The history of forensic ballistics begins in the 1493 – 1508 period when Harold Peterson, in a book, discusses firearm riflings with Emperor Maximillian of Germany. This is the earliest known reference to any manner of analysis when it comes to firearms. The value of rifling was not recognized until the late 19th century.
Around 1835 – 1899, certain techniques were developed, including simple observation, physical matching, caliber determination from an examination of the shape and size of a projectile, and experimentation, that would ultimately be associated with the field of forensic ballistics.
During 1900 – 1930, the science gained recognition from several judicial systems around the world due to particular events where it become most helpful.
In 1929, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. This was an incident related to gangster violence and happened in Chicago in the USA. The investigations done in the aftermath of the event bolstered the reputation of firearm identification techniques.
During the 1930 – 1970 period, more events occurred that moved forensic ballistics forward.
In the United States, the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (SCDL) began operations at Northwestern University in late 1929 or early 1930.
In 1932, the Federal Bureau of Identification Laboratory was formed. Similar laboratories were also created all over the world as the science continued to evolve during the period.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics was established by Charles E. Waite, Maj. (later Col.) Calvin H. Goddard, Phillip O. Gravelle, and John H. Fisler in New York, New York in 1935.
Then, the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) was organized in Chicago, IL in February 1969.
During 1970 – 1999, The evolution of forensic ballistics continued along with significant growth in the number of scientists being employed in the field. New tools coming from various technological advancements of the era, including computers and the binocular comparison microscope, markedly contributed to the evolutionary changes happening in the field.