Lately my mind has been stuck on Vietnam war era sniper optics and rifles. Friends keep asking me about the subject and it has come up a lot this month. It is an evergreen topic for most people interested in US martial arms , sniping and long range shooting anyway so I thought I would touch on it a little more today before my longer article on the Unertl 10X USMC sniper optic some times next week( hopefully).
I like to think most of our readers are already familiar with the M40 and Redfield 3x-9x optics since I’ve covered it a few times already. When the M40 came from Remington originally the rifle. the optic and mounts were all marked with the same serial number. Remington had very carefully zeroed the optics to as to nearly bottom out at 100 yards with only a few clicks lefter over. This gave the scope its 40plus minutes left over and allowed the scope to dial up to shots at 1,000 yards. Of course once the guns got to Vietnam, things got taken apart and mixed up and precious kept the scope/base/gun matching. As a result most of them could not be dialed up to 1,000 yards. Or much past 500 really. Below is an example of how things got mixed up.
The Redfields were had a range finding capability. The reticle was standard crosshairs but there was also a range ladder to the right side with two extra horizontal stadias. As you can see below the idea was to adjust the zoom ring until the two top stadias fit with the top on a man’s shoulders and the bottom on his belt. The ranger scale would then show the yardage. The redfields ranging scale and measuring stadia worked well with the average measurements of an adult asian male. Now if that was done on purpose or not I have yet to find out. One you had the range you could either dial in the DOPE ( usually never done as it took too much time) or you held off. This system was also incorporated as part of the US Army’s ART system used on the XM21. But that is another day. Word has it few Marine snipers used the scope’s ranging ability very often. The range finding stadia and ladder often melted when the sun came through the objective lens after a relatively short amount of time so care was taken to keep it covered or out of direct sun. Because of that a lot of the scopes are minus the range finding ability.
And here we have a picture of The Master Sniper himself with the M40 he used on his second tour as a scout sniper. The picture is noteworthy not only for being who it is but for he gear he is carrying. What Hathcock carried with him on most missions has been recorded multiple times. He noted many times he usually took nothing more than his rifle, binos a belt with two canteens, a pistol, a poncho , a knife, a compass and a bandoleer of 30cal match in cloth bandoleer tied around his waist. This was done in case he had to drop his pistol belt to run, he still had “all he really needed.” Yes, a gun and some ammo is truly the only thing Hathcock really needed if you had the idiocy to chase him through the countryside. The rest he carried in his pants cargo pockets. Here is is wearing the M56 belt with what appears to be two M56 ammo pouches, a flak vest and his NVA pack. I found it interesting that Carlos appears to have a lanyard attached to his 1911. Hathcock wears his signature 3rd pattern ERDL jungle fatigues and his boonie with his white feather in it laying on his back.
Here is a photo taken from where Hathcock took perhaps his record breaking 2,500 yard shot. If you have seen this photo before else where claiming that is Hathcock in the image beside the gun, it is not . That is SSGT Roberts, his spotter on that mission and the picture is from Carlos’ own collection so I think he knows who was in the picture. You can see the 8x Unertl mounted to the M2 Browning he used to make his famous shot and the terrain beyond. Perfect position to make a shot like that.
Back to the 3x-9x sniper Redfield. Few seem to know but it was also used on the M2 browning.
Back to the Unertl 8x for a bit. The scope is forever tied to Carols in the minds of many when it comes to USMC sniping and of course the gun Carlos used in his first tour during the time he made most of his most celebrated accomplishments of combat sniping. Below is pictured a real USMC Model 70 sniper rifle with USMC contract Unertl 8x. I’m sure many younger people would look at that and see ancient gun tech and wonder how they did what they did with it. Truth is even today that combo would wreak havoc as a sniper rifle in capable hands.
The Unertl was used on the model 70s and the M2 browning, but some imaginative snipers managed to mount it on other rifles they wanted to snipe with. I’m don’t think I need to say how much I would love to try that out.
The Mil-Dot reticle used by the USMC was made by Premier reticles and sent to Unertl to be installed into the Unertl 10X USMC sniper scope. Below is a tray of the mildot reticles ready to be shipped out to J. Unertl.