Colonel William S. Brophy & Sniping In The Korean War


As the Korea war rages in 1952 and A captain in IX Corps Ordnance and veteran of infantry combat during WW2  in the Pacific , William S. Brophy  recognized a total lack of US Army sniping equipment and marksmanship compared to its current and future needs.  In an effort to reverse some of this and educated units in the field he visited several units to discus with and educate the on sniping equipment and tactics.

At this time the Army had  the scoped m1 rifle as their standard sniping rifle.   This system limited the sniper to a range not much greater than 600 yards.     To demonstrate what a skilled marksman with proper equipment could do and to hopefully get the Army to pay serious attention, Captain Brophy  bought at his own cost a Winchester Model 70  “Bull gun” in ,30-06  and Unertl 10X target optic. The Winchester rifle listed as the “bull gun” was a target gun with heavy target stock and 28 inch heavy barrel.

Brophy  using his rifle and skill developed during a career in competitive shooting was able to register several Chinese communist kills.  The reaction to his ability was quick and people began to take note.   However it was still the usual position of the Army that the weapon was not durable enough for combat use.  Brophy and  the selected men who used the rifle to demonstrate  what it could do and endure did finally get the Army to seriously consider the Model 70 as a sniping arm.

Ultimately it was decided that it was not desirable to inject a special rifle into the supply system with a requirement for match ammo for it.    Oddly enough over the coming years in Vietnam match ammo which was earlier labeled too hard to supply to troops in the field was readily available to snipers so much so that not one ever said that concern for having enough match ammo never crossed their minds.

The Model 70 was not the only effort then Captain Brophy put forth to improve US Army sniper ability.  While out sniping with the Model 70, targets appeared beyond the range of even the match .30cal sniper rifle .    To remedy this Brophy had the barrel of a Browning .50cal aircraft model machine gun mounted to a Soviet PTRD 14.5mm antitank rifle.   A butt pad and bipod were also added as well as a 20x Unertl optic.

With this set up, Brophy and his team was able to make several Communists into good communists.  Hits with the 50 were recorded at ranges from 1,000 yards to 2,000.

This rifle went on to inspire several other of its types with different  barrel and scope combinations.   This attempt at a longer range sniping arm no doubt was one of the predecessors to today’s Barrett M82.  Below Brophy demonstrates one of the 50 cal rifles in Korea to higher officers.

The concept of the 50 caliber sniping rifle was further developed by the AMTU and Col. F.B Conway.  Later attempts used optics such as the ART scope system and even a Boys Antitank rifle.

And of course one of the more more famous early 50 cal sniping systems.

In these early attempts , accuracy of the ammo was the main problem holding back  the weapons.  Standard service ammo was  the only thing available for use  at the time.

Colonel Brophy passed away in 1991 and left behind an amazing record of accomplishment as a shooter, an  Army officer who served in WW2, Korea and Vietnam and writer of many definitive books on US small arms.


  1. Gone are the days like Col Brophy’s, where GI’s could bring a personally owned weapon into theater. I envy the attitude those guys had back then.

    I would have loved bringing my Browning Hi Power or a DD M4 overseas. Instead, we carried issue weapons made by the lowest bidder. Our Glock 19’s and Sig M11’s were top quality builds. We had an issue with the slide rail on one Beretta M9. Our Colt M4A1’s…definitely not up to the quality control of civilian Colt’s. We had several (including brand new from the factory) have bbl issues. From flash hiders coming loose, to improperly indexed and 3 that had loose bbl’s that flopped left and right when you out slightly turned the front site clockwise/counterclockwise.

    Our SARET team armourers were on the ball and fixed every issue before we would head overseas. Was a mix of civilian contractors, SF Armorers and conventional Army Armorers. Very good group of guys, who if needed, skipped meals and breaks and worked into the morning to ensure our weapons were in spec. I bought food and Gatorade out of my own pocket for those guys and on a few occasions, I had to order them to stop working and break for chow. Support guys of that caliber are true assets that have to be taken care of.

    While overseas, weapons went down and had to get serviced at the SASC in theater. I wasn’t disappointed with the fact the weapons went out of spec and had to get serviced in theater, since they got pushed hard and were sometimes abused (required when fighting for your life) on a few missions.

    I was a little disappointed with the QC of some of the new weapons that required servicing by SARET prior to heading overseas, so it would have been nice to have the option of bringing a personally owned weapon, but that’s a double edge sword. Most responsible gun owners take good care of their “babies”, which isn’t always possible in theater. I would have been cringing while burning out a high end bbl on a personally owned weapon. The finish would also take a beating, from nicks, scrapes and scratches…to rust. Yes rust. I know plenty of armchair warriors and conventionals (mainly REMF’s) that would say they would never allow rust on a weapon. I just smirk and walk away, since none of them spend months in primitive conditions

  2. While this comment isn’t germaine to Col. Brophy’s early career in sniping, I would like to give a plug for Col. Brophy’s books.

    – The Springfield 1903 Rifles
    – L.C. Smith Shotguns
    – Plans and Specifications of the L.C. Smith Shotgun(*)
    – Marlin Firearms
    – The Krag Rifle
    – Arsenal of Freedom: The Springfield Armory (I don’t own this one)

    I own all but the last one. All of the volumes I own I rate as excellent publications for their clarity and depth/breadth of their content. All of those that I own, I’ve paid significant money for (just under $100 to * – I paid nearly $200 for the LC Smith Plans/Specs book).

    I highly and heartily recommend Col. Brophy’s books for those interested in such things.

    • When I read the part in the OP about him mashing up a Russian anti-tank rifle with a .50 M2, I thought, “Man, Col. Brophy and Dyspeptic Gunsmith really coulda done some stuff together.” Apparently you have, in a way.

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