Weapons

Famous Assassination Weapons From History 

Mike Rothschild
Updated July 28, 2020 269.3k views 15 items

Famous weapons used in assassinations and attempted assassinations often become lodged in pop culture lore. Firearms like the Carcano rifle used to kill John F. Kennedy or the pocket Derringer that shot and killed Abraham Lincoln are well-known, infamous, and can be identified by almost anyone.

But many other assassination weapons aren't especially familiar. For example, the pistol that started World War I might be the most famous individual firearm in history, yet almost nobody knows what it is. Likewise, the rifle that felled Martin Luther King Jr. is a common hunting rifle with millions of copies made - but do you know what it actually is? What about the guns that have killed other presidents, prime ministers, and historical figures?

Here are some of the most famous weapons used in assassinations and attempted killings in the past 100+ years. Before that, assassins mostly made due with knives, swords, and poison. The invention of small handguns changed the world and created the most common means of assassination.
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.22 Caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet Revolver
.22 Caliber Iver-Johnson... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Assassination Weapons From History
Photo: Metaweb/CC-BY

On June 5, 1968, Palestinian Arab Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy with a small .22 Caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver. He fired three shots at almost point-blank range, and while it was initially hoped that the weak stopping power of the weapon would benefit Kennedy, he died 26 hours after the shooting.

The pistol became property of the LAPD and is now in the California State Archive.

.38 Caliber Revolver

First designed in 1898, variants of the .38 caliber revolver are among the most popular pistols in American history. They've also been used in a number of high profile assassinations.

Among the killings carried out with .38 caliber revolvers are the murder of John Lennon, the shootings of San Francisco Mayor Willie Moscone and Council Member Harvey Milk, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the second of the two killings by Lee Harvey Oswald, the shooting of Dallas PD officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald himself would be killed by a .38 caliber revolver, a Colt Cobra fired by Jack Ruby. In 1975, a deranged Patty Hearst follower fired a shot at President Ford with a .38, but missed and was arrested.
Remington Gamemaster 760 .30-06 Rifle
Remington Gamemaster 760... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Assassination Weapons From History
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY
Martin Luther King, Jr. assassin James Earl Ray bought the Remington rifle he used on March 30, 1968, from Aeromarine Supply Company in Birmingham, Alabama. Five days later, he fired a single bullet at Dr. King, killing him. The rifle was found a short distance away, wrapped in a blanket, and is now in the Civil Rights Museum on the grounds of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was shot.
Beretta 1934 .38 Caliber Pistol
Beretta 1934 .38 Caliber... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Assassination Weapons From History
Photo: flickr/CC0
A semi-automatic Beretta 1934 pistol was used to shoot and kill Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The pistol, fired by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse, was first carried by an Italian officer during that county's invasion of Abyssinia in 1938, then taken by a British officer as a war trophy. How it ended up in India is unknown, but a co-conspirator gave it to Godse. The pistol's current whereabouts are unknown.