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1 FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, website:www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm

Bureau of Justice Statistics, 30th Edition, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, website: www.albay.edu/sourcebook

Ammunition Coding System (ACS)

Almost every day in every major US city you can open your local newspaper and read about the aftermath of gun violence. A child, a police officer, a mother or a father is cut down in the prime of life. An assassin murders a popular Seattle prosecutor. Two bloodthirsty snipers prey on innocent bystanders and terrorize our nation’s Capitol or a lone gunman takes potshots at passing motorists on a Columbus freeway. In most cases, the only evidence left behind is a body, a bullet, and possibly a shell casing or two.

According to the United States Department of Justice, there is more than a 30% chance of never finding the killer in homicides involving a firearm1. If ballistic evidence cannot be quickly linked to a crime gun, and the gun recovered and quickly linked to a suspect, the chance of arresting the perpetrator is far less likely. If the bullets and cartridge cases used by criminals were linked directly to a potential suspect, more crimes involving firearms would be solved and more gun crime could be prevented.

Bullet Identification Technology: A modern crime fighting tool

In an effort to provide law enforcement with modern crime fighting tools, a new patentpending bullet identification technology known as the Ammunition Coding System (ACS) has been developed. ACS assigns a unique code to every round of ammunition manufactured, and by recording sales records, law enforcement personnel will be able to easily trace the ammunition involved in a crime and have an avenue to pursue and solve even the most difficult cases. The key to ACS is the unique code that is micro-laser engraved on factory-produced ammunition. This laser engraving is etched on both the projectile and the inside of the cartridge casing. Each code will be common to a single box of cartridges and unique from all other ammunition sold. The unique ACS codes will be tracked and records maintained to identify individual ammunition purchases. The ACS technology will provide a method for law enforcement personnel to trace ammunition purchases and link bullets and cartridge cases found at crime scenes to the initial retail ammunition purchaser. This system will not necessarily prove who pulled the trigger, but it will provide law enforcement with a valuable lead and a starting point to quickly begin their investigations. The design of the ACS laser engraving system will allow law enforcement personnel to identify the bullet code in cases where as little as 20% of the bullet base remains intact after recovery. Since bullets are designed to keep the base solid and in its original configuration, the likelihood of ACS codes remaining legible after recovery is very high. Law enforcement testing has already shown a 99% success rate in identifying the ACS code after bullet recovery.

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The Advantages of the Ammunition Coding System Technology

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Implementation of the ACS Technology

The implementation of the ACS technology will require legislation to establish an ammunition sale database. In those states that have already developed and implemented bar-coding systems that include driver’s licenses and other forms of identification, the integration of a database system to record ammunition sales will be relatively simple and inexpensive to implement.

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How will the ACS technology process work?

A unique ACS code will be assigned to each box of new ammunition. Most major ammunition manufacturers already use bar-coding for inventory control and management. Ammunition manufacturers will simply include the ACS code in their current bar coding system. Ammunition retailers will scan the bar code on each box of bullets along with the purchaser’s driver’s license or state issued ID. The resulting electronic record would be transferred to a secure computer database that would confidentially maintain individual ammunition sales information.

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What are the costs to manufacturers?

There are several well known manufacturers currently producing a significant portion of the current commercially available ammunition in the United States. Each ammunition producer would be required to purchase at least one, if not more, laser engraving machines and ammunition material handlers to produce ACS coded ammunition. There are several manufacturers who can design and build this equipment. Reliable estimates for a complete set of engraving/material handling equipment range from $300,000 to $500,000 each. A licensing fee for each bullet sold would also be required. However, since approximately 10 billion bullets are sold in the United States alone each year, equipment costs, once amortized over the number of bullets produced and sold are not significant.

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What is the impact on retailers and consumers?

Ammunition retailers will also have some minor administrative costs. These costs, like other costs associated with doing business will most likely be passed onto the retailer purchaser. We estimate that the entire ACS process can be implemented without dramatically increasing the purchase price to the end user while maintaining an effective crime fighting system paid for almost exclusively by user fees.

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How many unique codes are available?

There are 91 unique characters on a standard computer keyboard. The ACS technology uses these characters in five, six, or seven columns. Typically, ammunition comes in boxes of either 50 or 20, and all bullets in a box will be coded alike. There are 12 common handgun and assault weapon calibers. This means that ACS can accommodate over 21 quadrillion unique bullet codes. Since it is estimated that there are approximately 10 billion bullets sold annually in the United States, and 20-30 billion bullets sold worldwide annually, the ACS has the capacity to keep pace with the current rate of sales for decades to come.

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