- Matt Crumpton
Episode 7: Oswald's Rifle (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 25
Everyone has different opinions when it comes to the Kennedy assassination. But, so far, the evidence we have looked at is cloudy. We have a lot of evidence pointing to Oswald and a lot of evidence that tends to show that Oswald could not have done it.
We’ll see if that trend continues today, as we focus on the rifle itself. When did Oswald order the rifle and how did he get it? What was the model of the rifle?
ORDERING THE RIFLE
According to the official story, the JFK murder weapon can be tracked back to Lee Harvey Oswald because the serial number of the Carcano rifle found on the 6th floor – C2766 – matches the serial number of a rifle that was shipped to a PO Box owned by Oswald.
When he was arrested, Oswald had a forged selective service card in his wallet with the name Alek J Hidell - and a photo of Oswald’s face.[i]
Oswald’s response when asked about the Hidell card was, "Now, I've told you all I'm going to tell you about that card in my billfold - you have the card yourself and you know as much about it as I do.”[ii] Oswald did admit during police interrogations that he rented the PO Box, but he denied receiving a package addressed to Hidell. He also specifically denied receiving the rifle.[iii]
When you look at the reports and testimony about what Oswald said, he does not admit that he rented the PO Box under Hidell’s name. His admission is that he owns the PO Box where the rifle was allegedly sent. Since Oswald admitted this, our focus is on the disputed question of whether Oswald actually ordered and received the rifle at that PO Box.
Klein Sporting Goods of Chicago, the company the Warren Report says shipped the rifle to the Oswald PO Box, kept microfilm records showing that they received an order for a Carcano on March 13, 1963. The order was from a coupon in a February 1963 magazine.[iv] It was signed by “A Hiddel”.
According to FBI experts who examined the handwriting of Oswald’s passport and his other known writings, the “A. Hidell” signature was consistent with Oswald’s.[v] On its face, it seems like the Warren Report has shown a strong evidentiary link to Oswald. The FBI connected Oswald’s handwriting to the order of a rifle that matched the serial number for the rifle found on the sixth floor. And Oswald admitted owning the PO Box where the rifle was shipped to a name that was on a selective service card in Oswald’s wallet with Oswald’s photo. But there are also some counterpoints to consider when it comes Oswald’s alleged rifle ownership.
There are issues with the documents backing up Oswald’s rifle order.
The coupon that appears in the Warren Report - which is supposed to be the same coupon Oswald used to order the rifle - is from a November 1963 magazine ad, not a February 1963 ad like the Warren Report says.[vi] This wouldn’t really matter, except that the February ad shows a 36 inch rifle, whereas the November ad – the one that actually appeared in the Warren Report – showed a 40 inch rifle, the same size as the Carcano found on the 6th floor. The Report says the rifle was ordered in March of 1963. So, we know the November ad can’t be the one Oswald used.[vii]
Warren Report defenders say that the obvious explanation for the discrepancy is that Klein’s ran out of 36 inch rifles and must have just sent Oswald a 40 inch rifle instead. But, this appears to be pure speculation. I couldn’t find anything to support that idea.
We don’t actually know if Klein’s had a policy of sending customers the closest available gun size if the one they ordered wasn’t in stock. Bugliosi and other lone gunman theorists are not worried about the gun length discrepancy - and the wrong ads being referenced in the Warren Report - because the documents from Klein’s show that they indeed shipped a 40 inch Carcano to A Hidell at the PO Box Oswald was using. By that, they mean that the serial number of the 40 inch Carcano in evidence was the same as the one Klein’s shipped. But, I looked at the Warren Report and the documents from Klein’s and there is no mention of the size of the actual gun that was actually shipped.[viii] You can look for yourself. It only references the serial number.
The next item Warren Report critics point out is the timing issue with Oswald’s money order. Oswald supposedly mailed the money order and the coupon for the rifle to Klein’s from Dallas on March 12th. It arrived in Chicago on March 13thand was also deposited by Klein’s that day.[ix]
I am no expert on the speed of the postal service in 1963. But, even today it takes 3-5 days for regular mail to arrive. It’s also surprising that a money order sent via regular mail would arrive basically overnight from 700 miles away, and be received by Klein’s early enough in the day to have time to make the deposit before the bank closed.
When the envelope with the coupon and the money arrived at Kleins, the company microfilmed the envelope and the coupon, but they did not microfilm the money order for $21.45. The FBI searched the money order for fingerprints and did not find Oswald’s.[x]
The bank slip received by Klein’s at the time of the deposit is dated February 15.[xi] But that would be a month BEFORE Oswald allegedly sent the order on March 13. And, that would be totally inconsistent with the other documents. The FBI looked into this issue. They couldn’t prove which specific deposit from Kleins contained Oswald’s money order.[xii]
Finally, there are issues with the uniqueness of the serial number and the date Klein’s received the Rifle from the gun wholesaler.
The FBI’s Robert Frazier said there was only one gun with serial number C2766 for that “type of Carcano”. But, the owner of Empire Wholesale Sporting Goods told the FBI that in the 1930s, Mussolini ordered all arms factories in Italy to manufacture the Carcano. He said that “Since many companies made the same rifle, the same serial number appears on weapons manufactured by more than one concern. Some bear a letter prefix and some do not.[xiii] So, contrary to Agent Frazier’s testimony it looks like the serial numbers were not completely unique after all.
PO BOX DETAILS
According to FBI Special Agent James Hosty, on April 21, 1963 a Dallas confidential informant identified as T2 said that “Lee H. Oswald was in contact with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”
This is not groundbreaking information. Anyone who has looked at the case knows that publicly at least Oswald was a Castro sympathizer. So that’s no surprise. And Oswald’s involvement with fair play for cuba isn’t relevant to his ownership of the rifle.
So why am I telling you about the Dallas informant T2? Because the informant’s information was based on - “Oswald’s own statement contained in an undated letter to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee headquarters in New York City.”[xiv]
An undated letter sent by Oswald? This evidence leads to a domino of questions.
How exactly did informant T2 get his hands on this Oswald letter? Was the FBI reading all of Oswald’s outgoing mail in April 1963 or only some of it? If the FBI was willing to reseal and copy outgoing letters, wouldn’t they also be reading his incoming mail? And if the FBI was monitoring Oswald’s incoming mail, were they doing it in March of 63 when the Warren Report says the rifle arrived to Oswald’s PO Box?
The Warren Commission never asked the FBI whether it was monitoring Oswald’s mail.[xv] So, ultimately, as you just heard, we are left with more questions than answers. But, the evidence does show, at a minimum, that FBI informant T2 was reading Oswald’s outgoing mail in April 1963 – one month after Oswald supposedly received the gun.
Another challenge to the Warren Report’s claim that Oswald received the rifle via a PO Box under the alias A. Hidell is that paperwork requirements for shipping guns in 1963 were not followed. A form 2162 was required for shipping firearms. There is no form 2162 in evidence from either Oswald or Kleins.[xvi]
One would think that a form 2162 would be all the more important given that the PO Box was in the name of Lee H. Oswald and the rifle was allegedly shipped to A. Hidell. A. Hidell wasn’t the name on the PO Box, so why would the shipment not have been returned to sender?
There were no witnesses at the Dallas post office who remembered handling the rifle shipped to Hidell.[xvii]
DISCOVERING THE RIFLE
About 30 minutes after the assassination, Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney found three empty cartridge cases on the ground near southeast corner window of the 6th floor.[xviii] Shortly after that, Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman found a bolt-action rifle with a telescopic sight between two rows of boxes on the other side of the 6th floor - in the northwest corner.[xix] Sheriff Roger Craig was also present on the 6th floor when the gun was found.
“We began then to search for a weapon. And we started toward, uh, everybody took a different direction and Deputy Sheriff Boone and myself just happened to head to the Northwest corner of the building. And Boone was ahead of me by about eight feet. And there was a stack of boxes, just at the head of the stairwell going downstairs. And Boone looked over into it and said, “Here it is. Here’s the rifle.” So I immediately went over beside him and looked over and there was a rifle. But we didn’t touch it until Captain Fritz and Lt. Day from the ID department of the Dallas Police Department got there.”[xx]
The weapon was photographed once Captain Fritz and Lt. Day arrived.[xxi] After Lt. Day determined there were no fingerprints on the knob of the bolt and that the wooden stock was too rough to take fingerprints, he picked the rifle up by the stock and held it that way while Captain Fritz opened the bolt and ejected a live round.
The Warren Report described the rifle that Boone and Weitzman found as a “bolt-action, clip-fed rifle . . . inscribed with various markings, including “MADE ITALY”, “CAL 6.5” “1940” and the number C2766.”[xxii] The FBI identified the rifle “as a 6.5-millimeter model Mannlicher-Carcano.”[xxiii]
OR WAS IT A MAUSER?
Initially, however, there was some confusion about the type of rifle that had been found. The Warren Report, said that the source of the confusion was that the Carcano had been rebarrelled with a 6.5-millimeter gun barrel even though it appeared to be a 7.35. The Report continues, “Deputy Sheriff Weitzman, who only saw the rifle at a glance and did not handle it, thought the weapon looked like a 7.65 Mauser bolt-action rifle.”
But Deputy Sheriff Weitzman was not the only one who described the weapon as a Mauser as the Report implies. Deputy Sheriff Boone, who was with Weitzman when they found the weapon, also said that he initially believed the rifle was a 7.65 Mauser.[xxiv] When asked by the Commission, Boone agreed that the rifle in front of him as he testified was a Carcano. But Boone also testified that Captain Fritz and Lt. Day both initially identified the weapon as a Mauser.[xxv]Fritz admitted he may have called it a Mauser.[xxvi] Lt. Day, when asked by the Warren Commission if he ever described the weapon as anything other than a Carcano, said, “I didn’t describe the rifle to anyone other than police officers,” dodging the question that was asked.[xxvii]
On top of all of that, Sheriff Roger Craig, who the Warren Commission interviewed, but did not ask about the type of rifle found on the 6th floor, also says he saw a 7.65 Mauser.[xxviii]
“I believe Day pulled the rifle out and handed it to Captain Fritz, who held it up by the strap and asked if anyone knew what kind of rifle it was. By this time, Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman had joined us. And Weitzman was a gun buff. He had a sporting goods store at one time and he was very good with weapons. And he said, “It looks like a Mauser.” And he walked over to Fritz. And Captain Fritz was holding the rifle up in the air and I was standing next to Weitzman who was standing next to Fritz and we weren’t anymore than 6 or 8 inches from the rifle and stamped right on the barrel of the rifle was “7.65 MAUSER”. And that’s when Weitzman said, “It is a Mauser and pointed to the 7.65 stamp on the barrel.”[xxix]
So, according to Craig, Weitzman literally read 7.65 Mauser off of the barrel of the gun and that is how he knew it was a Mauser. If Craig is to be believed, that’s a pretty compelling case for the rifle found being a Mauser.
Now, Seymour Weitzman was an expert on guns because he previously ran a sporting goods store where guns were sold.[xxx] In Weitzman’s November 23 affidavit he describes the rifle he found with Sheriff Boone QUOTE “This rifle was a 7.65 Mauser bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, and a thick leather brownish-black sling on it.”[xxxi] That’s a lot of detail about the gun for someone to provide if they weren’t really paying attention to it. And, I don’t think someone would non chalantly volunteer information without a basis in such an important case. Like Sheriff Weitzman, Sheriff Boone also indicated in his November 22 affidavit that QUOTE “the rifle appeared to be a 7.65 Mauser with a telescope sight on the rifle.”[xxxii] If it wasn’t a Mauser, that’s a big fact for them to both get wrong in their first affidavit.
On the day of the assassination, Dallas Television station KBOX broadcast that the weapon used was a 7.65 Mauser.[xxxiii] Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told a newspaper reporter it was a Mauser.[xxxiv] To add further confusion, Treasury Agent Frank Ellsworth said that the Carcano was discovered on the 4th or 5th floor - which is not on the 6thfloor where the gun in evidence was located.[xxxv]
Here are some of the news reports that day claiming that the rifle was a Mauser:
The Sheriff’s Department said a rifle had been found on the staircase on the 5th floor of the building near the scene where it is now believed the shots were filed. It was a 7.65 Mauser, a german rifle.
The German built Mauser with the sniper scope was used to kill President Kennedy.
A Mauser has been found – a 7.65 Mauser.
It’s a 7.65 Mauser.
It was a 7.65 Mauser.
A 7.65 Mauser. [xxxvi]
We just heard a supercut of 6 different news broadcasts from the day of the assassination that said the murder weapon was a 7.65 Mauser, including all of the big 3 at the time: NBC, ABC, and CBS. Having been told that it was a manlicher carcano my entire life, it really is surprising to hear just how widespread the belief about a Mauser being the murder weapon was among the early accounts in the news media.
In 1992, the Assassination Records Review Board found an FBI evidence envelope from Dallas dated December 2, 1963. The envelope was empty, but the cover identified it as being found in Dealey Plaza after the shooting and containing a 7.65 mm shell – the same type of shell that would be used by a 7.65 Mauser.[xxxvii]
It’s easy to get lost in all of the back and forth arguments over the small points. Let’s zoom out for a second. Why does it matter if the rifle was a Mauser or a Carcano? The gun that the Warren Commission had in evidence that, as we will learn, had at least some prints from Lee Harvey Oswald – and it was a Carcano. The shells in evidence are 6.5mm Carcano shells, which were found in the southeast corner. If the rifle was a Mauser, then it automatically proves conspiracy because the shells that were found in the sniper’s nest were from a different type of gun - which means the gun in evidence was not the murder weapon.
The argument against the Mauser is that everyone who said it was a Mauser was mistaken: namely, Boone and Weitzman – and then everyone who heard their mistaken ID told other people the same mistake like a game of telephone. That’s how the word about the Mauser got around so fast.
It’s hard to square that argument with three sheriffs initially saying it was a Mauser – even in their affidavits – and one of them being a gun expert. But, then again, since there is no other evidence for the Mauser – besides a mysterious envelope found by the ARRB thirty years after the fact – we have to assume that it either never existed – and Boone, Weitzman, and Craig were all wrong – OR a Mauser was found and then later substituted with the manlicher carcano that had been ordered to Oswald’s PO Box.
Now, if Agent Ellsworth is right that the Carcano was found on the 4th or 5th floor and Craig, Boone and Weitzman ARE telling the truth that the initial officers on the scene identified the rifle on the sixth floor as a Mauser, then this podcast is going to have a lot of episodes.
The Oswald’s rifle evidence is complex. There were two questions at the top of the episode. Let’s try to answer them.
Did Oswald order the rifle to the PO Box under the name Hidell? Oswald denies ordering any weapons, whether rifle or handgun, through the mail according to the interrogation notes of Captain Fritz.[xxxviii] We have the handwriting on the order where Oswald signed “A Hidell” matching Oswald’s handwriting. The inconsistent coupon dates and rifle sizes are a wash to me. I can buy the argument that Kleins potentially filled the 36 inch carcano orders with 40 inch carcanos, even though that fact was not established. At any rate, the Klein’s microfilm shows that a Carcano was indeed sent to the A Hiddell mailbox, though it does not include the size.
Even after all of that evidence against Oswald, I have doubts that he actually placed the order. That’s because FBI informants were reading Oswald’s outgoing mail in April 1963. This shows that the FBI or its informant could havereceived the weapon and intervened without Oswald ever knowing about it. I said the FBI could have, not that the FBI did. We don’t know. But, this is suspicious to me. It’s hard for me to believe the FBI just read one piece of Oswald’s outgoing mail in April 1963, but had no idea about Oswald’s incoming mail (to the same PO Box) a month earlier.
Then, there’s the money order. The timeline of Oswald mailing the rifle order and Klein receiving it and depositing it in the same day does not seem possible. The February 15, 1963 date on bank deposit associated with the money order is a month before Warren Report says it was sent.
Did Oswald actually receive the rifle at the post office? There were no witnesses at the Dallas post office who remembered handling the rifle shipped to Hidell. The lack of anyone specifically remembering that rifle isn’t a big deal. The post office is a busy place. And Things happen that people don’t remember all the time.
But, the more difficult fact for the Warren Report to explain is the lack of a form 2162 that was required for shipping firearms. There is no form 2162 in evidence from either Oswald or Kleins. This is a problem because it means the shipment was illegal if it was, in fact, made.
What was the model of the rifle? The eyewitness testimony of Deputy Sheriffs Craig, Boone and Weitzman points to a Mauser being the model of the gun. Weitzman was an expert on guns - having previously owned a sporting goods store. An envelope with 7.65 Mauser ammunition was found in Dealey Plaza that day. This adds to my suspicion that the first gun found may have been a Mauser – not a Carcano.
It’s hard to believe that Deputy Constable Weitzman, the sporting goods store owner and gun expert, would initially get the name of the gun wrong – especially when the Mauser has its name written right on the gun. Deputy Sheriffs Craig and Boone supported Weitzman. Captain Fritz admitted he may have said it was a Mauser too. Oh, and Mauser ammo was found in Dealey Plaza that day.
We don’t ultimately know if a Mauser was found. If it could be proven, the Mauser would be one of the strongest possible arguments for conspiracy. So far, that has not been proven, but there is evidence to support it.
Next Time On Solving JFK: We’ll continue looking at the evidence related to Oswald’s rifle. Were there any cartridges found near the Sniper’s Nest? Did Oswald leave his fingerprints on the rifle? Is there any evidence that Oswald fired a gun that day?
[i] Warren Report at 181. [ii] Id. [iii] Id. [iv] Id. At 119. [v] Id. At 119. [vi] James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland (Skyhorse, 2013) at 58-59; Warren Report volume 20, p 172. [vii] Id. [viii] https://history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh21/html/WH_Vol21_0364a.htm [ix] DiEugenio at 58. [x] Id. [xi] Waldman Ex. 10 to Warren Commission Hearings; https://history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh21/html/WH_Vol21_0365b.htm?fbclid=IwAR3oIV9Qtnpi5tGqKaAVAVNzQH7jCFzxW9VSh7OsKViTySBVUez04WXDPl4 [xii] DiEugenio at 63. [xiii] Warren Commission Vol 25, CE 2562 [xiv] CE 2718, p5; Meagher at 220. [xv] Meagher at 221. [xvi] DiEugenio at 60. [xvii] Id. at 62. [xviii] Warren Report at 79. [xix] Id. [xx] JFK Assassination: The Roger Craig Story - https://youtu.be/-TLHx8dlGjE – at 6:36. [xxi] Warren Report at 79. [xxii] Id. at 81. [xxiii] Id. [xxiv] Meagher at 95; The Deputy Interviews at 122. [xxv] Testimony of Eugene Boone - https://history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh3/pdf/WH3_Boone.pdf [xxvi] Captain Fritz Testimony, https://www.jfk-assassination.net/russ/testimony/fritz1.htm [xxvii] Lt. Day Testimony (4H 263) - https://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh4/pdf/WH4_Day.pdf [xxviii] Roger Craig Testimony, https://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh6/pdf/WH6_Craig.pdf [xxix] JFK Assassination: The Roger Craig Story - https://youtu.be/-TLHx8dlGjE – at 7:48. [xxx] Warren Commission Testimony of Seymour Weitzman - http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh7/pdf/WH7_Weitzman.pdf [xxxi] Affidavit of Seymour Weitzman - https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth338803/m1/1/ [xxxii] https://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh19/pdf/WH19_Decker_Ex_5323.pdf , at 507 [xxxiii] Meagher at 95. [xxxiv] Meagher at 95. [xxxv] DiEugenio at 189. [xxxvi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVfP6NDBEuc [xxxvii] FBI Field Office Dallas 89-43-1A-122, See Extra Bullets and Missed Shots in Dealey Plaza - https://michaelgriffith1.tripod.com/extras.htm [xxxviii] https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/5012816/lost-and-found-oswald-interrogation-notes-jfk-lancer