Characterization of volatile organic gunshot residues in fired handgun cartridges by headspace sorptive extraction

Matteo Gallidabino*, Francesco S. Romolo, Celine Weyermann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


In forensic investigation of firearm-related cases, determination of the residual amount of volatile compounds remaining inside a cartridge could be useful in estimating the time since its discharge. Published approaches are based on following the decrease of selected target compounds as a function of time by using solid phase micro-extraction (SPME). Naphthalene as well as an unidentified decomposition product of nitrocellulose (referred to as "TEA2") are usually employed for this purpose. However, reliability can be brought into question given their high volatility and low reproducibility of the extracted procedure. In order to identify alternatives and therefore develop improved dating methods, an extensive study on the composition and variability of volatile residues in nine different types of cartridges was carried out. Analysis was performed using headspace sorptive extraction (HSSE), which is a more exhaustive technique compared to SPME. One hundred sixty six compounds were identified (several of which for the first time), and it was observed that the final compositional characteristics of each residue were strongly dependent on its source. Variability of single identified compounds within and between different types of cartridge as well as their evolution over time were also studied. Many explosion products containing up to four aromatic rings were found to be globally present in high proportions. Twenty-seven of them (excluding naphthalene) also presented detectable decreases during the first 24 h. Therefore, they could be used as complementary target analytes in future dating methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7123-7134
Number of pages12
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number23
Early online date14 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of volatile organic gunshot residues in fired handgun cartridges by headspace sorptive extraction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this