Ballistic Study of Happy Firing in An Indian Marriage Ceremony
Manoj Kumar Pathak*, Mayank Gupta, Satish Kumar Khalkho, Shashank Shekhar Jha and Srishti Rai
Department of Forensic Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, India
Submission: June 22, 2018;Published: July 03, 2018
*Corresponding author: Manoj Kumar Pathak, Department of Forensic Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi,
India, Tel: 9450179177; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to cite this article: Manoj Kumar Pathak, Mayank G, Satish K K, Shashank S J, Srishti R . Ballistic Study of Happy Firing in An Indian Marriage Ceremony. J Forensic Sci & Criminal Inves 2018; 9(4): 555770. DOI:10.19080/JFSCI.2018.09.555770.
Introduction: A firearm is a thermodynamic machine in which the potential energy of the gun-powder is transformed into the kinetic
energy of the projectile. Use of firearm is increasing worldwide and Varanasi is no exception to this.
Material and Method: Details and findings of this case were painstakingly explored at autopsy room of Institute of Medical Sciences, B.H.U.,
Varanasi. Victim’s personal history, supportive treatment and investigation records were collected.
Result: A 4-year-old male child of length 99 cm and weight 21 Kgs came to the mortuary Department of Forensic Medicine, IMS BHU,
Varanasi on 31/05/2018 at 4.30 PM for medicolegal post-mortem examination. His eyes and mouth were closed. No bleeding from external
orifices was present. Post-mortem lividity and rigor mortis was present all over the body.
Conclusion: The practice of celebratory firing by over-enthusiastic and unskilled persons or defective, faulty or old and ill maintained
firearms may cause accidental death of the persons during celebratory firing and may change the happiness of the ceremony into highly tragic
In a marriage ceremony under Chandwak Police Station in
Bantari Village of Scheduled Caste community on 30/05/2018
in the afternoon, everything was fine. Marriage ceremony was
going on smoothly. Suddenly the bride-groom party under
excitement of marriage ceremony fired from the licensed single
barrel12 bore shotgun. In this fire the cartridge struck the
ceiling of the roof first and then after ricocheting get fragmented
and pellets injured 9 persons who were present there and taking
part in marriage ceremony. All nine injured persons were taken
to hospital and were admitted. Out of those nine injured persons,
one male child, 4 years old, succumbed to death due to firearm
injuries at different body regions. Immediately police rushed
to the incidence place and seized the weapon used during the
firing. Passage of shotgun pellets through any target before they
strike the body, cause the pellets to spread. Shotgun slugs usually
produce large, gaping circular to oval defects with irregular
margin. The internal injury is highly destructive and similar to
that caused by buckshot resembles bullet wound (Figure 1).
Firearm in any instrument or device designed to propel
a projectile by means of explosion of gases generated by
combustion of an explosive substance . A firearm is a
thermodynamic machine in which the potential energy of the gunpowder
is transformed into the kinetic energy of the projectile
. Gunshot trauma is commonly encountered by the forensic
medicine specialist. The ability to interpret gunshot wounds
correctly is essential to arrive at the correct determination of
the cause and manner of death .Use of firearm is increasing
worldwide and Varanasi is no exception to this .Invention of
fire was the greatest invention for the human civilization but the
invention has proved to be a curse to this world (Figure 2). it has
become the most dreaded killing tool used by human beings to
kill them . According to National Crime Statistics, 38.6% of
victims of murder were in the age group of 18-30 years. In Uttar
Pradesh also, this age group was predominant with 1476 male victims, 488 female victims and 1964 numbers of victims were
transgender . In year 2016, number of victims murdered by
licensed were 181 and murdered by unlicensed firearms were
1302, hence total number of victims of firearms were 1483.
National average was 322, 3453 and 3775respectively .
In year 2015, numbers of victims murdered by licensed
firearms was 172 and by unlicensed firearms were 1445 and
total numbers of murdered victims in U.P. were 1617. The all
India total were 356, 3366 and 3722 respectively . Though
overall incidence of fatal firearm injury is reduced because
of legal restriction on licence of personal firearm weapons,
the incidence of firearm injury due to country made guns are
increased which are illegal, easily available and cheap .
According to national statistics total 17429 numbers of firearms
were seized in U.P. out of which 16990 were country made arms
and 439 were licensed/factory made firearms (Figure 3). The
nation average was 37116, 1052 and 36064 respectively . The
12 bore shotgun is the most popular shotgun. It strikes a balance
between the weight and effectiveness of the weapons. Most of
the shotguns, therefore, had barrels over 90 centimetres . A
typical gunshot entrance wounds are created when the bullet is
destabilized prior to entering the body and consequently does
not enter the body nose first but sideways or at an angle (Figure
4). The most common cause is bullet ricochet. Ricochet bullet is
a rebound, deviation or deflection of a bullet from its course by
striking an intermediate surface. Sometimes the bullet may strike
the surface but fail to penetrate and glance off. Such projectiles
are commonly deformed, and deformity depends upon texture
of the bullet, critical angle of impact and intermediary object 
Details and findings of this case were painstakingly explored
at autopsy room of Institute of Medical Sciences, B.H.U., Varanasi.
Victim’s personal history, supportive treatment and investigation
records were collected. These all facts were analysed thoroughly
with existing literature support.
A 4-year-old male child of length 99 cm and weight 21
Kgs came to the mortuary Department of Forensic Medicine,
IMS BHU, Varanasi on 31/05/2018 at 4.30 PM for medicolegal
post-mortem examination. His eyes and mouth were closed.
No bleeding from external orifices was present. Post-mortem
lividity and rigor mortis was present all over the body (Figures
i. Entry wound 3mm on lower side of neck 3cm away
from midline, was present and metallic pellet of 2gm weight
was recovered from that site.
ii. Three entry wounds in area of lower part of thorax on
right side over an area of 6cm X 7cm X 7cm were present.
Three metallic pellets were recovered (one small 0.5 gm
weight and two of big size weighing 1gm each). On further
examination, one small tiny pellet was recovered from right
side of the liver. Half of the liver was ruptured.
iii. Entry wound of 3-4mm size was present on the middle
of the right leg. Further one metallic pellet was recovered
from this site also.
iv. Entry wound of 3-4mm in diameter was seen on right
ankle joint 3.5cm above the sole of the foot. One metallic
pellet was also recovered from this site. Total number of pellets recovered from all four injuries was six in number
and total weight of these pellets were 6.5gm. All pellets were
deep seated except one (Figure 10).
Body was sent for X-Ray examination and it was re-opened
on 01/06/2018 at 1 PM for re-post-mortem examination for
accurate assessment of number of pellets recovered and if by
chance any of the pellets left in the body cavity undiscovered.
The post-mortem radiograph demonstrated multiple pellets of
different body regions. All pellets were recovered during re-postmortem
examination done on 01/06/2018 after post-mortem
radiograph done on 30/05/2018. All the six pellets were sealed
and handed over to the constable concerned (Figure 11).
Range in Cylinder bore gun (Yards) = Dispersion of the
pellets (in inches) x 1.5 As the dispersion of pellet in this case
was 4.5 inches. Hence, Range = 4.5 x 0.9114 (meter) = 4.1013
meter Extreme range is:-R=2200 xDp
[Here R is in yards and Dp is pellet diameter] As this was
buckshot of No. 4 Size. Hence diameter of pellet was 0.24 inches.
Hence Extreme Range is R=2200 x 0.24= 528 yards = 481.21
meters (Figure 12).
A firearm projectile acquires its wounding power from
kinetic energy, it possesses at the time it strikes the target. It
is given by the formula: K.E. = ½ mv2 Muzzle velocity is taken
at an effective range of shotgun which is 30-35 meters. The
most important factor in determining the kinetic energy of the
projectile is its velocity.
Striking velocity for a standard 12 bore cartridges is 199
m/s having size of shots 6, which is the case. K.E. =½ x6.5x10-
3x 199 x 199 = 128.7 joule the minimum effective velocity for
killing a human being by 12 bore cartridges is 144m/s with 6
shot size, 6.5 gm weight. Hence K.E. will be- K.E. = ½ mv2=½
x6.5x10-3 =67.39 joule the recoil velocity permits the calculation
of the desirable approximate weight of shotgun i.e. Backward
momentum = Forward momentum = mV [Here v=muzzle
velocity, m=weight of ejecta] = 199x6.5/1000 = 12.9Kg-m/s If
the weight of gun ‘’W’’ is to be found when the velocity of recoil is
4.5m/s (the velocity which does not give gun sickness) We have
Wx4.5 = 12.9 or W= 12.9/4.5 =2.87Kg Lighter guns are becoming
popular. They give either greater recoil or the charge is reduced
suitably to bring down the recoil (Figure 13).
Ballistic coefficient (C)
It measures the ability of a projectile to retain the velocity
is given by,
[n (form factor) it is 1 for cylindro-conoidal bullet and 2.3
Ballistic coefficient (C) for 6 shot sizes is 0.0096.
C= W/D2n = 6.5/6.1 x 10-3x1= 0.0065 [in this particular case]
I. In our study, entry wound 3 mm on lower side of neck
3 cm away from midline, was present and metallic pellet of
2 gm weight was recovered from that site. In similar study
done by M. Isa Kara et al, the result of multiple shotgun
wounds especially in head and neck are fatal .
II. Liver is the most frequently damaged abdominal
organ and is second only to the brain in overall visceral
susceptibility (Figure 14).
III. If the force is directed straight at the liver along its
anterior margin, lacerations occur both in the concave and
convex surface. Trans capsular lacerations may cause rapid
death from haemorrhage and shock. Penetrating wounds of
the liver are relatively more common and may cause death
by haemorrhage and shock .
IV. According to Abe et al, fatal case can be caused by only
one shotgun pellet which penetrated the trunk of the victim
. (Figure 15)
V. The wounding capability of a bullet depends on the
amount of kinetic energy (KE) the bullet possesses when it
strikes the target .
The amount of kinetic energy a moving projectile has is
dependent upon its mass (weight, calibre) and velocity as
expressed in the following formula:
In the formula:
KE= Kinetic Energy
w= the weight or mass of the bullet
v= the velocity of the bullet
g= gravitational acceleration
It should be stressed that the severity of a wound is directly
related to the amount of kinetic energy given up within the body,
and not the total energy possessed by the bullet .
Tissues with little elasticity, such as liver and brain, are more
readily injured than those with elasticity, such as lung. Bullets
that have a soft lead nose.
Comparison of muzzle velocity and kinetic energy of firearm
cartridge, 22 short, standard velocity- Bullet weight= 29 grains
Muzzle velocity = 1045ft./s
Kinetic Energy = 70 foot-pounds
i. The energy required by a human target to be put out
of action is given to be about 5.5 to 8 m-Kg. Therefore, the
energy transfer required is about 50 times or more for
human (target). Thus, if one small pellet can kill a bird, about
50 pellets are required to kill a man. It is in this context that
the shotgun is termed only a short range firearm. Only at
short range a number of pellets can hit a person .
ii. In India, as per the statistics of National Crime Records
Bureau, in the year of 2014, total deaths due to firearm
was 0.28 per 1,00,000 population, out of which 0.30 were
homicides, 0.14 was suicides while 0.04 were unintentional,
whereas `gun per 100 inhabitants in India was 4.2. (Figure
iii. In another study conducted by Klaulaskar S V et al.
 during the period from 1 June ,2009 to 30 March 2011,
in case of manner of death in fatal firearm injury, homicide
accounted for maximum percentage (81.48%), followed by
accident (9.25%, suicide (5.55%) .
iv. According to Burn Rice et al.  Buckshot can be
lethal to humans past 100 yards.
In our study, the calculated backward momentum = forward
momentum was 12.9Kg-m/s.
In a similar study by AK Gupta The recoil velocity permits
the calculation of the desirable approximate weight of a shotgun
i.e. Backward momentum=Forward momentum
=VxM [Here V=muzzle velocity, M=weight of ejecta]
If the weight of the gun is W is to be found when the velocity
of recoil is 4.5m/s (the velocity which does not give ‘’gunsickness’’)
we have Wx4.5=14
Or, W= 14/4.5= 3.1 Kg ~ 3Kg
A modern 12 bore cartridge develops a pressure of about
550 Kg per cm2. It is almost twice the pressure developed by
a gunpowder (black powder) cartridge. The shotgun, therefore,
meant for gunpowder cartridge cannot be used to fire cartridge
containing smokeless propellants . Smooth-bored firearms
deliver excellent shot patterns and amazing slug-shooting
accuracy up to 100 yards semi-automatic. Ordinarily shotguns
are effective within the range of30 to 40 yards . In our
study muzzle velocity considered was for standard 12 bore
cartridge where the size of shots was 6, was 199m/s and the
minimum effective velocity to kill a person with having 6 shot
sizes was 144 m/s. In another study by A. K. Gupta et al, most
of the shotgun cartridge manufactured gives muzzle velocity
close to the velocity of sound (400m/s). Consequently, the
striking velocities are usually in sub-sonic zone . A ricochet
bullet is one which before striking the object aimed at, strikes
some intervening object first, and then after ricocheting and
rebounding (glancing) from these, hits the object (Figure 17). The
critical angle of impact for ricochet of hard surfaces varies from
10 to 300 . Ricocheting of a bullet may occur with inferior
firearms and low velocity bullets. The bullet may be deformed
and flattened before striking the skin. The degree of deformity
varies depending on the texture of the bullet. This produces a
large irregularly oval, triangular or cruciate entrance wound
with irregular abraded margins. As they bullet loses gravitating
movements, abrasion collar is absent. Burning, blackening and
tattooing are also not seen.
Deformed and Flattened- Degree of deformity varies with the
texture of the bullet (Figure 18). Soft lead bullets are deformed
more than hard jacketed bullets. May contain chips of paint,
soil, fibres or fragments from the intervening object. It lies in
the wound nose facing outwards . Accidental fire arm wounds
are characterized by, their entrance could be on any area of the
body, the shot distance is in close or very close range, it may be
in any direction, number of wounds are usually one, gunpowder
residues are present on the hands of the assailant, the weapon
is found at the scene of crime, the scene of crime could be in
his house or by hunting, the victims are mostly male and there
is no motive behind this type of fire . Similar incidences of
celebratory/ happy firing took place recently on 22/02/2018
at New Delhi and on 01/05/2018 at Lakhimpur Khiri in U.P
(Figure 19) where the groom was hit in chest by bullet, similar
to findings of our study, and died [15,16].
It was concluded that, Air fires while celebrating marriages,
religious functions and social gatherings is illegal and may result
in the initiation of legal action. Carrying a gun in a marriage
procession is illegal under the Arms Act of 1959 and the Indian
Penal Code of 1860 while the terms of licence also forbade
carrying of gun to public assemblage. Over 85% of all murders
committed using firearms have unlicensed guns involved.
Not surprisingly, UP and Bihar make up 67% of all murders
by unlicensed guns. In external ricocheting- an accused may
claim that he merely fired at the roof to threaten his rival. But
the bullet ricocheted off and hit him. If proved correct by Postmortem
examination, he may be charged for Section 304A IPC
(causing death by rash and negligent death), rather than for
Section 302 (murder). The practice of celebratory firing by overenthusiastic
and unskilled persons or defective, faulty or old
and ill maintained firearms may cause accidental death of the
persons during celebratory firing and may change the happiness
of the ceremony into highly tragic event.
Authors would like to thank faculty and staff of department
of Forensic Medicine IMS, BHU, Varanasi for their valuable
support and full help in data collection from the autopsied case
and providing with adequate literature support.