This sophisticated technology uses a traditional microscope connected to a computer workstation to collect the magnified images of fired casings in firearms identification cases. The unique microscopic characteristics imparted by the firing pin and breech face on the casing are recorded and stored in the computer's memory and catalogued into a permanent database. Confiscated weapons are routinely test fired and the resultant casings are also recorded into the database.
With the aid of a federal grant, the Crime Laboratory has taken the lead role in coordinating a statewide network for the NIBIN system. Workstations include DPS labs at Austin Headquarters, Tyler, McAllen, Lubbock, and El Paso; the Houston Police Department; and county labs in Bexar, Dallas, and Tarrant Counties.
The NIBIN software searches each image for similar topographical characteristics and generates a "hit list" of possible matches. The added bonus to this equipment is its ability to search databases in other jurisdictions. Other states have linked their systems to NIBIN and the preliminary results have shown a great potential for the successful association of routinely confiscated weapons with unsolved shootings, even though they might occur in different parts of the state or country.