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A USMC Springfield 1903-A1 with Unertl scope

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  • A USMC Springfield 1903-A1 with Unertl scope

    The Marine scout-snipers who landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942 were armed either with the Springfield equipped with Winchester A5 or Lyman 5A scopes, or model 1903-A1 with Unertls.

    USMC M1903-A1/Unertl
    Unlike the US Army, the USMC had a standard issue sniper rifle at the start of hostilities in WWII, it was a M1903/Lyman 5A (5x), which was adopted (with the Winchester A5 Telescope) during WWI. After there was a push to standardize sniper equipment, the Marine Corps Equipment Board did an extensive study of optics under field conditions and recommended a scope of about 8x, with an objective lens of about one and half inches, a medium fine crosshair reticle, and double micrometer quarter minute click mounts. They specifically cited a 8x target scope made by John Unertl as being the best they found. They also recommended the scope be mounted on a Winchester M70 target rifle, but the USMC decided on the M1903 based on favorable accuracy comparisons between specially selected M1903’s and the M70. So the M1903-A1 mounted with the Unertl 8x became the “sniping standard” in the USMC.

    The M1903-A1/Unertl was tested and at 600 yards and with M72 Match ammo would group 3.5 inches (.58 MOA, wow!!!) but match ammo was about impossible to come by during the war, so most snipers had to settle with M2 Ball ammo, which was till respectable with groups coming in at 7.5″ at 600 yards (1.25 MOA). The M1903-A1/Unertl was used by the USMC through out WWII, along with the M1903-A4. The -A1/Unertl also saw use during the Korean war, with USMC snipers registering a number of kills out to 1000 yards.

    US WW2 Springfield Sniping Rifles

    Attached Files

  • #2
    As talked about in the video above, the scope was free floating and had to be manually reset back in place after each shot.

    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.


    • #3
      Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
      Maybe in North Africa a full power cartridge was more useful than not. But I think that the 6.5 was an overall better round for squad-level weapons, rifles and light machine guns. Given my druthers, I'd take an M1 Garand built for 6.5 arisaka, a Bren built for 6.5 Arisaka (well actually 6mm Lee-Navy but I digress), and have my heavier machine guns, vehicle mounts, and snipers firing 30-06. Those machine guns use linked ammo, and snipers draw so few rounds that I think it wouldn't appreciably crimp the logistics chain. But then I'm able to draw on modern knowledge, which they obviously didn't have at the time.
      Fun video

      Lee Enfield Rifle vs M1903 Springfield Rifle and M1 Garand - With R. Lee Ermey

      I can see why you like the Enfield and the Bren must be the best light machine gun design.


      • #4
        I don't particularly love the Enfield. It definitely had a number of issues, but it was a perfectly adequate rifle. Honestly the best rifle of that war was the P14 Enfield, a totally different design from the SMLE.

        As for the Bren, of the available options, when you discount some one-offs, the Bren was arguably the best balanced LMG of WW2.
        Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene


        • #5
          Left to right: .303 British, 6.550mmSR Arisaka and .30-06 Springfield soft point ammunition


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