Tandem Bullets

On rare occasions, when a gun is fired, the bullet lodges in the barrel. This occurs because there is an insufficient quantity of propellant in the cartridge case or incomplete combustion of the propellant. The latter condition can occur if oil has leaked into the cartridge case, preventing some of the powder from being ignited or if there is a chemical breakdown of the powder because of age or prolonged exposure to high environmental temperatures or humidity.

If a bullet has lodged in the barrel and the weapon is fired a second time, one of two things may happen. The increased pressure in the barrel can cause it to rupture, or both bullets can be propelledoutof thebarrel.14 At close range, both these bullets can enter a body throughthesameentrancehole. Thus, although a single wound of entrance willbefound, twobullets willbepresent in the body. Careful examination of thebullets, however, willgenerally reveal that a "piggy-back" arrangement was presentwhentheyenteredthebody.

A very unusual variation to this was reported by Mollan and Beavis. They reported the case of an individual shot in the knee in which on surgical exploration there were found to be two bullets and a cartridge case in the knee joint. All three missiles entered through one entrance wound. The bullets were of .32 ACP and .380 ACP caliber and the case was .32 ACP. It was hypothesized that a .32 ACP cartridge was inadvertently put in a .380 automatic. The cartridge slipped forward, lodging in the barrel. A .380 ACP cartridge then was chambered. On firing, the .380 bullet struck the .32 ACP primer, discharging the cartridge. The whole complex of two bullets and one case was swept down the barrel, emerged from the muzzle, and entered the victim.

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