|Reprinted from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: Fast-Acting Long-Lasting.
We couldn't find Uncle John's old Fart Bazooka, but we managed to find some other famous weapons.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH'S GUN
John Wilkes Booth's gun (Image credit: National Park Service)
The gun that Booth [wiki] used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln now resides in the basement museum of Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C. The gun is a single-shot flintlock, made by Philadelphia gunsmith Henry Derringer. It's tiny - just six inches total in length with a 2 1/2" barrel - but it's powerful, firing a .44-calibur bullet. The gun was found on the floor of the theater box where Lincoln sat. Also in the museum is the knife with which Booth stabbed one of Lincoln's companions, Major Henry Rathbone, in the arm before Booth jumped from the box to escape.
The bullet that killed Lincoln (Image Credit: runaway truck)
What about the bullet that killed one of the most revered figures in American history? You can see that, too. It was removed during a post-mortem autopsy and was kept by the U.S. War Department until 1940, when it went to the Department of the Interior. It can be viewed today at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
THE SARAJEVO PISTOL
Model 1910 Browning semiautomatic pistol like this one above was used by Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand and precipitate World War I. (Image Credit: Gun's World)
On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip [wiki] shot and killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The assassinations caused a chain reaction of events which, within less than five weeks, led to the start of World War I. The gun was a Browning semiautomatic pistol, model M1910, serial #19074.
Gavrilo Princip, second right, arrested after he fired on Archduke Ferdinand.
Princip, just 19, was a member of the Serbian nationalist group called the Black Hand. He fired seven shots into the royal couple's car from five feet away, then attempted to shoot himself, but was stopped by passerby and quickly arrested. Princip died in prison of tuberculosis in 1918 (the disease was one reason he took the mission). After his trial, the pistol was presented to Father Anton Puntigam, the Jesuit priest who had given the archduke and duchess their last rites. He hoped to place it in a museum, but then he died in 1926 the gun was lost ... for almost 80 years.
In 2004 a Jesuit community house in Austria made a startling announcement: they had found the gun (verified by its serial number). They donated it to the Vienna Museum of Military History in time for the 90th anniversary of the assassination that started a war that would eventually kill 8.5 million people. Also in the museum are the car in which the couple were riding, the bloodied pillow cover on which the archduke rested his head while dying, and petals from a rose that was attached to Sophie's belt.
THE MUSSOLINI MACHINE GUN
Moikom Zeqo, Director of Albanian National Historic Museum showing the rifle used to execute Mussolini. (Image found at: Les Jones)
On April 28, 1945, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini [wiki] and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were captured while trying to flee into Switzerland. They were executed by an Italian communist named Valter Audisio, who shot the pair with a French-made MAS (Manufacture d'Armes de St. Etienne) 7.65mm submachine gun.
The gun disappeared until 1973, when Audisio died. He'd kept it in Italy until 1957, when, during a resurgence of Mussolini's popularity, he secretly gave it to the communist Albanian government for safekeeping. With Audisio's death, the Albanians proudly displayed the gun "on behalf of the Italian people." Its home is now Albania's National Historical Museum. Audisio once wrote that the only reason he used the machine gun was that the two pistols he tried to use had jammed. He also said that he had no orders to shoot Petacci - but she wouldn't let go of Il Duce.
LEE HARVEY OSWALD'S GUNS
Lee Harvey Oswald's Rifle (Image Credit: The National Archives)
The gun that Lee Harvey Oswald [wiki] allegedly used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy is a Mannlicher-Carcano
.38 bolt-action rifle 6.5mm caliber Italian surplus military rifle - Thanks Tony and Ron Crafton!, 40 inches long, and weighs eight pounds. He bought it through a mail-order company for $12.78.
Something with as much historical significance as Oswald's rifle would become the property of the people of the United States, right? Wrong. Murder weapons are normally returned to the families of their owners, and Oswald's gun was no exception - it was returned to Oswald's widow.
The National Archives purchased the rifle from Marina Oswald. The Archives also has the .38 Special Smith & Wesson Victory revolver that Oswald had with him that day and used (allegedly) to kill Officer J.D. Tippett before being arrested. Two days later, Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby.
JACK RUBY'S GUN
Ruby [wiki] was a Dallas strip-club owner and small-time mobster who killed the alleged killer of the president. Just why he did it remains a mystery. But on November 24, 1963, in the basement of the Dallas jail - which at the time was crowded with police officers, reporters, and cameramen - Ruby walked right up to Oswald and shot him once in the side. The gun he used was a .38-calibur Colt Cobra revolver that he bought at Ray's Hardware and Sporting Goods (on the advice of Dallas police detective Joe Cody).
Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald
The gun was returned to Ruby's family, where it promptly became tangled in a legal battle over Ruby's estate between the lawyer who was appointed executor and Ruby's brother, Earl. It wouldn't be resolved until 1991, when a judge found for Earl Ruby, who immediately put the gun up for auction and it sold to a collector named A.V. Pugliese. Price: $220,000.
In 1992 a friend of Pugliese's brought it to Washington, D.C., and offered to show it to Speaker of the House Thomas Foley. The gun was seized by police and almost destroyed, per D.C.'s strict gun-control laws, but lawyers were able to get it back. On November 24, 1993, the 30th anniversary of the shooting, Pugliese had Earl Ruby fire 100 shots with the gun and offered the spent shells for sale. Price: $2,500 each. (They only sold a few.)
SADDAM HUSSEIN'S PISTOL
When former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein [wiki] was captured in a "spider hole" in Iraq in December 2003, he had several weapons with him. One was a pistol. Major General Raymond Odierno reported that Hussein was holding the loaded pistol in his lap when he was captured, but didn't make a move to use it.
The Army had the pistol mounted and, in a private meeting, the Special Forces soldiers who took part in the capture presented it to President George W. Bush.
When news of the war souvenir broke in May 2004, reporters asked President Bush if he planned to give the pistol to the next Iraqi president. No, he said, it "is now the property of the American government." The gun is kept in a small study off the Oval Office, and according to one White House visitor who late spoke to Time magazine, the president "really liked showing it off. He was really proud of it."