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The exploding bullet
  1. B Swift,
  2. G N Rutty
  1. Division of Forensic Pathology, University of Leicester, Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester, Royal Infirmary, PO Box 65 Leicester LE2 7LX, UK;

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    The article entitled “Health and safety at necropsy” by Julian Burton provides a detailed and well written narrative regarding both the risks and hazards faced by professionals during postmortem examinations.1 Despite the presence of a relatively large publication base regarding this topic, important aspects are highlighted, including transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and the more modern, but potentially dangerous, advances in medical technologies. However, we would wish to clarify the issues that the author raises regarding exploding bullets. The difference between a true exploding bullet and a projectile designed to fragment on impact is one of great importance, and one that may cause confusion, as would appear to be the case within this article.

    Bullets are composed of a casing containing an explosive powder charge, which, on striking, forces the end projectile element out at speeds of up to 1500 metres/second, depending upon the ammunition and the type of gun used. The projectile causes soft tissue damage through crushing, creating a temporary cavity that contains hot gases. The tissue is compressed radially from the centre of the cavity and, depending on its elastic properties, results in tears to structures (as seen with injuries to solid abdominal viscera). The recoil of the tissues, together with …

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