Five guns tell the stories of five attempts on the lives of American presidents or candidates over the course of 148-years.

From the assassination of President Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in 1865 to the failed shooting of President Gerald Ford in 1975, over 20 attempts have been made on the lives of American presidents.

As the nation prepares to commemorate the death of President John F Kennedy at the hands of lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, the weapons used to alter the course of history are pictured here as a grizzly reminder of the dangers of being the leader of the free world.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife attended the play, ‘Our American Cousin’ at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC.

At around 10:15pm as the First Couple took in the play, John Wilkes Booth crept into the presidential state box and pulled out his derringer pistol and fired a single shot into the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head. Booth was in league with co-conspirators who wanted to bring about the deaths of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward to unsettle the Union and help the Confederacy rise up again.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Major Henry Rathbone attempted to stop Booth escaping but the assassin stabbed him in the chest with a knife he was carrying. Lincoln was rushed to receive treatment where his wound was quickly declared to be mortal and he died the next morning at 7:22am on April 15 without ever regaining consciousness.

As for Wilkes Booth, he was pursued by Union soldiers who tracked him down on April 26, 1865 and shot dead.

Colt 1911 model semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol used by Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme in an assassination attempt on US President Gerald R Ford

President Gerald Ford recalled seeing a hand holding a large handgun slipping through a crowd at a Sacramento park before a Secret Service agent lunged at Charles Manson disciple Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, according to a 38-year-old videotape released over the summer.

The former president calmly and carefully recalled the attempted assassination in the videotaped testimony that would later be used in Fromme’s trial.

In it, Ford gestures gently with his hands and sips water as he answers questions from a lawyer about what began as a routine morning in September 1975, before Fromme pushed through a crowd on the street, drew a semi-automatic pistol and pointed it at Ford. The gun wasn’t fired, and Ford wasn’t hurt. Ford recalled seeing a ‘weathered’ woman in a brightly collared dress as he walked toward the building, where he planned to meet with the governor. She ‘appeared to want to either shake hands or speak, or at least wanted to get closer to me,’ Ford says.

He then saw a large gun coming through the crowd of well-wishers. But when asked if he saw the face of who was holding it, he answered, ‘No, I did not.’ The gun was about 2 feet (0.6 metres) away from him, Ford said. ‘It was simply the hand with the weapon in it, at a height between my knee and my waist, approximately,’ Ford said. He then described a frantic moment when a security agent seized the suspect and Ford was rushed away.

Fromme was sentenced under a law covering assaults on US presidents. She was released from prison in 2009. Ford died at his Southern California home on Dec. 26, 2006. He was 93.

A .22-calibre Rohm RG-14 revolver identical to the one used by John Hinckley, Jr in the assassination attempt on US President Ronald Reagan

On March 30th, 1981, President Reagan was walking back to his limousine following a speech at the Hilton Washington Hotel in DC.

As they went to enter the car, John Hinckley Jr opened fire and shot Reagan and three other men , including White House Press Secretary James Brady and Washington, DC, police officer Thomas Delahanty who both were seriously injured.

Reagan was struck by a single bullet which broke a rib, punctured a lung, and caused serious internal bleeding.

The president was rushed to George Washington University Hospital to undergo emergency surgery and then spent two weeks in hospital. He took on the dubious honour of becoming the first serving president to survive an assassination attempt.

Hinckley was immediately arrested and made the now infamous claim that he wanted to kill the president to gain favour with teen actress Jodie Foster. He was declared mentally ill and has been confined to a psychiatric institution ever since.

The 6.5 mm Carcano Model 91/38 carbine rifle recovered from the Texas School Book Depository after the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy

Within hours of President John F Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, most Americans were familiar with the name Lee Harvey Oswald. Certain images of him - posing with a rifle, recoiling from Jack Ruby’s gun - have been ingrained in the nation’s memory. Yet to this day, he remains an enigma.

The Warren Commission, established by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded in 1964 that Oswald acted alone, firing three shots from a window in his Dallas workplace, the Texas School Book Depository.

Many Americans have questioned this conclusion. In 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations ended its own inquiry by finding that Kennedy ‘was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.’

He obtained an early discharge from the Marines, and in 1959 he travelled to Finland and boarded a train to Moscow. Soon after arrival, he told his guide he wanted to defect.

Russian authorities initially rebuffed him (he slit his wrist in response) but eventually allowed him to stay and sent him to the city of Minsk to work at an electronics factory.

The .22 caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver used by Sirhan Sirhan in the assassination of US Democratic presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy

On June 4, 1968, after winning the California primary, Kennedy addressed his supporters shortly after midnight June 5 at The Ambassador Hotel in LA. As he left the ballroom, he took a shortcut through the hotel kitchen and in a crowded passageway he was shot by 24-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy was first rushed to Los Angeles’s Central Receiving Hospital and then to the city’s Good Samaritan Hospital where he died early the next morning.–Daily Mail