Shot range, the muzzle-target distance, is a crucial parameter for forensic reconstruction of deaths by firearms. In a large number of cases, especially suicides, the forensic pathologist is confronted with contact or near-contact shots, where muzzle gases play an additional role. This study was conducted to systematically investigate the influence of muzzle gases on the temporary cavity (TC). A total of 72 shots were fired using full metal-jacketed bullets in four forensically relevant calibres from 10-, 5-, 3-, 2- and 1-cm distance and in close contact. Target model was the so-called reference cube (10% gelatine at 4 °C) with 12-cm edge length. The TC was recorded using high-speed video (HSV). Cross-sectional analysis was performed by cutting the blocks to 1-cm slices, which were evaluated by applying the polygon method. The TC of shots from 10 and 5 cm distance had a tubular form. This aspect changed depending on the cartridge with decreasing distance (≤ 3 cm) into a pear-like form, which was typical for contact shots. The cumulated heights of the TC increased with decreasing distance below 3 cm. Contact shots approximately doubled the extension of the TC compared with exclusive energy transfer. Whereas HSV documented an increasingly asymmetric profile with ballooning at the entry side, cross-sectional analysis of cracks in gelatine resulted in convex graphs with only slight asymmetry for contact shots. Additional damage in gelatine was detected for 3-cm distance or less in calibre .357 Magnum and ≤ 2 cm for .32 auto, .38 special and 9mm Luger. The increasing influence of muzzle gas pressure is detectable with decreasing shot range below 3 cm.
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