A Tale of Too Many Rifles

A review of the various weapons claimed to be present in the Texas Schoolbook Depository

A review of the various weapons claimed to be present in the Texas Schoolbook Depository

A Carcano 6.5, Mauser 7.65, Enfield 303, and Japanese rifle were each asserted to be present or near the Texas Schoolbook Depository by various sources on November 22, 1963. However, what does most verifiable evidence corroborate? Would a feasible conspiracy utilize so many unimportant officials subject to repeated incompetence to switch weapons? Other weapons are possible but are they probable based on the evidence?

Following the shots from the Sniper's Nest and feasibly the Grassy Knoll, the sniper who they presumed was Lee Harvey Oswald deposits the weapon amid some boxes according to officials. Dallas Police arrive shortly after the event and fail to seal off the floor before other witnesses are present. In the confusion, facts could be misstated and quick judgments are perhaps not reliable. On the Depository's sixth floor, a group of Dallas officials discovers the weapon, some state it is an Italian Carcano and some state it was a German Mauser. Notably the Carcano was a modified design of the Mauser and some referred to the Carcano as the "Mauser Paravicino".i Thus, the two types of rifle were strikingly similar by design and without extended inspection by experts in a scientific environment, conclusive inspection would be difficult in my view.

Is it more likely that confusion was responsible for unreliable identification or that most officials present switched weapons acting for a larger plot? Where is substantial proof? Indeed the Dallas officials were breathtakingly incompetent and did seek to suppress their many errors. Yet low ranking officials are in my view not required for a successful conspiracy and the lack of ballistics evidence supporting a Mauser is noteworthy.

A Dallas Police evidentiary inventory stated the weapon is a Carcano but a contending report offered by Deputy Sheriff Seymour Weitzman stated the weapon is a Mauser.ii iii However, Weitzman never handled the rifle and mistaken identification is reasonable because many official mistakes occurred and each does not indicate nefarious action.iv If one regards every mistake as nefarious, truly illegal actions lay buried among the shadows of the infinitely possible. Weitzman subsequently amends his statement in the press and during legal proceedings and they support he was in error.v Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone initially stated the weapon is a Mauser and Boone similar to Weitzman never handled the weapon, thus Boone's identification is not compelling.vi Without thorough inspection of the weapon, he did not have time for a reliable identification. Boone amends his prior statement that included shots fired at 1pm, a half hour after shots were fired.vii

Dallas Deputy SHERIFF Eugene Boone

Dallas Deputy SHERIFF Eugene Boone

After officials discover the weapon, it was guarded until they can transport it and Captain Fritz states to Chief Curry in an evidence report the weapon is a Carcano.viii Lieutenant J.C. Day stated in testimony he dictated a note to his secretary describing the rifle as "6.5 caliber C-2766, 1940 made in Italy." He does not expressly state Carcano, but all the information he offered infers one. Reporter Tom Alyea was present in the Depository and able to record the activities occurring. The weapon Alyea films is feasibly a Carcano based upon subsequent full inspection.ix Additional verification by independent footage beyond official control is notable and this does not mean all official statements are consistent. Yet in this specific instance, they support the Carcano in my view.

Indeed many official statements were not consistent; Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade feasibly misidentified the weapon initially as a Mauser and Wade later amended his statements.x However, other discussions including Wade are more notable, Wade privately discussed with the President's Commission the possibility Oswald was a Federal Bureau of Investigation or Central Intelligence Agency informant and he denied any knowledge of possible affiliations.xi Often forgotten is Wade's former employer J. Edgar Hoover, Wade is just one of many with consequential loyalties. Questions regarding Wade's connection to a possible Mauser have overshadowed inquiry that is more possible.

Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig maintained the weapon was a Mauser despite the majority of evidence. Most others present support feasible error had occurred but Craig did not. Subsequently reporter and conspiracy advocate Mark Lane agreed with Craig and Lane produced a film entitled "Rush to Judgment" in 1966 featuring some witnesses not called by the President's (Warren) Commission. Some of these witness interviews provide valuable information that was neglected by officials but Lane's subsequent allegations with Craig's support do not enjoy such corroboration in my view. Roger Craig's evolved statements appear in Lane's subsequent film "Two Men in Dallas".

Lane also has alleged the existence of an Agency document stating a Mauser killed President Kennedy. However, this document is not often cited fully, nor does this claim relate its entire context. Those who claim a document exists are seemingly unwilling or unable to offer it. I decided to seek this elusive document and indeed such a document exists. However, if one considers the entire document in my view it does not support a Mauser, but another speculative mistake.

Pres. Commission critic Mark Lane

Pres. Commission critic Mark Lane

The Agency timeline document states, "On 22 November 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy while the President was riding in an open automobile on a Dallas, Texas, street. The rifle he used was a Mauser which Oswald had ordered (this is now known by handwriting examination) from Klein's Mail Order House, Chicago Illinois. He had the rifle sent to a Post Office Box which Lee Oswald had rented. In the order for the rifle, Oswald used the name Alex Hiddell." This document is created on November 25, 1963 as Lane prior claimed, yet it reflects the speculative nature of the official timeline. Officials are seemingly assigning Oswald guilt before any investigation and the Commission did not yet exist. The Agency states Mauser, but it also attributes all the evidence of the Carcano to it and the Agency cannot even state the street the president was killed on. Yet without the substantial evidence, officials still believe they can determine guilt and weapon type.

Some conspiracy advocates believe the Agency could know the specific details of the rifle having never inspected it and ignore the Agency's incorrect speculations regarding the weapon. This is not consistent inquiry in my view; we cannot select just the agreeable portions of evidence. The document regarded in its entirety and how it relates to corroborating evidence with the consideration of these errors renders this mention feasibly incorrect. The document's immediate association between Oswald and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is striking despite that Oswald was never officially a member and the Agency proposes the possibility that Castro was involved. Many ideas regarding the Soviet Union the Commission later dispelled are in this "credible" document.xii Some regard the single feasibly erroneous mention of a Mauser bearing the identifiers of the Carcano vitally important and similar to prior claims of Commission exhibit 237 being Oswald, just because the Agency claimed something does not render it conclusive. A Mauser rifle observed in the Depository on November 20, 1963 could have fueled additional speculations.xiii

The Enfield 303 brought to the Depository by Warren Caster days before could influence similar Enfield rifle accounts and perhaps the idea emerged from the confiscation of that rifle type from Buell Frazier. These reported associations with Oswald possibly were merged and this confusion might have sparked further speculation.xiv xv xvi Within the realm of possibility, any number of weapons observed in the days just prior could affect witness memories and create diverging accounts. Yet substantial evidence does not support the claims of an Enfield 303 being present at the crime scene.

The mention of a Japanese rifle also has multiple possible origins and we should consider Oswald's reported former Marine assignment in Japan could have influenced statements. The Japanese rifle is perhaps a disjointed embellishment upon the Japanese scope the Carcano had mounted to it and speculation could explain what claims of devious conduct do not. Multiple types of rifles were asserted to be present in the Texas School Book Depository, yet the ballistics evidence did not offer multiple types of shells from varied calibers. If the possible conspirators had planned a reasonably effective plot these issues would be problematic and why use differing weapons and create later problems?

The substantial contending evidence does not support a Mauser in my view, yet it does support a very similar weapon designed from the Mauser itself, a Carcano. Are not two Carcano's at two separate firing locations possible? Indeed the gun was not a prime firearm but neither was it wholly deficient so a practiced sniper feasibly may compensate for such difficulties to keep the physical evidence agreeable. Unfortunately, for the Commission's best efforts they could not prove Oswald had verified consistent practice
C.A.A. Savastano
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i. House Select Committee on Assassinations administration folders, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Admin Folder Q-6: HSCA Administrative folder Assassination ticklers, Volume II, p.239  
ii. Dallas Police Department Municipal Collection, John F. Kennedy Archive, Box 1, Folder 6, Handwritten Affidavit of Seymour Weitzman, November 23, 1963
iii. DPDMC, John F. Kennedy Archive, Box 2, Folder 1, Affidavit of Seymour Weitzman, November 23, 1963
iv. Report of the President's Commission, Chapter 3, Expert Identification of Rifle, Cartridge Cases, and Bullet Fragments, p. 79
v. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume VII, Testimony of Seymour Weitzman, pp. 107,108
vi. Report of the Pres. Com., Chap. 3, p. 79
vii. Hearings of the Pres. Com, Volume III, Testimony of Eugene Boone, p. 291
viii. DPDMC, Report by J.W. Fritz to Chief Curry listing pieces of evidence, Box 3, Folder 14, December 23, 1963
ix. Jay Watson, Burt Schipp, Tom Alyea, Texas Schoolbook Depository internal footage and interview transcripts, WFAA, November 22, 1963
x. Hearings of the Pres. Comm., Vol. XXIV, Ex. 2169, Press Conference of District Attorney Wade in Assembly Room, pp. 829-31
xi. Central Intelligence Agency files, Oswald's 201 file (201-289248), Volume 56 B, Information furnished to the Commission by Henry M. Wade, February 10, 1964, p. 1-3, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 1993.06.25.18:47:05:750260
xii HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Lee Harvey Oswald, also known as, Lee Harry Oswald; Alex Hidell; Harvey, Box 26, November 25, 1963, p. 2, NARA ID: 1993.07.19.11:26:52:810600
xiii. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Testimony of Warren Caster, Volume VII, p. 387
xiv. Ibid
xv. President's Commission Document 206, FBI Gemberling Report 07 Jan 1964, p. 387

xvi. DPDMC, Property Clerk Invoice of Receipt of Evidence for rifle confiscated from Buell Wesley Frazier, Box 1, Folder 7, November 23, 1963

Edited: January 2019

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