5.56 Timeline



It all started with an off hand comment.  A friend and I had been shooting to 1,000 yards and a little beyond for years and while talking to a 3rd friend one day and telling him about the D&L sports ITRC and a recent article in The Accurate Rifle magazine about it, I mentioned a section at the end about participants of the match having a choice to “join the One Mile Club”.   The best I can recall, the idea was the shooter got as many rounds as he wanted at the target 1 mile away but, after having made the hit, had to zero back down and make a 100 yard  shot.  The person got only one chance at the 100 yard target after scoring the 1 mile hit or else they would not be counted as one of the OMC according to whatever rules  they had decided on locally.   This had stirred up some talk among the us local long range shooters and got the gears turning.

From there, the friend I was talking to about decided he would build a gun just for the attempt and at a local gun show, a Model 70 long action with trigger was purchased as a base  to build the intended  1 mile rifle. Being a machinist, my friend had intended to barrel the action in some appropriate cartridge yet to be determined and build the action into a chassis  system.  The gun would be huge. heavy and not good for much else.

A few weeks of talk on this line among a few other friends really spread the fire and we started to get serious. We started to look at our options for ways to pull it off.  My friend continued to cling to the idea of building a gun just for the shot, but this had very little appeal to me.  Then as now, I  only wanted to make the hit with something a man could carry by himself and was portable and practical. Another friend who owns the local gun shop got involved and we all determined to decide on appropriate cartridges for the undertaking,  The idea was to use something standard. No wildcats and no full custom rifles.  That was to be out starting attempt. To work with something factory made and if it was not adequate to the task we would move on from there.  Without an unlimited budget we thought it best to use something within our means, and if we found it too lacking or impractical we would then have to decide how much money we were willing to spend to make it happen.


Point Of Impact. ( Books for the gun enthusiast )


“I was at my best with a rifle in my hand. I always loved rifles. So I decided to live in such a way that the rifle would be all I needed. And I succeeded.”  Bob Lee Swagger.

Above is just one of many great lines from Stephen Hunter’s masterpiece “Point of Impact”, the first book about his iconic hero Bob Lee Swagger.   This is the book the dreadful movie with Marky Mark was based on.  And I use the term loosely.

Bob Lee is a disabled and retired former USMC  scout sniper and Vietnam war vet. Bob sustained a career ending wound in the hip  just before his partner was killed on a sniper mission in the later years of the war.  Bob is clearly a fictionalized version of the Ultimate Sniper Carlos Hathcock in the universe of the book.  Bob is famous after the war and is well known in the gun culture, though he is bitter and seeks no lime lights.  Because of his exploits and skill during the war, he was nicked names “Bob the Nailer”.  While he is obviously close to the real life master sniper, Carlos himself is represented in the book as the character Carl Hitchcock as a nod to the real life sniper.

As the story opens, Bob is shown to be a recluse who has had a tough life after he is medically retired from the Marines. He collects his pension and lives alone in his trailer in the mountains with no one but his dog. He spends his days shooting and reloading and avoiding people.  Ever day he shoots his rifles, handloads. workds on his guns and reads gun books.  He had trouble with booze in the years before the start of the story and had a wife that left him before he went into his voluntary solitude.

Much like the movie, he is found and set up in a plot that looks like he tries to kill the US POTUS. He goes on the run eventually meeting up with his dead spotters wife and falling in love with her and teaming up with a FBI agent who helps him through the rest of the story.

As tiresome as it is to hear it again, the book is far better than that abortion of a movie. Bob is not arrogant and cocky. He is a Vietnam vet  and much more clever than his movie counterpart.

One thing we learn in the book is that Bob is living a life of quite desperation, just waiting to die.  When he is set up and sets out on the run to clear himself, we learn that he is once again alive for the first time since the war. He is fully engage again now that he has a war to fight.     And the the climax and gun fights of the book do not disappoint.

Unlike the vast majority of writers, Stephen Hunter is a gun guy. The book is full of gun talk and details and is accurate to weapons type and ballistics.  Indeed one rifle  pretty much becomes a character in the book.  Knows as the “tenth black king” a Pre 64 Model 70 winchester target rifle 1 of 100 that is The number 1 of that special run.  It is a 300 H&H magnum with a Unertl target scope used for the kill that sets Bob up and has a long history back to the death of JFK and it is essential to driving the plot.

This great book set off the popularity of Bob Lee and his adventures that are still ongoing to this day, And even some side books about Bob’s father Earl who is even more deadly and impressive as well as heroic as Bob himself.  Earl was a WW2 vet and received the Medal Of Honor.  Earl goes on to have adventure of his own as a Arkansas state  trooper before dying on duty when Bob is still a boy.   Earl had a huge impact on his son to say the least.

The book is one anyone who loves guns needs to read, It is better than any action movie I have ever seen with plot twists and pacing that is truly masterful. It is never dull and is 100 percent entertaining.   I read it many years ago ( it first came out around 91 or 92) and I have probably read it again every two years or so. it is really that good.  Lastly, in addition to all I said, it also has some deep thoughtful things to say about life and duty and doing the right thing.   It  has never failed to entertain me.

Cold Bore Precision For The LEO Sniper Rifle

For those in the LE side of sniping, the first round is for the most part, the most important.  In a hostage situation, the first round HAS to hit exactly the spot it was meant for or some one is very likely going to die. Maybe more than one.  A precision rifle has to be able to hit the exact same spot every time on demand, no questions asked.   There is no room for debate on this.  In my opinion, if a LE sniper can not, on demand, lie prone and hit a 1 inch dot at 100 yards with his weapon, assuming there is nothing wrong with the gun, scope, ammo etc) he needs to go home. Or, at least be taken off active sniper duty until his skill is sharpened to this point.


But to get to this point, a rifle capable of delivering this critical hit is a must.  There are all kinds of thoughts on how to make a gun this accurate but I will save that for another time.  For now, I am going to talk about a drill to test a LE sniper rifle over long periods of time to make sure it can deliver if and when the time comes.


Since the weather and temp does change in most parts of the US. It is very important that the gun is tested over the widest range. If your job is a LEO sniper, you need to test this over months and a variety of temp and weather conditions.  Not only will this prove the gun but build your confidence in it and yourself.  Keeping a record of the testing could also be something that you use to CYA at a later date.


The group above was fired over 5 months from summer to winter, from a FN  Sniper rifle. in active use.  The 1 inch black square shows five shots into the black.  With two shots outside that looks like fliers, but were actually hits on thumb tacks for fun by the sniper.

All shots are “cold bore” as they should be. Shots from a LE sniper are going to be cold bore, and since this is the most important shot and most likely to have a  different POI  from lesser rifles, the test needs ( has) to be done under cold bore shot conditions. Some of the temps ranged from 39 one day to -9 two weeks later.  The rifle still hit in the same spot.  Everything was recorded for later possible use. Temp, time of day, cloud cover, date and wind direction are just a few notes.  If you can not do this on demand, I damn sure do not want you having to shoot past my head or a loved ones head if any of us are a hostage.   I doubt many entry team officers would want you shooting past their ears either if you can not place one past them with this precision.   LEO sniping is not military sniping where center mass is usually good enough,.



Rifle is the excellent FN sniper which uses the Model 70 action and match grade FN  barrel with chrome lining, Not usually something precision shooters want in a target rifle or sniper rifle, but FN has some how pulled it off.  Leupold optic and Federal Gold medal 175 grain  HPBT.   This rifle can be counted on to do this on demand, any time of year no matter the weather if user is skilled enough to be a Sniper in a LE environment.

The Winchester Model 52


The Model 52 Winchester is regarded as one of Winchesters true masterpieces of the ancient world. It came about after the United States’  came back from WW1. At that time a lot of returning vets had grown to like the bolt action rifle over the lever action guns used for many years.   Thought up as a means to offer a quality target rifle in the more affordable .22 long rifle. the 52 was considered a classic form its start.

The first models where pretty much military training rifles. They looked a lot like the 1903 and Winchester had  hoped to be making a lot of them for the military.  The early guns had a very distinct military style carried over from the war. After the national matches of 1919 where the M52 was first used in  matches, many other versions followed with a production of over 125,000 made up into the 80s.  The down side was, the 52 was expensive, very expensive and labor intensive.  It really is a classic. In my years I have heard it called “the most perfect rifle ever made” and  “perfection in design” which is even a title of a book about the rifle.   Few who have experience with one wil disagree that is truly was the finest production target rifle ever made in the country by a factory.


The model I own in the pictures above are the Model52 B.  The “B” does not really mean anything or denote details, it is just a stamping and used by people to get a rough idea of what and when the gun was made.  My rifle in the picture has a lyman peep sight used for shooting at vermin as opposed to large target sights.  On the right side of the stock you can see the magazine release button.  The ’52 uses a standard 5 round magazine  but would also take a mag block to make the gun a single fire, a extended 10 round magazine as well.  The magazine was very tough and I have never seen or heard of one failing. The same mag was used in the M69, the M75 and the M52.


the top of the action shows the machined flat for another model of rear sight that could come with the rifle. Sights could be selected by the buyer in the long gone age, back when factories really tried to satisfy customers. Forward of the receiver, on the barrel, you can see a target sight block. This is the type used for target scopes of the era. Mine is a Unertl block to accpet a Unertl target optic.  You may also notice the profile of the wlanut stock.  This type was called the “Marksman” stock.  It was the same type used on the Model 70 target adn National Match rifles. The stock was also used by Winchester on the heavy varmint models before going out of business, though it was made by H_S Precision in their synthetic/viberglass with bedding blocks and pillar bedding.  It is still a very useable and comfortable stock for general use.


The wide forearm of the stock had an accessory rail installed for a variety of extras. Mine has the standard front swivel for a sling and the hand stop with sling swivel. The slots allow the shooter to move the accessories to any position desired.  These are the factory parts, but a large amount of other target factory and custom pieces would fit and were used.


The barrel on the target M52 B was a very heavy target barrel and they are exceptionally accurate. With proper ammo, it is easy to shoot 5 rounds into almost one hole at 25 yards and sub MOA at 50 yards. These are some of the best barrels made at the time and the 52 was already hand fitted to be as accurate as humans knew how to make a rimfire at the time.  As before, the front sight is a smaller model for field work. The front sight is installed and removed by drifting it in via dove tail. The crown is a flat target crown.


The barrel has the forward target/optic block the proper distance from the rear for the optics at the time. The scopes needed a certain distance from each other to allow the target elevation and windage turrets to have a value of 1/4 MOA.  Further apart or closer made the clicks move the POI more or less.  You can see the barrel band before the end of the fore arm. Surprisingly to some, the barrel is not free floated. The gun is still astoundingly accurate, the match gunsmiths at Winchester at the time, knew how to make a gun accurate before free floating became something  every one wanted. I have found the barrel band does not hurt POI or shift zero even when temp or weather conditions would effect the zero of lesser guns.


Above is the inside of the action. The trigger on Model 52s are another legend , and they are as fine a target trigger that can be found on a non custom gun. It indeed feels like a custom trigger and can be adjusted easy.  The bolt is jeweled and very smooth with  dual extractors.  The safety can be seen on the right hand side of the action near the tang.


And above, is a picture with a variety of standard accessories that would have came with the M52.  A Redfield Olympic front and rear iron sight set, a Lyman small peep and a Lyman front sight.  The front sight inserts are at the far right. They go into the front sight and allow you to change from post to globe. Below the Redield rear sight in the target block for installed the rear sight on the receiver of the action. It allows some forward and rear placement for eye relief and comfort.


Above is an optic that is the finest rifle telescope ever produced in the US of A.  It is of course a Unertl ( pronounced  YOU- NUR-DULL ) target/varmint 12x optic.  It is externally adjustable and I have talked about them at length before. It would have been common to see the Unertl scopes on guns way up until the 80s.  The rifle/optic combo is a real classic or its day and would have been the mark of a series small bore shooter.

There was a lot different 52s made over its run though not that many made over all. It just cost too much at the time and few people took target shooting serious. The high cost and effort to make the gun doomed it before the shooting sports grew to be as popular as they are now.   For a while, Winchester/Olin had a sporter version made in Japan that is sold here, but of course it was not the same. Although a serviceable plinker, they did not have the level of craftsmanship and quality in them to equal the originals.

Model 70 Pre 64 Varmint / Target Sights, Optics and Accesories


For generations, the Winchester Model 70 has been known as  the “rifleman’s rifle.”  The rifle emerged in the ancient year of 1936 and set the standard for every bolt-gun to follow.  It hasn’t always been well respected though.  It’s reputation took a beating after a design change in 1964.  In this article, I will be writing about the “pre ’64” Model 70 only.

The Model 70 is an improvement on the earlier Winchester Model 54.  The 54 was a very fine rifle for its time, but was eclipsed by the Model 70.  Essentially a refined version of the military action used for so long by the Germans, I like to refer to the M70 action as a perfected Mauser action.  The Mauser is to bolt-guns like the M1911 Colt is to semi-auto pistols.  Both were mature tech the day they were born.

Some of the features of the M70 include its famous controlled round feed (CRF), its coned breech that protected the bullet during feeding, the strong ejector, the safety, the steel machined floor plate.  It was a handmade masterpiece and very expensive to make.  It was chambered in almost every round available at the time from the.22Hornet to the 458 Win Mag.  Anyone who has any real experience with one will agree that it really is a work of art.  The M70 came in a variety of models for many purposes, including sporters, guns for NRA highpower, and varmint rifles.  Also, as can be found on this website, it was used for sniping by US forces in 3 wars from WW2 through Korea to Vietnam.  It accounted for the bulk of Gunnery SGT Carlos Hathcock’s 93 confirmed kills including several of his most famous shots.


Above picture is a pre-WW2 M70 at the NRA museum standing in as a USMC Vietnam sniper.  This early rifle has some similarities with the USMC sniper.  This has a Lyman optic and is actually a Model 70 made to the specifications of Evaluators LTD, a company owned by a USMC officer , George Van Orden, who championed the Model 70, which was eventually adopted as the sniper standard.  These rifles are very rare. This variant was sold to customers who used them for NRA matches, target shooting, and hunting.  They were factory made and were not used by the USMC in Vietnam.  The so-called Van Orden rifles were personal purchases only, not USMC contract rifles.  A few of these Model 70s that were reworked for the USMC rifle teams eventually did make it to Vietnam and they are very similar.


Though a “clone,” the rifle pictured above more closely resembles the USMC sniper rifle produced by the USMC RTE and sent to Vietnam.

The rifle I will be talking about is my personal M70 varmint rifle.  The gun was made in 1959 and is in .243, which is my personal favorite cartridge for non-fighting purposes.  The “heavy match” contour barrel on the rifle is 24 inches long.  Though the stock is clearly different, it is the same barrel and action used on the Target versions.  At one time, early heavy barrel Model 70s were used during national matches with the standard stock seen on my rifle in order to meet the NRA weight requirements then in place.  Shooters had to choose between a heavy marksman stock with sporter barrel or a heavy barrel with a sporter stock.  Most feel the heavier target barrel is more important than the heavy wide marksman stock and I agree.  I feel this is why the “varmint” rifle has the standard stock.  The .243 was used in the national match, target, and bull rifles as well, so if you are looking to collect, be careful about what stock is on the rifle and check to make sure it is not being sold as a NM rifle when it may be a varminter with a marksman stock swapped around.  Even if that combo is real, it would need to come to from the factory that way to have full value.

Since I still shoot with iron sights at long range in the high power style, I wanted to complete the rifle with iron sights to go along with the optics of the time period. This way I could varmint hunt and shoot it in competition.



The rear sight on the model 70 is the Redfield Olympic rear sight.  It has 60 minutes of elevation and 18 minutes of windage. It attaches with a thumb screw to a standard sight base that screws onto the left side of the action.  This sight was the standard for target shooting at long range for many years and was only discontinued in 1976.


The front sight is also a Redfield Olympic front sight. It attaches to a standard target block used for most sight and optic use at the time. It has insets that can be changed out very easily. It came with various globes and posts. I like the front post similar to the AR15 front sight post. It gives me the best ability and versatility to shoot more then black bullseyes. The front sight is made in such a way to channel light onto the actual sight. If you have never looked through this type of sight combo, you would be surprised how naturally and easy the front and rear line up with the target. The barrel muzzle is crowned with a flat target crown.


Above is a picture of the target blocks (bases) for mounting optics like the Unertl. The blocks seen above are Unertl blocks but will work with any sight of its type.  The rear block mounts to the front of the action and the front sight block rests on the barrel.  Unertl optics need a certain length between blocks to get a certain value out of each click on the optic. It changes the value of the scope adjustment if the blocks are closer or further apart.  Some people use a different position, but I use the most common block placement to make sure my Unertl is 1/4 value per click.

John Unertl Sr. Worked in the optics field in Germany during WW1 In 1928 he and his family immigrated to the US and he began to work for the J.W. Fecker scope company.  In 1936, the same year the M70 was brought out, he left Fecker to start his own optical company.  He first worked form his own home and upgraded as the company grew, making some of the highest quality rifle/target scopes in America. The company grew beyond rifle scopes to be a supplier of glass for NASA projects and the US gov for anything needing the highest of quality.  After a long time the company stopped making optics since John Jr concentrated on the bigger contracts. The optics was his father’s love but just cost too much money.  A third party bought the rights to use the Unertl optics name and tried to start it back up, but failed and we have seen nothing for years.  The last high profile optic from Unertl was the USMC 10x sniper scope used by the Marines on the Barrett M82, the M40A1, and M40A3 sniper rifles until recently when replaced by the S&B 3-12x and the PR optics.


Optic above is one of the scopes used on my varmint M70. It is the 2.0 Unertl 8x Ultra varminter model.  You can see how the base/rings attach to the blocks by dovetail in the right side picture.

The field of view on the 8x Unertl is 12.6 feet at 100 yards with an eye relief of 4.5 inches.  It is 24.0 inches long a weighs 34 ounces.  The 1-inch tube has a 1.3125 inch eye piece and a 2.1875 inch front objective.  The recticle is the fine target crosshairs.  A lot of people do not know how tough and simple Unertl optics are.  The tube is solid steel constructed with external adjustments. Almost nothing can go wrong.  The optics are also made to be easily fixed in the field.  John Unertl thought a riflescope should not be complicated and that you should be able to fix it in the field.  The optics are made to be taken apart with nothing more than a pocket knife.  The crosshairs, if broken, can be fixed by taking the scope apart and substituting strands of your own hair!  Among other features, the optic can be taken apart and dried out and cleaned, though I am not going to give the details because someone will try to prove me wrong by taking apart and breaking their valuable scope.  They are a very rugged simple tool of very high quality.  As a old friend said. They are a perfect example of the highest quality American optical craftsmanship.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above, you can see the windage and elevation turrets that work on a spring that presses against the tube.  Rather than internally, the adjustments are made this way.  The right picture is a view of the recoil spring.  The spring is tightened to bring the scope back into position after the gun recoils. The scope moves in its rings. This keeps the optic from taking any abuse from recoil as it experiences no shock. The spring is called a recoil, or return-to-battery spring. The clamp in front of the front base is tightened to position the optic and stop it  from moving forward. The rib on top keeps the optic perfectly straight up and down so canting is not a problem. It is called a “pope rib” for reasons I have long forgotten.  The front and rear lenses are covered by steel screw on caps.


UnertlScope5 UnertlScope4 UnertlScope2

Scanned copies of original instructions describe the normal features of various Unertl models and the optics features.



Above shows how the optic mounts to the blocks on the receiver and barrel as well as shows the size of this optic.   The size of the match varmint barrel can be see in the forearm of the varmint standard walnut stock as well as the rear match sight mounting block.   The eye piece can be replaced with a “booster” that would increase the optics magnification by 2X.  This booster is almost never found it is so rare–I have only seen one of them.

My rifle has the accuracy typical of the quality of the pre 64 guns.  With its “pet loads” it shoots around 1MOA to slightly less. This may not sound impressive, but during this gun’s time, 1MOA was a very, very hard thing to achieve. The limited choices in quality bullets and powder of the time did not help much at the time either.   I use exclusively the Sierra 85 grain HPBT game king bullet with IMR 3031, Federal cases and Federal primers. This load has never failed me and has shot well in every .243 I have owned.  I have owned a lot of .243s.  Though the load is not hot, I’m not giving it out publicly for liability reasons.

My rifle does its varmint duty mainly as a crow gun. I love to shoot crows with a rifle above all other forms of hunting.  It takes real skill, patience, and camouflage to hit a crow past 200 yards.  The 8x is enough for the longest shots the rifle can be expected to hit. I have made hits on groundhog targets out to 800 yards with the rifle/Unertl and it easily will bust skeet at 300 yards with the load and optic.


Crow above was taken at 235 yards using the 85 grain HPBT load.  I have killed a lot of crows with the .243 WCF using that load.


I have used a Model 70 .243 WCF to kill everything from deer to chipmunks and a lot of stuff in between and it has never failed me. I actually used it to nail a turkey at 515 yards one season as well. The round has been with me my entire shooting life and I love it. Only the 5.56 equals it in my heart, followed closely by the .218 Bee.  The model 70 is also a constant in my life. Colt firearms and the Model 70s are things I will never be without.


Above the author takes long range shots at crows and ground hogs from a bench.