Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Phillip C. Womble (Director), Keith Andrew, Edward Kintzel

Degree Program

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Degree Type

Master of Science


All firearms within the United States are required by the Gun Control Act to be physically marked with a serial number; which is at least 0.003” in depth and 1/16” in height. The purpose of a serial number is to make each firearm uniquely identifiable and traceable. Intentional removal of a serial number is a criminal offense and is used to hide the identity and movements of the involved criminal parties. The current standard for firearm serial number restoration is by chemical etching; which is time & labor intensive as well as destructive to the physical evidence (firearm). It is hypothesized that a new technique that is accurate, precise, and time efficient will greatly aid law enforcement agencies in pursuing criminals. This thesis focuses on using a large chamber scanning electron microscope to take secondary electron (SE) images of a stamped metal plate and analyzing them using the MIRA MX 7 UE image processing software for purposes of depth determination. An experimental peak luminance value of 77 (pixel values) was correlated to the known depth (273 μm) at the bottom of the sample character. Results show that it is potentially possible to determine an unknown depth from a SEM image; using luminance values obtained in the MIRA analysis.


Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Other Legal Studies | Physics | Quantum Physics