Did the Carcano Change History and Kill President Kennedy?

Fifty years ago today, the United States suffered the loss the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy. Since that time, the event has been the subject of thousands of movies, books, documents and articles. Major events often spawn conspiracy theories and Kennedy’s assassination is no exception; in fact, it could be reasonably argued that it is the king of all conspiracy theories. Far too much has been written and argued—both factually based and misinformed—to try and move the needle here. Those who believe always will and skeptics will remain unconvinced, but…

However, there are a few points on interest that both sides can come to agree. Lee Harvey Oswald was involved—perhaps he was the lone shooter, one of many shooters or just a patsy, but involved. Oswald also ordered a 6.5mm Carcano rifle/scope combo from Kleins’ ad in the February 1963 issue of American Rifleman. For just under $20, Oswald received the Carcano with serial number C2766. We also know history was changed on November 22nd 1963.

Initially, American’s mourned the loss and supported the Commission’s conclusions. We still morn the loss, but questions have arisen and as recent as a 2003 survey showed up to 80% of American’s were skeptical. A 2013 survey showed that 59% of Americans still believe President Kennedy’s death was the result of a conspiracy.

Was a Carcano actually used? Was Oswald found with a Carcano in his possession? That is up for some debate. The official government investigation, the Warren Report, was less than complete or at least accurate. The Warren Commission identified the rifle as a Mannlicher–Carcano. Of course, no such rifle exists. There are a few similarities between the Mannilichers and the Carcano rifles, but the differentiation between the two should have been as easy as reading it off the gun.

Conspiracy? Doubtful. Chief Justice Earl Warren chaired the Commission—hence the name Warren Commission. Other members included two Democrats and three Republicans from the House and Senate. John J. McCloy, former president of the World Bank sat on the commission as well. Given the history of politicians, I do not see any gun experts on the list so far. However, there was one more member, Allen Welsh Dulles who it could be argued knew the difference or should have known. At the very least, he should have the knowledge to identify one model of gun from another. Dulles was the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

At a first glance, that statement raises some doubt, but then I looked into Dulles history. He was the first civilian to be named Director of the CIA. His prior accomplishments included banker, lawyer and diplomat. Well connected, but not necessarily a background in firearms or law enforcement.

But I digress… So, how did the name come about? The Mannlicher and the Carcano both use similar clips. The Carcano is loaded top down with up to six rounds where the Mannlicher only holds five. But, the clip for both was—at least occasionally in word and written literature—referred to as the Mannlicher-Carcano clip. It offers a possible explanation, although the connection is pretty thin to conclusively state that was the cause of the error.

This is just one small detail believers of a conspiracy have cited. Here is a list of many more. Most, or more likely all, have been debunked several times, but that has failed to convince the masses and I cannot wholly blame them. Here is a list of a few of my favorites related to firearms.

Claim: The windshield damage to the presidential limo indicates it had been hit from the front, where Kennedy was shot from behind.

In reality, the evidence indicates that a fragment hit the windshield from behind.

Claim: The bullet fired was steel jacketed and could not have been fired from a Carcano.

In fact, the bullet matched Oswald’s rifle in “class characteristics.” This indicates it could have been fired from the Carcano. The bullet was badly mangled though, making a positive identification impossible.

Claim: The rifle recovered on the sixth floor of the Depository was a Mauser versus a Carcano as claimed.

Tom Alyea of WFAA-TV filmed the recovery of the rifle, and his footage shows the rifle to be a Carcano. Here is one frame from his actual footage. It would be easy to confuse the two rifles.

Claim: Oswald’s rifle had a “hair-trigger” that would have made it very difficult to fire accurately.

I seriously doubt any Carcano ever had a hair trigger. It was a cheap surplus rifle with an action that was less than smooth to begin with. The rifle could indeed be fired accurately with the factory trigger. The distance was about 265 feet or 70 yards. Even the worst of the cheap military surplus rifles, with an optic could easily shoot two- to three-inch groups at that distance.

Claim: Oswald had to have taken time to wipe the prints off the rifle, making it impossible for him to have made it downstairs soon enough for his confrontation with Officer Baker.

Have you ever shot or held an old surplus military gun? Few have lacquered coatings. Most are rough and would not hold a print. There were, however, two smudged prints on the trigger guard, so no attempt was made to wipe down the rifle.

Claim: The scope on the Carcano was “mounted for a left-handed shooter.” Oswald was right handed.

There in fact is no such thing as a “scope mounted for a left-handed shooter.” The scope was mounted with an offset to the left to allow the operation of the bolt. This was a popular configuration for military rifles of the period.

Claim: The paraffin test showed that Oswald had not fired a rifle.

The paraffin test was notoriously unreliable. It was common knowledge that it would produce both false positives and false negatives. It was useful as a tool to get suspects to confess.

Claim: Oswald’s rifle was not tested to see whether it had been recently fired.

I have seen a lot of dirty guns, but there was not, and still is not, a test that can determine whether a rifle has been “recently fired.” If you are quick enough, the barrel may still be warm, but that is about it.

Claim: The dented shell casing found in the depository shows a conspiracy, since it could not have been fired from Oswald’s gun.

The casing was most likely dented when it was ejected from the rifle. The Carcano regularly dents ejected hulls—the action simply was not smooth to operate.

Claim: The Carcano had no ammunition clip with it, which means that it could have fired only one round, and not the three that the Warren Commission claimed.

Was the commission guilty of a failure of good documentation? Sure, in more ways than one. Did they lack firearms knowledge? Well, there certainly did not seem to be any experts on the committee, but in fact, the clip was with the rifle when it was recovered, and remained in evidence.

Claim: The Carcano was known in the Italian Army as the “humanitarian rifle” because it never harmed anybody.

It would be hard to say where that whopper originated. The Carcano rifle was the standard Italian Army issue for a half-century, and was an effective infantry weapon—including WWI.

Claim: The Carcano had a rusty firing pin, and therefore could not have been used to shoot Kennedy.

Perhaps the owner was guilty of a little patina, but in a variety of tests, the firing pin proved perfectly functional.

Claim: The Carcano rifle was “well-oiled.” If so, in turn the rifle would have left oil on the paper bag used to carry it to the Depository.

Only the firing pin and spring were described as “well-oiled.” Of course, well oiled translates to a thin, even coat—not submerged or dripping like a French dip or sub sandwich.

Claim: Ammunition for the Carcano had not been manufactured since World War II therefore no reliable rounds would have been available to Oswald.

The ammunition had in actuality been recently manufactured by the Western-Cartridge Company, and was found to be highly reliable in Warren Commission tests, with no misfires in over 100 rounds (Warren Commission Report, pp. 193, 646). Further tests by Lattimer and Nichols confirmed its reliability.

Claim: The Carcano was inaccurate.

Ronald Simmons, of the Army’s Ballistics Research Laboratory, bench tested Oswald’s rifle for the Warren Commission, and found the dispersion to be .29 mils—a figure typical for high-powered rifles — and described it as “quite accurate” (3H442-443).

Claim: Commission Exhibit 399 (the “magic bullet”) is pristine.

In fact, the bullet is quite misshapen when viewed end-on.

Claim: Even if it is not pristine CE399 could not have caused all the non-fatal wounds and emerge in such good condition.

Ballistics tests by Lattimer and Fackler showed that a bullet like Oswald’s round could inflict damage similar to what the Warren Commission’s “Single Bullet” inflicted and emerge in similar condition. The 6.5x52mm used by Oswald main drawback in military use was that the standard Italian service round used a round-nosed, highly-stable bullet that usually did not tumble unless it hit bone, causing many narrow-channel, straight-through wounds.

Claim: There was too much lead in John Connally to have come from CE399, showing that another bullet must have hit him.

The surgeon who removed the lead explained that the fragments were tiny, and would have to be weighed on the same sort of scale used to weigh a postage stamp. House Select Committee experts felt they could have come from CE399.

Claim: The hulls found at the scene of the Tippit shooting were from an automatic or semi-automatic weapon, not the revolver Oswald is supposed to have used.

Police officers at the scene, finding hulls laying around, concluded that they must have been fired from an automatic, which automatically ejects spent cartridges. In fact, witnesses saw Oswald emptying hulls from the revolver.

Claim: The bullets found in Tippit’s body “didn’t match” Oswald’s revolver.

They were perfectly consistent with Oswald’s revolver, but because the revolver had been converted from a .38 into a .38 Special, no bullet fired from it could be positively matched to it.

Claim: The fact that the bullet that hit JFK in the head fragmented showed that it wasn’t a full metal jacket bullet, and thus didn’t match the rounds supposedly fired by Oswald.

Olivier (for the Warren Commission) and John Lattimer (a private researcher) shot skulls with rounds identical to those Oswald used, and the bullets fragmented. Again the bullet was stable and most often did not tumble unless it hit bone.

Claim: The bullet wound in Kennedy’s throat was smaller in diameter than the 6.5 mm caliber of Oswald’s rifle, indicating it must have been fired from a different weapon.

This assertion is based on selective use of the testimony of the doctors who saw the wound, and who in fact gave varying estimates.

These are just a few of the claims and assertions we have come across. What is your take on the the killing of Kennedy? Tell us in the comment section.


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Comments (20)

  1. Well said. Too many conspiracy theories begin assuming a cabal and rejecting any evidence that does not support that assumption.

  2. When asking oneself if a certain event has been caused by a group of conspirators, one must first ask three questions: How profound was the event? How large would the group of conspirators need to be? How much time has elapsed since the event?

    Any possible answer for each of the questions must not negate any possible answer in either of the other questions. In other words, you MUST postulate as many answers as you can to fit the known facts, for each question, and then discard any individual answer that is not consonant with the answers to the other two questions. (We will call them “mutually supporting scenarios.”) In all cases, having carefully analyzed each question, and having postulated several mutually supporting scenarios, we must carefully review them for plausibility. For example, an “invisible time traveler” could have done it, but that scenario is implausible in the extreme, so we throw it out. Once we weed out implausible scenarios, we are left with one, two, or a handful of possible scenarios remaining. Now we invoke Occam’s razor, and choose the scenario that is the most parsimonious. My understanding, therefore, rules OUT any JFK conspiracy for these reasons:

    1. How profound was the event? A very profound, major event, with nation-wide and world-wide repercussions.

    2. How large would the group of conspirators need to be? If there was a conspiracy, given the vast scope of this event, the number of conspirators had to be very large. They also would have to be extremely clever and well-organized, since, in 50 years, they have not been found out.

    3. How much time has elapsed since the event? As noted it has been 50 years. There has not been one credible deathbed confession in all those years. There has been not one credible piece of evidence since then, that would survive the parsimonious requirement of Occam’s razor.

    So, we are left with what conspiracy theorists call “the official story,” as if it is just a story. Usually, when I talk about this case, someone will jump in with an anomaly, and say “explain that!” This is typical of all conspiracy theories. When we have a large, complex event, there will ALWAYS be anomalies that can’t be explained. The important thing to remember is this: just because there is an anomaly that can’t be explained DOES NOT mean that we can make the leap and claim “conspiracy!” If we want to postulate a conspiracy, we have to do so in the manner described above. One anomaly does not make a conspiracy. Several anomlies do not make a conspiracy. Numerous mutually supporting anomalies warrant further investigation.

    Finally, we have to remember Occam’s razor at all times. What is more likely, a coincidence in timing, or a grand conspiracy that must remain hidden? For example, using a point made in a previous post, how did Ruby (who ALWAYS had a .38 in his pocket) “just happen” to be there when they were taking Oswald out? Well, if it was a Mob “hit,” then there would necssarily have been careful orchestration of the two timelines (Oswald’s movements and Ruby’s movements) which would have been a terrific feat, since there were delays in both cases. A second point is this: one shot with a .38 has a poor chance of killing someone. I understand (I’m not an expert) that the odds are only about 1 in 4 that a single center-mass wound with a .38 would kill someone. The Mob, who are usually pretty thorough in this arena (I assume), would have been remiss to carefully ochestrate both timelines, and then casually rely on one .38 slug to silence the witness. This scenario does not survive Occam’s Razor.

    After 50 years, given the three questions above, no theory survives other than the one theory that the conspiracy theorists refuse to believe. I think that the reason this is so may be because it’s disappointing to believe that such a world-changing event could have been performed by a lone nutcase, and, further, that a second nutcase would be able to kill the first one. Yes, the “official story” may sound unlikely, but — and this is the crucial point — it is LESS unlikely than ANY OTHER THEORY that has been put forth. Case closed.

  3. The evidence indeed points to Oswald as killer. That is not the same as pointing away from a conspiracy, despite the way many try to frame the argument.

    I have both Cased Closed and Reclaiming History, neither of which come close to being convincing. Indeed, Bugliosi has been less then flattering in his critique of Posner’s offering.

    You say the Warren Commission got it right… if so, they pulled off a formidable task, given the fact that the CIA, along with the FBI, refused to play ball. Hell, Gerald Ford was acting as Hoover’s ears on the commission, whilst the CIA got the same favour from Alan Dulles. For 2 agencies with nothing to hide, this is baffling behaviour.

    A mob-wannabe who also wants to be a hero? Clearly, he didn’t want to be a hero to the mobsters he so badly wanted to emulate… otherwise he’d have felt no need to silence the accused – unless he was protecting his friends, of course…

  4. Pete, and others who have replied in the last month:
    Let me refer you to my post on 22 November. I stand by what I say. The evidence is overwhelming that Oswald acted alone. Now, to address the Jack Ruby angle, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. He actually thought that he would be hailed as a hero for killing Oswald. If you look at the timeline, how he
    was delayed earlier that day, etc., it is blindingly obvious that it could not have been a well-planned “hit.” As to his wish to be a hero, the newsmen reported that people waiting outside did indeed cheer loudly when they heard that Oswald had been shot. Before anyone posts again on this subject, please take the time to read Gerald Posner’s book “Case Closed” and Vincent Bugliosi’s book “Reclaiming History.” There are hundreds of conspiracy theorists out there, and none of their theories (most of them mutually exclusive) — none of their theories are close to being as plausible as the scenario that all of the evidence agrees on. Even evidence that was not available to the Warren Commission (such as computer reconstruction of the “magic bullet” which clearly shows how it was not “magic” at all) — even this new evidence only corroborated the Warren Commission’s conclusion. One nut, a loser whose only ability seems to be marksmanship, killed Kennedy. Another nut, a wannabe mobster who always carried a gun in his pocket, and had delusions of heroism, killed Oswald. Case closed.

  5. Jack Ruby?

    Two ‘lone’ nuts is one too many.

    All entrances to that basement were locked or guarded. As for his motives, give me a break… this man was a hoodlum, not a patriot.

    Why the hell would a strip-club owner with mob-related contacts like Ruby shed any tears for John F. Kennedy? Remember, JFK’s attorney general (his brother Robert) had spearheaded the administrations assault on the mob. Hell, before the Kennedy administration J. Edgar Hoover had basically refused to acknowledge the existence of the mob – meaning they got free reign from the FBI… then along came the JFK administration, building on the groundwork laid by the Improper Activities & Labor Rackets Committee (featuring none other then Robert F. Kennedy) in the late 50’s… convictions against mafia figures rocketed during the JFK presidency…

    Sure, Ruby was ‘thinking of the Kennedy family’ when he permanently robbed the world of the story it so badly needed to come to terms with…

  6. Further confirmation that Part 3 of Oswald’s application form existed after the assassination and that A. Hidell was not an authorized nominee can be found in the Warren Report (WR). To refute claims made by writer Thomas G. Buchanan in his book “Who Killed Kennedy?”, the FBI produced a document that specifically addressed 32 different allegations made by Buchanan. Published in the WR, this document CE 2585, contained the following:
    12. CLAIM: The Post Office in Dallas to which Oswald had the rifle mailed was kept both under his name and that of A. Hidell.
    INVESTIGATION: Our investigation has revealed that Oswald did not indicate on his application that others, including an A. Hidell, would receive mail through the box in question, which was Post Office Box 2915 in Dallas.
    As with Harry D. Holmes revelations to the New York Times, the FBI could not have made this determination unless they had seen Part 3 of Oswald’s application form. The only conclusion that is possible to draw from this information is that Part 3 of Oswald’s application still existed after John F. Kennedy was assassinated and that Harry D. Holmes and the FBI knew as much. Harry Holmes’ story that Postal Regulations required Part 3 of the form to be destroyed when the box is closed was an act of perjury that attempted to hide the fact that an important piece of evidence had been destroyed sometime after the assassination. It cannot be stated strongly enough that Part 3 of Oswald’s application form is the one document that underpins the entire chain of evidence linking Oswald to the Carcano rifle and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If A. Hidell was authorized to collect mail at Post Box 2915, then Oswald could have taken delivery of the Carcano by masquerading as Hidell. If A. Hidell was not authorized to collect mail at that box, then Oswald would not have been able to take delivery of the Carcano package.

  7. An excellent article, but I’m a bit puzzled by two points:
    Where did the name “Mannlicher/Carcano” come from, if no such rifle exists? How did the Warren Commission come up with it? Were they trying to indicate a Mannlicher cartridge in a Carcano rifle?

    Also, I don’t understand the statement that bullets could not be matched to Oswald’s revolver because it had been converted from .38 to .38 Special. Wouldn’t the barrel mark all bullets fired after the conversion in the same way?

    Many thanks,

  8. “We are deserve disclosure.”

    I meant to say that we deserve disclosure.
    Let the chips fall where they may. Most of the people are fat dumb and happy. There would not be a revolt at all.

  9. Tommy,
    Its always good to look at emotional things with a skeptical eye. Whoever with a small little effort on your part you will find everything I wrote is a fact. And your right that someone can get lucky but highly doubtful Oswald got lucky because no one, especially a poor shot like Oswald, is lucky in 3 very fast successive shots, shooting at an elevated angle using a worn out military surplus rifle firing a grossly inaccurate round. Here another FACT The motorcade was not supposed to go down the street Kennedy was shot on. It was a last minute route change. How did Oswald find out about the route change, locate a shooting position, get set up and take the shot? All in a matter of minutes. These aren’t conspiracy theories’ they are public domain facts. Oswald was a convenient patsy.

  10. Dave,
    The fact that Jack Ruby murdered Oswald can not be debunked. Ruby’s claim that he “just wanted to be a hero” has no ring of truth to it at all. Whenever an assassin is killed, it is done to silence him. Are we also to believe that it is coincidental that Ruby died of cancer only two years later? Clay Shaw also died of cancer. You can not debunk the cancer either.
    How did Johnson know to draft executive orders(to deploy troops to Vietnam) in advance for when he would become President? How did he know to order the silverware he wanted for the White House before Kennedy’s death? You can not debunk the profits made by Johnson’s friends in the Military Industrial Complex. The state of Texas made billions after the death of Kennedy during Vietnam.
    Why would Oswald use a rifle that was purchased by him? It was too easy to trace.
    Why would Oswald take the shots from a side angle instead of the back or the front of the vehicle? You would want to engage a moving target from the front in order to avoid lateral movement. This lateral movement of a target would make rapid shots from a bolt-action rifle extremely difficult. The geometry of this can not be debunked.
    Why would the rifle be left behind if not to incriminate him?
    How did the police know to find Oswald in a movie theater?
    Why is so much information still classified about the assassination? We are deserve disclosure.
    What is our government still trying to hide if they are so innocent here?

  11. wish every one would learn the difference between a clip and a magazine. a magazine stores the cartridges so the bolt can load them in the breach to be fired by the trigger pull. a clip is a strip of metal that cartridges fit on to be loaded into the magazine. the number of cartridges on a clip is generally the same amount the magazine holds but not always. magazines can be built into the weapon or removeable. thanks.

  12. Looking for some answers regarding this rifle : do the shells eject upon firing like an automatic, or only with the bolt action employed to put another round in the chamber? How many remaining rounds were in the rifle when it was found ? The reason we ask this : there were 3 shots fired and the Dallas PD found 3 shell casings in “the Roost”.If Oswald was not planning on firing a 4th shot and instead was fleeing the scene, why would he have pulled the bolt only for the purpose of ejecting the 3rd shell casing ? Logic would state that there would have been 2 shell casings found on the ground with 1 still in the firing chamber.The same day, the same Dallas PD found the bullet from that 3rd shell casing just laying there in the stretcher,all by itself.Hmmmm.Good thing someone running the show this day knew their higher math skills.

  13. I know that I will not be able to disabuse the true believers in the audience, but I would like to say a couple of things. There is a pattern surrounding all conspiracy theories, and they are too numerous to mention here, but rest assured that all conspiracy theories carry many common elements. One red flag, that you all should be aware of, is something called “anomaly hunting.” The conspiracy theorists will poke around a large, complex event, and look for something that is not perfectly described, or that simply has more than one plausible explanation, and say, “AHA!” In any large, complex or chaotic event, not every single perturbation is documented to the nth degree. It would be surprising if there were NOT anomalies. So, you’ve found what you believe to be an anomaly (which may, as I say, be only something not “perfectly” accounted for) and you claim that this is evidence for a large, vast conspiracy. Now, if you really have an open mind, and want to arrive at the truth, or the explanation that best fits the facts, you have to admit that this is implausible. Consider: On the one side you have a mountain of evidence from two different teams, on top of cogent analysis by several authors, that point to one and only one shooter. That shooter was Oswald. He was alone. On the other hand, you have a pile of anomalies that are, many of them, mutually exclusive. There are as many conspiracy scenarios, it seems, as there are conspiracy theorists. Almost all of the anomalies brought forth in five decades turn out to be useless. (Thanks Mr. Dolbee for closing the lid on the ones you listed above.) The ones that are truly unexplained are nowhere near enough evidence to point to a conspiracy. There is a psychological component here, as well. People just have a hard time believing that a lone nutcase could do something like this, so they look for villains behind the curtains. Sad to say, lone nutcases, like anyone else, can get “lucky.” It is sad, but true. The FBI and the Warren Commission were right. We have to mourn our fallen President, and move on.

  14. The 6.5 Carcano was probably the least accurate round ever developed by a military. It was useless. After Italy surrendered to US forces ammunition specialists tried to fix the round but gave up. Its to long and unstable.The rifle scope was loose and the firing pin broke on the FBI weapons testing people after the 3rd shot. Oswald was a marine “marksman” which means he barely qualified with his rifle. He wasnt a trained sniper. He would have had to lead Kennedy by a foot and I’m sorry that guy couldnt have made that shot especially with a jacked up rifle like that.


  16. I will never forget that day. I was sitting in an Army classroom learning about jungle warfare. The Chaplain came to the podium and told us the President had been shot and then engaged us in a prayer for him. I don’t recall how long it was, but after sending us outside for a break, they called us back into the room. The same Chaplain then told us the President was dead. We were moved as a company back to our barracks where we tore down our bunks, packed our gear and remained on alert for 3 days. My mind is a little fuzzy about it from then on, but do remember the gang that was in the Recreation Room cheering when Oswald was shot. Little did we know how much information that would cost the nation later. Sad day, no doubt.

  17. Brian, what do you believe about the event? If these items have nothing to do with the conspiracy, which items would you have included? ~DD

  18. The assassination of President Kennedy was a sad bookmark event in my life. I’ve never believed Oswald did it, mostly because of his record. From what I’ve read he was a screw up in the Corps who was booted on a B. C. D. and he never qualified with our basic infantry weapon; the standard M-1 rifle. To me, the M-1 was a lot easier to shoot in rapid fire than any bolt action rifle I’ve ever used. So to crank off three rounds in as many seconds is pretty hard to believe unless you’re a trained sniper.

    As to who did it, let me stir the pot a little and propose this: There were three major interests in stopping JFK. First there were white southern racists who were still lynching blacks in the midst of rising social disorder with the civil rights movement. Next there was the Mafia’s hatred for him after losing their gambling and vice profits in their Havana casinos. Last, but not least, there were the joint chiefs of staff who fronted for what Eisnhower warned us about in his farewell speech, “The military/industrial complex.” Personally, I don’t think Kennedy would have lead us into the quagmire of Viet Nam that Johnson did, but wars are big money to big business and we were coming out of a post WW-2 recession. We’ll probably never know the truth. Hank

  19. i am old enough THAT i live thru this tragedy and BEFORE the WARREN COMMISSION report came out there were different conspiracy theories floating around . since JFK was so well loved , in this old guy opinion THE DEBATE WILL NEVER BE SETTLED ………….

  20. Nothing in this article debunks anything I believe about the event. None of the claims debunked here have anything to do with the conspiracy.

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