Military grade rifle used to kill MLK

Originally Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2013, 3:26 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 18, 2013, 9:15 pm
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By Marlene Gantt

A military grade high velocity rifle was used to kill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. The rifle may have been the best deer rifle ever made. It will probably not make the list of guns to be banned by the current administration according to an informed source. It is not semi-automatic.

A Remington Game Master slide action rifle, serial No. 461476, model 760, with a Redfield variable telescopic sight, serial No. A17350 and Weaver sight mount is believed to be the gun used to kill Dr. King, according to government archives.

"The Remington Game Master Model 760 is a slide-action ("pump") rifle described as a 'high power' hunting rifle," said John Rutledge, East Moline, a former Marine. "The diameter of the caliber (30.06) and the muzzle velocity (speed of bullet as it leaves the muzzle) of 2700-2900 feet per second is comparable to U.S. Army M-1 Garand rifle that was the standard U.S. Army infantry weapon for many years," said Rutledge.

The seven-pound rifle was designed for accuracy. It has a positive grip for bare hands or gloves. It offers a flick-of-the-wrist shooting speed that can't be matched in other manually operated firearms made today, according to one website. "You could probably shoot seven to eight bullets in 15-20 seconds," said the informed source.

But it only took one shot by James Earl Ray, presumed to be the shooter. That shot came from a rooming house in Memphis across the street from the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel where King was standing at 6:01 p.m. on April 4.

"To illustrate the power of the bullet," said Rutledge, "it entered his right cheek, breaking his jaw and several vertebrae as it traveled down his spinal cord, severing his jugular vein and major arteries, finally lodging in his shoulder. His tie was completely ripped off his shirt."

Ray was an escapee from the Missouri State Penitentiary. So he took an alias, Eric S. Galt, a few months prior to the shooting. He used that name to rent an apartment, buy a car, get a driver's license, take dance lessons, rent a safety deposit box, visit a doctor, attend bartending school, etc. On March 29, he purchased a .243 caliber rifle and telescopic sight at Aeromarine Supply Co. in Birmingham, Ala., using the name Harvey Lowmeyer. Dr. King was from Birmingham.

On Mar. 30 Ray returned to Aeromarine and exchanged the .243 gun for a .30-06 rifle. Again he signed Harvey Lowmeyer. He took the rifle, Remington Model 760, to Memphis where he got a room at 422 1/2 South Main Street. Moments after the assassination, he is said to have dropped the gun near 424 South Main St. in front of Canipe's Amusement Co. Police immediately recovered the rifle, sight and mount — later designated Q2. The bullet was designated Q64.

A total of 257 hours were spent by firearms examiners to make 81 comparisons of Q64 with test-fired bullets, as well as microscopic, visual and chemical analyses. Still the panel concluded Q64 could not be identified or eliminated as having been fired from Q2. Nor could the panel say definitively that Q2, with Ray's fingerprints on stock and scope, fired the fatal shot. It did conclude it was a possibility. It was, however, conclusive that Ray bought that gun.

That gun, the Game Master rifle, was introduced in 1952 and produced until 1981. A total of 1.03 million were produced. It is probably still found on gun dealers shelves as well as on Internet gun listings. (It is not allowed in Illinois for deer hunting due to its long range.) The gun is easy to use due to the handle that slides back and forward to load another bullet. Ray probably had about five or six bullets in the slide action. It is a military-grade gun more powerful than guns that are being considered for the ban.

So it would appear that some members of Congress are not very gun savvy. Also, some of them think that the general public should only be allowed a gun for protection with five bullets chambered. An individual needs more rounds than a mass murderer or even a single intruder. If the individual with five bullets misses the criminal two or three times, he may well lose the battle. A mass murderer usually knows how to clear his gun if it jams and usually has more than one gun. Imagine being at Sandy Hook with only five bullets in your gun.

It is also unclear if legislators understand what constitutes an assault weapon, especially since some guns can be modified by a gun owner to become an assault weapon or not. Sure feels like Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated with some type of assault weapon. The Game Master shoots too far for populated areas so it can do a lot of damage at a closer distant than might be expected.

(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement's birthday will be observed on Martin Luther King Day Monday.)
Marlene Gantt of Port Byron is a former Rock Island school teacher.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)