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Comparison of portable and benchtop electrochemical instruments for detection of inorganic and organic gunshot residues in authentic shooter samples

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 67 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2022 Pages: 1450-1460
Kourtney A. Dalzell; Colby E. Ott; Tatiana Trejos; Luis E. Arroyo
Date Published
July 2022
11 pages

This study proposes electrochemical methods with disposable screen-printed carbon electrodes for GSR screening at the laboratory and points of care due to their rapid, cost-efficient, and compact platform.


Analysis of gunshot residue currently lacks effective screening methods that can be implemented in real time at the crime scene. Historically, SEM-EDS has been the standard for analysis; however, advances in technology have brought portable instrumentation to the forefront of forensic science disciplines, including the screening of GSR. In the current study, GSR residues were extracted from typical aluminum/carbon adhesive collection stubs and analyzed via square-wave anodic stripping voltammetry. Benchtop and portable electrochemical instruments were compared for the assessment and classification of authentic shooter samples by monitoring a panel of inorganic and organic GSR elements and compounds including lead, antimony, copper, 2,4-dinitrotoluene, diphenylamine, nitroglycerin, and ethyl centralite. The evaluation included the assessment of figures of merit and performance measures from quality controls, nonshooter, and shooter data sets. Samples collected from the hands of 200 background individuals (nonshooters), and shooters who fired leaded ammunition (100) and lead-free ammunition (50) were analyzed by the benchtop and portable systems with accuracies of 95.7% and 96.5%, respectively. The findings indicate that electrochemical methods are fast, sensitive, and specific for the identification of inorganic and organic gunshot residues. The portable potentiostat provided results comparable with the benchtop system, serving as a proof-of-concept to transition this methodology to crime scenes for a practical and inexpensive GSR screening that could reduce backlogs, improve investigative leads, and increase the impact of gunshot residues in forensic science. (Publisher Abstract Provided)