Despite the corroboration of suppressed evidence and a possible feasibly small conspiracy, I do not support that most official evidence is tainted. However, key moments and official assertions are deficient in my view and require further study and comparison with the facts. Namely, the assertion by the President's Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald regularly practiced with his Carcano rifle on a regular basis.i This idea while supported by many critics of conspiracy is not as reliable as some imagine.
In 1956, Lee Harvey Oswald achieved the rank of sharpshooter once; officials consider this "a rather good shot". Yet in nineteen fifty-nine Oswald once qualified for the rank of marksman and this is considered "a fairly poor shot".ii The facts would infer with increased practice and Marine instruction Oswald was able to hone his abilities and further reveal without the regular practice or instruction Oswald's skills would diminish. Years pass without evidence that Oswald ever regained his former proficiency and officials note Oswald hunted with his brother only three times before he leaves for Russia.iii
After his arrival in Russia Oswald did join a hunting club according to Marina, but never went to the practice meetings.iv During his stay in Russia, Oswald hunts "about six times" and Oswald went on a single hunting trip with Marina but he did not want to take the rifle along. Mariana asserts he took the rifle because "...one of my friends was laughing at him and said 'You have a gun hanging here and you never use it. Why don't you bring it along and see if you can use it'"v vi Marina later asserts he sold the hunting rifle upon his return to America but Oswald goes hunting a final time with his brother Robert using a borrowed rifle. During his years since leaving the Marines, he has actually fired a rifle on less than a dozen occasions and this does not resemble the highly proficient status critics attribute to Oswald.
The Commission states distributor Crescent Firearms shipped the Carcano to Klein's Sporting Goods to have a scope mounted. It was a surplus military rifle, yet it did undergo a refurbishment and was test fired and found to be in working order and priced at 19.95. According to the Commission, the Carcano is shipped to A. Hidell and the rifle is sent to Texas on March 20, 1963.vii Additionally consider the two to seven days for delivery, Oswald received the weapon no earlier than March 22, 1963. By late September the Carcano was stored in Paine's garage wrapped in a blanket and thus Oswald only had six months in which to practice.viii Officials state Oswald fired at General Walker on April 10, 1963 and this would imply Oswald had less than eighteen days to prepare. He according to the Commission made the attempt and failed and Oswald allegedly made a single missed shot upon the stationary Walker with time to aim. Marina further states Oswald buried and left the rifle multiple times before and after the Walker attack and these burials remove additional time.
Marina stated during testimony to the Commission that Oswald and she had a domestic incident about "10 to 12 days" after the Walker shooting. It occurs three days before they left for New Orleans and Marina does not observe him with the weapon again until the summer of nineteen sixty-three.ix x The Oswald family moves to New Orleans and excluding the move time, Oswald now has just about five months left. In New Orleans, many of his well-documented activities include handing out fliers for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee but Oswald never attended a meeting. Federal Bureau of Investigations files reveal the group held all meetings in New York, no chapter existed in New Orleans and Oswald was not an official member.xi He allegedly went to political meetings, possibly staged a public brawl and then faces arrest. Oswald requests and subsequently was interviewed by an agent of the FBI and no witness observes him firing a rifle in New Orleans.
The Commission states, "It appears from Mariana's testimony that Oswald may have sat on a screened in porch at night practicing with a telescopic sight and operating the bolt."xii However, the infrequent dry firing that "may have" occurred is not practice. If Oswald dry fired on a consistent weekly basis that would offer advantages but according to the only witness and the Commission's evidence he did not. According to Marina Oswald when Bureau agents originally ask her in December if she observed Lee "practice" anywhere beyond the porch, Marina answered "in the negative".xiii
Oswald and his family then return to Dallas, it is now September; Oswald has less than twenty-four days left to consistently practice. Marina states "Lee didn't tell me when he was going out to practice. I only remember one time distinctly that he went out because he took the bus."xiv Subsequently Marina testifies, "I don't know where he practiced. I just think the bus goes to, went to Love Field." Commission Lead Counsel Rankin states "So the record will be clear on this...investigation has shown there is one place in the immediate neighborhood where there is gun practice carried on." However, if this is the case it is a single occasion and not regular practice.xv
Indeed Marina did claim that Oswald stated he was practicing with the rifle, yet the evidence for this is not present. Consider that Oswald denied his guilt and ownership of the Carcano and Oswald also claimed to be a patsy, thus his many contending statements infer he is not a credible witness in my view. Reasonably, we cannot value his word over the consistent evidence and the related statements of George De Mohrenschildt similar to Marina rely on Oswald's credibility.xvi We largely have Oswald's word he practiced and that is not sufficient evidence and the Carcano is stored within a blanket according to Mr. Paine and Marina Oswald. Subsequently, Oswald travels to and from Mexico City and is out of time for regular practice.
An FBI interview claimed Oswald was "observed" practicing at a local Dallas rifle range repeatedly in November. However the Commission would later dispel these claims, “...there was other evidence which prevented the Commission from reaching the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald the person these witnesses saw."xvii Oswald takes the concealed rifle and the morning of the assassination feasibly opens the blanket. Fibers noted on the Carcano found by investigators match the shirt Oswald is wearing on November 22, 1963. These fibers are clean and infer recent material transfer and this forensic evidence supports the rifle has remained covered.xviii
Despite the prior refurbishment Commission officials questioned, "Was the firing pin of the rifle replaced? Does the FBI know the availability of spare parts?" J. Edgar Hoover advises, "The assassination rifle has been examined and nothing was found to indicate that the firing pin had been replaced." Hoover also noted "the firing pin has been used extensively as shown by wear on the nose". He additionally reveals "the presence of rust...this rust would have been disturbed had the firing pin been changed subsequent to the formation of rust...the firing pin and spring are well oiled and the rust present necessarily must have formed prior to the oiling of these parts."xix
The residue and use the Commission attributes to Oswald was from a prior owners use and evidence and testimony agree Oswald cleaned the weapon far more than he used it. Commission evidence demonstrates Oswald did not regularly use or practice with the Carcano and this inconsistency supports Oswald is a deficient sniper. It is highly improbable without consistent firing practice Oswald could make all the shots alleged within the given period.
i. Report of the President's Commission, Chapter IV, the Assassin, Oswald's Rifle Capability, p. 195
ii. Ibid, Oswald's Marine Training, p. 191
iii. Ibid, Oswald's Rifle Practice Outside the Marines, p. 192
iv. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume V, Testimony of Mrs. Lee Oswald, p. 405
v. Report of the Pres. Com, Chapter IV, p. 192
vi. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Vol. V, p. 406
vii. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter IV, p. 121
viii. Ibid, p. 128
ix. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Volume V, p. 393
x. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter IV, p. 128
xi. Oswald 201 file, Volume 1, Folder 4, Department of the Treasury Document, Secret Service Phone Report of ASAIC George Jukes, November 25, 1963, p. 80
xii. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter IV, p. 128
xiii. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume XXIII, Commission Ex. No. 1789, 1790, pp. 402, 403
xiv. Hearings of the Pres. Com., Volume V, p. 397
xv. Ibid, p. 398
xvi. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter IV, p. 192
xvii. Report of the Pres. Com., Chapter VI, Investigation of Other Activities, pp. 318-320
xviii. Report of the Pres. Com., IV, p. 124-125
xix. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume XXVI, Commission Exhibit 2974, p. 455
Edited: January 2018
Statements of Mariana Oswald in context