• Legis Scriptor

Importance of the Cartridge Case in Criminal Investigation

Authored by - Prachi Aggarwal

Keywords - Investigation, cartridge, forensic, crime.


“Modern-day criminal investigation has reached a point of sophistication requiring the involvement of many different disciplines to solve a crime. Each discipline inserts a part of the puzzle until it is complete. It is important to understand what each forensic expert has to offer. The coroner or forensic examiner, asking for input from the various experts until enough information is received to determine the cause and manner of death, is usually the keystone to a death investigation. This information is then shared with the police investigators and prosecutor. This calls for the utmost cooperation and communication among those involved.” Therefore, this article as the title suggests will focus on the importance of cartridge case in the criminal investigation.


Like bullets, cartridge cases can be identified as having been fired by a specific firearm. The time when cartridges are loaded into a firearm the potential for the transfer of unique tool marks exists. However, the cartridge does not have to be fired for these marks to be transferred. Simply loading a cartridge into a firearm can generate a unique identification mark that can be easily identified.

Cartridge cases are mostly made of brass but can also be made of other materials such as steel and plastic. Cartridge cases come in a variety of finishes but the material used in cartridges is usually softer than that of a firearm. The surface of the cartridge case that meets the inner workings of the firearm may be marked.

Tool marks produced on the cartridge cases will be in two basic forms. As the microscopic striations found on bullets, cartridge cases can pick up striated action marks. These "scratches" are produced when the cartridge case moves laterally against the tool producing a scrape or striated mark. The other forms of marks that can be left on a cartridge case are impressed with action marks. Impressed marks are created on cartridge cases when it impacts the tool (again, the firearm) with adequate velocity or pressure to leave an impressed or indented mark.

Cartridge cases are compared to fired standards from a firearm using a comparison microscope as described on the bullet identification page. Standards are first examined to determine what marks, if any, the firearm is consistently reproducing. Evidence cartridge cases are then directly compared to the standards to see if they too are also similarly marked. In the case of Gunwantlal v. State of M.P it was held that “ From the perusal of the record it can be safely inferred that the presence of a live cartridge in the handbag was not within the knowledge of the petitioner and petitioner did not have requisite mens rea for committing the said offence.”

Meaning and Components of Cartridge

A cartridge or around is a type of pre-assembled firearm ammunition packaging a projectile. a propellant substance and an ignition device within a metallic, paper or plastic case that is precisely made to fit within the barrel chamber of a breech-loading gun, for the practical purpose of convenient transportation and handling during shooting. Although in popular usage the term "bullet" is often used to refer to a complete cartridge, it is correctly used only to refer to the projectile.

There are several different words used to describe ammunition: bullets, shells, projectiles, rounds, shot, slugs, cartridges, munitions, etc. In reality, anything can be used as ammunition, whether it be a stone you are throwing or words you are using in an argument. In the world of firearms, it is most commonly referred to in the informal context as “ammo.” Many people call them bullets, which to some is like nails on a chalkboard because the correct term for firearms ammunition is “cartridge.”

The 4 components of an ammo cartridge are the case, primer, powder, and bullet.

1. Casing: The container that holds all the components together. The case can be made of brass, steel, or copper for pistols and rifles. Shotgun “shells” are a plastic case, with the base covered in a thin brass covering.

2. Primer: The primer is an explosive chemical compound that ignites the gunpowder when struck by a firing pin. Primer may be placed either in the rim of the case (rimfire) or in the center of the base of the case (centerfire).

3. Powder: The gunpowder is an explosive consisting of a powdered mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal.

4. Bullet: The projectile typically made of metal-containing lead, cylindrical and pointed, that is expelled from the barrel.

The Legal Provisions Covering Cartridge crime

1. Section 302 I.P.C: Punishment for murder.

2. Section 304 I.P.C: Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. CHAPTER 14 A Forensic Guide for Crime Investigators 305.

3. Section 307 I.P.C: Attempt to murder.

4. Section 308 I.P.C: Attempt to commit culpable homicide.

5. Section 336 I.P.C: Act endangering life or personal safety of others.

6. Section 337 I.P.C: Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others. CHAPTER 14 A Forensic Guide for Crime Investigators 306.

7. Section 25 Arms Act: This Section provides for punishment for contravention of Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 24A, 24B, for acquiring, possession, carrying, manufacture, sale, transfer, conversion, repair, testing, proving, import, export, shortening of the barrel, etc.

8. Section 27 Arms Act: Punishment for using arms, etc.

Investigators at Scene of Crime- Duties and Responsibilities

(i) The success or failure of any criminal investigation totally depends on the number of efforts instilled by the investigating officers in the examination of the crime scene for a collection of physical evidence and for the reconstruction of the sequence of events. A thorough and careful examination is required.

(ii) The officers must arrive at the scene as quickly as possible. Section 157 of CrPC lays down that, having recorded the information and forwarded the report to the Magistrate, the officer in-charge of the police station shall proceed in person (or send a subordinate) to the spot to investigate facts.

(iii) Delay in reaching the scene of crime results in tampering of physical evidence.

(iv) All the observations must be documented at the scene of crime very meticulously, paying attention to every detail. Reliance on memory should be strictly avoided.

(v) It must be kept in mind that whatever actions are taken by IO, he must not contaminate the scene and destroy the potential evidence.

Collection, Labeling and Packaging of Fired Cartridge Cases

(i) Note down the position of the fired cartridge cases and percussion caps from where found.

(ii) Any legends on cartridge cases may be noted.

(iii) Labeling should not be done on the cartridge cases as these are very small exhibits and fine marks on the left by firearm may get damaged.

(iv) Note approximate caliber of the cartridge cases.

(v) Each cartridge case may be put in a cellophane envelope separately and then packed collectively in a box. The fired cartridge cases recovered from different locations should be similarly packed in different boxes. Use cotton to avoid rattling.

(vi) The following details should be mentioned on the box:

(a) Put FIR number

(b) Police station

(c) District

(d) Item number

(e) Name of IO with signature and date

(f) Signature of witnesses

(vii) The contents should also be mentioned on the box.

(viii) The box is now sealed with a cloth. The cloth should be labeled with the above information.

(ix) All the precautions about sealing mentioned in the case of firearms should be followed.

In India

It is an unconcealed fact that the role of forensic science and evidence has extensive importance in the justice system. Thanks to the advancement in science and technology, there has been rapid development in forensic science as well. But after all this also there has been less dependence on the scientific methodologies, especially in India. In India, there has been prominence on the incorporation of technologies in the field of investigation. Several commissions’ reports suggested that if courts consider the scientific method in delivering the judgments, it can bring fairness, which is the hallmark of democracy. But courts have been reluctant to consolidate forensic science in their system, majorly because of the experience of contaminating evidence and forged results. They prefer using the old, non-scientific methods for their purpose. Frequently there have been amendments in the laws to make ways for forensic science and modern technology but this hadn’t helped much. Investigating officers are unskilled in the subject and the number of forensic scientists and experts adds fuel in the fire. This field of law and science is not is quite notorious and thus has always faced the issue of lack of employers.


The law and the medical colleges must include forensic science as their subject and encourage students to move forward in the field. The government must take steps to spread awareness about the importance of forensic in the criminal justice system. Police, investigating officers, detectives, scientists must be trained in the progress of science and technology and the importance of such evidence. Doubtlessly, forensic evidence is more legitimate than any other auricular evidence. This field being a blessing to the criminal justice system, we must work upon the loopholes. We must ensure that everybody involved in the justice system uses the privilege of forensic science to the maximum of its potential.


1. B.R. Sharma, ‘Firearms in criminal investigation and trials’, New Delhi, 2011.

2. Crime in India, 2013, National Crime Records Bureau, MHA, New Delhi.

3. Diganth Raj Sehgal, Forensic Science In Criminal Justice System, IPLEEADER (July 2, 2020),

4. Gunwantlal v. State of M.P, (1972) 2 S.C.C. 194 (India).