SHOT Show 2008

     SHOT Show 2008 was a must see for anyone with firearms or outdoor sports equipment in their sights. But those targeting forensics investigation were not left wanting. A range of products aimed at technical investigations also could be found in the 1,970 booths covering 715,000 square feet of floor space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, February 2-5.

Forensics Source

     BAE Systems of Jacksonville, Florida, recently acquired Armor Forensics then subsequently renamed the company, gave it a new Web site, and expanded its line by combining Lightning Powder, NIK, ODV, Identicator, Evi-Paq and Projectina under a single banner. With more than 3,000 products in its arsenal, Forensic Source's catalog now includes tools for the crime lab as well as the crime scene investigator such as Projectina comparison microscopes, forensic light sources, ducted and ductless fume hoods, and DNA lab supplies.

     Perma-Gel Ballistic Gelatin is another Forensic Source product offering. This is the room-temperature, crystal clear, ballistic gel that was announced at the 2007 SHOT Show, but the product lacked a distributor until Forensics Source arrived. While Perma-Gel has a slightly different effect than traditional ballistics gelatin, it merely presents a learning curve for the user, who must learn to interpret the results. Here, the benefits offset the learning curve, and include the ability to use the gel at normal temperatures and reuse it by re-melting and recasting. The gel also withstands bacteria at room temperature.

     In addition, the company offers the Bootie Box. Every time an investigator enters a major scene he should don new shoe covers to prevent cross contamination. The Bootie Box simplifies this issue. Users just step into the box and a new shoe cover snaps onto their shoe. Refills of 30 covers are available.

Visualock

     Firearms security is a serious subject, and nowhere is it more important than in the courtroom, where a firearm seized as evidence must be rendered inoperative to prevent its use in a criminal escape attempt. Traditionally, firearms evidence has been secured by cable ties, ranging from typical electrical ties to heavy-duty flex cuffs. However, these methods still lend themselves to defeat in the courtroom.

     VisualLock of Loveland, Colorado, offers a tool that renders a firearm inoperative but only shows up as a red button at the muzzle. The lock consists of a solid brass "cartridge" into which fits a rod the length of the firearm barrel. This attaches to a red end, which fits over the muzzle crown, and into which a key must be inserted to lock or unlock the device.

     The device is available for more than 130 calibers ranging from .22LR through .50 BMG, with a variety of different rod lengths to permit use in almost any firearm. Custom brass cartridges may be manufactured for unusual chambering.

Chapman Industries

     Whether a SWAT operator preparing for an entry, a field force facing a riotous crowd, a bomb technician approaching an IED, or a clandestine lab team investigating a meth lab, flames may put these officials in grave danger. CarbonX, a product of Chapman Innovations of Salt Lake City, Utah, takes flame protection to a new level.

     This fabric withstands heat and flame to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Company reps routinely illustrate its capabilities by lighting up a butane torch and first impinging another fire-resistant fabric with the flame, only to have it quickly burn through. They then lay a piece of CarbonX over their own hand and directly impinge the flame to the fabric, with no damage.

     CarbonX is used by a growing list of protective clothing manufacturers, especially those in the fire service and auto racing industries. Shop around for coveralls, balaclavas and gloves using this fabric.

DHS Technologies

     After the events of September 11, 2001, small- to large-size agencies invested in mobile command posts, equipped with communications, conferencing capabilities, and other necessities for major incidents. Despite this increase, agencies still need versatile shelter that can be adapted to many purposes, whether at a crime scene as officials excavate a gravesite, at a hostage situation as tactical teams await response, or at a major incident for logistics storage.

     DHS Technologies' Orangeburg, New York, subsidiary, C.A.M.P. Technologies, has introduced the RTV, an easily erected, sturdy and adaptable tent system in a trailer. This is not a pop-up camper; it is a unit capable of being trailed by vehicles with a 250-pound towing capacity. The unit contains a complete, framed tent, made of heavy vinyl cloth, a generator, LP supply, small stove, water supply, sink and refrigerator. An environmental control system, housed in a second trailer, is available as an option.

     This versatile system is relatively inexpensive and comes in three basic sizes, ranging from an approximately 13-foot by 10-foot tent to a 13-foot by 28-foot model. The unit can be expanded by joining additional sections. It can operate off road, wherever a tow vehicle can go, and takes two people approximately 15 minutes to set up.

     DHS also offers, through its Reeves EMS LLC group in Frederick, Maryland, an equipped command post trailer, based upon an approximately 15-foot by 18-foot tent. It is equipped with work tables for setting up radio and computer consoles, has an audio/visual LCD display installed in its tailgate, and comes with a complete communications suite. This unit may be equipped with other supplies, such as a water system and sink, refrigerator and larger generators.

Eickhorn USA LLC

     Despite its importance in today's war on terrorism, the bomb disposal discipline predominantly uses tools developed for other fields. Thus a knife developed as a rescue knife for military, fire and tactical service can be a great tool for the bomb technician.

     Eickhorn's SARD Search and Rescue Device is one such multi-purpose tool. Designed as a durable, plastic-handled folding tactical knife with a half-serrated blade, wire cutter and awl, it is easily used by the bomb technician. The tool's cuff cutter, being a guillotine-type action and using a razor-type blade, easily doubles as a detonating cord and shock tube cutter. The awl makes a wonderful powder punch. Additionally, the knife from this Sante Fe, New Mexico, manufacturer incorporates a strong locking system and has a belt clip molded into it. The device also features a built-in lubricant reservoir to provide a convenient method of keeping the hinge oiled and smooth acting.

Opti-Logic Corporation

     A rangefinder is a valuable tool for crime scene investigators, snipers or other officials needing accurate distance measurement. Yet many rangefinders are unduly expensive and have a less-than-friendly learning curve. Opti-Logic's laser rangefinders are none of these things. Depending on model, these rangefinders will measure a maximum distance of up to 1,000 yards, with accuracy from +/- 1 meter to +/- .1 meter, and they are comparatively inexpensive when compared to other rangefinder offerings.

     Opti-Logic rangefinders operate very simply: The user simply looks through the rangefinder at the target, pushes the top button and a red dot appears in the sight. He then places the red dot on the target, releases the button and the distance appears in the selected format (metric or English).

Energizer

     Energizer's Tactical Series of lights has been expanded to include the Hard Case Tactical 2AA, the latest tactical light from this St. Louis, Missouri, manufacturer. Previous models were small, powerful LED handhelds, based upon aluminum bodies. This unit differs in many ways. Designed along military lines, it features a head that rotates 125 degrees, allowing it to be worn on clothing with its attached clip. Or, the head can be rotated so the light can be used as a handheld lamp.

     In addition to a powerful white LED, the unit incorporates a red, blue and an infrared LED. While far from the power of a typical forensic light source, including these light sources provides investigators with a tool for search or screening. In the absence of a greater light source, the tool also can be used (albeit with lengthy shutter times) to photograph fingerprints and other evidence.

La Crosse Technology USA

     Command posts, bomb trucks, SWAT vehicles, mobile crime lab — these and larger response vehicles are now populating law enforcement motor pools. Most are well equipped with the tools of the trade, communications technology and computers. Yet few have integrated a weather station among the offerings.

     In hazmat situations, the safety of all may depend upon current and accurate wind information. For SWAT, wind information is important to both grenadiers and snipers to ensure accurate shot placement. At the crime scene, being able to record ambient conditions on arrival may later have bearing on an investigation or prosecution. La Crosse's WS-1612AL-IT Weather Station provides complete local weather collection in a package easily used with a mobile unit.

     The station from this La Crosse, Wisconsin, company consists of two components: a digital display and a wirelessly reporting collection unit. The unit will collect information on temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, rain accumulation, and wind speed or direction. The 10-inch by 6-inch, 1.25-inch-thick, framed LCD display will hang obtrusively on a vehicle wall. The sensors consist of three units: a thermo-hygro sensor and rain sensor (either of which may be mounted on the roof or on a mobile platform) as well as a wind sensor (which should be mounted to a pole or easily erected stand). Power up and users quickly receive weather data specific to their location.

     La Crosse plans to introduce Weather Direct, a Web-based weather forecasting system permitting subscribers to use accumulated meteorological information from various sources to obtain forecasts for a specific location. Again, the readout is a small, framed display. This could be a good resource for the agency that must plan support for various events. Will the protest be in sunshine or heavy rain? What weather will the marine unit face? How bad will the weather be during a manhunt or search and rescue operation?

AngioLaz Inc.

     Many years ago an article described how to adapt a painter's pole to hold a camera, then trigger it via a cable release or remote. It was a blind operation, and an official had to shoot a lot of footage to ensure a good capture of the scene, but the technique worked. AngioLaz now offers the Vision Stick, bringing the concept into the 21st century.

     The Vision Stick, from this Westminster, Vermont, company, consists of a fiberglass pole with a camera on one end, and a monitor on the other. Standard expanding poles are available in lengths ranging from a 2- to 4-foot model to a 5- to 12-foot version. A variety of cameras are available including: standard color, color with thermal or infrared, and cameras with zoom lenses starting at 3x. The camera head comes in a straight configuration, a hinged model, or on a remotely articulating arm.

     The 3.5-inch standard monitor attaches to the unit's handle, permitting the operator to easily view the inspection. Standard video output is via RCA plugs. A larger monitor is available as a case-mounted unit, which receives data via a wireless transmitter that attaches to the unit monitor, thus permitting others to view what the operator is seeing.

ETL

     Safe storage is always a concern. Whether as a manner of dropping evidence during off-hours; storing buy money or other high-risk commodities for undercover use; or safely storing firearms at booking, court or home. Law enforcement officials are always trying to determine a procedure that will work for their specific storage needs. ETL's Wall Vault can help fill this void.

     This Modesto, California, company's product is a stainless steel-faced box that is 15.5 inches tall, 16.35 inches wide, and accessed either through biometric identification (a fingerprint) or via a keypad. The Wall Vault is designed to be mounted between standard, 16-inch center studs, making it both space saving and secure. The front panel slides down to permit access to the box's contents.

     The biometric model may be programmed to recognize up to six different users, while the keypad version will recognize two separate codes. Both are designed to allow easy user reprogramming, thus allowing a quick change of access when the need arises.

     With all these products and more, it's clear SHOT Show product showcases were right on target in 2008.

     Paul Laska retired after a 29-year law enforcement career, where he served in crime scene investigations, fingerprint identification and bomb disposal. He can be reached through his Web site, www.paulrlaskaforensicconsulting.com.

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