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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF Laboratory Services


The ATF Laboratory Services Division provides analytical and advisory services on scientific matters. Laboratory Services comprise four organizational groups: the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), with facilities in Atlanta, San Francisco and Washington; the Fire Research Laboratory (FRL); and the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) Branch. The FSL – Washington, the FRL and the NIBIN Branch are collocated with administrative offices in suburban Maryland and constitute the National Laboratory Center.

The ATF laboratories have a distinguished history dating back to 1886. From two scientists working in the attic of the U.S. Treasury building, the operation has grown to a staff of more than 100 professionals who work in four laboratories in three cities.


ATF laboratories are staffed by more than 100 personnel including chemists, scientists, forensic biologists, engineers, fingerprint specialists, firearm and toolmark examiners, questioned document examiners and administrative personnel. ATF laboratory personnel hold leadership positions in numerous professional scientific organizations and are among the most highly qualified specialists in their fields. ATF actively supports and encourages professional certification of its scientists and examiners.

ATF laboratories pioneered the creation of a national accreditation program for forensic laboratories and were the first federal laboratories that were accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). They have maintained accreditation since 1984 and undergo rigorous on-site inspections every five years. Those evaluations include personnel qualifications and standards for evaluation; evidence control, security, handling and preservation techniques; instrument maintenance, calibration and use of comparison standards; and internal and external proficiency testing. ATF laboratories underwent evaluations for accreditation to ISO 17025 (International Organization of Standardization) 2011.


ATF laboratories are committed to providing accurate and authoritative scientific information needed to reduce violent crime and protect the public.

Other Facts

In fiscal year 2011, ATF’s laboratories accomplished the following:

  • Processed 5,442 forensic cases
  • Processed 72 fire research cases
  • Provided 107 days of expert testimony in the courts
  • Worked 192 days at crime scenes
  • Provided 742 days of training instruction for federal, state and local investigators and examiners