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The Shell Game, 2021


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The Shell Game
by Gil Jesus (2021)

 

(Author's note: This is a rewrite of a 2005 narrative that I did. It's been updated and edited for accuracy. )




 

 
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INTRODUCTION

The Warren Commission based its conclusion that three shots had been fired on the existence of the three shells found in the TSBD. (Commission Exhibits 543, 544 and 545) It reported that two of the cartridge cases had marks "produced by the chamber of Oswald's rifle", one which contained marks produced by the Carcano's magazine follower and the other had markings from the bolt of the Depository rifle (CE 139). Two cases had markings indicating that they had been loaded into a rifle at least twice. When the rifle was found, an unfired round was in the chamber, ejected when Capt. Fritz operated the bolt. This is an important detail when we examine evidence linking the rifle shells to the rifle.


CE 543

This cartridge (Commission Exhibit 543) had a dent on its lip which would have made it impossible for it to have contained a bullet prior to its being fired. Therefore, either one of two possibilities existed: either the shell received the dent prior to the shooting and was not connected to it (implying that it was planted at the scene -- evidence of a conspiracy) or the shell was in fact evidence and was dented somehow after its bullet had been spent.

Faced with a mandate to dispel rumors of a conspiracy, the Commission at first assumed that this cartridge received its dent upon being ejected from the rifle and falling onto the floor.

However, solid brass cartridges don't dent when they hit the floor, as any hunter will tell you. The FBI reported to the Commission that the dent was made during the firing sequence, WHILE THE BOLT WAS PULLED BACKWARD, after the shot had been fired. This seemed reasonable enough to the Commission to explain the existence of the dented lip, but on closer examination, the evidence does not support this conclusion.

So where did the dent on the lip come from ? Did Oswald make the dent with a hammer after he fired the last shot ? The only sensible conclusion is that this shell was planted at the scene of the crime.

And this may be the reason that the Dallas Police hesitated in sending this shell to the FBI for examination.

The cartridge extractor and ejector markings of all the shells could not be matched to the Depository rifle. (CE 2968)
 


CE 543 did contain three sets of markings inconsistent with the markings produced by the Depository rifle, indicating that it had been loaded and ejected three times from a weapon other than CE 139.

Secondly, CE 543 contained markings caused by the magazine follower of the Depository rifle. When the Carcano was tested by the FBI, it was found that the magazine follower marked only the last cartridge in the clip. The last cartridge in the clip of CE 139 when found on November 22nd was an unfired round. (CE 141)

As previously mentioned, this cartridge remained in the possession of the Dallas Police until November 28th, five days after the other two shells had been turned over to the FBI for examination.

It should be noted that a behind-the-scenes struggle for possession of the evidence existed between the DPD and the FBI. Capt. Fritz refused to release it, and Chief Curry backed him up. Only after Lyndon Johnson called Fritz and ordered him to do so ("You have your man, the investigation is over") did Chief Curry and Capt. Fritz finally agree to release it.
Despite this agreement, the DPD did not give the FBI all of its evidence on November 23rd, withholding CE 543 and three of the four bullets removed from the body of Officer Tippit.

As we shall see, this shell was not the only shell that contained marks from the Depository rifle's magazine follower. Nor was it the only shell that contained marks from a rifle other than CE 139.

CE 544 & CE 545

CE 544 had the markings of the firing chamber and from the firing pin of the CE 139 rifle, indicating that it had been fired by CE 139 at some point in time, and that it had been loaded into the firing chamber, fired and ejected through the bolt action. This is strong evidence that CE 544 contained a bullet that was fired from CE 139, although this not proof that the bullet was fired on November 22nd or for that matter, that it was Oswald who fired it.

CE 544 had two sets of markings which were made from a rifle other than CE 139.


CE 545 had the marking of the magazine follower, which marked only the last shell in the clip. So CE 545 had been loaded as the last shell in the clip and then unloaded by hand after the clip was removed. This had occurred some time prior to the assassination of JFK.

CE 545 had two sets of markings which were made from a rifle other than CE 139.

In other words, all three shells had been in another rifle and two of those shells had been the last shell in the clip of CE139.


THE HUNT FOR RELOADS

The FBI interpreted the mystery markings on the shells as evidence that the shells held reloaded ammunition. So they canvassed the Dallas gunshops to find someone who was reloading copper jacketed ammo. Their search was unsuccessful, although they did find two gunshops which were selling reloads of "soft" ammunition, that is lead bullets without the metal jacket.

One was the shop of John Thomas Masen and the other was the shop of Johnny Bringer. Both denied that they ever sold ammunition to Oswald, so the FBI dropped it.

Why didn't the FBI ask them who was selling copper-jacketed ammo ? Where were they getting their brass from to load the reloads ? They were getting their used brass from somewhere.

The FBI never even pursued it. There may have been a reason for that.

This letter from the manufacturer, Winchester-Western, indicates that the production of the ammunition "immediately ceased after World War II and all rounds loaded became the property of our government or our allies". It goes on to say that, "this item was never offered for commercial or sporting purposes."
 


In other words, you couldn't buy this ammunition.

The only one who had it was the US Government.

CONCLUSION

Both CE 543 and CE 545 contained markings from the CE 139 magazine follower, which marked the last round in the clip. So both of these rounds were at some point the last round in the clip.

We know that neither was the last shell in the clip when the rifle was found.

So when were they the last shell ?

Before or after the assassination ?

Why would anyone physically remove these shells from their place in the bottom of the clip only to load them back in ?

Why not just load cartridges on top of them ?

Was this rifle, CE 139 fired before November 22, 1963 and that's when these shells were in the bottom of the clip ?

The FBI never wanted to know.

Edited by Gil Jesus
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A really interesting topic that is all but ignored.

In fact, it was never really investigated as to when the markings were made.

To me it would be easy to find out if you really wanted to.

Also, I did some work on the denting of the shell. The HSCA lied about this. (No surprise)

The only way  a dent like that can happen is by dry loading. 

If you add in the fact that Oswald never had any of this ammunition, then the indications are pretty clear.

 

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, James DiEugenio said:

A really interesting topic that is all but ignored.

In fact, it was never really investigated as to when the markings were made.

To me it would be easy to find out if you really wanted to.

Also, I did some work on the denting of the shell. The HSCA lied about this. (No surprise)

The only way  a dent like that can happen is by dry loading. 

If you add in the fact that Oswald never had any of this ammunition, then the indications are pretty clear.

 

16 hours ago, James DiEugenio said:

 

 I figure three possibilities:

1. Either someone was reloading this ammunition

2. someone else had a 6.5 rifle and this ammunition was in that rifle, or

3. the Depository rifle was fired BEFORE the assassination and these were the empty shells from that firing and CE 543 and 545 were loaded at different times as the last cartridge in the clip when fired.

One more thing: I think I read some place that when the FBI interviewed Masen, he said that he had bought ten boxes of the copper-jacketed bullets, but he "couldn't remember" who he sold them to.

It's amazing how guilt can effect the memory sometimes.

Edited by Gil Jesus
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Other two factors in the ammunition topic are these:

  1. Why would the clip be partially loaded?  It holds 6 rounds, but only 4 are found.  With the most important target in the world, why would someone partially load the clip?
  2. Why / how would someone be so sure of their target and where the bullets were going to hit to load in one clip - in reverse order - ammunition with the specific types of bullets based on their use: FMJ to penetrate both JFK and JBC and be found virtually intact (544) and then frangible / JHP ammo to expand into the cloud of fragments found in JFK's skull?  Being a firearm owner myself, every magazine is loaded with one and only one type of ammunition, 99% of the time from the same manufacturer.  This to me is strong evidence of multiple firearms being used. Similar question can be asked of the pistol and casings from the Tippet murder - multiple manufacturers.

Thanks

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My two cents, having fired an old, not spectacularly kept bolt-action rifle: If the dent in one of the exhibit cartridge casings was made in the act of ejecting it from the receiver, the mechanical malfunction that caused that dent could have resulted in a "hang-up" for the shooter, costing firing time and aiming accuracy.  A malfunction that could dent a cartridge lip would not go unnoticed by any shooter.  Myself, I'd curse, and if I were an assassin I'd have anxiety about further malfunction.  An ordinary shooter wouldn't fire the damn thing again without making some maintenance effort.

So that dent could have disrupted the firing timeline created for Oswald in the WR.  Of course, nobody tested the exhibit Carcano for repeating this kind of dent-producing "hang up," or factored the "hang-up" time into the shot timing, did they?  Or did they?

Edited by David Andrews
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4 hours ago, Rick McTague said:

Other two factors in the ammunition topic are these:

  1. Why would the clip be partially loaded?  It holds 6 rounds, but only 4 are found.  With the most important target in the world, why would someone partially load the clip?
  2. Why / how would someone be so sure of their target and where the bullets were going to hit to load in one clip - in reverse order - ammunition with the specific types of bullets based on their use: FMJ to penetrate both JFK and JBC and be found virtually intact (544) and then frangible / JHP ammo to expand into the cloud of fragments found in JFK's skull?  Being a firearm owner myself, every magazine is loaded with one and only one type of ammunition, 99% of the time from the same manufacturer.  This to me is strong evidence of multiple firearms being used. Similar question can be asked of the pistol and casings from the Tippet murder - multiple manufacturers.

Thanks

Excellent point Rick. A police sniper is patient. He knows he may only get one shot, especially in a hostage situation. But that doesn't mean he only loads one cartridge in the rifle. Neither does a military sniper. And as far as two different kinds of ammunition goes, you're right. It is evidence of two shooters. And if the bullets don't match the shells, that's evidence of tampering with the shells.

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3 hours ago, David Andrews said:

My two cents, having fired an old, not spectacularly kept bolt-action rifle: If the dent in one of the exhibit cartridge casings was made in the act of ejecting it from the receiver, the mechanical malfunction that caused that dent could have resulted in a "hang-up" for the shooter, costing firing time and aiming accuracy.  A malfunction that could dent a cartridge lip would not go unnoticed by any shooter.  Myself, I'd curse, and if I were an assassin I'd have anxiety about further malfunction.  An ordinary shooter wouldn't fire the damn thing again without making some maintenance effort.

So that dent could have disrupted the firing timeline created for Oswald in the WR.  Of course, nobody tested the exhibit Carcano for repeating this kind of dent-producing "hang up," or factored the "hang-up" time into the shot timing, did they?  Or did they?

Good question Dave. I've never seen evidence that they would admit there was a problem except that the bolt was so rusted they had to operate it back and forth for almost 10 minutes to free it up. I don't know how it affected their speed, but even if it did they wouldn't have admitted it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just some thoughts on reading Johnny Cairns' two recent articles on the M-C rifle at Kennedys and King, which report that no cleaning solutions or tools were among Oswald's gear:

Wasn't this Oswald nut a former Marine?

Didn't the Corps teach him to field strip and clean a rifle?

In the matter of becoming an assassin, would poverty and disillusion trump habit and common sense?

Wouldn't he clean that cheap piece well in order to establish himself as a World Historical Individual, and avoid shooter hang-ups such as spent cartridges caught and dented in the ejector works?

A scene in Oliver Stone's JFK shows Oswald cleaning a rifle in New Orleans.  If Perry Russo reported that accurately to Garrison, why did Oswald not clean his rifle for D-Day in Dallas?  No opportunity in the Paines' garage?  Was there ever a rifle stored in the Paines' garage?

Does the Warren exhibit M-C have rusty and fragile parts because it was - as was rumored - buried for a time by someone after the Walker shooting?

Edited by David Andrews
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