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The Most Important Error the FBI told the Warren Commission about the Rifle

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As we have discussed, SA Robert A. Frazier was the FBI's leading firearms expert, performed all of the FBI's tests on the alleged assassination weapon and presented his findings in testimony to the Warren Commission in 1964.

It has been my experience that it is remarkably easy to find glaring mistakes in Mr. Frazier's testimony, to the point I have begun to suspect he almost wanted someone to see through the FBI's charade.

What I am going to show you I have already presented in another thread. It is buried at the back of that thread, however, and the importance of it may not be readily apparent to a reader whose head is already swimming with other data.

Anyways, here is the testimony:

From Wikipedia:

"FBI tests[edit]
The FBI tests of the Carcano's accuracy showed:
1) FBI firearms expert Robert A. Frazier testified that "It is a very accurate weapon. The targets we fired show that."[61] From 15 yards (14 m), all three bullets in a test firing landed approximately 2½ inches high, and 1-inch (25 mm) to the right, in the area about the size of a dime.[62] At 100 yards (91 m), the test shots landed 2½ to 5 inches (130 mm) high, within a 3 to 5-inch (130 mm) circle. Frazier testified that the scope's high variation would actually work in the shooter's favor: with a target moving away from the shooter, no lead correction would have been necessary to follow the target. "At that range, at that distance, 175 feet (53 m) to 265 feet (81 m),[63] with this rifle and that telescopic sight, I would not have allowed any lead — I would not have made any correction for lead merely to hit a target of that size."

Can anyone spot the outrageous error in the above testimony?

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At 100 yards, which is 6 2/3 times the distance from 15 yards, the round would have hit 6 2/3 times higher than the round hit at 15 yards. The round would have hit at (6 2/3) x (2.5 inches) high. The round also would have hit (6 2/3) x (1 inch) to the right.

Frazier is misrepresenting the area of error and the dimensions of error at 100 yards.

Edited by Jon G. Tidd
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You're on the right track, Jon. However, it is much worse than you think. I originally attempted to solve this problem using algebra, but the intricacies of ballistics required a formula with much more finesse. Luckily, there are on line ballistics calculators that will do all of our thinking for us.

The mistakes (or otherwise) we are concerned with here are mainly with the elevation of the shots, or where the bullets land vertically on the targets at different ranges. The lateral spread of the bullets, at different ranges, will be a constant number. While it may vary at different ranges, the peculiarities of a side mounted scope predetermine where the bullets will land laterally. Any variation from this predetermined constant will indicate serious tampering with the shooting results, or results made up without even shooting the rifle.

Be prepared for some mind numbing figures, but it should be fun, too.

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During its flight in air, a bullet is acted upon by two forces: [1] gravitational force (32 ft/s2 is the acceleration due to gravitational force), and [2] frictional force caused by the bullet's interaction with the air (including water molecules in the air).

The frictional force causes the bullet to slow, to lose velocity. The gravitational force does not; it merely causes the bullet to drop.

In a simple ballistics calculation, frictional force is ignored. This is the type of calculation done in a first semester physics course. I assume it's the type of calculation you have in mind.

If frictional force is ignored, the bullet follows a parabolic path. If the rifle barrel is horizontal (i.e., assumed parallel to the ground), the parabolic path will curve downward from the moment the bullet leaves the rifle barrel. If the rifle barrel is aimed upward a little, the parabolic path will rise and then curve downward. In order to perform simple ballistics calculations, one must know or assume how the rifle is aimed (horizontally or at some angle up or down with respect to the horizontal). One also must know or assume the initial speed of the bullet as it leaves the rifle barrel.

It's not possible to determine the angle of the rifle barrel or the initial speed of the bullet from Frazier's testimony. Do you know or have assumptions for these quantities?

Edited by Jon G. Tidd
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Hello Jon

Yes, all of these factors are taken into account when one enters data into a ballistic calculator. Every bullet has something known as a "ballistic coefficient" which is a determination of that bullet's ability to counteract the frictional force or "drag" that you speak of.

Frazier clearly states, in his testimony to the WC, that he determined the muzzle velocity of WCC 6.5mm ammunition, fired from C2766, to be, on average, 2165 feet per second.

We do not need to know the angle of the rifle barrel. We only need to know at what range the rifle is zeroed to be accurate, or sighted in at. In this case, it is impossible to determine this from Frazier's testimony, as it would appear that C2766 is zeroed to be accurate at several different ranges. This, of course, is impossible. However, the solution is to enter, into the ballistics calculator, many different zeroed ranges, in order to create many different models, and use these to determine an accurate picture of what the rifle was or was not doing during the FBI tests.

It is not accurate to say a bullet follows a parabolic curve. In the shooting world, everything is calculated from the line of sight of the shooter, whether that line of sight is horizontal, at a 45° angle, or vertical, and we are only concerned about bullet drop from that line of sight.

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Here is the longer piece of Mr. Frazier's testimony from which the paraphrased Wikipedia excerpts were taken:

"Mr. EISENBERG - This test was performed at 15 yards, did you say, Mr. Frazier?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir. And this series of shots we fired to determine actually the speed at which the rifle could be fired, not being overly familiar with this particular firearm, and also to determine the accuracy of the weapon under those conditions.
Mr. EISENBERG - And could you give us the names of the three agents who participated?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir. Charles Killion, Cortlandt Cunningham, and myself.
Mr. EISENBERG - And the date?
Mr. FRAZIER - November 27, 1963.
Mr. EISENBERG - How many shots did each agent fire?
Mr. FRAZIER - Killion fired three, Cunningham fired three, and I fired three.
Mr. EISENBERG - And do you have the times within which each agent fired the three shots?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir. Killion fired his three shots in nine seconds, and they are shown--the three shots are interlocking, shown on Commission Exhibit No. 549.
Cunningham fired three shots--I know the approximate number of seconds was seven.
Cunningham's time was approximately seven seconds.
Mr. EISENBERG - Can you at a later date confirm the exact time?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir.
Mr. EISENBERG - And you will do that by letter to the Commission, or if you happen to come back by oral testimony?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir.
Mr. EISENBERG - And your time, Mr. Frazier?
Mr. FRAZIER - For this series, was six seconds, for my three shots, which also were on the target at which Mr. Cunningham fired, which is Exhibit 548.
Mr. EISENBERG - Could you characterize the dispersion of the shots on the two targets which you have been showing us, 548 and 549?
Mr. FRAZIER - The bullets landed approximately--in Killion's target, No. 549, approximately 2 1/2 inches high, and 1 inch to the right, in the area about the size of a dime, interlocking in the paper, all three shots.

On Commission Exhibit 548, Cunningham fired three shots. These shots were interlocking, or within an eighth of an inch of each other, and were located approximately 4 inches high and 1 inch to the right of the aiming point. The three shots which I fired were landed in a three-quarter inch circle, two of them interlocking with Cunningham's shots, 4 inches high, and approximately 1 inch to the right of the aiming point.
Mr. EISENBERG - Can you describe the second series of tests?
Mr. FRAZIER - The second test which was performed was two series of three shots at 25 yards, instead of 15 yards. I fired both of these tests, firing them at a cardboard target, in an effort to determine how fast the weapon could be fired primarily, with secondary purpose accuracy.
We did not attempt- I did not attempt to maintain in that test an accurate rate of fire.
This is the actual target which I fired.
Mr. EISENBERG - And that target has all six holes in it?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir--two series of three holes, the first three holes being marked with the No. 1, and the second series being marked No. 2.
Mr. EISENBERG - Mr. Chairman, I would like this introduced as 550.
Mr. McCLOY - That will be admitted.
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 550, and received in evidence.)
Mr. EISENBERG - Could you describe for the record the dispersion on the two series?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir. The first series of three shots were approximately--from 4 to 5 inches high and from 1 to 2 inches to the right of the aiming point, and landed within a 2-inch circle. These three shots were fired in 4.8 seconds. The second series of shots landed--one was about 1 inch high, and the other two about 4 or 5 inches high, and the maximum spread was 5 inches.
That series was fired in 4.6 seconds.
Mr. EISENBERG - And do you have the date?
Mr. FRAZIER - That also was on the 27th of November.
Mr. EISENBERG - Same date as the first tests?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir.
Mr. EISENBERG - And you performed one more test, I believe?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir. We fired additional targets at 100 yards on the range at Quantico, Va., firing groups of three shots. And 1 have the four targets we fired here.
Mr. EISENBERG - Mr. Chairman, I would like these admitted as 551, 552, 553, and 554.
Mr. McCLOY - They may be admitted.
(The documents referred to were marked Commission Exhibits Nos. 551 through 554, and received in evidence.) Mr. EISENBERG - Who fired these shots, Mr. Frazier?
Mr. FRAZIER - I fired them.
Mr. EISENBERG - Can you characterize the dispersion on each of the four targets?
Mr. FRAZIER - Yes, sir.
On Commission Exhibit 551 the three shots landed approximately 5 inches high and within a 3 1/2-inch circle, almost on a line horizontally across the target. This target and the other targets were fired on March 16, 1964 at Quantico, Va. These three shots were fired in 5.9 seconds.
The second target fired is Commission Exhibit 552, consisting of three shots fired in 6.2 seconds, which landed in approximately a 4 1/2 to 5-inch circle located 4 inches high and 3 or 4 inches to the right of the aiming point.
Commission Exhibit No. 553 is the third target fired, consisting of three shots which landed in a 3-inch circle located about 2 1/2 inches high and 2 inches to the right of the aiming point.
These three shots were fired in 5.6 seconds.
And Commission Exhibit No. 554, consisting of three shots fired in 6.5 seconds, which landed approximately 5 inches high and 5 inches to the right of the aiming point, all within a 3 1/2-inch circle."
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I've been thinking about the problem you present. Here are my thoughts.

When Frazier's bullet leaves the rifle, no horizontal (left-right) force acts on the bullet. The bullet therefore does not move horizontally one way or another. Again ignoring frictional force.

This means the part of my response at post #2 pertaining to how far "wide" the bullet would strike at 100 yards, given it struck 1 inch to the right at 15 yards, is correct. The correctness comes from the plane geometry theorem applicable to equiangular triangles.

The ballistic calculations (equations of motion) apply to the up-down motion of the bullet because of the gravitational force. And apply only to the up-down motion. The gravitational force acts vertically, not horizontally.

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Think of this for a second. If your scope is mounted directly above the receiver and chamber, the line of sight of the scope is directly above the path of the bullet through the barrel. Once the scope is sighted in, it should be accurate in the lateral plane (side to side impact) out to infinity.

However, due to the peculiarities of the Carcano, you cannot mount a scope directly above the receiver. It must be mounted off centre, out to the left side of the receiver, making the line of sight and the path of the bullet two converging, parallel or diverging lines; all depending on how well the rifle is sighted in.

How do you think this affects lateral accuracy of this rifle?

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Having been educated as an undergraduate in electrical engineering, here's how I think about it.

The scope tells the shooter the bullet will travel along the x-axis. The bullet hits at 15 yards 1 inch to the right of the x-axis. Because the rifle barrel is not aligned with the scope. This means the scope is mis-aligned. If the scope were aligned properly, left to right, the bullet would have hit dead-center along the x-axis.

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Close, but not quite.

Let us say the scope is mounted offset by 1 inch to the left of the receiver, as is close to the way the scope is mounted on C2766. This places the line of sight 1 inch to the left of the centre of the barrel, as well as the path of the bullet.

If a target was placed a few inches out from the end of the barrel (muzzle) and the shooter aimed at the bullseye, the bullet is likely to impact the target 1 inch to the right of the bullseye.

If the same rifle is aimed at a target at 100 yards, and the bullet impacts the target again 1 inch to the right of the bullseye, this tells us the barrel and scope, although separated laterally by 1 inch, are perfectly parallel to each other, and the rifle will continue to impact bullets 1 inch to the right of the point of aim, out to infinity.

This is an option for sighting in a side mounted rifle scope, simply to align the scope parallel with the barrel. All the shooter needs to know is the distance from the centre of the scope to the centre of the barrel, and to aim this much to the left for each shot, regardless of the range he is shooting at.

But, judging from the results Frazier obtained, that is not how the scope on C2766 was sighted in at all. At 15 yards, the bullets are impacting 1 inch to the right of the point of aim. At 25 yards, they seem to be landing 1-2 inches to the right of the point of aim. At 100 yards, the bullets are impacting the target 3-4 inches to the right of the point of aim.

Do you see a progression here? What is happening is, the line of sight of the scope and the path of the bullet are on diverging courses, and the further out you go, the greater the spread will be. At 200 yards, this rifle would likely be impacting the target almost 8 inches to the right of the point of aim.

This is not a sign that Oswald was particularly knowledgeable about sighting in a scope, although I will give him a break here, as it is far more difficult to sight in a side mounted scope than a scope mounted in the typical fashion, above the receiver.

The normal method of sighting in a side mounted scope is either the "parallel" lines method I discussed above, or the method of having the line of sight and the path of the bullet on converging courses, and having the two cross each other some distance out from the rifle. Typically, a hunter with a rifle with a side mounted scope will sight this rifle in to be accurate, both vertical and horizontal, at 100 yards. If line of sight and bullet path are 1 inch apart at the rifle, they will be 1/2 inch apart at 50 yards and will cross each other's paths at 100 yards. Up to this point, the bullet is impacting to the right of the point of aim. Once the two paths cross, the bullet will begin impacting to the left of the target. At 200 yards, the bullet should impact 1 inch to the left of the point of aim on the target, and so on. This is the best method if a shooter is only shooting out to 200 yards, but for shooters making really long shots, the parallel method makes for one less calculation on a long shot and, as I said, the shooter merely needs to aim to the left of the target an amount equal to the distance between the centre of the barrel and the centre of the scope. It should be noted that the shooter is not restricted to have the paths cross at 100 yards, and can sight this crossing point in for any distance he chooses.

It should be noted that Frazier stated the main thing they were testing here was speed, and not accuracy, and that it is possible the spread of the bullets on the target can be accounted for by careless aiming. However this is not a fair assumption, as it must be remembered that the first shot of each test would already be in the chamber, and would not be a hurried shot. As the following shots seem to land in a fairly good group (if one can call a 3.5x5 inch circle at 100 yards a good group) these tests would seem to be a good indication of where the bullets were impacting the targets.

However, the large group this rifle was firing at 100 yards could be indicative of several other things. The WCC cartridges were loaded with 6.5mm bullets that were .264" in diameter. This is the diameter of 6.5mm bullets for the majority of 6.5mm rifles on the planet but, the 6.5mm Carcano is special. It has deeper rifling grooves and requires a bullet .268" in diameter in order to maximize accuracy. Much of the poor reputation the Carcano has received, over the years, has been due to shooters firing cartridges loaded with the smaller .264" bullets.

If the bullets fired at each target progressively impacted higher and more to the right with each shot, it is indicative of an entirely different problem. The Carcano had a wooden stock and, like many rifles, the barrel was designed to "float" in the stock. This means that stock and barrel touched each other at the breech (chamber), where they are fastened together, but for the rest of the length of the barrel there is a tiny gap between stock and barrel, with the barrel in the trough made in the stock.

Parts of the Southern States, especially Louisiana, can be very humid, and a rifle stock may be exposed to extremes of humidity, depending how and where the rifle is stored. If the wood of the stock is not properly sealed, it could absorb moisture and, when it dries out, the stock may warp, depending on the grain of the wood. I have had this happen to a couple of rifles, and this is one of the reasons rifle stocks made from synthetics have become so popular.

You may wonder how a warped stock could affect bullet impact on a target. Simply put, if the stock did warp and, in this case, the stock was pressing against the lower left portion of the barrel, the barrel is flexible enough that this pressure would cause the first bullet to go high and to the right. Also, the first shot would heat the barrel up and cause it to expand, ever so slightly. This would make the second shot go even higher and further to the right, and the heat it gave to the barrel would affect the third shot further. Etc, etc, etc. The only solution is to remove the barrel, find the high spot on the stock, sand it down, seal the wood and re-mount the barrel.

The other option is that C2766 was simply an old worn out rifle that was not that great a rifle, even on the day it was made, and that its barrel was worn out from many thousands of shots fired through it, and badly eroded from years of neglect and poor storage in a humid climate.

Edited by Robert Prudhomme
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If the scope was aligned parallel to the barrel, the bullet would have struck the same distance to the right at 15 yards as it struck at 100 yards. Frazier said the bullet struck wider to the right at 100 yards than it did at 15 yards. This means the scope is lined up along the x-axis and the rifle barrel is aimed to the right of the scope.

I am correct as a matter of geometry.

I defer to you knowledge of weapons.

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That's right, Jon. You put it in slightly different terms than shooters do but, it comes out the same in the end. Basically, the side mounted scope, on the left side of the receiver, was looking to the left, and the barrel was looking to the right. The further out from the rifle, the bigger the spread between line of sight and path of bullet becomes. As I said, there may have also been other things wrong with the rifle, but this seems to be the main problem.

If this was the way the scope was adjusted when Oswald brought it to the TSBD, it is a clear indication he did not know much about sighting in a rifle scope.

However, as the man said, "You aint seen nuthin' yet!"

Up next, SA Robert A. Frazier does the impossible!

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The outrageous thing in Mr. Frazier's testimony is that he tells us he and two colleagues each fired three shots, with the assassination rifle, at different targets at 15 yards, and each of these shots hit the 15 yard targets 2.5 - 4 inches high of the point of aim.

He then further outrages any thinking person with even the slightest experience with shooting rifles by telling the WC that he and his two colleagues then each fired three shots, with the same rifle, at targets set up at 100 yards (after shooting at targets at 25 yards), and all bullets struck their 100 yard targets 2.5 - 5 inches high of the point of aim.

What Mr. Frazier has testified to here is physically impossible, and I will show you exactly why that is true. If there is any truth to Frazier's testimony about the rifle shooting 2.5 - 4 inches high at 15 yards, C2766 is disqualified as being the assassination weapon; at least as far as shooting with the scope is concerned. I will explain all of this, as well.

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I had at first attempted to employ algebra in determining how much above the point of aim at 100 yards the bullets would be impacting but, as Jon pointed out, algebra does not account for the ballistic coefficient of a bullet. Instead, I chose a more professional method and decided to employ a handy ballistics calculator found at this site http://www.handloads.com/calc/ . I entered all the relevant data concerning the Carcano and its ammunition. Muzzle velocity, as testified by Frazier, 2165 fps, bullet weight = 162 grains, ballistic coefficient (from another calculator) = .322 and sight height (centreline of scope distance above centreline of bore) as determined by my friend Drew Phipp from DPF = 1.5".

In order to have a bullet impact a target at 15 yards and have that impact 2.5 inches high of the "point of aim" or line of sight (as claimed by Frazier) it was necessary, on this calculator, to zero the rifle at 5.5 yards. In other words, if the rifle was hitting 2.5 inches high at 15 yards, it would be dead on at 5.5 yards; the point at where the line of sight and the bullet path cross.

This diagram shows what I mean.

Notice that the bullet path crosses the line of sight just out from the muzzle, and again at the target.

The results I found with a target zero of 5.5 yards are shown below. Note that, at 0 yards, the figure in all calculations is -1.5", due to the fact that our barrel centreline is 1.5 inches below the scope centreline. The bullet will always, in this rifle, begin its journey 1.5 inches below the line of sight.

Unfortunately, when I attempted to c/p the chart printed out by the ballistics calculator it came out as a jumble of numbers, instead of the nice table seen at that site. Because of this, I have omitted about half of the chart, and kept the important figures pertaining to our topic. The most important numbers to us are the first three columns on the left, and they are, left to right, Range (in yards), Muzzle Velocity (in feet per second) and Impact (measured in inches either below the line of sight, in negative numbers, or above the line of sight)

0 2165 -1.5
5 2148 -0.14
10 2136 1.21
15 2123 2.54
20 2111 3.85
25 2099 5.14
30 2087 6.42
35 2074 7.67
40 2062 8.9
45 2050 10.11
50 2038 11.3
55 2026 12.47
60 2014 13.61
65 2002 14.74
70 1990 15.84
75 1979 16.92
80 1967 17.98
85 1955 19.02
90 1943 20.04
95 1932 21.03
100 1920 22

Looking at the range and impact columns, we can see the impact figure of -.14" at 5 yards. This is correct, as the rifle scope is zeroed at 5.5 yards, and the bullet is about to cross the line of sight at 5.5 yards. Further down, we can see, at 15 yards, the bullet is now 2.54" above the line of sight; precisely where Frazier claimed one of the FBI shooters was hitting a 15 yard target.

Now it gets interesting. If we scroll down to 100 yards, we find the rifle zeroed at 5.5 yards, and impacting 2.54" high at 15 yards, is impacting a 100 yard target 22 inches above the point of aim.

However, if we look again at Frazier's testimony, we find that Frazier's three shots at a 15 yard target impacted 4 inches high of the point of aim. Let's see how that changes things on the trajectory. In order to have a bullet impacting the target 4.08" high at 15 yards, it was necessary to zero the scope at 4 yards. The results are shown below:

0 2165 -1.5
5 2148 0.37
10 2136 2.23
15 2123 4.08
20 2111 5.9
25 2099 7.7
30 2087 9.48
35 2074 11.24
40 2062 12.99
45 2050 14.71
50 2038 16.41
55 2026 18.09
60 2014 19.74
65 2002 21.39
70 1990 23
75 1979 24.59
80 1967 26.16
85 1955 27.71
90 1943 29.23
95 1932 30.74
100 1920 32.22


Edited by Robert Prudhomme
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