The Easiest Shot

Posted by Joe Elliot

The Easiest Shot

      It appears that Oswald fired three shots, at z153, z222 and z312. Which of these was the most difficult shot and which was the easiest?

      Below is a chart, based on my estimates, showing, at the Zapruder frames 153, 222 and 312, the:

    Frame: Zapruder frame number where Oswald likely fired a shot.
    Distance: Distance from sniper's nest to limousine
    Limo Speed: Speed of the limousine
    Horizontal Angle: The number of degrees the sniper's nest was off from being directly behind the limousine.
    Vertical Angle: The number of degrees the sniper's nest was above the line of travel of the limousine. Because Elm Street sloped down by 3 degrees, this angle is three degrees less than the angle the line of sight makes with a true horizontal line. For instance, at z152, a line from the sniper's nest to the limousine makes an angle of 30 degrees with a horizontal plane but is 27 degrees above the line of travel of the limousine.
    Total Angle: The number of degrees the sniper's nest was off the line of travel of the limousine.
    Angular Velocity: The speed at which Oswald would have to change the direction the rifle is pointing at to keep the target lined up with his sights.

     The distance to the target gets greater and greater with each shot. But this was not the main difficulty of the shots. All the shots were under 100 yards which is close even if the iron sights were used.

     The main difficulty of the shots is that this was a moving target and the aim would have to be adjusted constantly to keep the sights lined up on the target. And the third shot was by far the easiest. The aim had to be adjusted almost 8 times as quickly for the first shot compared to the third. Almost 3 times as quickly for the first shot compared with the second. And almost 3 times as quickly for the second shot compared with the third.

     Clearly, in theory, the first shot was the most difficult. The second shot of medium difficulty. And the third was the easiest of the three. This matches up well with the results seen at Dealey Plaza.

     The first shot missed the head by over 5 feet, missing the limousine completely, while Oswald was adjusting his aim by 5.3 degrees per second

     The second shot missing the center of the head by eight inches, while Oswald was adjusting his aim by 1.8 degrees per second.

     The third shot missing the center of the head by two inches, while Oswald was adjusting his aim by 0.7 degrees per second.

     It should be noted that the ideal position to shoot at a moving target is from a position along the line of travel of the target. That is, with the target moving directly toward or directly away from the shooter. From this position, the target appears stationary and shooting at this moving target is very similar to shooting at a stationary target. In general, the closer the shooter is to the line of travel of the target, the easier the shot becomes.

    The four factors that make the later shots easier were:

    * Oswald getting closer, horizontally, to firing from straight behind, due to the bend in Elm Street which helped him out

    * Oswald getting closer, vertically, to firing from straight behind, due to the limousine traveling away from him

    * the limousine slowing down, from 14 MPH to 9 MPH

    * the limousine being farther away. This decreases the angular speed of the target

    The only factor making the later shots more difficult was:

    * the target was further away, making the target appear smaller

This one factor of extra difficulty, was not enough to outweigh the four factors that make the later shots easier.

     Note: I understand that top sniper's are trained with moving targets to aim at a point ahead of where the target is and pull the trigger just before the target reaches this point. I've heard that extensive practice has shown this is a superior method than keeping the sights continuously lined up. But Oswald never had training or practice at moving targets so he likely would have used the same method he used with stationary targets. Try to get the sights lined up and fire when he was aiming well. Plus, I don't know if the first method will work well with the target moving upwards, suddenly into view. And, if any case, even with advanced training, it's still harder to hit a target moving at a high angular velocity than one with a low angular velocity.