History of IFM


Find out how IFM is rising to become an industry standard for forensic analysis

History in the Making

Tool mark examination methods for firearms had previously been through unintentional means and formed at random on a gun’s surface. These marks would then transfer to the faces of ammunition components to identify potential matches to said firearms. These marks would present themselves in the form of either indentations or scratches transferred from the gun to the cartridge upon being fired. Although examining these random markings would sometimes produce leads in investigations, there was no real optimization of using markings for legitimate tracing. Although the use of unintentional marking has been deemed in the past as reliable by US Courts, a congressionally mandated report by the National Research Council, of the National Academy of Science, found major deficiencies in the nations forensic science system, calling for new research and reform to be implemented


Major Events that Influenced the Process

The idea of intentional microstamping was first devised in 1994 by Todd Lizotte and Orest Ohar.

Conceiving this idea has led to a national debate on whether this is a necessary implementation within U.S firearm standards. 

Major events such as the Columbine Shootings, the Beltway Sniper and the Virginia Tech Massacre have led to a realization that gun forensics is imperative to the safety of U.S citizens. 2007 marked a critical turning point for IFM when AB1471 passed in the California Assembly. This was a huge step that then passed into law in 2008 by Governor Arnold Swartsnager, which requires that all new firearms have intentional microstamped serial numbers imprinted internally for forensic purposes. This also entails that all old firearms must be registered with the Roster of Not Unsafe Handguns.


Evolving the Code


From its inception, the serial code has come a long way from where it was in the 90s. The idea of intentional microstamping involved a variety of information for the imprint to include. From 8 digit serial numbers to gear codes as a second form of identification, the markings are ever evolving.

A human driven heuristic method of code extraction is known as the “Lizotte-Ohar Partial Microstamp Code Extraction Method.” It extracts quantifiable information in the event of pin smearing and character wipe outs induced by the multivariate firing mechanism using forensic training and a metallurgical optical microscope to make the analysis.

The Lizotte-Ohar Code Extraction Method was developed to extract as much information as possible from Intentional Firearm Microstamping, no matter the resulting impression imperfections subject to the gun’s violent multivariate environment.

TACLABS‘ goal is to make it more robust and easier to implement while still providing necessary information that can be extracted for tracking.

From polarization to SEM, IFM has been through many runs over the years to perfect the process of imprinting identifiable marks for database analysis. Below shows how even markings that have been skewed can still be legible.


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