American Rifleman - November 2019 - 58

WWII SNIPER

above. The first Unertls were delivered to the Marines in late1942, and it is believed the rifles were modified for use with
these scopes at the USMC Philadelphia Depot.
The modifications to sniper configuration were simply
to screw the front scope mount to the barrel and the rear
scope mount to the receiver ring. It was necessary for the
handguard to be modified by milling out a hole to accommodate the front sight base. Also, to aid in concealment,
the bright bolts were blued.
Since the rifles were already set up for match use, no
other modifications were generally required to make them
superbly accurate sniper rifles. The Unertl scopes made
under Marine Corps contract were marked on top of the tube
"J. UNERTL" over "USMC - SNIPER" and then the scope's
serial number.
Although the scope was called an 8X (and is so marked),
it was actually 7.8X. The similar Unertls made for civilian
competitive shooting were equipped with a spring that
brought the tube back into position after it moved rearward
under recoil, but the USMC scopes did not have this feature.
It was believed that sand or dirt could become lodged in
the spring and score the tube. The lack of this return spring
meant that the Marine snipers had to manually pull back
the scope into battery after each shot. It is reported that
some Marines improvised a makeshift mechanism to bring
the scope back into position after each shot by the use of a
slice of rubber taken from a truck inner tube, thus creating,
in effect, a big rubber band that stretched between the front
clamping ring and rear mount. In order to protect the scope
when it was removed from the rifle, a cylindrical Micarta carrying case with cartridge belt hooks was provided.
Since the rifles used to create the Marine Corps' latest sniper rifle were either Model 1903 National Match or
Special Target rifles, most were fitted with Type C fullpistol-grip stocks. A May 24, 1943, memo from the commandant to the quartermaster read, "Type 'C' stocks should
be provided if available." Photographic evidence indicates
that some of these rifles were fitted with straight-grip
Type S stocks, presumably either due to a shortage of
Type C stocks or to replace damaged stocks of that pattern.
Today the rifles are sometimes referred to as "Model
1941" or "Model 1942," but the designations are incorrect.

Most Marine Corps documents referred to them as
"M1903A1 Rifle, Sniper, with Telescope Sight, Unertl 8X."
By mid-1943, the M1903A1/Unertl sniper rifles began
to see use in the Pacific Theater. A Sept. 23, 1943,
Marine Corps memo referencing the distribution of these
sniper rifles to the 4th Marine Division noted 87 would
be provided to the unit. Noted researcher Frank Mallory
stated that Marine Corps records reflect that "... the rifles
were allocated on the basis of 9 per rifle company and
4 per headquarters in the Raider Battalion, it appears
that they were never made an official part of the Table
of Organization and Equipment (TO&E)." A Marine Corps
memorandum dated Aug. 10, 1945, indicated that the "new
allowance" for the M1903A1/Unertl sniper rifles would be
changed to 108 per Marine division. Even after the new
rifles came on the scene, a number of the older M1903
rifles with Lyman 5A scopes still remained in use.
There is some question as to the exact number of Unertl
USMC sniper telescopes procured by the Marine Corps. As
discussed by author and researcher Peter Senich: "With
proper regards to the Unertl firm, and recognizing the difficulty in maintaining records for over 50 years, so far as it
is known, a total of 3,500 scopes appear to have been actually ordered by the Marine Corps, the initial order being
for 1,000 and the second for 2,500. However, according
to USMC records, 1,750 Unertl telescopic sights had been
accepted by the Marine Corps by April 1945, and, as then
stated, this figure represented the 'total delivered.' Though
additional deliveries may have taken place before the war
ended a few weeks later, considering the overall situation,
the status of the war at that point, and the controversy
surrounding the suitability of the Unertl scope, further
deliveries are believed to have been highly unlikely."
Although as many as 1,750 Unertl scopes may have
been procured by the Marines, this does not mean that
a like number of M1903A1 rifles were fitted with the
sights-there were only 1,047 M1903A1 National Match
and Special Target rifles available for conversion into sniper
rifles. Indeed, given the somewhat limited issuance of the
sniper rifles to the various Marine divisions, it is clear that
only a relatively small number of the rifles were actually
converted to sniper configuration and issued. Some of

Ahead Of Its Time

I

t is interesting to note that when the United States became actively
involved in Vietnam, a favored Marine Corps sniper rifle was the
Winchester Model 70 fitted with a Unertl 8X USMC telescope, exactly
the same sniping rig recommended by Capt. Van Orden back in 1940!

58

NOVEMBER 2019

AMERICAN RIFLEMAN

U.S. Marine Corps photo



American Rifleman - November 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - November 2019

Contents
American Rifleman - November 2019 - Cover1
American Rifleman - November 2019 - Cover2
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 1
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 2
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 3
American Rifleman - November 2019 - Contents
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 5
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 6
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 7
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 8
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 9
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 10
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 11
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 12
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 13
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 14
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 15
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 16
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 17
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 18
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 19
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 20
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 21
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 22
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 23
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 24
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 25
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 26
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 27
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 28
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 29
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 30
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 31
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 32
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 33
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 34
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 35
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 36
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 37
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 38
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 39
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 40
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 41
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 42
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 43
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 44
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 45
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 46
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 47
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 48
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 49
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 50
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 51
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 52
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 53
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 54
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 55
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 56
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 57
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 58
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 59
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 60
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 61
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 62
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 63
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 64
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 65
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 66
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 67
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 68
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 69
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 70
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 71
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 72
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 73
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 74
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 75
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 76
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 77
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 78
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 79
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 80
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 81
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 82
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 83
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 84
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 85
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 86
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 87
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 88
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 89
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American Rifleman - November 2019 - 91
American Rifleman - November 2019 - 92
American Rifleman - November 2019 - Cover3
American Rifleman - November 2019 - Cover4
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