Monday, March 10, 2014

Oswald Got Very, Very Lucky - Gunsmith


Oswald Got Very, Very Lucky 



"Oswald Got Very, Very Lucky" Says the Gunsmith who mounted the rifle scope. 

William Sharp was given this 6.5 mm Carcano when he left his post as gunsmith at Klein's Sporting Goods in 1968. It is reported to be the same type of rifle that killed John F. Kennedy 50 years ago.


Oswald got ‘very, very lucky,’ says Chicago gunsmith who mounted the scope on the rifle

BY ANNA BISARO
NOV 26, 2013

Cinder blocks smashed the windows and death threats for employees were left on the door.

This was what greeted William H. Sharp, now 82, when he went to work in the weeks following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago. Sharp worked at Klein’s Sporting Goods and the West Madison Avevue business, now closed, had sold the mail order rifle Lee Harvey Oswald reportedly used to kill the president.

“When they held the rifle up [on the news], I about fell through the floor,” Sharp recalls of the night of Nov. 22, 1963. "An $11 rifle?"

The rifle Oswald had reportedly chosen to use and bought under an alias was a cheap Italian model, Sharp said. The 6.5 mm Carcano, a military-grade rifle, was not expensive to make and therefore, very popular among consumers.

“It was a piece of junk,” Sharp said. Knowing that the warehouse on West Madison in Chicago sold much higher quality guns, Sharp was shocked at Oswald’s choice and at his success. “If you want good optics, you don’t buy them for three dollars [an estimate].”

“The Italians, they are lovers,” Sharp said as he explained that the warehouse also sold better-quality British sniper rifles. "I just couldn't understand it," he said.

Oswald’s choice of weapon aside, there was something else to haunt him. At work the next day, Sharp relayed concerns to his boss about the gun he had seen on television.

“It’s my rifle, I put the scope on it,” Sharp told him. His boss replied, "'No No No, don't say that!'"  Sharp said his boss was afraid of the consequences.  

Later that day, the FBI arrived at the warehouse and confirmed Sharp's suspicions. "There were more FBI agents there than you could shake a stick at," Sharp recalls.

Klein’s Sporting Goods had an extensive and very profitable mail order business, Sharp said. The warehouse in Chicago was used as a mid-point between manufacturers and their consumers countrywide. The mail order catalog was so profitable that when the United States banned interstate firearm sales as part of the Gun Control Act in 1968, the company was sold and Sharp left to find work elsewhere.

Because he enjoyed hunting, Sharp had a lifelong interest in firearms. He had no prior experience as a gunsmith before beginning his apprenticeship at Klein's Sporting Goods at age 28, but took quickly to the job and enjoyed his work.

As the only gunsmith in the warehouse at the time of Kennedy’s assassination, Sharp’s job, at age 32, was to add components, like optics scopes, to rifles if customers requested them. Oswald's rifle had a scope put on it.  

Weeks later, the Warren Commission – the team of investigators researching the death of the president – sent Sharp a copy of the receipt with the alias Oswald had used to purchase the weapon: A. Hidell.  

When the FBI arrived at the warehouse on Nov. 23. Sharp said an agent asked him to demonstrate the use of the Italian rifle in the basement.

"I said, 'But I don't want to shoot that rifle," Sharp remembers. He did a demonstration at their insistence and what Sharp noticed when he shot the rifle still haunts him today.

Sharp used 6.5x52 Carcano ammunition that the warehouse sold together with the Italian rifles. That type of ammunition was not sold many places. As far as Sharp knew at the time, the Chicago warehouse was one of the only places that sold that type of ammunition, he said. If Oswald used ammunition he bought from the warehouse, Sharp demonstrated the use of the rifle for the FBI with the same ammunition Oswald would have used, he said. 

Before the shot rang out in the basement of the warehouse when Sharp pulled the trigger, he heard a click and felt a delay in the response of the firearm. This is called hang fire. Hang fire occurs when there is drag in release of the bullet from a rifle after the shooter pulls the trigger. 

"I don't know what he bought" for ammunition, Sharp said. However, Sharp believes if the rifle and ammunition were the same as those he had shown the FBI, Oswald’s rifle likely would have hang fired as well, he said.  

A delay in the response of the rifle would make shooting at a moving object very difficult because that delay in the release of the bullet would not have been accounted for when the person aimed if the shooter was unaware that the rifle would hang fire. 

Sharp said the FBI agent did not seem to notice the hang fire and later the Warren Commission did not understand the significance of his hang fire hypothesis. “Everything I said to them was Greek,” Sharp said of his phone conversation with the Warren Commission. "They were very intelligent people, but they didn't know anything about firearms."

"I was very skeptical of the hang fire of the ammunition," Sharp said. “If Oswald did do it, I would say he was just very, very lucky.”

1 comment:

Cirze said...

Or very, very placed in a scenario he couldn't have been a valid part of?