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Ballistics Evidence of John F. Kennedy’s Assassination Essay

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Updated: Sep 6th, 2021

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the thirty-fifth president of the United States, at the young age of forty-two. By the time he took office, president John F. Kennedy (JFK) was America’s first Catholic elected to the office, and was arguable perceived and embraced as America’s ”political darling”.

His premature death came through assassination on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was riding in an open limousine that also carried First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Texas Governor John B. Connally, and Mrs. Nellie Connally. Gunshots that supposedly killed John Kennedy were fired as the presidential limousine was rounding off a corner in Dealey Plaza.

He had only served for three years by the time he made that fateful trip which he had hoped would help bolster relations between his administration and the electorate. His assassination terminated the sense of national innocence and started the political and social upheaval that is usually associated with the 1960s. Despite his term in office being cut short, John F. Kennedy left an affluent personal and political legacy that has long been admired for many years.

The aftermath of John F. Kennedy assassination saw the arrest and the subsequent murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was the lead suspect in the shooting that took place from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository’s southeast window. Oswald is allegedly said to have used a Mannlicher-Carcano, World-War II vintage 6.5 mm Italian bolt-action rifle to do the shooting.

Ballistic evidence and varying witness accounts project that at least three-four shots had been fired. Although this knowledge is widely known to the media and the general public, there is no comprehensive and concrete theory on the ballistics evidence that backs up the events in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Examination of Rifle and Cartridge Cases

The rifle that is supposedly used in the assassination of president John Kennedy is described in the volume, ”Assassination Report of the Warren Commission” by Gerald Ford, where it states that, ” the telescopic-sight rifle found on the sixth floor of the Depository building had various inscriptions on it, including ”MADE ITALY,” which referred to its origin; ”CAL. 6.5,” which referred to the rifle’s caliber ; ”1940” which referred to the year of manufacture; and the number C2766 which is the rifle’s serial number.

After a close examination of these markings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified it as a 6.5-millimeter model 91/38 Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.

FBI experts independently identified the rifle by inserting a 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano cartridge into the weapon for fit, and then making a sulfur cast of the rifle’s inside barrel and measuring the cast with a micrometer. By doing this the weapon’s outward appearance seemed to be a 7.35-millimeter rifle, but its mechanics had been rebarreled with a 6.5- millimeter barrel” (54).

Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, various investigations did center on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building. According chapter III of the report, ” The Shots from the Texas School Book Depository” by the Warren Commission, it states that,” a rifle and three spent cartridges were found on the sixth floor of the Depository building by the Dallas police.

They also discovered a nearly intact bullet on the stretcher, which was used for Governor Connally’s transportation to the Parkland Hospital, while the president’s limousine had five bullet fragments, which were all analyzed by qualified experts. Therefore, to the exclusion of other weapons, the expert analysis pointed out that all the evidence at hand suggested that they were all fired in the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Depository building”(79-81).

Bullet Fragments

The characteristics of any given weapon is usually engraved on a bullet upon been fired, mainly by examining the bullet’s fragments and cartridge cases. The bullet fragments removed from Kennedy’s limousine and the other victims came from those empty cases (Spencer 46). A new bullet analysis was conducted by a research team that comprised of two Texas A&M University scientists and a former top FBI laboratory expert.

This team took boxes from two of the four total lots of the Mannlicher-Carcano bullets that were manufactured in 1954. One of these lots had the ammunition used by Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate the president. By obtaining 30 bullets from three different boxes, the researchers were able to analyze the bullets’ chemical composition with a technology with was not available in the 1960s.

The result of this new technique showed that many bullets within the same box had similar composition, therefore showing that fired bullet fragments do not necessarily come from the same bullet despite it having the same chemical composition. The team of researchers was also able to test-match the chemical composition of a bullet which was not among the same box of ammunition used by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, to one of the five bullet fragments found at the assassination scene.

The lead in the bullet fragments found at the scene of crime was uniquely recovered from just the two bullets traced to the batch, which was in Oswald’s possession (Flemming 310). This finding do support the theory of Oswald being the lone assassin, and if the fragments came from three or more bullets then a second shooter could have fired the other bullet. The significance of this research is that it calls into question the number of bullets, which were fired at president John F. Kennedy.

Single Bullet Theory

Arlen Specter who is a former United States senator from Pennsylvania, was also a junior counsel to the Warren Commission. He came out to the chief proponent of the single bullet theory, which allowed the Warren Commission to conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin in president John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

According to the web article, ” The Single Bullet Theory” researcher Gerald McKnight writes that, ” the theory suggests that one bullet did hit Kennedy’s neck in the back, it exited his neck from his front throat to continually hit Connally in the back, wrist and leg, and the same bullet eventually falling out of Connally’s leg and onto the stretcher which was used to carry him at Parkland”.

This scenario is supported by the theory that the purported number of shots could only be within an allotted time frame and that the bullet changed course several times, behaving in the manner it did to incur wounds to both president Kennedy and Governor Connally (Yardum,98). However, some commissioners from the Warren Commission openly opposed this theory.

The Magic Bullet

This theory suggests that the ”Magic bullet” which was found in the hospital was in an almost ”pristine” condition, with its copper jacketing being completely intact, therefore pointing out that it was a full metal jacketed bullet, commonly known as a non-frangible bullet that leaves very little metallic fragments in its outcome (Becker,321).

Over the years, extensive test-firing have been done with a similar rifle to that of Lee Oswald, and results have shown that the bullet came up deformed. More metal grains were also discovered in Connally’s wrist and chest, and relinquished the possibility of this being incurred from the same bullet to cause the total number of nine wounds. (Livingstone 453). This therefore meant that if all those bullet fragments came from the so-called ”magic bullet”, then there could have been more than one assassin involved in the shooting.

The Controversy

Various controversies still looms Kennedy’s assassination with accusations of both internal and external conspiracies, with some theories seeming more plausible than others. There is a bitter disagreement on whether Lee Harvey Oswald was even involved or whether he acted alone or even had an inside or outside help in the president’s murder.

According to the online article, ”Old JFK documents may stir controversy”, by Reuters, states that, ” some old documents that linked to the assassination of president John F. Kennedy, have reportedly been discovered. These documents also include a transcript conversation between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, who shot and killed Oswald while still in police custody.

The controversial transcript is a conversation between Oswald and Ruby in which they talk on killing Kennedy so as to stop the mafia-busting agenda which his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy was deeply involved in” (1). This adds to the conspiracy that Oswald did not act alone in killing Kennedy, and that the elements involved in Kennedy’s assassination did not want to see him ”talking”.

Some controversial opinions have speculated that Cuba’s government could have been involved in the assassination, in response to plots by the CIA to have Fidel Castro killed. Some other quarters think that senior U.S. officials may have been involved, because prior to president Kennedy’s assassination, it has speculated that American troops might pull out of Vietnam, and this left some military officials deeply angered with the president.

However, most theories have also owed to the ballistic evidence which indicated that a single-loaded gun used by Oswald could not fire all the shots presumably fired, and also the autopsy and the photographic evidence proves that president Kennedy could not have been hit from the angle where the Depository school building was situated (Genovese 28).


My conclusion from this writing is that, there have been some ballistic inconsistencies over the years through the analysis of the bullets character and the type of wounds they inflicted in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Various evidences hold the idea that there was more than one shooter in Kennedy’s shooting, while others do support the idea of only one shooter involved in the shooting, therefore, no comprehensive conclusion can be given out to support the Warren Commission report which implies the three bullet theory, there being only one gunman, and there being no conspiracy in Kennedy’s assassination.

This means that the shooting and killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was the lead suspect in the assassination, gives investigators a ”dead wall”, in understanding and compiling his character, motive and intention in their reports.

The killing of Oswald only adds to the various conspiracy theories of there being some other elements involved as sporadically circulated in the media and public life over the years. Witness accounts at the scene in regards to them hearing shots being fired from different positions does not confirm the ballistic evidence at the scene This can only leave the American public and the rest of the world to contend with the past, current, and future theories and evidences that will come in light over the years.

Works Cited

Becker, Don. . Indiana. Author House, 2010. Web.

Commission, Warren. Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. National Archives and Records Administration, 1964. Web.

Ford, Gerald. . Nashville. Gerald Ford Signed Edition, 2005. Web.

Flemming, Laraine. . Boston. Cengage Learning, 2010. Web.

Genovese, Michael. . New York. Infobase Publishing, 2010. Web.

Livingstone, Harrison. : Stunning Evidence in the Assassination of the President. British Columbia. Trafford Publishing, 2004. Web.

McKnight, Gerald. . JFL Lancer. 2007. Web.

News, Dallas. ‘”. Reuters, 2008. Web.

Spencer, Lauren. . New York. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2002. Web.

Yardum, Harry. . Indiana. Author House, 2009. Web.

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