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The Bottom Sling Mount

 

The rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository had a leather sling attached to it. The sling itself is believed to be a strap from a United States Air Force holster, and it is mounted to the side of the Mannlicher-Carcano by means of an oval ring (see photo right). Also note, that there is no mounting ring on the underside of the rifle.

On the day following the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was shown a photograph of him holding a rifle in one hand, and two leftist publications in the other. Around his waist, a holstered pistol. Immediately, Oswald told Captain Fritz that the photo was a fake, that someone had superimposed his face on someone else's body.

The backyard photo (CE-133a) appeared on the cover of Life Magazine on February 21, 1964, as well as several other magazines and newspapers shortly thereafter. Although Oswald's claim that the photograph was a fake was not publicly known until the release of the Warren Commission Report, several critics came to the exact same conclusion based on conflicting shadows and other inconsistencies in the photograph.

Closer examination of the photograph reveals that the rifle being held by Lee Harvey Oswald is not the same rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Notice the circular mounting ring attached to the underside of the rifle, and compare it to the photo of the rifle found in the Depository. I have marked it with an "A" at the spot which the circular ring appears on the rifle in the backyard photo of Oswald. The mounting ring, so clearly visible in the backyard photograph (see close-ups below), does not exist on the rifle discovered in the Texas Schoolbook Depository. They are not the same rifle.

I've included close-up enlargements of the mounting ring along with some digital enhancements. The top left is embossed, while the top right uses edge detection. Both show that the ring is part of the rifle beyond any doubt.

The bottom left is not enhanced in any way, and is included for easy comparison. The copy in the lower right has been lightened to the point where the background blanches out. This clearly demonstrates that the mounting ring is not part of the background shrubs as some have claimed. There is no doubt that there is a sling mount attached to the barrel band that was not present on the rifle found in the School Book Depository.

The photo below shows three Mannlicher-Carcanos.  On the top is the TSBD rifle (notice no bottom ring). The center is the 133-a rifle. The bottom is a photocopy of a 91/38 short rifle, the model which Klein's supposedly sent to AJ Hidell. It is from an article on the Carcano in the August 1961 issue of American Rifleman. Note the bottom mounting ring, exactly where the 133-a rifle shows one. Just coincidence???

  

 

C-2766

The most damning evidence against Oswald was the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.  The Italian war surplus rifle, serial number C-2766, had been shipped to Oswald’s post office box under the name A. J.  Hidell.  Oswald carried forged identification cards with the Hidell name in his wallet.  The Warren Commission confidently proclaimed that there was only one such rifle of that type with that serial number; there was no doubt that the rifle found in the Depository belonged to Oswald.  From Volume III of the Warren Commission hearings, page 393:

        Mr. EISENBERG. Back on the record.
        Based on your experience with firearms, is the placement of a specific serial number on a weapon generally confined
        to one weapon of a given type?
        Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, it is. Particularly--may I refer to foreign weapons particularly?
        The serial number consists of a series of numbers which normally will be repeated. However, a prefix is placed before
        the number, which actually must be part of the serial number, consisting of a letter.
        Mr. EISENBERG. Have you been able to confirm that the serial number on this weapon is the only such number on
        such a weapon?
        Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, it is.
 
 

The 39 inch Carcano

 

 

The Carcano on the top measures approximately 39" according to the tape in the photo. The barrel/receiver in the bottom photo measures less than 28", while the stock is just about 34".

FBI firearms identification expert Robert Frazier testified before the Warren Commission that he measured the rifle. Here are his findings:

Mr. FRAZIER. The overall length is 40.2 inches. It weighs 8 pounds even.
Mr. McCLOY. With the scope?
Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, with the scope.
The CHAIRMAN. And the sling?
Mr. FRAZIER. That is with the sling, yes, sir. The sling weighs 4 3/4 ounces. The stock length is 34.8 inches, which is the wooden portion from end to end with the butt plate attached. The barrel and action from the muzzle to the rear of the tang, which is this portion at the rearmost portion of the metal, is 28.9 inches. The barrel only is 21.18 inches.

Please note the following:

Clearly, the rifle Agent Frazier describes does not match the rifle in the photos.

 

The Warren Commission / FBI Rifle

Special Agent Frazier also took photographs of the rifle, showing the various markings, including the serial number.  It is clear from these photographs that the barrel base, which contains the serial number as well as other markings, is cylindrical in shape.
 

 

 

The LIFE Photo

In November 1983, Life Magazine was granted permission to photograph the evidence stored at the National Archives to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the assassination.  Although he was not permitted to handle the evidence, the photographer (Michael O'Neill) was permitted to photograph the rifle.
 

The photo on the left was selected for publication in Life Magazine. In this photo, the serial number C-2766 is clearly visible on the barrel base (bottom left).  The Warren Commission photo of the serial number (bottom right).

Please note the difference in the numbers themselves.  The most obvious difference can be seen in the 2, which is far more ornate on the FBI / Warren Commission rifle.  Notice the way the vertical shaft is thinner at the bottom and balloons out at the top, and the way it narrows to a fine line as it curves left.  It then ends with a teardrop that nearly touches the left side of the vertical shaft.  By comparison, the lines that form the 2 on the Life rifle are fairly consistent in thickness, with plenty of space between the end of the loop and the left side of the vertical shaft.

 

Also note the C in both photographs. While the Life photo shows a C with a rounded bottom, the Warren Commission C has a serif on the bottom which somewhat resembles a G.

 

Two other photos demonstrate the differences in the serial numbers. Top right is from a photo on the National Archives web site which shows a serial number corresponding with the Life photograph. The bottom right photo is a capture from a History Channel assassination special, and the C and the 2 clearly match the Warren Commission/FBI photograph.

One final observation about the Life photo. The Warren Commission photo (above right) shows CAL 6.5 on the rear sight. That does not appear in O'Neill's photo.

 

Bolt-side Barrel Mount Markings

The only markings on the barrel mount should be C2766, the factory markings (Terni with a crown), Made Italy and the year the rifle was manufactured (1940). However, a photograph of the bolt-side of the rifle in the archives shows something entirely different.

The only mark visible appears to be three letters, possibly GMC. This is where we should see the date of manufacture.

As a point of interest, the rifle allegedly belonging to Oswald was supposedly a Riva modified Carcano. Part of preparing the rifles for the United States market, Luciano Riva was to remove the various markings and stamp Made in Italy on each rifle. This was not done on the rifle in question.

Whatever those letters are, or what they indicate, they don't appear to be 1940. But the Warren Commission photographs clearly show 1940 (see insert) where we see those three letters.

Photo courtesy of Jack White

 

Another Indication of Two Rifles

The trigger guard in the above photo (marked by black box) is curved, almost S-shaped. Compare this to other photographs of the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository:

The front of the trigger guard in these photos seem less curved and more squared off. This difference in the two styles of trigger guards has been noted on the Carcano Home Page

Magazine housing / trigger guard:  This joint part has some slight but discernible shape differences as to its lower 
bellyside, and can be found in a slightly "straighter" and slightly more "curved" form. All the Moschetti TS 38 in 
8mm that I have seen show the more curved belly.

 

HSCA & the Ballistics Test

The House Select Committee on Assassinations Firearms panel test-fired C-2766, and could not match its test bullets with either CE-399 (the magic bullet) or the test bullets fired by the FBI from what was allegedly the same rifle (CE-139).  From Volume I, page 464 of the HSCA hearings:  

        Mr. MCDONALD. Did you compare the FBI test bullets with your own test bullets that you recently fired out of 139?
        Mr. BATES. Yes, we also made a microscopic comparison of that.
        Mr. MCDONALD. And what did the comparison show?
        Mr. BATES. The results of this examination indicated that we could not determine whether the FBI test bullets were, in
        fact, fired from the rifle, CE-139.
        Mr. McDONALD. And would you please explain your answer?
        Mr. BATES. Based upon the microscopic comparison, there were differences  in the  individual  identifying
        characteristics  found within the land and groove impressions on the FBI test bullets and on the panel test bullets.

 

Summary

 
The existence of two rifles with the serial number C-2766 in evidence means that no one can prove that the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald.  In fact, it is highly unlikely.  The only photographs of Oswald with the rifle shows that it had a bottom sling mount -- the rifle found in the Depository did not.

Since the Warren Commission concluded that there was only one rifle of that type to bear that serial number, it seems safe to conclude that the second C-2766 was a forgery.  And what other reason could there be to forge the serial number other than to frame Oswald?
 

Jerry McLeer

November 30, 1998
Revised February 15, 2001


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