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Old September 8, 2015, 12:06 PM   #1
Polinese
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Pre-War Optics

What kinds of scopes were available in the States prior to WW2. I know there was the Weaver 330c, and the Lyman scope. Were the Unertl scopes available commercially? What about German scopes, or other long tube external adjustment scopes were out there?
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Old September 8, 2015, 06:47 PM   #2
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The major makers were Noske, Lyman, Weaver, Mossberg (.22 scopes) Wollensak, Fecker, (target scopes), Unertl, and Pechar. Zeiss was the main German scope, though there might have been others. The idea of a Japanese scope would have had folks rolling on the floor - everyone knew the "Japs" couldn't even see straight with those slanted eyes, let alone shoot a rifle.

In fact, scopes were not much used at that time except for small bore target shooting. They were generally fragile, not very clear, and with small lenses. Most hunters who wanted to get away from barrel-mounted open sights went to peep sights; the big three were Lyman, Marble, and Redfield.

Pre-war rifles were not factory drilled and tapped for scope mounts (and weren't until the late 1940's); most big game rifles were drilled and tapped for peep sights.

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Old September 8, 2015, 09:00 PM   #3
Polinese
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Were the Zeiss scopes available stateside? What about the malcolm and winchester scopes?

Could anyone buy a Unertl I thought I read somewhere that they would only sell to the USMC but that could have been referring to the later 10x scope for the m40's wasn't much detail wherever I read that snippet.

Last edited by Polinese; September 8, 2015 at 09:14 PM.
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Old September 11, 2015, 02:10 PM   #4
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Zeiss scopes were available from Stoegers, also some other brands.

I never heard of a Malcom.

Unertls were a popular scope; I hadn't heard that story, but then "USMC" is often spelled "MYTH". Perhaps that was from a WWII ad; many companies advertised that their products had "gone to war" and were not available to the trade.

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Old September 11, 2015, 04:07 PM   #5
Jim Watson
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Malcom or Malcolm was an old maker apparently out of business by the 1930s.

1939 Stoegers lists Hensoldt, Oigee, Ajack, Noske, Zeiss, Weaver, Wollensak, and Mossberg sporting rifle scopes, Unertl, Lyman, and Fecker target scopes.
Redfield was making scope mounts, but not yet the sights themselves.
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Old September 11, 2015, 10:43 PM   #6
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Gotcha. Thanks a lot fellas.

James I think the bit about the USMC was referring to the 10x scopes from the M40 series now that I think about it.
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Old September 11, 2015, 11:17 PM   #7
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Pre-War Optics

I have a few US sniper books, so I'll look into it further tomorrow, but Unertl 8x scopes (mounted on M1903s) were used in the Pacific theater during World War II. I would figure they were commercially available prior to 1941.

Just think about it, the U.S. was not ready for sniper engagements going into the war. Most scopes were pulled from civilian markets prior to getting production ramped up. They weren't having the scopes designed for their needs, so they had to come from somewhere.
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Old September 12, 2015, 04:39 AM   #8
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I don't know what Unertl made during the war but there was not any great number of USMC sniper rifles.
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Old September 12, 2015, 09:10 AM   #9
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I don't know what Unertl made during the war but there was not any great number of USMC sniper rifles.

Think the numbers were a little over 1,000... but as I said, I'll look in the books later.

I do know that the numbers were higher than M1903A4s in USMC use in that theater... so I would consider that a "great number." The Unertl rifles were still being used in Korea, not too sure about Vietnam (probably in very limited circumstances).
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Old September 12, 2015, 06:11 PM   #10
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I know the 8x Unertls were still in use in Vietnam, I do not know if they were on 1903s though. For sure there were some on Model 70s the USMC used.

The Army switched out the M81 and M82s on the M1Cs for the M84 on the M1Ds starting '45, but the M84 say continued service through the 70s. No idea how long the 81 and 82s stayed around in the armories though.

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Old September 12, 2015, 09:37 PM   #11
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Unertl started his scope company in 1936, with scopes on the market in 1937. Most records were destroyed on Unertl's end, but 3,500 scopes were purchased by the USMC. 1,750 were accepted as of April 1945. The rifles were mostly build on National Match rifles, which there was said to be 1,047 in USMC inventory at the beginning of 1942.

First shipment of 150 to 250 Unertl scoped rifles were delivered to First Marine Amphibious Corps in December 1942. There were also M1903s in the theater with Lyman 5A or Winchester A5 scopes.

Prior to the end of the war (August 1945), the USMC ordered that there would be 108 sniper rifles (specifically the Unertl scopes rifles, M1903A4s, and M1Cs) allocated to each division. I don't know what division strength of the USMC was at that time, but simple multiplication would see what they wanted. The Unertl rifles were still being used then, but would be replaced with M1903A4s and M1Cs as need be. The Navy did take some of these rifles (400 in an August 1945 request) for mine clearing.

When the Korean War began, the USMC was to adopt the M1C, but testing was not completed by the start. So old Unertl scoped rifles were issued with M1903A4s that were supplied at the end of World War II. However, more Unertl rifles were assembled from standard service rifles to keep up with demand. These were used until the end of Korea, but the adoption of the M1C put it out of service.

From 1942, Unertl scopes were prominently attached to M1903s. However, some were attached to Winchester 54 and 70 rifles during World War II... just not official use. The books do say that scopes were removed and used on Winchester 70s, but as was the case with the Winchesters in World War II, there could have been M1903s with Unertl scopes floating around in Vietnam. I have seen pictures of Winchester 1897 shotguns there, so a M1903 isn't that far off. But once the sniper role was being established in Vietnam, I'm sure the latitude for non-standard arms was cut. That is my opinion on it (regarding Vietnam), though... nothing more.

That is just a little bit about the rifles that I quickly pulled out of three books on the subject. Peter Senich wrote The Complete Book on US Sniping and US Marine Corps Scout-Sniper. Joe Poyer wrote Collecting the American Sniper Rifle 1900 to 1945. If you are interested in the subject, I do recommend them. In regards to images, you'd have a crap load with the three books. World War II and Korean action shots, training, and then documents/informative shots. The three that I really liked were all Korean War images, and all with the Unertl scoped M1903s. One paired with a M1C, another supporting a Browning M1917 machine gun, and the last with a BAR spotter. If I get ambitious tomorrow, I'll see if I can post them up.
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Old September 13, 2015, 08:49 AM   #12
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All from the two Senich books. Tried to get the picture info for each shot.
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Old September 13, 2015, 03:58 PM   #13
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Pretty cool. Thanks for that.
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Old September 13, 2015, 04:26 PM   #14
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Wow, the USMC was more into sniping than I realized.
Maybe they DID keep Unertl busy during the war.
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Old September 13, 2015, 05:44 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polinese View Post
Pretty cool. Thanks for that.

No problem. Like I said, those three books have a wealth of information on the subject.

I posted some of my favorite pictures, but there are quite a few more interesting shots. Seeing the scope in its fired position, before the sniper resets it, is neat. But the training shots really show how the "classes" we're made up.
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Old September 13, 2015, 07:58 PM   #16
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I knew the USMC was using unertl's in the pacific front. Had even read they used the Winchester and Lyman 5x scopes as standard sniper rifles before the war just didn't have a dedicated sniper program. But I didn't know what other scopes were out there during that time both off the shelf and in military circles.
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Old September 13, 2015, 08:26 PM   #17
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I remember digging up some information on Noske scope for Roy Chandler (Death From Afar series).
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