According to Merriam-Webster

According to Merriam-Webster, the term ballistics is defined as the science that studies the motions of a projectile in flight (2018). There are three types of ballistics: internal – or initial— external, and terminal ballistics (Klatt, 1994). Internal ballistics studies the projectile in flight inside the firearm, while external ballistics is the study of the bullet’s path in air from the firearm to the target (Juve, 2002). Terminal ballistics studies the effects of the projectile when hitting the target. Not only are the types of ballistics taken into account but the range of fire is another significant factor in examining gunshot wounds. The range of fire for gunshot wounds, or ballistic trauma, is generally categorized as the following: contact, intermediate range, and distant range (Klatt, 1994).
When examining and treating gunshot wounds, the types of ballistics and types of firearm used along with the range of fire must be considered. People in this field are studying wound ballistics, which is the sub-field study of terminal ballistics that analyzes the projectiles of firearms as they penetrate tissue (Wound Ballistics, 2011). In general, all of the tissue damage in gunshot wounds are caused by bullets and its fragments that pierce through the tissue (Alexandropoulou ; Elias, 2015). There are three ways for a bullet or any other type of firearm to damage the tissue. The first way is simply the tissue tearing as the bullet breaks through the tissue (Itabashi, Andrews, Tomiyasu, Erlich ; Sathyavagiswaran, 2011). This way can also be known as a laceration in which the tissue damage happens on a trail that a bullet can create (Klatt, 1994). The second way is the bullet breaking and tearing the tissue that is in its pathway as well as casting away the neighbouring tissue as it penetrates the body, creating a temporary cavity (DiMaio, 2015). A temporary cavity, or a stretch cavity, is produced from the tissue that is stretched outward in a radial direction away from the track of the bullet (Klatt, 1994). The third way bullets wound the tissue is through the shock waves that last for a couple of microseconds and do not cause a severe damage at a low velocity. (Klatt, 1994).
Additionally, the way that bullets can cause tissue damage or gunshot wounds– also known as GSW or ballistic trauma – vary, depending on the range of fire. Two classifications for ballistic trauma include the entrance wounds and the exit wounds. In several cases, the entrance and exit wounds may be clean in which the gunshot can penetrate the body by causing a simple and apparent injury (Claridge, 2016). Conversely, because of some elements, including the distance from the perpetrator, the calibre of the firearm, the range of fire, and the number of projectiles being fired from the weapon, the overall pattern of the injury will be affected.
Focusing on the entrance wounds, one general characteristic is the close, or contact, range in which the perpetrator’s firearm is in contact with, or touching, the victim’s body (Breitenecker, 1969). Entrance wounds tend to be smaller and are proportioned compared to exit wounds (Claridge, 2016). Likewise, these close range gunshot wounds will present a single hole encircled by a thin abrasion ring or margin, that can have the smoke or gunshot residue (GSR) around the entrance wound blacken (Breitenecker, 1969). Close range wounds are harmful and may cause organs to nearly crumble because of the powder gases from the firearm (Breitenecker, 1969). On the other hand, exit wounds are larger than entrance wounds since the bullet travels throughout body and detonates in the tissue and muscle (Claridge, 2016). Also, unlike entrance wounds, exit wounds have less gunshot residue or do not have any presented (Klatt, 1994). Regardless if it is an entrance or exit wound, the physicality following the gunshot wounds affect the human body.
The physical activity after an individual experiences a gunshot wound varies. One may withstand their injury but still participate in physical activities. In one case, an individual was shot in the left chest by a shotgun at range of three to four feet (Fitchett, 2017). This individual’s heart was torn apart; however, the individual ran 65 feet before falling. What deregulated the individual’s consciousness was the oxygen supply to the brain in which unconsciousness happens when the brain takes in oxygen. Researchers experimented that one can stay conscious for about ten seconds after the carotid arteries are entirely blocked; if blood is not pumped to the brain due to the gunshot wound, one may stay conscious and function for approximately ten seconds before collapsing. In a different case, an individual was shot in the left of the back with a 6.35-millimeter pistol that penetrated the aorta and the left main pulmonary artery along with the left lung, implanting into the anterior chest wall. The individual died two hours and twenty minutes after being shot, having suffered from an extensive amount of blood loss and ineffective tissue perfusion, the state when tissues do not receive enough oxygen through the capillaries, causing restlessness, weak pulses, a decline in blood pressure, and abnormal breathing. As the blood pressure decreases, the systemic nervous system is initiated, epinephrine and norepinephrine are released, and the heart rate increases. When the loss of blood surpasses the body’s capability to counteract, the individual ultimately becomes disoriented and loses consciousness. Along with unconsciousness and blood loss, gunshot wounds are at risk of being infected. In particular, close range shots can cause the wounds to have a skin defect at the entrance site that stems from the skin fragmentation (Klatt, 1994). This causes the pressure from the temporary cavitation to stretch and tug the skin into the wound. In addition, gunshot wounds, before or after fired from the weapon, may become infected since the bullets are not sterilized, causing bacteria to be carried into the wound by the bullet, using the skin to transport the bacteria.
In order to avoid infection or extensive blood loss from gunshot wounds, there are a couple of managements and treatments to consider. The first is to have an initial dressing cover the wound immediately until it can be examined and to take antibiotics to prevent the wound from being infected (Bowyer & Rossiter, 1997). Secondly, one may treat their wounds by surgery. The surgeon would make an incision in order to relieve the pressure within the wound and irrigation – a method of sterilizing the wound by using a solution – to reduce the risk of infection. Another treatment is dressing and closure. Dressing with gauze will drain the wound without the help of a surgical drain and closing the wounds with delayed primary suture is necessary for reduced risk of infection and eventual healing.
With the knowledge of terminal ballistics, specifically wound ballistics and how gunshot wounds affect the human body, individuals and professionals can examine and treat the wound coherently. Gunshot wounds vary, depending on the type of ballistics, types of firearm, and range of fire. However, all wounding caused by any firearm damages the tissue and puts the wound at risk of infection and blood loss. All in all, there are treatments and ways to manage the wound in order to delay the onset of infection.