Nano tagging: You thought micro-stamping was bad …

We have a bunch of UK scientists to thank for inventing a way of trapping DNA on brass.

The tiny tags – just 30 microns in diameter and invisible to the naked eye – are designed to be coated onto gun cartridges. They then attach themselves to the hands or gloves of anyone handling the cartridge and are very difficult to wash off completely.

Crucially, some of these ‘nanotags’ also remain on the cartridge even after it has been fired. This should make it possible to establish a robust forensic link between a cartridge fired during a crime and whoever handled it.

To date it has been extremely hard to establish such a link because of the difficulty in retrieving fingerprints or significant amounts of DNA from cartridge surfaces, which are shiny and smooth. The nanotags, which are quite unlike anything previously used in the fight against gun crime, could therefore lead to a significant increase in successful convictions.

I can just imagine Californian politicians getting excited over this.

Hat Tip: Gizmodo

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Tom Gunn

    Nano tagging!

    In a few years the tags will be as ubiquitous as illegal drugs are on money.


  • memomachine


    In a world with a global economy, a porous border and CAD/CAM manufacturing I find the whole concept that criminals cannot get ammo without nano-crap added to be ridiculous.

    The UK currently is trying to deal with hidden pistol factories because outlawing firearms doesn’t make the criminal market for them dry up.

  • DJK

    Two words….among MANY MANY others….



    I was involved with a trial where this was a very real issue. It is spooky talking to the DNA scientists. They really want to challenge the boundaries and they believe they can achieve it. In the future you can bet that prosecutors will come ‘armed’ to court with their scientists. Great site.

  • doug in colorado

    Tom Gunn…good point…everytime you shake hand you may be giving or receiving a tag. this elaborate scheme also can’t deal with reloaded ammo, stolen ammo, or the fact that the tag will be a “batch” tag that might be bought by dozens to hundreds of shooters. You can’t vary the tag enough so that every box of ammo has a unique ID.

    What you can do is make ammo so expensive that the poor can’t buy self defense, and the law abiding can’t afford to practice enough to stay confident.

  • Josh j

    can anyone say Judge Dredd this makes me laugh I heard about it a while ago.
    I personally don’t commit or condone crimes with guns but there are far too many ways around this nonsense to count.
    as stated above bad guys always get guns they don’t care how.