The use of air weapons in attempted suicide

Injury. 1997 Mar;28(2):153-8. doi: 10.1016/s0020-1383(96)00148-9.


The use of airguns in attempted suicide is uncommon. In such instances, the surface wounds caused by discharged pellets may be inconspicuous or appear deceptively trivial to the medical examiner. Airgun pellets however are easily capable of penetrating the skull or abdominal cavity when fired at the close ranges involved in suicide attempts. The destructive power of these weapons at close range should not be underestimated. We describe three cases of attempted suicide and review the other nine cases reported in the medical literature: of the 12 suicide attempts there were three fatalities. Seventeen out of a total of 19 pellets fired penetrated either the cranial or peritoneal cavity or damaged deep structures. Most of the victims were male. The majority of wounds were right sided. Four of the attempts were extremely determined, involving repeated discharge of the airgun or the use of other means to effect suicide.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Injuries / surgery
  • Adult
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / surgery
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide, Attempted*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Wounds, Gunshot / diagnostic imaging*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery