Introduction to Forensic Ballistics

Contact information

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In-house delivery

UNSW Canberra Professional Education Courses may be available for in-house delivery at your organisation's premises. In-house courses allow maximum attendance without the additional travel costs. Courses can be developed to suit the specific staff development and training needs of your organisation. Recommended for groups of 10 or more.

This three-day course provides participants with an understanding of firearms in the context of forensic investigations.  This course will provide an overview of the science behind gun design and look at modes of failure. The course will also provide an overview of ballistics looking at internal ballistics, intermediate ballistics and terminal ballistics. In particular, the course will examine the nature of ammunition construction and what to look for during a forensic investigation. The subject of wound ballistics will also be discussed. In addition, an introduction to explosives will be presented from an anti-terrorism perspective. This course will consist of a mixture of lectures and tutorials.




Paul has over 20 years of experience studying the impact behaviour of materials. He has recently moved to Canberra, Australia from the UK to take up the post of Professor of Impact Dynamics at UNSW Canberra. Before taking this position he was Head of the Centre for Ordnance Science and Technology at Cranfield University’s Shrivenham campus (at the UK Defence Academy). He has published extensively, appeared in several documentaries and presented his research work at numerous symposia. He has published two books on protection technologies with the most recent called ‘ARMOUR: Materials, Theory, and Design’ (CRC Press). 


Course Information


Introduction to firearms

Introduction of concepts | Types and calibres of guns (large and small) | An introduction to ammunition types used in guns | Identification of firearms | Types of small arms weapon systems

Introduction to Australian legislation

Firearms legislation in Australia | Is gun control beneficial?

Internal and intermediate ballistics

Introductory concepts | How propellants function | Types of propellants: single base, double base, triple base | Propellant effects on barrels | What affects accuracy? | Different barrel approaches | Propellant-air interactions | Noise suppressors

Gun design

Breech design | Barrel design | When barrels break | Barrel stresses | How guns are made


Gun proofing

Proofing approaches | Proof pressures | Introduction to instrumentation during the proofing process

Introduction to materials

Basic concepts in materials science | The structure of materials | Processing of steels | Effect of cooling rates on heated steels | An introduction to different classes of materials

Ammunition identification

Matching bullets with specific firearms | Ammunition notation | Types of bullets and bullet notation

External ballistics

Forces on a projectile / fragment in flight | Coefficient of drag | Why firearms are rifled | Projectile stabilisation techniques


Why guns recoil | Muzzle brake index | Momentum index


A Session will be provided so that the student can work through some of the issues raised in this course under the guidance of the course presenter.


Ammunition technology

Small arms design| Discussion of ammunition construction and performance

Propellants and explosives

Explosive types | The explosive train | Models showing the effect of explosions | Explosives in ammunition | Why shells can explode in gun barrels | Explosive failure of gun barrels

Terminal ballistics

Materials for protection | Low-velocity impact |Penetration predictions | Shooting through glass materials


A Session will be provided so that the student can work through some of the issues raised in this course under the guidance of the course presenter.

Optional quiz

An optional class test will be available for those who wish to pursue accreditation.

Courses will be held subject to sufficient registrations. UNSW Canberra reserves the right to cancel a course up to five working days prior to commencement of the course. If a course is cancelled, you will have the opportunity to transfer your registration or be issued a full refund. If registrant cancels within 10 days of course commencement, a 50% registration fee will apply. UNSW Canberra is a registered ACT provider under ESOS Act 2000-CRICOS provider Code 00098G.