Ammunition Clip

The significance of the ammunition clip issue is explained by conspiracy authors James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci:
An ammunition clip is a small, bluish metal spring-loaded cartridge receptacle used to load automatic and semiautomatic rifles. It permits rapid firing, which is otherwise not possible by manually loading a new cartridge into the firing chamber after each shot. Whether or not an ammunition clip for the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was actually found in the Texas School Book Depository Building remains questionable.

The original inventory of articles found in what became known as the sniper's nest, where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly was when he fired at Kennedy, does not list an ammunition clip despite an otherwise meticulous detailing of every item recovered along with the rifle. According to assassination researcher Sylvia Meagher, the first reference to a clip surfaces in the Warren Report, published in September 1964. Prior to that, no mention of an ammunition clip appears anywhere. Some researchers, seeking to explain the apparent absence of a clip, have advanced the theory that Oswald reloaded the rifle manually and that someone later added the clip to the inventory. Most experts agree that without using a clip Oswald could not possibly have fired more than one round before the president's car sped from the scene, indicating that the additional shots had to have come from a second source. (The Assassination of John F. Kennedy : A Complete Book of Facts by James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci, pp. 25-26)

Dallas Police Lt. J.C. Day with Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle Following on the heels of Meagher, a whole generation of conspiracy writers huffed and puffed about the issue of the ammunition clip. In his 1985 book Reasonable Doubt, Henry Hurt intones:

Without a clip, the cartridges must be hand-loaded, one by one, making rapid shooting flatly impossible.

There is not a shred of positive evidence that such a clip was found with the Mannlicher-Carcano in the sniper's nest. (p. 103)

Yet a little research would have turned up plenty of evidence that the clip was found with the rifle. Numerous still photos of Lt. J.C. Day taking the rifle out of the Depository show the clip in the rifle. One of them, shot by William G. Allen of the Dallas Times Herald, is shown at right, above.

And Day did indeed document the discovery of the clip. A report, dated 11/22/63 and signed by him, mentions one live round in the barrel, three spent hulls, and and notes that "THE CLIP IS STAMPED SMI 952." This is the notation on the clip that resides to this day in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland (see photo below).

Thus, while the paper trail may be less than complete, there simply is no doubt that the clip was in the rifle when it was recovered in the Depository, and no reason to doubt that it was in the rifle while Oswald was shooting it.

Ammunition clip from Lee Oswald's rifle in National Archives

Hank Sienzant supplied the document that authors such as Meagher and Hurt failed to find.

Return to Kennedy Assassination Home Page