A national database has been launched to help police crack down on gun crime.
Home Office Minister Caroline Flint launched the scheme
The £1.1m system, called the National Firearms Forensic Intelligence Database, will speed up the way officers link nationwide gun offences.
The database stores details of weapons used in incidents across the country, together with a description of the type of crime committed, and lists matches.
The Forensic Science Service, which developed the system, says the system could save days of police time.
"Previously we were unable to undertake anything more than a local comparison which took several days," explained FSS chief executive Dave Werrett.
"Now we are able to carry out a national check in a matter of hours."
The database will store information such as the make, model and calibre of weapons used in crimes, plus details of any modifications or conversions.
It then uses an automated search system called IBIS to analyse items such as gun cartridges and link together related incidents.
The system compares fired ammunition from unsolved crimes with data from recovered weapons and suggests a list of possible matches.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "The new database will help to bring more of the criminals who spread fear in our communities to justice.
"It will enable us to conduct a national search of unsolved crimes in England and Wales as one operation for the first time."
The Association of Chief Police Officers also welcomed the new system.
"This presents a massive opportunity for the police service to fill the gaps in intelligence which have for too long obstructed meaningful criminal investigations," said Alan Green, ACPO spokesman on criminal use of firearms.