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AAFS 2022 Recap: An Internal Validation Study of the TopMatch 3D Scanner for Cartridge Cases

A CSAFE lab technician loads a tray of cartridge cases into the TopMatch 3D scanner.
A CSAFE lab technician loads a tray of cartridge cases into the TopMatch 3D scanner.

By Samantha Springer, a research assistant at the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE)


At the 74th annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) scientific conference, Kayli Carrillo, a doctoral candidate at Sam Houston State University, presented a study that showed promising results for the future use of virtual microscopy in assisting forensic examiners with analyzing ballistic evidence. The study, performed by Carrillo and her colleagues at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, Texas, utilized a TopMatch VCM system identical to the microscopes used in CSAFE’s ballistics lab. CSAFE’s lab is part of the Roy J. Carver High Resolution Microscopy Facility at Iowa State University.

The internal validation study involved three stages of examination with known and unknown sourced cartridge cases analyzed by multiple examiners. The three phases introduced very few inconclusive determinations, and no matches were determined to be false positives or false negatives. These results indicate a study with a very high internal validity, which shows that the use of virtual comparison microscopy, specifically TopMatch software, can aid in forensic analysis.

Continued research will adopt a fourth step to further evaluate the inconclusive determinations made in the study by examiners. This step will compare such conclusions found when using VCM versus light comparison microscopy, alternatively known as 2D microscopy. Based on the promising findings of this study, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences plans to utilize TopMatch microscopy in the analysis of their cartridge cases.

CSAFE researchers have made great strides in developing statistical and scientific foundations for assessing and matching firearms and toolmarks. Learn more at