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 Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)