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Len Colby

What happened to the rest of Ray’s ammo?

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On March 29, 1968, only six days before King was assassinated Ray bought a .243 Winchester and a box of 20 cartridges. The next day he exchanged it for a Remington 760 Gamemaster 760 30.06 and a box of 30.06 Remington Peters ammo. But police only found 11 cartridges in Ray’s bundle and 4 – 5 were different type. They were, “a .30 caliber metal-jacketed "soft-point" sporting type Remington-Peters bullet, an expended .30-06 Springfield caliber Remington-Peters cartridge 'casing, and a Peters cartridge box…containing five unfired .30-06 Springfield caliber Remington-Peters cartridges and four unfired .30-06 Springfield caliber U. S. military cartridges containing full metal-jacketed bullets” so there is a deficit of at least 14 rounds perhaps several times that number. Rifle bullets are sold in boxes of 20 (or less commonly 50), three types of bullets suggest he bought two boxes elsewhere, although it’s possible he obtained the non-matching bullets individually or someone gave them to him. Since quite a bit of ammo was missing and not much is known about his whereabouts after he bought the rifle I would assume he did a fair amount of target practice.

Sources:

http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/FBI-MLK%20Loose%20Documents/Loose%20229.pdf

http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg%20Subject%20Index%20Files/R%20Disk/Rifle%20and%20Bullet/Item%2048.pdf

http://www.paperlessarchives.com/FreeTitles/MPDMLKHomicide.pdf

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Len, the quantity and type of bullets certainly raises several questions. Of course one would be in regard to Ray's explanation of why he bought the rifle in the first place - and that scenario doesn't support the need for much ammunition. On the other hand, a premeditated shooting with that sort of rifle doesn't really call for you bringing along all that ammo either....

However, equally interesting to us was something the FBI report really doesn't explore in much depth:

-- four unfired ".30-06 Springfield caliber U. S. military cartridges containing full metal-jacketed bullets”

We have attempted a bit of research based on the head stamp for that ammo, the goal being to determine when

it was declared surplus and when it would have been put up for resale and through what outlets. So far we have not

come up with satisfactory answers for that. Certainly the gun shop where Ray bought the rifle was adamant that they

did not carry that sort of ammo.

Perhaps even more interesting is that the military shells had marks on them suggesting that they had originally been "belted"

military ammo for automatic weapons - with the shells later removed from the belts . That raises all sorts of interesting speculation

about the theft of military ammo from national guard armories....who was stealing that stuff and for what purpose.

In any event, how much target practice, or familiarization with a pump action rifle, that might have been done is actually only one ancillary question in regard to the recovered ammo.

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Len, the quantity and type of bullets certainly raises several questions. Of course one would be in regard to Ray's explanation of why he bought the rifle in the first place - and that scenario doesn't support the need for much ammunition. On the other hand, a premeditated shooting with that sort of rifle doesn't really call for you bringing along all that ammo either....

However, equally interesting to us was something the FBI report really doesn't explore in much depth:

-- four unfired ".30-06 Springfield caliber U. S. military cartridges containing full metal-jacketed bullets”

We have attempted a bit of research based on the head stamp for that ammo, the goal being to determine when

it was declared surplus and when it would have been put up for resale and through what outlets. So far we have not

come up with satisfactory answers for that. Certainly the gun shop where Ray bought the rifle was adamant that they

did not carry that sort of ammo.

Perhaps even more interesting is that the military shells had marks on them suggesting that they had originally been "belted"

military ammo for automatic weapons - with the shells later removed from the belts . That raises all sorts of interesting speculation

about the theft of military ammo from national guard armories....who was stealing that stuff and for what purpose.

In any event, how much target practice, or familiarization with a pump action rifle, that might have been done is actually only one ancillary question in regard to the recovered ammo.

The point is relevant because the 'Ray was framed' crowd normally assert the shot would have been too difficult for Ray. Apparently there is no evidence he handled a rifle during the 7 years he was not in jail between leaving the Army in Dec. 1948 and walking into the sporting goods store in Birmingham. Two customers in the store said it was obvious he knew nothing about rifles. The missing ammo suggests he took at least 14 shots with the rifle before King was assassinated.

I joined a markmen's forum and explained the shot and Ray's 'experince' and asked "Would the shot have been difficult for someone like Ray?" the results so far - Yes 4 (11%) No 24 (67%) Unsure 8 (22%). Some of the comments are interesting.

http://www.snipershide.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=3316816

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Certainly the point of practice with the weapon is relevant - probably even more relevant is whether that ammo was used to

"sight in" the scope and what range was selected for that. The gun shop installed and mounted the scope but anybody

wanting to be really certain about what they were doing would sight in the scope for the desired range and then carry it

in a gun case or with some care so as not to jolt the scope out of position.

Personally I've never considered that the Memphis shot was that difficult - given the scope was properly sighted in and

with the power of that ammo at that range, you are not going to drop your shot very much. On the other hand, its helpful

to be used to the recoil of the weapon and even the trigger pressure....for that you need to have done some firing.

My point wasn't really about the issue of the missing ammo, certainly that could well indicate both of the above. It was more

to raise questions about the military ammo and even to ponder why Ray would be carrying extra ammo around given the

fact that with that sort of weapon (a pump action) you probably are not going to get many shots in.......at the moment I can't

seem to recall if the rifle even had other rounds loaded, if not that would also be an interesting factor since it would not

suggest preparation or premeditation. I've never fired a pump action rifle myself, only shotguns.

.

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Certainly the point of practice with the weapon is relevant - probably even more relevant is whether that ammo was used to

"sight in" the scope and what range was selected for that. The gun shop installed and mounted the scope but anybody

wanting to be really certain about what they were doing would sight in the scope for the desired range and then carry it

in a gun case or with some care so as not to jolt the scope out of position.

There is no way Ray could have anticipated the range. He did not know King would be at the Lorraine till the morning of the assassination and would not have known his shooting position till he checked in 3 hours or less before he pulled the trigger.

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Sorry Len, didn't mean to imply you sighted in the scope for a precise, exact range although that is true for competition shooting. Normally you sight in the weapon for the type of hunting you are doing and the general/ballpark range you expect to be shooting. But the point is that your scope cross hairs need to be accurate in terms of where the bullets are going to be hitting. Of course you adjust your shot by knowing how much your shell is going to fall over the range you are shooting...as I recall Ray asked that question about some of the guns he was looking at and even asked for mfg charts on that.

As I understand it, at the distance of the shot in Memphis and with the power of the rifle ammo in question there would have been virtually no drop in the trajectory - if you do a good job with executing the shot, the bullet was going to hit where the cross hairs showed....if the rifle scope was still well aligned with the rifle itself.

In general, its most important that your scope is aligned with your rifle shot - sort of like a finder scope on a telescope, if they are not aligned you can't match the viewing field of the main scope with what the finder is showing.

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