stubs or (4) with tweezers, and hand samples from (5) non-shooters, and (6) shooters. A subset of hand specimens (n = 80) was further analyzed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for confirmation and comparison. Seven types of ammunition from five manufacturers and two calibers were monitored for OGSR profiles with similar compositions observed for paired sets (e.g., unburned smokeless powder and the respective residues on spent cartridges, clothing, and hands). No false positives were observed across all datasets. A 100 percent true positive rate (TPR) was observed for all substrates except the shooters' hands. Depending on the ammunition type and classification criteria, the shooters' hands exhibited a TPR ranging from 19 percent to 73 percent. The results show that DART-MS is feasible and versatile for fast screening of OGSR across various substrates but may benefit from alternative approaches to improve detection at trace levels. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023