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Infamous Weapons

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 (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.


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.


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 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.


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.)


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."
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Fast-Acting Long Lasting Bathroom Reader. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

"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.""

Man ... that paragraph makes me freaking sick to my stomach. So he pretty much just stole the gun then huh? I cannot wait untill this guy is out of office. He's no better than a poacher, showing off is trophy. What a sneaky thief.
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Thanks for yet another interesting list! One small point: Gavrilo Princip's assassination of Franz Ferdinand started world war I (one), not II (two).
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Abraham Lincoln was most likely NOT killed by the bullet. His doctors kept probing his brain with metal rods trying to locate the bullet. The more they probed, the worst he got. The rods were doing 10 times the damage that the bullet ever did.

Many people are alive today with bullets in their brain.
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"...was used by Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand and precipitate World War II." You mean World War I.

"The gun that Lee Harvey Oswald [wiki] allegedly used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy..."

Good grief. "Allegedly?" The commie shot JFK, get over it.
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"...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 shown is not a flintlock, rather it is a caplock.
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Lots of errors here, Uncle John.

Oswald's rifle was not a .38 caliber, but was actually a .30 caliber, and even this is wrong since the actual cartridge was a metric cartridge of 7.65 mm.

And it seems to me that Booth's pistol was actually a .41 caliber, not .44, as .41 was a very common derringer caliber of that era.
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Actually, the Manlicher-Carcano is 6.5x52mm, not making it a .30 caliber, as stated in other posts. .30 caliber rifles typically are designated as 7.62mm x ?. Several examples of this are the 7.62x51mm (.308 NATO), 7.62x39mm (SKS, AK-47, etc), and the 7.62x54mm (Mosin-Nagant and Dragunov).
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Why are Americans obsessed with guns? I looked at the comments to see if anyone said they couldn't care less about which gun did what, but no, you're all in a discussion about them. Apologies if you are not Americans, but can't you see that from the UK it looks like you all go round murdering each other, because guns are so easy to buy.
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Get off your high horse, Heather. In case you didn't read the article (obviously not) it's GUNS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. THROUGHOUT HISTORY. And can't you see that from the US, whiny little pissants who want to moralize everything they can get their grubby little hands on look like complete idiots when they spew out their little comments on everything. (Not that I feel that is the case in the UK, and apologies to all the normal Brits over there who enjoy light reading about HISTORY like the rest of us!)
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I've never thought that Neatorama readers are so into weapons! Thank you to Gert Verhoog, Sig Nelson, Mark, and Tiago for pointing out the typo. That was my mistake. My thanks to the Neatorama editor who fixed it (whoever you are!)

I must admit I don't know anything about guns, but I've double checked the Oswald rifle details on the post against the hard copy. Here's some more info about the infamous rifle.

Rober and Sid Morrison, I'll defer to your expertise in identifying flintlock vs. caplock. I can barely tell the difference between flintlock and the flintstones, but that is what's on my hard copy. I'll let the article stand, but people will be able tell from your comments.

Tim Mosley, regarding the caliber of the Booth gun, wikipedia had it listed as .44 (as did the hardcopy of this article). Now, I'm not sure either was right, but I'll let the article stand - with your caveat in the comment.
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Heather -

Last time I checked, Sarajevo, Italy, and Sadaam's spider hole are all well outside the US. There is nothing wrong with privately owned guns; in fact they are valuable tools to protect people's freedoms both from oppressive governments and from forces without.

You mention you are from the UK. I'm assume that you are too young to know much about the many thousands of civilian Brits (including many women and old men) who made up the British Home Guard (Local Defence Volunteers) during the Second World War. There was an extremely real threat that the British Isles would be invaded (read about Operation Sea Lion -- the Nazi plan to do just that). Whilst that never came to be, the Home Guard was ready with their own weapons (read GUNS!) to slow the Germans down and impede their progress wherever possible. This wasn't "busywork", but the real deal -- government owned weapons were in very short supply (lots left on the beach at Dunkirk unfortunately), so those privately owned rifles, shotguns, and pistols were one of the big things ensuring your nation's freedom. Read about how dire Winston Churchill considered the situation in his 6 volume history of the Second World War. Private gun ownership was there to protect your freedom. Fortunately, the RAF stopped the Luftwaffe first, but that was a monumental upset -- far from a "given" at the time.

Straight talk from Sid.
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Ok, I looked it up.

The derringer WAS a .44 caliber, BUT Booth had loaded a .41 caliber ball, which is the part I remembered. Seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to baffle scholars.

This info may be found on the FBI's website, where modern day tests on the Booth derringer were conducted to learn more about the actual assassination.
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OK, I assumed that this was a mostly American site and all the posters were keen on the ins and outs of the weapons - maybe I didn't actually read the article.
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Actually, the Booth Derringer, as others have noted, was a percussion firearm, not a flintlock. A percussion cap was fitted over a pierced nipple (yes, that is the correct term) to ignite the powder in the barrel breech and fire the weapon.

However, although the FBI purportedly examined the weapon and bullet in 1997, the bullet was determined to be too corroded for any reasonable ballistics testing, so it "probably" was a .44 caliber lead ball. You can check these facts @:
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In regards to the Booth pistol. It is common to load muzzle-loaders with ammunition slightly smaller in diameter than the actual caliber of the weapon. The ball is wrapped in a lubricated patch that takes up the excess space and ensures a proper gas seal.
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One final word:

Henry Derringer's surname was actually spelled Deringer. His imitators who later cashed in on his fame merely changed the spelling to Derringer to evade the weak copyright laws then in place. Deringer did indeed conceive the "derringer" and produced the first model, but his imitators quickly overwhelmed him and it is their imitations - and altered trade name - that are remembered today.
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For Mark - “The gun that Lee Harvey Oswald [wiki] allegedly used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy…”

There is still some question as to whether that rifle was used to assassinate Kennedy. That Mannlicher-Carcano is one of the worst rifles ever built, most were damaged by sabotage during WWII and no one was ever able to replicate the assassination with that particular long gun.
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"Man … that paragraph makes me freaking sick to my stomach. So he pretty much just stole the gun then huh? I cannot wait untill this guy is out of office. He’s no better than a poacher, showing off is trophy. What a sneaky thief." quote
What is wrong with you? its just a gun! If the police take your illegal gun its theirs!
There is a BIG difference between a poacher and someone giving you a gun as a gift. Do you know what a poacher is? thats a poor analogy.
I am tired of the thought we will stop senseless killing if we get rid of guns. Well we will always have people killing other people,get ride of guns then get rid of knives, then poison ect..
The problem is stupid people who don't know the first thing about a gun or gun safety, keep it locked up keep it unloaded and up out of reach of kids. treat a unloaded gun as if it is always loaded.
By the way a unloaded gun on a wall collecting dust is one of the safest guns to have, far different than the killing of a rare animal. Get over it!!!!
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Oswalds rifle is not a 'Mannlicher-Carcano' just a Carcano. Mannlicher is a completely different company,often assocaited with the Carcano because of several shared parts. It is the same as calling the rifle a Mauser-Carcano, i.e. completely wrong. And it was hardly an awful rifle, infact Carcanos were used by the Italian military up until 1945, and are easily accurate enough up to 300 meters.
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I have an antique knife that i believe to have belonged to america's first serial killer. "micajah harpe". I need information or any help i can get on authenticating, dating, or value. this is no joke. please help.
Mr. wilson
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about that crap with bush and Hussein's pistol...

1) Bush was not there to capture Saddam himself.
2) Bush had nothing to do with the planning or execution of the operation, apart from saying a bunch of crap about "getting him"

bush is basically being a showoff. he was not there on that mission himself, or any mission for that matter. He is a brainless git who has been soiling this country for the last 8 years, and his pride in having a pistol that belonged to Hussein only goes to further that image of a GIT.


How you can identify it as a percussion firearm is the lack of a flashpan, powder pan or a frizzen (flashpan lid) which is the large spurred cap forward of the hammer. Here you see a hollowed hammer tip going onto the large nipple, indicating a percussion cap is used.


The carcano rifle used by Oswald wasn't crap. the problem with those rifles was the poor cartridge (6.5 x 52mm), having relatively poor ballistic shape and a low charge for a rifle cartridge. Its accuracy below 300 meters (as mentioned above) was fair enough to hit a slowly moving target....such as the president... no, its no sniper rifle, but almost any bolt action rifle has a fair degree of accuracy.

any questions or comments:

heather, just shut up. you dont know what you are talking about. assassinations occur every few years in every country, whether you like it or not. if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. chew on that.
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