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Utilizing a Magnetic Locator To Search for Buried Firearms and Miscellaneous Weapons at a Controlled Research Site

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 56 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 1289-1295
Date Published
September 2011
7 pages

The following study was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a common, commercially available magnetic locator in forensic weapon searches by determining the maximum depth of detection for 32 metallic forensic targets and testing the effects of metallic composition on detection.


Forensic personnel generally use basic all-metal detectors for weapon searches because of their ease of use and cost efficiency. For ferromagnetic targets, an alternative easy to use and low-cost geophysical tool is a magnetic locator. In the current study, maximum depth of detection was determined for 16 decommissioned street-level firearms, six pieces of assorted scrap metals, and 10 blunt or bladed weapons by burying each target at 5-cm intervals until the weapons were no longer detected. As expected, only ferromagnetic items were detected; weapons containing both ferromagnetic and nonferromagnetic components were generally detected to shallower depths. Overall, the magnetic locator can be a useful addition to weapon searches involving buried ferromagnetic weapons. (Published Abstract)

Date Published: September 1, 2011