Monday, April 20, 2015

Weapons of Assassination by Gordon Rottman

While somewhat macabre and perhaps rather analytical as well as covering 1800s and modern weapons, I thought some might be interested in the mechanics of successful and near-successful assassinations. This is an excerpt from my e-book available on Amazon, The Big Book of Gun Trivia: Everything you want to know, don't want to know, and don't know you need to know.

What firearms were used in successful and near-successful US assassinations? The firearms chosen by assassins and would-be assassins to kill presidents, other political notables, or significant public figures were of varied quality (local-level politician assassinations and celebrity murders are not addressed here). Eight governors, seven US senators, nine US congressmen, 11 mayors, 17 state legislators, and 12 judges have been attacked over the years. None of the weapons of choice even begin to approach the high-tech killing-machine marvels depicted in recent action movies. Many of the arms used were actually poor choices, even if they may have killed the intended victim, and were effective only due to the extremely close range or luck. It certainly was not the skill of the shooters, most of who were not known for their shooting abilities or any realistic preparation on their part. In fact, what are considered some of the poorer weapons were the most effective demonstrating the variables of bullet effects and chance. Two used .22 Long Rifle revolvers and three .32-caliber handguns; not exactly what would be considered assassination weapons of choice. However, the use of these inadequate handguns resulted in three deaths (two being the intended victims) and wounded 12 bystanders (including one of the intended victims). Two intended victims of these low-power weapons were not hit.
With the exception of the President Truman attempt and the Malcolm X and Representative Ryan assassinations, the assassins were lone gunmen, irrespective of broader unproved conspiracy theories regarding other assassinations. The President Lincoln assassination was the one example of a proven true conspiracy involving multiple players and multiple targets, but each assassin worked alone. There is little to do with myths in this discussion. The extreme conspiracy theories that inevitability emerge after assassinations and attempts have no bearing on this discussion.
It is seldom that the complete designation and model of weapons used in these events are found. We have made an effort to provide this information. Of the 22 assassinations or attempts discussed here, rifles with telescopes were used only three times, a lever-action rifle and semi-automatic carbine once apiece, nine used revolvers (of which four were snub-nosed—2.5-inch or shorter barrel), nine semi-automatic pistols were used, and three used cap-and-ball handguns. Nine of the weapons were foreign-made. One assassination involved a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun and two semi-automatic pistols. One attempt used a hand grenade. The numbers and types of weapons used in the Jonestown assassination/mass murder of Representative Ryan were inadequately identified so were not included in the foregoing breakdown.
Most of the handgun attacks were conducted from pointblank* to 10-foot (three-meter) ranges. The attempt on Franklin Roosevelt was from 30 feet (9 meters) and the second attempt on President Ford was from 40 feet (12 meters). The two “long-range” sniper attacks (Kennedy and King) were undertaken with telescope-equipped rifles at ranges between 175 and 265 feet (53 and 81 meters), not even 100 yards. The carbine spray-fire White House attack was from 230 feet (70 meters) and the inept drive-by shooting at the White House was from 660 yards (600 meters). Nine of the assassinations or attempts resulted in by-standers being shot, usually more than one. Only two would-be assassins were killed and two wounded during the attacks. All others were arrested immediately, being wrestled to the ground, or soon afterwards uninjured, except Lincoln’s assassin who was shot and killed during his attempted apprehension 11 days later and the White House drive-by shooter captured five days later. Martin Luther King’s assassin was arrested two months later in London, Great Britain. Of the 22 assassinations or attempts examined here, only in three instances was fire returned by the target’s security personnel, if there were any present. In most cases in which the assassins were apprehended at the scene they were wrestled to the ground and pinned by security personnel and/or civilian bystanders.
* Pointblank range is defined as a shot fired within approximately 1-meter (3 feet) of the target.

President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) Washington, DC; shot at twice resulting in two misfires on 30 January 1835 and emerged unharmed. (Jackson is reputed to have been involved in over 100 duels and was wounded several times. It was said he rattled when he walked. Research, however, has found he was in only 14 duels, killed only one man, and was wounded three times in combat and duels.)
Deranged, would-be assassin Richard Lawrence (1800-61) fired two small muzzle-loading, cap-and-ball pistols, one from within 13 feet (4 meters) and the second from pointblank range—sources are in disagreement of the ranges, of which both misfired with only the percussion caps igniting. Research has not uncovered the caliber and make of the pistols. Lawrence was subsequently subdued by Jackson whaling his cane and aided by bystanders, including Congressman Davy Crockett (1786-1836). The odds of both pistols misfiring are said to be 1 to 125,000. They were test fired in the 1930s and both functioned. However, the odds were actually lower when it is considered that the make of pistols are said to have been vulnerable to moisture and the weather that day was extremely humid and possibly the cold affected the pistols (the actual January temperature is not known).

President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) Washington, DC; shot once at point-blank range in the back of his head on 14 April 1865 and died 15 April.
Assassin John Wilkes Booth (1838-65) fired one shot from a .44-caliber Deringer (no model or serial number) cap-and-ball pocket pistol*. He was also armed with a 7-1/4-inch blade hunting knife (often misreported as a “Bowie knife” with differing blade lengths, usually longer) intended for General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85), who was absent. An Army officer was slightly wounded with the knife. (One of Lincoln’s last official acts was to establish the Secret Service, mainly for anti-counterfeiting purposes, but from 1894 it would guard the US president.)  Perhaps a score of innocent men throughout the East were lynched or shot in belief they were the fugitive Booth. Others were murdered because they expressed gratification with Lincoln’s death. Ironically, John Wilkes Booth can be seen standing near Lincoln in an 1861 inauguration photograph.
* The ball was actually .41-caliber to allow for a patch.

Secretary of State William H. Seward, Sr. (1801-72) Washington, DC; was slashed multiple times on the face and neck with a knife on 14 April 1865, at the same time Lincoln was assassinated. Seward recovered and is known for the purchase Alaska two years later.
Would-be assassin Lewis T. Powell (aka Lewis Paine or Payne, 1844-65), in league with the Lincoln conspirators, forced his way into Seward’s home, attempted to shoot Seward’s son at pointblank range with a .36-caliber Whitney Navy Model cap-and-ball revolver (six-round), which misfired. He pistol-whipped the son, made his way to the third floor, and attacked the bedridden Seward with a 9-inch blade Bowie knife inflicting several serious wounds. One slash penetrated his right cheek. A jaw splint deflected the knife away from his jugular vein. (Seward was recovering from multiple serious injuries received in a recent carriage accident.) Powell wounded three others in the house with the knife while escaping. He was captured three days later. Fellow conspirator David E. Herold (1842-65) had guided Powell to Seward’s home, but fled when hearing the commotion inside. He was later captured with John Wilkes Booth. Seward’s wife is said to have died the following June from the stress of almost losing her husband. Powell had served as a Confederate infantryman, was captured, escaped, joined the Confederate cavalry, and then did limited secret service work. He could be considered the only “professional” among the Lincoln conspirators and probably the only professional among all the assassins studied here.
Note: George A. Atzerodt (1835-65) was assigned by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson (1808-75) armed with an unidentified revolver and Bowie knife, but he balked when the time came.

President James A. Garfield (1831-81) Washington, DC; shot once in the chest (a second bullet grazed his sleeve) on 2 July 1881 and died 19 September of heart attack, pneumonia, and blood poisoning caused by unsanitary attempts to remove the bullet. (Garfield was the first president to speak on a telephone, his first words being, “Please speak a little more slowly” to Alexander Graham Bell, who later attempted to locate the bullet in Garfield’s body with an electric metal detector.)
Assassin Charles J. Guiteau (1841-82) fired twice with a British .44 Webley & Scott Bulldog snub-nosed revolver (six-round) at pointblank range. Guiteau later claimed he had not killed Garfield, but the president’s bungling doctors did.

Governor of Kentucky William J. Goebel (1856-1900) Louisville, Kentucky; shot once through the chest on 30 January 1900, election day, and died 3 February after being sworn in on his death bed. He is the only serving US governor to be assassinated.
Accounts are convoluted and conflicting with five or six shots fired from a .38-55 Winchester & Ballard Marlin Model 1893 lever-action rifle from a nearby building (range not provided, but less than 100 feet). Sixteen people, including the opposing gubernatorial candidate and the secretary of state, were eventually indicted, a rare instance of an actual conspiracy. It almost resulted in a state civil war. There were multiple trials and retrials with many suspects acquitted or turned state’s evidence. Henry Youtsey (1873-1942) was convicted and sentenced to life for the murder. Later Jim Howard was also convicted, but it has never been determined for certain who the actual assassin was.

President William McKinley, Jr. (1843-1901) Buffalo, NY; shot in the stomach with another shot grazing his shoulder on 5 September 1901 and died 14 September. (He was the first president to ride in a self-propelled vehicle, the electric ambulance carrying him to the hospital that fateful day.)
Assassin Leon Frank Czolgosz (1873-1901) fired two shots from a .32 S&W Iver Johnson Safety Automatic Hammerless revolver* (six-round) at pointblank range. (This assassination resulted in the Secret Service supplying round-the-clock bodyguards to presidents from 1902. From 1894 the Secret Service had provided only part-time security.)
* “Automatic” refers to it being an automatic self-ejector when the cylinder is broken open.

Note: Robert T. Lincoln (1843-1926, President Lincoln’s eldest son) is the only man known to have witnessed the assassinations of three presidents, his father, James Garfield, and William McKinley. After seeing McKinley assassinated he vowed he would never again appear in public with an incumbent president.

Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (1858-1919) Milwaukee, WI; shot once and wounded on 14 October 1912. The bullet was slowed by his eyeglasses case and his folded 50-page speech papers. With the bullet lodged three inches in his chest he declined attention and delivered the 90-minute speech first announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose*.” Blood seeped through his shirt during the speech. (T.R., by the way, an avid hunter, was the source of the name “Teddy Bear” as he had refused to shoot an old bear tried to a tree so he could have a “successful” hunt.)
Would-be assassin John F. Schrank (1876-1943) fired one shot with a .38 S&W Colt Police Positive Special revolver (six-round) from 6 feet (2 meters). (This was T.R.’s second presidential bid, which he lost—no sympathy vote was forthcoming.)
* “Bull Moose” refers to the 1912-16 Progressive Party.

President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) Miami, FL; while standing on an automobile running board was shot at once on 15 February 1933 and unharmed.
Would-be assassin Giuseppe Zangara (1900-33) fired one shot from a .32 S&W U.S. Revolver Company* revolver (five-round) from 30 feet (9 meters). He missed the President-elect, but while being wrestled to the ground fired four wild shots. Five bystanders were struck including Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak (1873-1933) hit in the chest. Cermak died on 6 March. One other shot bystander also died. It was theorized that Cermak was the actual target rather than Roosevelt, but Zangara insisted his target was the President-elect.
* Subsidiary of Iver Johnson Arms marketing lower grade revolvers.

Senator and former Governor of Louisiana Huey P. Long, Jr. (1893-1935) Baton Rouge, LA; shot twice on 8 September 1935 and died 10 September. He was hit by a .38-caliber and a .45-caliber bullet in the abdomen (or two .38s; one passed through and it was uncertain if the correct bullet was recovered or some other combination and caliber of bullets). Reference sources are in serious conflict and contradictory in virtually all aspects of the shooting.
Prospective assassin Dr. Carl A. Weiss (1906-35) was alleged to have fired twice with a Belgium .32 ACP FN-Browning Model 1910 pistol (seven-round). Three bystanders were wounded when Long’s Highway Patrol bodyguards opened fire. Accounts vary greatly and the investigation was extremely shoddy. Weiss was armed with a .32-caliber pistol from which two rounds were fired (an expended case was jammed in the ejection port), but the bullets were never found in Long or elsewhere. The several bodyguards used various makes of .38, .44, and .45-caliber handguns, which killed Weiss with 32 hits (some sources claim up to 60 hits). Two of these shots struck Long, possibly ricochets, bullets that passed through Weiss, or simply misses. Weiss can be said to have failed in his attempt, but achieved his goal.

President Harry S Truman (1884-1972) Washington, DC; Truman was not directly shot at during the bungled 1 November 1950 attempt. (The “S” in Truman’s name did not stand for anything so is not followed by a period.)
Would-be assassins Griselio Torresola (1925-50) and Oscar Collazo (1914-94) attempted to storm the Blair House where Truman was residing (White House was undergoing renovation). Torresola fired a large number shots (reloading once) from a German 9mm Luger P.08 pistol (eight-round) and Collazo fired several rounds from a German 9mm Walther P.38 pistol (eight-round) together wounding three White House policemen, one who later died being hit three times (Private Leslie Coffelt) (the other two were hit one and three times, respectively). The number of shots fired by each of the two Puerto Rican nationalists is not reported, but they fired 27 shots between them at 30 to 40-foot (9 to 12-meter) ranges. Torresola was killed by the mortally wounded officer being hit in the head and Collazo was wounded being hit three times in the head, right arm, and chest.

President John F. Kennedy (1917-63) Dallas, TX; while riding in the presidential limousine was hit by two of the three shots fired and died on 22 November 1963. The first bullet hit him in the upper back and passed through his throat. The second fatal hit was in the back of the head and he was declared dead 30 minutes after the shooting. Texas Governor John B. Connelly, Jr. (1917-93) was also hit*.
Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (alias “Alek J. Hidell”—name used to purchased the rifle and revolver, aka “O. H. Lee,” name given at rooming house) (1939-63), fired three shots with an Italian 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano Mod. 91/38 short rifle (six-round) with a Japanese-made 4x18 Ordnance Optics telescope. (Some theorize other assassins were involved, but no conclusive evidence exists. Some bystanders claimed hearing additional shots from other directions, but this was caused by echoes among the buildings.)  The three shots’ ranges were approximately 175, 240, and 265 feet (53, 73, and 81 meters). One other bystander, besides Governor Connelly, was slightly wounded. Oswald shot and killed a Dallas police officer approximately 45 minutes after the assassination with four shots from a surplus .38 Special S&W Victory Model snub-nosed revolver (six-round—commercially shortened barrel).
Oswald was subsequently shot in the abdomen by Jack L. Ruby (1910-67) firing one round pointblank from a .38 Special Colt Cobra snub-nosed revolver (six-round) on 24 November fatally wounding Oswald. Oswald had attempted to assassinate retired Major General Edwin A. Walker (1909-93), an avowed anti-communist and segregationist, in Dallas on 10 April 1963 using the same rifle†. He shot at Walker at a range of less than 100 feet (30 meters) while the general sat in his dining room. The bullet was deflected by a window frame and he suffered only minor bullet fragment wounds in the forearm.
* The “unusual” path of one of the bullet (the so-called “magic bullet”) after exiting the President’s throat struck Texas Governor Connelly leading to the theory that a special Italian military fragmenting bullet was used. This is not the case. Bullet tracks after being deflected by bones and fragmenting frequently follow erratic and unpredictable paths. This bullet created three entry and two exit wounds in Kennedy and Connelly. It hit Connelly in the back right shoulder, exited his lower chest, and hit his wrist with a fragment hitting his thigh. The supposed “fragmenting” bullet in question was the cartucci a mitraglia (canister cartridge). It had a 2-inch long bullet extending well into the case. The jacket had three or four lengthwise slits and contained six stacked lead slugs. Intended for riot control or guard duty, when fired, the jacket peeled off after emerging from the barrel and the slugs spread in a shotgun effect. In order to have inflicted the wounds suffered by Kennedy and Connelly the bullet would not have broken up until it hit Kennedy and this round did not function in such a manner, but broke up at the muzzle and had only a very short range. Owing to the spread of the slugs it is doubtful if Kennedy would have been hit by such a bullet.
† Other than the planned assassination of General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant during the Lincoln assassination, there has been no attempt on a serving US armed forces flag officer (general or admiral). The General George S. Patton (1885-1945) assignation theory is pure myth. The Walker incident is the only known attempt on a retired flag officer.

Civil rights activist Malcolm X (aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz or Omowale or Detroit Red or Big Red; real name Malcolm Little) (1925-65)* Leader of Muslin Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Harlem, New York City, NY; hit by multiple buckshot pellets and pistol bullets in the left chest, left leg, and right arm and died near instantly on 21 February 1965. The double shotgun blast was responsible for his death.
Assassins Talmadge Hayer (aka Thomas Hagan or Mujahid Halim; wounded once by .32-caliber revolver fire from a Malcolm X bodyguard and beaten by the crowd), Norman 3X Butler (aka Muhammad Abd Al-Aziz), and Thomas 15X Johnson (aka Khalil Islam), all Black Muslin members of the opposing Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were convicted. The accused provided the names of other individuals they claim were responsible for or involved in the shooting, but evidence was insufficient for prosecution. Others have been accused (by those who watch too many movies) to include local drug dealers, New York City Police Department, FBI, and CIA. Malcolm X was struck by six to eight 0 buckshot pellets (.30-caliber—12 pellets per shell) from two rounds fired from a 12-gauge J. C. Higgins Model 1017 double-barrel shotgun (sawed-off barrels and stock), one .45 ACP bullet of three fired from a Colt M1911A1 pistol (seven-round), and two 9mm Parabellum bullets of six fired from an un-recovered pistol for a total of 15 entry wounds, three exit wounds, and four grazes. The unidentified 9mm pistol is often described as a “Luger.” This may be only an assumption based on the recovery of 9mm cartridge cases and not by visual identification. Two bystanders were wounded.
* The “X” stood for the unknown original African surname of the slaves from whom Black Muslims were descended, in preference to continuing to use a name given by the slave owner. The “X” also proclaimed what the individual had been previously and had since changed, ex-drinker, ex-smoker, ex-slave, ex-Christian, etc. and lent a “sense of mystery.”

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68) Memphis, TN; shot once, hit in the lower face, and died instantly on 4 April 1968.
Assassin James Earl Ray (1928-98) (escape passport alias “Ramon George Sneyd”) fired once with a .30-06 Remington Gamemaster Model 760 pump-action rifle (four-round) with a 3-7x Redfield variable telescope at a range of 205 feet (62 meters). (Interestingly, Ray had first purchased the same model of rifle in .243 Remington, but exchanged it the next day for a .30-06 model.)

Presidential candidate and New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-68) Los Angeles, CA; shot three times in the head, upper back, and neck (fourth bullet grazed his jacket sleeve) on 5 June 1968 and died 6 June.
Assassin Sirhan Sirhan (1944-        ) fired eight shots from 4 feet (1.2 meters) with a .22 Long Rifle Iver Johnson Cadet Model 55-A snub-nosed revolver (eight-round). Five bystanders were wounded. Some theorize a second shooter escaped, but no credible evidence exists with unsubstantiated claims that a .22 Long Rifle H&R Sidekick Model 929 revolver (nine-round)—similar in appearance to Iver Johnson revolver—was used by this hypothesized shooter to explain discrepancies in the number of recovered bullets and fragments. Some claim up to 13 shots were heard, no doubt echoes within the confined hotel kitchen. (This assassination resulted in the Secret Service supplying bodyguards to presidential candidates.)

Presidential candidate and Governor of Alabama George C. Wallace, Jr. (1919-98) Laurel, MD; shot and wounded five times in the chest and abdomen on 15 May 1972 resulting in paraplegic paralysis. The wheelchair-bound Wallace died on 13 September 1998 from septic shock caused by complications from bacterial infection, Parkinson Disease, and spinal paralysis.
Would-be assassin Arthur H. Bremer (1950-        ) fired five shots from 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) with a .38 Special Charter Arms Off Duty snub-nosed revolver (five-round). Three bystanders were wounded. Bremer first plotted to assassinate President Richard M. Nixon (1913-94) in preference to Wallace. He had planned to use a Belgium 9mm FN-Browning Hi-Power pistol (13 rounds) in April 1972 in Ottawa, Canada. The pistol became lodged in his car’s wheel well where it was hidden and he was unable to recover it, thus foiling his plan.

President Gerald R. Ford, Jr. (1913-2006) San Francisco, CA; shot at once and not hit on 22 September 1975.
Would-be assassin Sarah Jane Moore (1930-        ) fired one shot from a .38 Special S&W Model 60 revolver (five-round) at 41 feet (12 meters). A disabled Marine veteran saw the revolver and grabbed her gun hand forcing her shot to miss by 5 feet (1.5 meters), ricochet, and slightly wound a bystander. Moore had been apprehended the day before and released by the police, but they confiscated an unregistered .44 Special Charter Arms Bulldog Model 14420 snub-nosed revolver (five-round). Moore later complained she was forced to use a revolver other than the .44 Special she had practiced with.
Previously, on 5 September in Sacramento, CA questionable assassin Lynette A. “Squeaky” Fromme (1948-        ) drew a .45-caliber Colt M1911A1 pistol (seven-round) on President Ford as he reached to shake her hand in a crowd. A Secret Service agent wrestled her to the ground and disarmed her. There were four rounds in the magazine and the chamber was empty. She claimed she intended only to frighten Ford and not shoot him.

California Representative Leo J. Ryan, Jr. (1925-78) Jonestown Airport (Port Kaituma), Guyana; shot several times* and died on 18 November 1978.
During an investigation of the radical People’s Temple cult, Representative Ryan, aids, reporters, and People’s Temple “defectors” were boarding two aircraft to depart Jonestown. People’s Temple henchman Larry Layton shot two of the “defectors” in an airplane. At the same time assassins Thomas Kice, Sr.; Joe Wilson, Ronnie Dennis, and at least two other unidentified People’s Temple members, sent by demented cult leader Jim Jones (1931-78), opened fire at close ranges with automatic pistols, .22-caliber semi-automatic rifles, and shotguns firing dozens of shots. Ryan and four of his party were killed and 10 wounded. Some of those hit, including Ryan, were subsequently shot multiple times at pointblank range to finish them off. Ryan was was bullet riddled and then shot in the face. Before the firearms attack, a People’s Temple member, Don “Uara” Shy, attempted to attack Ryan with a knife succeeding in injuring only himself. A total of 10 pistols, 13 .22-caliber rifles, and seven shotguns were recovered in Jonestown, but the calibers, makes, and models are not available. Because of the mass murder/suicide of most of the People’s Temple members (909) that night, including the unidentified gunmen, the details will never be known. Larry Layton survived and was apprehended, but could not detail events of the murders. Ryan is the only congressman who has died in the line of duty.
* Even the official FBI report fails to mention the number of times he was shot and where or the caliber of the weapon(s).

President Ronald W. Reagan (1911-2004) Washington, DC; wounded in the upper left side and lung by one bullet ricocheting off the presidential limousine on 30 March 1981 while entering the limousine.
Would-be assassin John W. Hinckley, Jr. (1955-        ) fired six shots from a West German .22 Long Rifle (5.6mm lfB) Röhm RG-14 snub-nosed revolver (six-round)* from 16 feet (4.8 meters). Three bystanders were wounded. (The bullets were explosive Devastator rounds, all of which failed to detonate. They contained a tiny “canister” of highly explosive lead azide intended to fragment the bullet upon impact.)
* Often listed as an “R6-14,” which is incorrect, probably owing to someone mistaking the “G” for a “6” in small print.

President William J. Clinton (1946-        ) Washington, DC; Clinton was not shot at directly during the bungled 29 October 1994 attempt, him being elsewhere inside the White House.
Would-be assassin Francisco M. Duran (1968-        ) fired 29 rounds from a Chinese 7.62x39mm Norinco SKS-D carbine (30-round—copy of Soviet Simonov SKS carbine with high-capacity magazine) at the White House and a group of individuals he thought included Clinton, at a range of approximately 230 feet (70 meters). There were no casualties. While reloading he was wrestled to the ground by three bystanders and sentenced for attempted assassination and assault of Federal officers.

President George W. Bush (1946-        ) Tbilisi, Georgia (former Soviet republic); with no injuries inflicted during the failed 10 May 2005 hand grenade attack. The attack was also aimed at Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (1967-        ). Bush and Saakashvili did not learn of the attack until after the rally.
Would-be assassin Vladimir Arutyunian (1978-        ) threw an armed (pin pulled) Soviet RGD-5 fragmentation hand grenade that landed 61 feet (18.6 meters) from the President having been deflected when it glanced off a girl in the crowd. It failed to explode as a red tartan handkerchief tied tightly around the grenade for concealment prevented the arming lever from flying off. At that distance it probably would not have been fatal to the presidents, who were partly protected to the sides by bulletproof glass panels, but spectators would have suffered terribly. The RGD-5’s causality radius is up to 65 feet (20 meters*). Arutyunian stated he threw the grenade in a manner to obtain an air-burst to overcome the panels. Georgian authorities initially claimed it was a harmless training grenade (“inactive grenade” the media called it), but it was proven to be a live causality-producing grenade and that it had landed 100 feet (30 meters) from the presidents (also incorrect). When captured on 20 July, Arutyunian killed the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Anti-Terrorist Department chief with a handgun and was himself wounded three times.
* Approximaley 50 percent of personnel within that radius would be killed or wounded.
Then there is the not dissimilar 14 December 2008 “shoe-icide attack” on President Bush by Iraqi journalist Muthathar al-Zaidi in Baghdad, Iraq. Two size 10 shoes were thrown from 12 feet (3.6 meters). Both missed. One bystander suffered a shiner when a microphone was knocked over.
In a 7 February 2001 shooting incident mentally disturbed Robert W. Pickett (1955-        ) harmlessly discharged two to five shots (reports are in conflict) in the general direction of the White House from some 200 yards (180 meters). It appears not to have been a viable assassination attempt and is not included here as such. He used a Rossi .38 Special Model R35102 snub-nosed revolver (five-shot) (sometimes reported as a Taurus, which is similar to a Rossi). The shooter was wounded and apprehended by the Secret Service.

Arizona Representative Gabrielle D. Giffords (1970-        ) Casas Adobes, AZ (outside Tucson); was shot once through the left side of the head on 8 January 2011, but survived. She was the primary target, but Arizona Chief Federal District Judge John M. Roll (1947-2011) was killed along with five bystanders and 13 others were wounded. One of the dead was a nine-year old girl, the only child killed in the assassinations studied here. Judge Roll was shot once in the back attempting to protect another victim.
Assassin Jared L. Loughner (1989-        ) fired 33 rounds from an Austrian-designed, US-made 9mm Glock 19 (G19) pistol (initially mis-reported as a larger G17) with a special 33-round magazine from 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 meters). While attempting to reload another 33-round magazine*, three bystanders wrestled him to the ground and disarmed him. Loughner had managed to reload, but the pistol failed to fire as the magazine had been damaged in the scuffle. He was also armed with a 4-inch blade Buck tactical knife.
* The 33-round magazines have been misreported as 30 and 31-round, which also exist. He also possessed two 15-round magazines.

President Barack H. Obama II (1961-        ) Washington, DC; nine shots were fired at the White House in a drive-by shooting on 11 October 2011. Even through President Obama and his family were not present, the shooter was charged with attempted assassination. There were no injuries.
Bungling wannabe assassin Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez (1990-        ), attending an “Occupy Wall Street” movement protest, fired at the White House from a halted 1998 Honda Accord at a range of approximately 660 yards (600 meters) striking the residential area seven times—originally reported as only two rounds. The other rounds probably hit the ground, trees, or flew over the White House. The shooter was arrested five days later. The weapon was reported as a “semi-automatic AK-47 style assault rifle.” It was a Romanian-made 7.62x39mm Cugir semi-automatic rifle (30-rounds—copy of Russian AKM and indeed similar to an AK-47) equipped with a telescope (make and power not listed). The shooter had three spare magazines and several cartons of ammunition. He was also armed with brass knuckles and an aluminum baseball bat.


  1. Quite an exhaustive list, Gordo. Thanks for such a comprehensive history lesson.

  2. It was a research challenge, which made it "fun" to take on. While most assassinations and attempts are well documented, I was surprised how difficult it was to dig up details on the weapons, ranges, etc.

  3. Dr J. David TrubyApril 20, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    The JFK murderer conclusion presented here is, to put it politely, bovine effluvia. My judgement on that is as a qualified investigator with formal experience both officially and unofficially on that case. My findings have been published extensively.

  4. To each his own. No one's ever been charged.

  5. I met one of Huey P. Long's bodyguards many years ago. At that time he was an old man running an Italian restaurant but loved to talk about the Kingfish days and the assassination. He fingered President Roosevelt for the deed. Who knows??