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The Smoking Gun™ Gunshot Residue

Suspicious powder was found on several surfaces at two different crime scenes. Your students must determine whether the powder is gunpowder or another substance.



Students will do a series of presumptive tests to determine if powder from several surfaces is gunpowder. Then they will learn how to analyze gunpowder with a scanning electron microscope (SEM) using a set of video clips filmed at the SEM lab at Marshall University. Students will receive a hard copy of the graphs, images, and other evidence from the SEM to determine if the substance is indeed gunpowder.

As in all Lyle and Louise modules, this kit is geared to high school and undergraduate courses, and is matched to National Science Education Standards. This kit is designed for 6 labs groups (up to 30 students).

Next Generation Science Standards

  • MS-PS1-1. Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
  • MS-PS1-2. Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

Common Core Standards

  • CCSS.Math.Content.HSN-Q.A.1 Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.HSN-Q.A.3 Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities.
Included Materials
  • SEM data for 12 particles (graphs and images)
  • 6 positive and negative control swabs
  • Gunshot residue swabs taken from 6 different surfaces
  • 50 alcohol swabs
  • Pipettes for each group
  • 6 bottles of diphenylamine
  • 6 bottles of sodium rhodizonic acid
  • Fully illustrated teacher’s manual with technique background
Required Materials
  • Lab Gloves for each student
  • Surfaces for alcohol swab tests (aluminum foil, weigh boats, or petri dishes)
  • Ruler
  • Distilled water
Storage Conditions Cool and Dark (Ambient)
Stability Indefinite

Teacher Manuals

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