Photographic Analysis of CE399 -- the "magic" or stretcher bullet.


This is a picture of the bullet: CE399
You can see by its color that it is a copper-jacketed missile. There doesn't appear to be any blemishes, it gets slightly wider from the middle down to the base, and you can see one groove rather clearly running from the top somewhat right of center down the length of the bullet to somewhat left of center at the bottom.

This is a picture of the bullet taken end-on: CE399 END
Imagine this picture as a clock face. The arrow at 12 o'clock is marked "WC", which appears to be the direction of the camera angle for the following picture, which is from the Warren Commission evidence. Some people think this shows a 6-groove bullet, as indicated by the colored letters -- "G" for groove and "L" for land.
WC CE399 6-groove
The grooves and lands were filled in as explained in newsgroup posts by Walt Cakebread, Jack White, and John Ritchson. According to their theory, a 6-groove bullet was somehow planted as evidence against Oswald, but when the conspirators found out his rifle had only 4 grooves they switched the original bullet with a different one that matched the rifle in evidence. This switch must have taken place in time between the WC (1964) and the HSCA (1978) investigations because the claim is that the WC photographic evidence shows a 6-groove bullet and the HSCA photos show a 4-groove bullet.

The next picture is identical to the one above, with only a change in the labeling of the grooves and lands. Now it shows a 4-groove bullet with two scratches.
WC CE399 4-groove
The red groove remains the same as before since this is the most discerning groove -- you can see where the gun barrel has cut this groove into the smooth jacket near the tip. There are two scratches, or striations, labeled on the picture with arrows. In this 4-groove interpretation, the scratches occur within the lands; in the 6-groove interpretation each "scratch" is seen as a division from land to groove. Apparently the upper scratch (within the magenta land) has been verified as a scratch by the 6-groove theorists, however the lower scratch (within the blue land) is still seen as a land-groove interface.

The following picture is from the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The grooves and lands are indicated with colored letters, showing an undisputed 4-groove bullet.
HSCA CE399c
This looks similar to the WC picture in that a groove (red) runs the length of the bullet in about the same position. However, there are a couple of nicks or cuts (I believe they were specimens removed by the FBI for analysis) taken out of the tip. I contend that this is merely the opposite side of the bullet as compared to the WC picture, in other words a view from the 6 o'clock direction instead of from 12 o'clock. Notice the bulge of lead out of the base of the bullet; I believe this peak extrudes out of the base in the quadrant from 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock. In the WC picture the extrusion is seen at the bottom, in the HSCA picture it is at the top. The only major thing different with the HSCA picture is that there are no scratches on this side, but since scratches are due to lead deposits (or actual imperfections in the rifling), there is no reason to suppose there should be scratches everywhere.

The following picture is also from the HSCA investigation, but from a view rotated by 90 degrees -- taken from the 3 o'clock position relative to the clock face of the above base view.
HSCA CE399d
Previously the side views were either of one flat side or the other; now we see one of the edges. I have colored the lands and grooves to correspond to the WC 4-groove picture color scheme: the WC red groove is peeking in from the right top, and the HSCA red groove is on the bottom, out of sight. The HSCA magenta land is shown yellow in this view. Here is absolutely clear evidence of the scratch within the blue land, for we see the red and green grooves being cut from the tip, and then (further from the tip) the scratch (actually a small groove itself) is carved into the jacket. The chips that were sliced out of the bullet tip can barely be seen on the bottom of the tip in the above edge view. Also, the bulge out of the end now appears mostly on the bottom since the quadrant it was in was rotated from top-front to bottom-front (in the WC view the bulge is in the bottom-rear quadrant).

The pictorial evidence seems rather clear: there is only one bullet that has two distinct sides, and the two views are the cause of the confusion.

There is additional analysis that supports a 4-groove WC bullet. About 1/6 of the distance from base to tip is an artifact called the cannelure, which is where the cartridge is crimped to secure the bullet onto the cartridge until it is fired. One can see the crimping serrations or notches within the cannelure. The following picture is a blown-up portion of the WC side view showing this cannelure, with the lands and grooves notated by colored letters the same as the 4-groove WC picture.
Cannelure notches
Yellow lines are drawn along each land-groove transition; white lines show the big scratch within the blue land; and horizontal cyan lines are drawn in the valley of each notch within the cannelure. We can determine the number of notches there are over the full circumference of the bullet by counting the number of notches we see in 1/4 of the circumference. Assuming the bullet is a cylinder (a 3-dimensional object), we can measure its diameter on the 2-dimensional picture. Using trigonometry we find that the central .707 of the diameter encompasses one fourth of the circumference. After measuring the diameter and the central .707 portion, one can count precisely 11 notches, which leads to the conclusion that there are 44 notches around the entire bullet. Now it is a simple matter to count how many notches are enclosed in the span of a groove or a land, and I come up with 4 notches for the red groove and 7 notches in the blue land (including the scratch). Since there are 11 notches in a land+groove span and 44 notches in all, the conclusion is 4 grooves and 4 lands. Examination of the HSCA picture also shows 4 notches per groove and 7 per land.

In the late 60's Harold Weisberg went to the archives and took the following pictures of the bullet:
Post Mortem CE399
These are sharper than the previous pictures, where it is clear that the left picture is of the same view as the edge view above, and the right picture is the same as the WC flat view.

At the boundary between a land and a groove there is one edge, because the elevation or distance from the center only changes once -- from low to high or from high to low. That is why this boundary shows up as one line. A scratch, however, is a V- or U-cut with two edges as the elevation goes down and back up. That is why we see a double line that delineates the scratch in the above pictures.

Weisberg also took a slant-view picture of the end of the bullet. This provides further evidence of a scratched 4-groove bullet:
Post Mortem End View
Wherever a groove has been cut into the jacket, the jacket will be thinner, as can be seen by the cross-section of the jacket in the above view. The cyan arrows show the jacket thickness for a land, and the yellow arrows show the thickness for a groove. Notice how the jacket changes from thick (land) to thin (groove) at each land-groove boundary. Then notice the scratch within the blue land and how the jacket thickness doesn't change, proving it is not a land-groove interface. This same observation can be seen, although not as clearly, in the bullet end-view shown previously, where all 4 grooves and lands can be counted due to the thin and thick portions of the jacket cross-section.

The 6-groove theorists say that the bullet in the archives has 4 grooves and so we cannot see what the WC picture shows. But if I'm right, then someone could easily examine the bullet and take pictures from all sides to reproduce the WC side with scratches and the HSCA side with chips cut out of the tip. This makes me wonder why the original photographers for both the WC and the HSCA did not take pictures from all six sides and show them.

This has been a discussion of the grooves and scratches in the bullet 399 as revealed by photographic evidence. I believe it shows the bullet originally seized by Secret Service on November 22, 1963, is the same one in evidence today and has never been switched. This in no way exonerates the conspiracists, considering the suspicious nature in which the bullet was obtained and from where, considering this bullet cannot have been the one that broke Governor Connally's bones due to its lack of damage, and especially considering that there were no microscopic traces of biological cells or of clothing impressions found anywhere on the missile.


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