A comparison of penetration and damage caused by different types of arrowheads on loose and tight fit clothing

Nichole MacPhee, Anne Savage, Nikolas Noton, Eilidh Beattie, Louise Milne, Joanna Fraser*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)
    780 Downloads (Pure)


    Bows and arrows are used more for recreation, sport and hunting in the Western world and tend not to be as popular a weapon as firearms or knives. Yet there are still injuries and fatalities caused by these low-velocity weapons due to their availability to the public and that a licence is not required to own them. This study aimed to highlight the penetration capabilities of aluminium arrows into soft tissue and bones in the presence of clothing. Further from that, how the type and fit of clothing as well as arrowhead type contribute to penetration capacity. In this study ballistic gelatine blocks (non-clothed and loose fit or tight fit clothed) were shot using a 24 lb weight draw recurve bow and aluminium arrows accompanied by four different arrowheads (bullet, judo, blunt and broadhead).

    The penetration capability of aluminium arrows was examined, and the depth of penetration was found to be dependent on the type of arrowhead used as well as by the type and fit or lack thereof of the clothing covering the block. Loose fit clothing reduced penetration with half of the samples, reducing penetration capacity by percentages between 0% and 98.33%, at a range of 10 m. While the remaining half of the samples covered with tight clothing led to reductions in penetration of between 14.06% and 94.12%.

    The damage to the clothing and the gelatine (puncturing, cutting and tearing) was affected by the shape of the arrowhead, with the least damaged caused by the blunt arrowheads and the most by the broadhead arrows. Clothing fibres were also at times found within the projectile tract within the gelatine showing potential for subsequent infection of an individual with an arrow wound.

    Ribs, femur bones and spinal columns encased in some of the gelatine blocks all showed varying levels of damage, with the most and obvious damage being exhibited by the ribs and spinal column.

    The information gleaned from the damage to clothing, gelatine blocks and bones could potentially be useful for forensic investigators, for example, when a body has been discovered with no weapons or gunshot residue present.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-120
    Number of pages12
    JournalScience & Justice
    Issue number2
    Early online date26 Nov 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


    • Arrow
    • Penetration
    • Damage
    • Clothing
    • Tissues
    • Bones


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