What type of rifle did Oswald use

TEST & TECHNOLOGY The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination

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1 TEST & TECHNOLOGY The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination 64 V Carcano + Kennedy.indd: 58

2 The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination attempt TEST & TECHNIK 90 years Italy 5 seconds Dallas November 22nd will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination attempt on US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. That is why VISIER deals with two things: on the one hand with the model family of the murder weapon and on the other with the shots that were fired in Texas at the time. Each of us remembers what we did on September 11, 2001 when we heard the news of the attacks in the United States. For many it is certainly a moment that they will not forget until the end of their lives. A generation earlier there was such a historical event with the murder of John F. Kennedy, which burned itself deeply into the collective memory of the western world in particular. There are more theories about the shots at Dallas, Texas than about most other events of the past hundred years. Even so, mainstream historiography today assumes that President Kennedy's killer was a man named Lee Harvey Oswald. Conspiracy theories or not, the VISIER editorial team once asked itself the following questions: What kind of weapon was it, this Carcano 91/38 that Oswald is said to have used, what kind of weapon family is it, what kind of collection field? And above all: Would the three shots that are officially assumed could have been fired from the weapon within a very short time? Some data: According to the official report, Lee Harvey Oswald used the short rifle variant Carcano model 91/38, equipped with a Japanese no-name quadruple rifle scope. (Whether Oswald even shot over the scope or over the open sights is a point where research is divided.) The exact name of the Italian weapon is Fucile di Fanteria, Modello 91/38. Oswald's weapon with the serial number C2766 left the royal Italian arms factory in Terni in 1940. Less than a year before the murder, Oswald had ordered the weapon under the pseudonym A. Hidell. Together with a Smith & Wesson Victory -Revolver in.38 Special, both at a mail order company from an advertisement in the US magazine American Rifleman. The rifle is often incorrectly referred to as Mannlicher-Carcano because of the loading frame similar to the Mannlicher system. It was developed by Salvatore Carcano in 1890. At that time he was chief engineer in the Turin Army Arsenal. The weapon was produced in several variants until 1945, between two and three million times in total. The Italians mainly had versions in the 6.5 x 52 mm Carcano caliber. The other calibers were 8 x 57 IS and 6.5 x 50 mm Arisaka. The Carcanos are fed en bloc loading frames, similar to those of the Gewehr 88 (more on loading strips and frames can be found in VISIER 7/08). Variant 91/83 the caliber 7.35 x 51 mm. This cartridge only had a year of production. The Italian armaments industry was simply unable to convert to the new caliber under war conditions, so production was switched back to the old caliber. Oswald's weapon was therefore also set up for the 6.5 x 52 mm. After the fatal shots, the FBI tested the weapon extensively and found: It s a very accurate weapon. Does it work? To understand the three shots at Kennedy, one must first look at Oswald's background. He served in the US Marine Corps (USMC) from 1956 to 1959. Here he first achieved the rank of sharpshooter in the regular shooting tests when he placed 48 and 49 hits on a target 200 yards (183 m) away. At the end of his V Carcano + Kennedy.indd: 58

3 TEST & TECHNOLOGY The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination The two test Carcans Modello 91/38 and 91/41 Right: A police spokesman from Dallas shows Oswald's Carcano shortly after the crime. Including one of the surplus cartridges that were in the book depot next to the rifle. Service time, his performance deteriorated somewhat. He was demoted to Marksman. One should not conclude from this, however, that Oswald had become a bad shot. As then, the Marine Corps is likely to offer and have offered the best rifle training of any US armed forces; Even a Marksman is still a very good infantry shooter. Oswald worked in the Dallas textbook warehouse. His location during the attack was a window on the fifth (American counting sixth) floor of the building. The distance from the first shot was 53 meters to the passing presidential limousine. The second projectile had to travel 73 and the third 81 meters. After evaluating testimony and video material, the FBI came to the conclusion: - The first shot hit Kennedy in the upper part of the back, injured the spine and came out again in the neck. The bullet hit Texas Governor John Connally, who was sitting in front of Kennedy, in the lung. John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie shortly after landing in Dallas. 66 V Carcano + Kennedy.indd: 58

4 Carcano rifle TEST & TECHNIK - The second shot apparently missed its target completely. - The third bullet hit the back of the president's head and penetrated him. And the time it took for the assassin Oswald to fire the shots? The experts are extremely divided on this. Your values ​​vary between 4.8 and 7.9 seconds, although some research results also indicate an even longer period. The data obtained after the attack also served as the basis for the VISIER test. Apart from various theories about possible and impossible trajectories of Oswald's bullets, VISIER only had one question: Is it possible to fire three targeted shots within the given time? The experiment was carried out by two experienced rifle shooters with no experience in quick shots with bolt-action rifles. In contrast to Oswald's shots, the attempt on the shooting range was carried out entirely at a distance of 100 meters. As a first exercise, the testers loaded a smooth-running loading frame with six dummy cartridges and then fired at the 100m DSB target with various stops. The testers counted the time from the first to the third click of the advancing firing pin. This took them an average of five seconds. The fastest series was 4.5 seconds. Oswald had his wife take his picture in the garden; In his hands: the Carcano and two communist newspapers. zoom After the attack, both the FBI and the USArmy ballistics laboratory had the shots reconstructed by professional shooters. The television station CBS also carried out its own tests with several target shooters and police officers in 1967. All of these attempts came more or less unequivocally to the result that a single perpetrator like Oswald would have been able to fire the shots in the required time. Especially if he was an experienced shooter and you assume three shots were fired. When the last cartridge of the Carcano has been returned to the store, the loading frame falls out of the magazine. Practical, but also prone to dirt. Unnamed-3.indd 1 V Carcano + Kennedy.indd: 32

5 TEST & TECHNOLOGY The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination Carcano Italian scrap? Not at all! Kennedy's drive through Dallas was relatively quiet despite the crowds. Oswald fired diagonally down from the window of the book depot. Therefore, the testers assumed that he was either kneeling or sitting on a chair and hanging the rifle in the window frame. Logically, the test ran with a sharp shot in a sitting position. Each shooter fired four series of three with factory ammunition from Norma at a distance of 100 meters. They used 156-grain semi-jacketed bullets. On average, they needed 7.7 seconds for the three targeted shots. Assuming that the first cartridge is already in the barrel, the testers needed 3.4 seconds for the second shot, including reloading, and 4.3 seconds for the third. Here the examiners noted that they had also held back to protect the shooting range technology. These shots resulted in hit images averaging 150 millimeters. However, there were also groups that were 52 millimeters together. Assuming that Oswald only needed 4.8 seconds for the shots, the testers came to the conclusion: A trained target shooter could not possibly manage three precise shots in about five seconds with short training (...) A real one with the Carcano and Fighter who are familiar with their peculiarities and who are sharply drilled must be considerably faster, 68 V Carcano + Kennedy.indd 68 The Carcano series has an underground reputation in Germany. Lousy workmanship, poor hit performance, weak cartridge ... In the home country of the K 98k, the Italian bolt-action rifles, despite almost 100 years of service, in Italy alone, do not find a green branch. At the beginning of the 1990s, a considerable number of rifles in this country were even converted into floor lamps - a sad lot for a weapon. Even if the allegations were true, which they don't. The testers used two Carcanos for this article. On the one hand the carabiner 91/38, on the other hand its successor 91/41. Both impressed with buttery-soft prints, unanimously rated as significantly better than the average 98 prints. The beechwood shafts were no cause for criticism. The fits were on a contemporary military level. And the reproach of inadequate stability, which is cited again and again, should be answered: Many Carcanos were converted to 8 x 57 IS and fired at in the FRG. No one has heard of gun explosions. Only the sights are less suitable for target shooting because there is no reasonable height adjustment. But here you have to keep an eye on the military background of the Carcano. The conclusion of the VISIER testers: Solid rifles, far better than their reputation. With the right loads, the Italians shoot flawless groups. An overview of the Carcano model range Construction time: Number of items: two to three million A total of ten main variants for the Italian military result in a rich field for collectors of ordinance weapons. The prices of 150 to 220 euros invite you to take a closer look at this series. The models: n Fucile di Fanteria Modello 1891 (basic model from 1891 with 780 mm barrel) n Moschetto da Cavalleria Mod. 91 (cavalry carbine with folding bayonet and 450 mm barrel. Introduced in 1893) n Moschetto per Troop Special Mod. 91 (Carabiners with 450 mm barrel for machine gun and mortar crews introduced) n Moschetto di Fanteria Mod. 91/24 (conversions from original Mod. 91 to carbines with 450 mm barrel from 1924) n Moschetto per Troop Speciali Mod 91/28 (slightly modified Mod. 91 carbine) n Moschetto per Truppe Speciali con Tromboncino Mod. 91/28 (Mod. 91/28 with 38.5 mm grenade launcher) n Fucile di Fanteria Mod (short rifle from 1938 in caliber 7.35 x 51 mm with 531 mm barrel) n Moschetto Mod (folding bayonet) and Mod TS (detachable bayonet) Carabiner variants of the Mod with 450 mm barrels n Fucile di Fanteria Mod. 91/38 (model 1938 short rifles in caliber 6.5 x 52 mm from 1940) n Fucile di Fanteria Mod. 91/41 (last version from 1941, infantry rifle with 691 mm barrel) n Type I Infante rie rifle in 6.5 x 50 mm Arisaka: A real exotic among the Carcanos. It was made in Italy for the Imperial Japanese Navy. The weapon uses the Carcano locking system, but is otherwise more similar to the Arisaka rifle with its five-round box magazine.

6 The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination TEST & TECHNOLOGY Left: With the carbine, a forged cap with cleaning material flap closes the stock. The serial numbers in the stock wood. Above right: As with the 98 system, there are two locking lugs. The bolt handle, on the other hand, is not supported by the system. Bottom right: The knurled handle on the back of the lock must be pushed forward and up to secure the weapon. V Carcano + Kennedy. Indd 69 69

7 TEST & TECHNOLOGY The Carcano rifle and the Kennedy assassination Factory cartridges for the Carcano are available from Prvi and Norma. Surplus, on the other hand, is rare and only provides moderate groups. If you want to load yourself: Prvi offers very good cases; There are matrices from several manufacturers. The round head bullets tested (top left) are similar to those that Oswald also used. The open locking bridge does not detract from the stability of the Carcano system. The loading frame feed in one row. than we could be .. Here you can now guess how far Oswald had trained with his Carcano. He lived in the state of Texas. There he had a few opportunities to shoot in the wilderness without witnesses. Viewed from this aspect alone, Oswald could certainly have fired many test shots with his Carcano and familiarized himself with the peculiarities of the repeater. Admittedly, the testers underlined that the regulations of a German shooting range inhibited the possibilities of the experiment. However, other people have already carried out similar experiments, which can be seen on the Internet video platform YouTube. As with the VISIER testers, the tenor here is: As a trained shooter, Oswald could have done the three shots and two hits on Kennedy (see also the box on the right). Anything else, however, would be pure speculation. Text: Thomas Quirin and Hartmut Mrosek Photos: Michael Schippers, Archive Wolfgang Riebe wrote the standard German work on Carcano with Il Novantuno Mannlicher-Carcano. It was published by VS-Books. 70 V Carcano + Kennedy.indd 70 Lothar Buchholz: a German Kennedy expert There is an almost unmanageable number of books on the murder of President Kennedy. Most of them, of course, come from American authors. But even in this country people are concerned with the background and theories of the attack. One of them is Lothar Buchholz. He wrote several books on the Kennedy case. VISIER: Mr. Buchholz, in the USA the Kennedy murder is a national matter, but how do you as a German come to deal with the subject as intensively as you do? I saw the feature film JFK - Tatort Dallas in 1998. The thing was clear: Kennedy was murdered to make the war in Vietnam possible. Then I began to read the little German literature, then English-language books too. Here the matter was no longer so clear: Conspiracy or lone perpetrator? I wanted to know exactly. So I started studying original documents from the US National Archives. This then resulted in three books. My latest book is out this November and adds new insights to the book Labyrinth of Truths Killshots at Kennedy. VISIER: What is the position of the US government today as to who is responsible for the attack? The government commission set up in 1964 concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone. Of his total of three shots, two hit Kennedy. The use of the telescopic sight was necessary for these shots. In the Commission's view, this made the rifle a precise murder tool. Tests by the FBI prove, however, that the alleged assassination rifle only enabled precise test shots after the sighting device had been adjusted. The minimum time between two shots without time to aim was 2.3 seconds. A parliamentary commission of inquiry from 1979 then corrected the results of its predecessor. Accordingly, it was now a conspiracy in which at least four shots had been fired. During the shots, only the rear sight and rear sight were now used for aiming; the time required between two shots was surprisingly reduced to 1.6 seconds. You can find more information about Lothar Buchholz and his books on the Internet:

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