Microstamping Firearms

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Microstamping Firearms - christophereger - csivehicle-crimescene-536.jpg

The one side of the story: a crime scene evidence collector finds a shell casing at the scene of a crime. They photograph it, bag it, and turn it over to the crime lab. Upon examination, they find a microscopic imprint on the case head that belongs to a Value Arms .223 serial number 69000. After a search with the manufacturer, investigators find the distributor that sold it, who contacts the gunshop it was sent to. A phone call and fax to the gun shop has a return fax of an ATF form 4473 with whom they sold the firearm to. Science fiction? CSI on steroids? No its micro stamping and it could possibly be coming to a firearm near you.

What is it?

The process is actually simple. The breech face and or the firing pin of the firearm is made with tiny plate bearing a unique code. When the round is fired, the code is stamped by the force of the recoil into the soft brass of the cartridge being fired.

Micro stamping differs from conventional ballistic fingerprinting which results from extreme pressures present in the chamber to the cartridge. The micro stamping method would use microscopic engravings on the firing pin to record make, model, and serial number data on the cartridge primer, useful when matching gun casings found at a crime scene. It is advertised that this tool would be used to help law enforcement link victims to suspects.

Microstamping Firearms - christophereger - 002547-10-fig1-537.jpg

Problems with the process

In a perfect world, this almost sounds like a good idea, and actually in some circumstances, such as in battlefield analysis with military firearms, would have a useful purpose. However, to stamp every firearm in production with such a code is overkill and probably would not produce the desired effect.

Even if a cartridge case was found at the scene, and a firearm that has the breech faceplate only stamped it, it would not necessarily lead to the firearm that fired it. If the case had been once fired and then sold or picked up on the range to be reloaded, it would have multiple stamps. Worse, if the second firearm did not have the micro stamp plate then the casing could have only the first stamp on its face. This could lead investigators to chase down a bogus lead and further waste time. This also leaves the possibility of elaborate but still possible 'frames' by methodical killers of innocent marks.

In addition, inevitable clerical errors, parts replacements, and other possibilities further cloud the process. Likewise, black powder firearms, rim fires and others have their own set of exclusions that would be outside of the argument.

The simple notion that this process is not fool proof would make it unlikely that a prosecutor could and would even use it as evidence in a capital murder case.


On October 13, 2007, California lawmakers signed into law Assembly Bill 1471 (AB 1471) which implements micro stamping technology, making California the first State in the Nation to mandate its use. The bill requires that all semi-automatic handguns purchased in California, beginning in 2010, have the ability to imprint identifying information on cartridges fired by the weapon, turning spent cartridges into potential evidence in civil and criminal cases. So far, this has been held up due to the patents involved in the process. It was hoped by gun control groups that the patent process's looming expiration would enable the new law to take effect.

Calguns, a 2A group in the People's Republic have however extended the patent.

In 2008 a nationwide version of California's micro stamping law, the so-called National Crime Gun Identification Act, was introduced into the US House and Senate by democratic backers, and was defeated.

Meanwhile the process and laws to make it mandatory are still being floated around. The New York State Assembly last week was debating it. According to a NY Times article, "The issue has become so heated that, in New York, where the state Assembly was debating a microstamping bill last week, one gun maker, the Remington Arms Co., threatened to pull its business out of the state if the bill became law. "Such a mandate could force Remington to reconsider its commitment to the New York market altogether," said company spokesman Teddy Novin."

Be sure to get your calls, emails, and letters ready.

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June 19, 2012  •  01:30 PM
Nothing good could ever come from more government intrusion into our lives. Plus 2 minutes with a piece of sandpaper or 5 minutes to change the firing pin and your fancy microstamping is null and void.
June 19, 2012  •  03:41 PM
Microstamping WILL NOT WORK....Period. Any truly thinking person can imagine any number of reasons that this is a bad idea, and will never have the purported effect of making it possible/easier to solve gun crimes. Any criminal can visit a range and pick up spent casings with the micro stamp of someone else's gun, to throw out at crime scenes, to confuse law enforcement, and/or point the finger at (frame) someone else. Also, what about the millions upon millions of guns already out there that do not have micro stamping? And lastly, as has been previously pointed out by other commentors, it would be easy for anyone with a file or sander to remove the microstamping from their gun, or simply replace the microstamped parts with non microstamped parts. And this does not even start to address the relaoded bullets issue. In short, this is just another "pie in the sky" stupid idea.
June 19, 2012  •  04:17 PM
Just because some liberal anti gun idiots in California passed AB 1471 (and since AB 1471 did pass their legislative bodies, I guess by default, this means most of California's legislators, and it's governor, are indeed liberal gun grabbing idiots) does not in any way mean that this (microstamping regulation) has any real world merit. It will not in anyway, other than perhaps in some Hollywood phony baloney fictional crime drama, help to catch criminals, or solve crimes, since most criminals steal their guns, or obtain them by some other illegal, unregistered method. What is worse, this law could lead to some innocent person(s) to be convicted wrongly based on microstamp framing. California law makers would pass a law requiring extra terrestrial aliens to register their rayguns if they thought it might get them more votes. I grew up in California, but based on this law (AB 1471 and other gun control BS they have subjected Californians to) I am happy to say that I live there no more.
June 19, 2012  •  04:20 PM
Amen Brother, and oh, by the way, pass the reloaded ammunition.
June 25, 2012  •  11:44 AM
I've seen enough CSI TV to know I'm not leaving brass at any murder I commit. Come to think of it, I don't see myself committing murder so unless I'm being framed I couldn't care less. The only thing that may concern me is if this would jack the price of my firearms. Seems it would if each individual gun has to have a unique number that would require one more process during manufacturing. Another concern would be if they tried to make everyone bring in their guns for modification at the owners expense. Nope, the whole idea is a bad one.
June 30, 2012  •  04:54 PM
If I was a firearms manufacturer I would offer special packages. Buy one firearm, get a spare firing pin for only a penny more!!! I would eat the cost of a firing pin to circumvent this idioting bill.

As a civilian, I would do something even more drastic. I would simply buy a revolver over a semi-auto. How hard is that.

Two words; Stupid law!
June 30, 2012  •  05:45 PM
And if the government decides they're going to do this?

They can put a tax on people owning arms that don't comply with the new "law" and sell their "old" guns and buy guns with this technology.

And if you think your going to challenge it based on it being in violation of the 2A,they'll just call it a "reasonable regulation" and you'll lose.

Welcome to the Peoples Demokratik Socialist Nanny State of Amerika.
July 6, 2012  •  08:03 PM
yea, this bill has actually been in brought to the florr in NYS multiple times.. the last time it was barely defeated. if i remember correctly it was like 5 votes. if this happend i will be rushing to buy anything used. if only i could move
July 6, 2012  •  11:44 PM
Posted: July 6, 2012  •  10:33 PM
So the firing pin strikes the case and the primer at the same time. Well Doggies,
July 7, 2012  •  09:14 AM
@ JohnBrowning.

The concept is that the firing pin (which is stamped) strikes the primer and leaves an impression

Then when the round fires, the case head recoils against the breechface/block which is also stamped and leaves a second impression on the cartridge head face
July 9, 2012  •  12:24 AM
Would that work on a wheel gun?
July 9, 2012  •  08:50 PM
got me, you still have recoil...