Morgan recreates Kennedy AssassinationBy CLYDE MORGAN,
During our nation’s history there are certain dates that will always be remembered because of the remarkable feats or devastating tragedies that occurred. November 22, 1963, is one such date that is permanently etched in American History. That day, 56 years ago this Friday, was the day President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in the streets of downtown Dallas.
Clyde Morgan, a Forest native, vividly remembers that fateful day, and has been captivated with the assassination, aftermath and investigation that followed. Both the alleged actions of Oswald, the investigation and final conclusions in to the assassination of Kennedy has fascinated and troubled Morgan for decades.
The Warren Commission was created by the U.S. government for the sole purpose to investigate all aspects of the assassination, and all the occurrences that happened thereafter. Morgan strictly adhered to the Warren Commission Report when conducting the study of the assassination and the weapons used.
Morgan now serves as an expert firearm instructor and has been a gun enthusiast for as long as he can remember, and he said that time span covers over 70 years. He is a highly decorated Vietnam War Veteran including three Bronze Stars and the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for his service during the war.
Morgan is a shooting enthusiast, gun collector, and owner of Precision Shooting Center (PSC) in Forest. He utilized the PSC gun range to reenact several of the rifle shots and pistol shots just as they occurred in President Kennedy’s 1963 assassination. Using a bucket truck that lifted Morgan 40 feet in the air he attempted to mimic Oswald’s fatal rifle shots from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository. He also reenacted Oswald’s fatal pistol shot that killed Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, and the pistol shots from November 24, 1963 when Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters.
In order to make his recreation as realistic as possible, and to study possible discrepancies of the Warren Commission Report, Morgan spent the better part of two decades attempting to locate and purchase exact replicas of all three guns involved.
Finding and procuring those weapons was a daunting and expensive quest. Morgan was able to locate and purchase all three and then meticulously planned and carried out the recreation of events that transpired in Dallas.
Morgan’s complete in-depth study and report can be viewed in its entirety by visiting www.sctonline.net.
This coming Friday, November 22nd, 2019, will be the fifty-sixth year since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The controversies that arose during the investigation of his death have largely subsided, yet some questions and issues remain.
In an attempt to answer those questions and to evaluate the Warren Commission’s Report, one of each of the three types of firearms used during or related to the assassination was obtained by Precision Shooting Center LLC, (PSC), Forest, MS. They are exactly the same as the originals, except for their serial numbers. They made it possible for PSC to evaluate Oswald’s rifle and handgun and Jack Ruby’s handgun, in absentia, in live-fire exercises conducted by the author and PSC’s staff.
II. QUESTIONS AND ISSUES
A. Was the military surplus rifle accurate enough to accomplish the
B. Could the rifle be fired three times in 5 to 9 seconds? YES.
C. Did the shooter have the skill to hit, two times out of three, the upper half of
a person moving away from him at 11 mph in 5 to 9 seconds at a distance
of 60 to 90 yards? YES.
D. The rifle’s clip was not accounted for nor recorded at the crime scene.
E. Since the clip could hold six rounds, why was it loaded with only four?
F. The Warren Commission Report incorrectly stated that the rifle could be
loaded with seven rounds.
G. The Report used incorrect ammunition terminology.
III. THE RIFLE AND AMMUNITION
The rifle used by Lee Harvey Oswald is a modification of Italy’s Model 1891 rifle chambered for the 6.5x52mm cartridge and shortened to carbine length by the Italian military in 1938 and known as the Mannlicher-Carcano Model 91/38. The Model 1891 rifle was used in WWI and WWII. The Model 91/38 rifle was used in WWII. Thousands of both models were sold in the United States as military surplus after WWII. Although Oswald’s rifle is actually a carbine, we will refer to it as a rifle to avoid any confusion with the Warren Commission Report which refers to it as a rifle. The rifle ammunition used by Oswald was “---manufactured by the Western Cartridge Co.---loaded with a full metal-jacketed, military type bullet weighing 160-161 grains at approximately 2,165 feet per second.” (pg 555)
IV. THE ISSUES
A rifle clip was either not found or not recorded as being present at the original sniper’s perch inside the book depository. This is significant because the metal ammunition clip would normally be loaded with six rounds for that model rifle. The M91/38 rifle, and a clip held the three rounds that Kennedy’s assassin fired. However, no mention nor notation was made of a clip at the time the rifle was recovered. It’s reported that the rifle was found with one live cartridge in the chamber and three fired casings were found on the floor.
1. “A few minutes after the rifle was discovered on the sixth floor of the Depository Building it was examined by Lt. J.C. Day of the identification bureau of the Dallas Police. He lifted the rifle by the wooden stock. Capt. J.W. Fritz then ejected a cartridge by operating the bolt.”
2. “When the rifle was found, one cartridge was in the chamber.” (pg 555)
3. “When the rifle was found in the Texas School Book Depository Building it
contained a clip which bore the letters ‘SMI’---and the number ‘952.’” (pg 555)
The Warren Report is not clear about when the clip was discovered. On pages
565-566 the Report states, “A number of objects found in the Texas School Book
Depository Building following the assassination were processed for latent
fingerprints by the FBI. These objects included---the C2766 rifle---three 6.5mm
cartridge cases found near the window, and the cartridge found in the rifle.”
(pg565) If a clip was in the rifle, it should have fallen out when Oswald
chambered his third and last cartridge. Although the report says a clip was in the
rifle, the clip was not listed with the other objects and apparently it was not in
the photos. Nor was a clip included in the list of objects sent to the FBI for
fingerprint tests, even though it is more likely that a fingerprint on the flat
surface of the metal clip would have been more easily obtained than one on a
small, round 6.5mm cartridge case.
PSC owns one Model 1891 rifle and three Model 91/38 rifles. When the last
round in a clip is chambered in those rifles, the clip usually falls out of the
bottom of the rifle’s magazine well, which it is designed to do. It is possible, but
unlikely, that the clip remained in Oswald’s rifle after he chambered the last
round. However, based on our experience with those four rifles, a new clip is more likely to stick and thus remain in the rifle than a used one. It is likely that the assassination clip was found only after the rifle had been transported to the Dallas Police Dept. Office when it then fell out of the rifle and was picked up by an
officer, thus destroying any prints that might have been on it. Or, someone knowledgeable of the Model 91/38 rifle informed the DPD about the necessity of a clip, and the DPD obtained one. If that is what happened, that would give credence to those who claim that Oswald was not a lone assassin, because his rifle could not have been fired three times in 9 seconds without a clip.
B. There is another relevant issue with respect to this rifle, ammunition and clip
that is not discussed in the Warren Report. It is easier to insert a full clip of six
rounds into this model of rifle than a partial clip containing less than six. The
police reported finding three cartridge cases on the floor and a cartridge in the
chamber of the rifle, which totals four cartridges. It would seem that an assassin
would load a full clip of six cartridges rather than a partial clip in case he needed
more shots and because a full clip is easier to load. So, why was there only one
cartridge in the rifle and not three? During the search of the Texas School Book
Depository Building, the search of Oswald when he was arrested, and the search of
Oswald’s home, no mention was made of any additional rifle ammunition. It is
possible that Oswald had only four rounds of ammunition for his assassination
attempt, but that fact is difficult to accept. Unfortunately, there was no list in the
Warren Report of the items found during the search of Oswald and his home.
C. Two Warren Commission Report Misstatements:
1. In my opinion the Warren Report made a factual error in describing how the
Carcano rifle functions. On page 555 the report stated, “If six cartridges are inserted
into a clip and an additional cartridge is inserted into the chamber, up to seven
bullets can be fired before reloading.” Two of PSC’s four Carcano rifles will not
fully chamber a round unless it is fed from a clip because the extractor will not slip
over the cartridge rim as the bolt is closed. A round can be dropped into the
chamber when the bolt is open, but if the bolt cannot be closed, that round cannot
be fired. The rifle used in President Kennedy’s assassination might be checked to
see if it will chamber a round without using a clip. But even if the rifle’s bolt will
close on a round dropped into the chamber, the bolt still cannot be closed on a
chambered round if a full clip of six rounds is first inserted into the magazine well.
Therefore the Warren Report’s statement that the rifle could hold seven rounds is
2. Also, the Warren Report’s terminology is not correct. It said, “----up to seven bullets
can be fired---.” Cartridges are fired, not bullets, so the sentence should have read,
“----up to seven cartridges can be fired----.” (pg 555)
V. THE GOVERNMENT’S EVAULATION OF THE RIFLE
The Warren Report stated on page 189, “---the shots were at a slow-moving target proceeding on a downgrade in virtually a straight line with the alignment of the assassin’s rifle at a range of 177 to 266 feet.” Marksmanship experts from the Marine Corps and the FBI said these were not difficult shots. They placed a stationary target of unspecified size at each distance of 58, 80 and 88 yds. Three expert military riflemen from the Infantry Weapons Evaluation Branch, who were rated NRA Master Riflemen fired two series of three shots with Oswald’s rifle at those three targets from a tower of unspecified height. All six shots hit the first target, four of the six shots hit the second target, and five of the six shots hit the third target. The result was fifteen hits out of eighteen shots within the allotted time of 5 to 9 seconds by three military, master-rated riflemen. (pg 193)
VI. PRECISION SHOOTING CENTER’S EVALUATION OF THE RIFLE
A. Both Oswald’s rifle and the one used in these tests by PSC mounted the same
make and model of telescopic sight. The ammunition used in these tests was
recreated by PSC by reloading the same type of bullet into commercial cases at.
B. A Stationary Target:
The shooter was elevated to 40’ by a Headrick Outdoor Media ladder truck .
Three shots were fired in less than 20 seconds at a stationary, military, upper- body cardboard silhouette at a distance of 80 yards. Although my right elbow was unsupported and the perch was a bit shaky, the group measured 3”.
C. A Moving Target:
A second military, upper-body cardboard target was hung on a wire runner. Our
operator, on command, ran the silhouette from 50 to 100 yards away from the
shooter at an approximate speed of 9mph. Stakes in the ground at 60, 70, 80,
and 90 yards marked the distances at which the silhouette could be engaged. A
truck was parked 60 yards from the silhouette. I stood on a platform placed on
the cover of the truck’s bed and used the top of a folding ladder for a rifle rest.
My right elbow was unsupported. The rifle had already proven to be very
accurate by shooting a 3-round, 1.5” group from a table rest at 50 yards. While
the target was moving away at 9mph at a distance between 60 and 90 yards, it
was hit three times in three shots in 5 to 9 seconds. Because the silhouette was
suspended from a wire and moving, a light, gusty wind caused it slightly bounce
and swing from side to side which made it more difficult to hit than expected.
The time would have been about 2 seconds less if the third cartridge had not
jammed due to shooter error. When the rifle was loaded I failed to notice that
the third cartridge had moved forward in the clip with its nose pointed slightly
down. Therefore, the rifle jammed while trying to chamber that third round.
Quickly pulling the bolt to the rear, I pushed the rear of the cartridge down with
my right thumb, thus tipping its point up, slammed the bolt forward chambering
the cartridge, and was able to fire it within the allotted 9 seconds. And yes, the
clip fell out of the rifle when that third and last round was chambered.
VII. PRECISION SHOOTING CENTER’S EVALUATION OF OSWALD’S REVOLVER
The handgun that Oswald used to kill Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, forty-five minutes after using a rifle to kill Kennedy, was a Smith & Wesson British Victory Model with a 2” barrel in calibers .38 S&W and .38 Special. Four .38 Special bullets were recovered from Officer Tippit’s body, and four expended .38 Special cartridges cases were found near the site. (pg 559)
OSWALD’S REVOLVER PSC‘S REVOLVER
MAKE Smith & Wesson (pg 558) same
MODEL Victory Model with English proofs same
CALIBER .38 S&W rechambered to .38 Special same
BARREL 5” barrel reduced to 2” (pg 174) same
SERIAL NUMBER V510210 (pg 558) V645899
CONDITION Very good to excellent. same
MANUFACTURER Smith & Wesson (pg 558) same
DATE MANUFACTURED 1942-1944 same
BRITISH PROOF Yes (pg 558) same
LANYARD LOOP None. same
GRIPS Wood w/o medallion same
No mention in the Report CONVERTED BY COGSWELL & same
of any side plate engraving. HARRISON Ltd LONDON
During World War II approximately 570,000 Smith & Wesson Victory model revolvers chambered in .38/200 (aka .38 S&W) with 4”, 5” and 6” barrels were shipped to Britain and other Commonwealth Nations under our Lend Lease Act. After the war, many of these revolvers had their barrels shortened to 2.5” and were rechambered from .38 S&W to the longer .38 Special because the latter caliber was more marketable in the United States.
A. The questions were:
1. How accurate was the .38 S&W revolver with .38 Special ammunition?
2. Did the .38 Special cases stick to the inside of the chambers when fired?
3. Did the .38 Special cases split when fired?
These three problems were anticipated because the bore diameter of the .38 S&W revolver was a nominal .360” but the diameter of the .38 Special bullet was a nominal .357” which might cause poor accuracy and difficult extraction of the .38 Special cases because they swelled in the larger .38 S&W chambers and splitting of the .38 Special cases in the larger chambers might harm the revolver or the shooter.
B. Firing Results of Oswald’s Revolver:
1. Six rounds of .38 S&W commercial ammunition were chambered and
fired double-action from a distance of 10’, standing, with two hands at an
NRA B-27 target. These rounds fired and ejected normally and the group
size was 6”.
2. Six cartridges of .38 Special commercial ammunition were chambered, with
difficulty. The shooter attempted to fire them single and double-action,
from a distance of 10’, standing, with two hands at another B-27 target.
The revolver could not be fired either single or double action because the
heads of the cases were dragging on the revolver’s recoil shield. The
chambers had not been bored deeply enough for three brands of 158
grain commercial cartridges to fully chamber. Fortunately we had
some 148 grain wad cutter ammunition that readily chambered and fired.
3. The empty cases were only slightly more difficult to eject than would be
expected, so that was not an issue. However, the forward one-third of
each case was somewhat beveled, leaving the front of a fired case with a
smaller diameter than the bottom two thirds. That happened because
none of the cylinder’s chambers had been bored deeply enough to accept
all of a .38 Special cartridge with a 158 grain bullet.
4. None of our cases split upon firing.
5. The point of impact for both the .38 S&W and .38 Special bullets was about
6” above our aiming point because the barrel had been shortened by 2.5”,
thus raising the strike of the bullets . That is a problem unless you change
your aiming point or the front sight is raised. No sight adjustment is
possible because the rear and front sights are fixed.
6. The average group size for the .38 Special cartridges was 4”.
Apparently the chambers of Oswald’s revolver were bored deeply enough to accept commercial 158 grain cartridges. His revolver functioned normally, and he was able to hit Officer Tippit four times at close range. He had no trouble ejecting the empty .38 Special cases because he was able to reload.
VIII. RUBY’S REVOLVER
There was no controversy concerning the Colt Cobra, 6-shot, .38 Special,
Airweight revolver Jack Ruby used to kill Oswald. It differed only in its serial
number from the one owned by PSC. We fired six rounds double-action from
accuracy at 10’ from a a two-hand standing position at a B-27 target at a distance of 10’. The group measured about 4”, hitting where aimed.
IX. PSC’s CONCLUSIONS
Although PSC’s Carcano rifle was accurate, it is not one we would select for an
assassination attempt nor when quick, multiple shots were required. The Model 91/38 is far too temperamental when being loaded to be trusted, and like Goldilock’s bed, everything has to be just right! On that fateful day in 1963, Oswald was very lucky and President Kennedy was very unlucky.
Oswald’s rechambered Smith & Wesson revolver functioned correctly while ours did not.
And obviously, Ruby’s Colt revolver, though firing only one round, ended Oswald’s life. PSC’s revolver also performed perfectly, as had Ruby’s.
Firearms, in and of themselves, are neither morally good nor bad. They are tools and servants of their masters. In 1963, these three firearms performed as they were designed: A total of eight shots on a Friday and a Sunday in November, 1963, and America grieved.