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Contact wound of the left breast from a double barrel 0.12 gauge shotgun with a muzzle impression from the non discharged barrel above. Shotguns are popular world wide and more of these weapons exist than the rifled types. With an increasing incidence and prevalence of gunshot wounds it is important for traumatologists to be familiar with shotgun wound ballistics. Shotgun wounds differ from those of other missiles because the spectrum of wound severity is large owing to the fact that the pellets scatter as they travel. Close-range shotgun wounds can be as destructive as those from a high-velocity rifle, but longer weapon-victim ranges may produce only minimal injury.

Fig.1 Contact wound of the left breast.

The type of shot (size and weight of pellets) used also determines the type of injury, with more serious injuries produced by the larger type of buckshot (greater than 0.14 inches in diameter). The severity of injury from birdshot depends mainly on the “effective” weapon-victim range which can be calculated from the shot size and shot pattern either clinically or from X-ray. Wounds may then be classified according to severity, yielding information on prognosis and extent of investigation and treatment required.

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