Tag Archives: Sniper


The Hog Saddle has been out for a few years now .  It was developed by a former sniper  as a better mouse trap for shooting a sniper rifle  when  the terrain or urban environment will not allow the use of more traditional positions and methods.

The Hog saddle is a professionally done version of the  home made camera tripod, foam and craddle made out of whatever the maker thought best and could get.  You can google image search hundreds of picture online of USMC snipers using home made shooting tripods during the first decade of the  war on terror.  Mostly seen being used  inside buildings in Iraq for urban sniping.

Designed by a Marine Scout Sniper and OIF Veteran, tripod systems tailored to special operations, PRS shooters, and the modern outdoorsman.”


HOG Saddle Specs:

  • CNC machined from a solid block of aluminum
  • Black oxide stainless steel bolt and guide rods
  • Hard anodized finish (a resilient surface which serves as an excellent base coat for custom camouflage paint)
  • 1/4-20 stainless steel mounting threads and 3/8-16 back up threads
  • CNC machined torque knob assembly with retention button screw to prevent disassembly in the field (opens 1/4in wider than previous model)
  • Stainless steel noise dampening tension spring
  • 1/4 inch thick, recessed urethane pads specifically engineered to absorb rifle recoil and reduce muzzle jump
  • Anti-rotation slots to accept tripod QD plates that have video pins
  • Superior resistance to corrosion
  • Weight: 15.8oz

As you can see  and read from the specs above the Hog Saddle is one tough solid product.  It is pretty self explanatory.  You put the rifle forearm in the middle and turn the massive knob to tighten.  It will tighten on a large variety of shapes  including AR15 pattern hand guards.  And of course it will easily accept bolt action sniper rifles.

The saddle itself attaches to a ball head  mount that allows for a very flexible range  of motion for  just about any shooting angle  need.

The ball head has adjustment knobs and markings for setting and resetting or whatever you think you need.  It is pretty simple and easy to grasp quickly. As you can see below the set up will allow extreme angle shooting. If needing to take a very steep shot from the top of a 10 story building or a rock cliff, it will accommodate you.

The tripod  is pretty heavy duty and  its weight is appreciated when the legs are extended.  As far as its adjustment it is no different than any other camera tripod in that the legs extended, they can fold in and the main beam can be raised and a nut tightened on it to hold it in place as well as rotate 360 degrees.  Though this one is different in that it looks and feels like a 40mm grenade fired at it wouldn’t hurt it.


You can adjust it for standing and sitting and every where in between.  You can’t get it down low enough to shoot while prone on the ground of course.


So how steady is it for shooting  when standing or sitting?   Well, its ok.  You get the best results if you can brace the legs against something  and if you can support your arms.  If you  rely only on it for support it is  not a miracle worker.  Below are some 100 yard groups shot with only the hog saddle  with no other support from standing. Obviously it is not as solid as prone with a rest or bipods but it is a huge improvement. With a little extra bracing it can be extremely stable.    If your job is sniping, I can say it is a piece of kit worth the money.

Some More Vietnam USMC Sniping History

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.


Putting the M1A in perspective.

Not that long ago I had a friend ask me about the M1A, to which I replied, “Don’t tell anyone because I have a reputation to uphold, but I actually like the M14.”  It was right at that moment that I was finally able to piece together my thoughts on the strengths and weakness of the M14 style rifle.  Now I am going to use the terms M14 and M1A interchangeably to refer to both the military weapon and the semi auto copies of it.

I love the M1Garand, and I see people buy them and love them too.  Someone gets a Garand and they know they are getting a piece of history, and a good rifle for shooting with iron sights.  They know they can use it in field positions and off the bench.  A person buying a Garand is not expecting to get the ultimate CQB Sniper Rifle for shooting sub-MOA 1000 yards.

We Americans often take great pride in our gall to push things past practicality and the M14 is the perfect example.  Historically American’s have always loved accurate combat rifles, and the M14 is no exception.  But there is a big difference between a combat rifle and a precision rifle.  The M14/M1A has great iron sights and is a fun gun to shoot.  But when you start try to turn it into a scoped precision rifle it just doesn’t make the grade.  Simply put the handling and practicality of the M14 dies when we try to modernize it.

Optics on the M14 end up at awkward heights.  The various ways to improve accuracy are significantly more expensive and harder to maintain than on more modern rifles.  If you have a match M1A with a bedded stock each time you remove the action from the bedding you wear and risk damaging the bedding.  I saw a great quote some years back from an Army Solider issued a M14 EBR.  He explained that with that weapon system being used in the desert he was suppose to properly clean it after every time he fired it.  Cleaning it properly would involve removing it from the chassis, which would then require re-zeroing.  Re-zeroing it would then necessitate cleaning.

That is a pretty extreme over the top example.  M1A are rather accurate rifles, and can be made more so.  But to get modern semi-auto sniper type precision out of a M1A is going to cost you a good deal of money and time and will require more maintenance than other alternatives.  You generally don’t see people try to turn FN FALs or rack grade G3s into precision rifles, same applies for the M14.

But, if you are looking for a good rifle to shoot with iron sights on the known distance rifle range off the bench and in field position the M14 is great at that.  I just don’t recommend buying a M1A thinking you can build the ultimate sniper by slapping a scope on it, or expecting to use it as the as the perfect CQB weapon with a red dot9.  Don’t forget the M14 is longer than a Garand.

Just like the Garand, the M14 is a piece of Americana.  A fun piece of equipment from it’s time, but that time has passed.


This scope has a lot of history.   Leupold made these in the 90s and for a long time, it was the standard scope that came with the Remington M700 police sniper rifle package sold to countless LE departments across the country.    The scope is the  Leupold VARX-III 3.5x-10X tactical with mil-dot . It has a one inch tube and  comes with the target turrets used on most target and varmint optics from that time.

Adjustments are 1/4 inch per click with  60 clicks in one full rotation.  Being a leupold, the adjustments are solid, repeatable and accurate.This scope is over 20 years old and it has not failed me.  The turrets have set screws that can be loosened to reset the turret to have the index line  and the “0”  line up  where you want to set it.  You can also remove the turrets and replace them with a large version that can not be covered by the turret protective caps that screw on and protect the turrets. If you don’t like either of these, leupod will install the M1 tactical turrests for $130 yankee dollars.

The scope comes with the tactical mild dot reticle.  The glass is clear as is usual for leupold.

The power is 3.5x at the low end and 10x at the max end.  The power ring is also marked like all variX-IIIs in that you can use magnification and the reticle to range a target within hunting distances. Not needed with a mil-dot, but  was marked anyway.


It is a long way from the ultra modern long range tactical optics found today with its once inch tube and  no side focus knob or illuminated reticle. It does have enough internal adjustment for long range shooting.  It has a reticle that is useful still especially for those of us older guys who grew up with it and not the various christmas tree reticles now popular.    It is a tough and dependable optic so much so that I still use it on my MK12 MOD1 and have no plans of replacing it.

Mounted on the most excellent Larue SPR base it is a favorite combo for me.   If you see one some where used at a good deal I give it my highest recommendation.  Even if its too”cold” or not tactical enough for you, or you are ashamed to show it at the gun prom it would still serve you perfectly in any thing you see fit.





As you may have noticed my love o vintage target/varmint weapons and optics have been on my brain recently.  Last night I got thinking about Unertl again after a friend asked me something about those old beauties and remembered some years ago there was a forum discussion some where or other about what happened. As usual with most gun forums, few of the poster new much about much and were posting all kinds of BS about Unertl and US Optics ( which did some shady stuff after Unertl went into limbo and got sued for their troubles irrespective of what you may hear otherwise) until most unexpectedly John R Unertl himself popped up to set the record straight.  I saved his comments as they were a peak into the history of a legendary firearms industry company.   I have long forgot where I got it from but a clever googler I’m sure could turn it up.  No need anyway.  I saved Unertl’s only post on the matter and the rest of the posts were nonesense. AS one forum “expert” even made the idiotic claim that the Unertls were made in a barn.. 


Gentlemen, Let me clear up some inaccurate or most likely a lot of bogus information out there regarding the Unertl Optical Company and make clear some facts about the rifle scopes themselves. I have the authority to discuss the intimate details of this since I AM the last John Unertl that worked at the company you are referring to.

My grandparents started the company, my parents worked at the company, I worked at the company. All of the personalities involved here were strong personalities in their own right. Each conmtrbuted to, and detracted from the business. I don’t plan on writing a book here so I will condense this discussion to it’s bare bones form. My grandmother being a company founder was quite reluctant to leave the company even though she was getting up in years.
This gradually built a resentment within my father and their relationship began to fall apart. My father John Unertl Jr., was a brilliant engineer, but frankly didn’t care much at all about ‘marketing’, relegating this to mostly bullshit.
He also had quite an abrasive side and could alienate people fairly easily. I was schooled as a mechanical engineer because that was what was expected. Going  into the late ’70’s several issues were at play. Family discord for one. Secondly I could see that my father was not doing the necessary training and improvement for future development and expansion. I elected to resign at that point and move on. I took a job with Leitz, a well known optical instrument company. We used Leitz autocollimators and related equipment in our optical testing. Ultimately I became a Division President for that organization.

When my father died, my mother (who did not have a clue about the technology here) asked if I was interested in coming back to run the company. When I went back, I saw the company in the shape I figured it would be in. Not much had changed. It would have needed a small fortune to bring it up to speed. I had neither the time, inclination, and didn’t want to make the financial
commitment. I already had another business. I must say it was a sad moment. My heart strings pulled, but the realities of the situation were compelling. I suggested to my mother to pursue other alternatives.

Enter Rocky Green. My understanding is that he had two different involvements in the company. One as a liason to an initial group of buyers. They couldn’t handle the project, so the second time around he was a principle. I met Rocky one time when he came to visit me with the 1911’s. At that point I knew they were not
going to make it building scopes. I fear that anybody who wasn’t involved directly with the company couldn’t know the painstaking manufacture and care that went into building them. They were assembled, taken down, re-assembled,, numerous times. Hand fit parts meticulously assembled by true artisans. I can only assume the guys that bought the company just figured to buy some drawings,
program a CNC machine, stamp it Unertl & watch the money roll in. Sorry, didn’t work that way. I’m not sure if any of you out there were aware we made very sophisticated optical/mechanical instrumentation, optics for military jet gunsights, fire control optics (military stuff, not firemen) and wind tunnel instrumentation. Unertl Optical was far from operating out of a barn. We made the money with the high end optics, not making scopes. The scopes were that
labor of love because that’s how the company started. The scopes had the benefit of this financing. I fear the other guys missed this key ingredient.
The Unertl employees were true atrisans that made these rifle scopes. I doubt you can find guys like this any more with this kind of skill and dedication. The marine corps sniper scope was the last offering that my father made for Rocky Green when he was still in the service. At that point our old guys started dying off, and with them closed a page in the anals of the shooting industry.

I still have the opportunity to get together with the few remaing
company people. They have all played an important part in my life and I hold  special reverence to each and every one of them. They are truly the last of abreed.

Enjoy those scopes, I would have no reservation saying they are STILL probably the best scopes out there.”

John Robert Unertl

There it is from the man himself.  I only wish he would have written a book or an article about the company in some form for posterity.

If you didn’t know, this Rocky Green fellow did market a few  M1911s made with the Unertl name on them  and they were a take on the  older USMC  used 1911s  before MARSOC. I never touched one but I did see a couple.   They were pretty meh if  you are a real 1911 guy. Around that time a few scopes trickled out.   Some years ago I got in touch with a fellow who did work at the original Unertl and had bought out the rest of the bases and accessories  that were on hand when the real Unertl closed its doors.   I regret that I have since forgot his name and lost his contact info.  I do agree with Mister Unertl.  They are pure art and they  are still some of the best optics ever made.   A man can only dream about what they would have made had the younger J. Unertl had taken over the company and expended it and moved into modern designs.   The original Unertl closed its doors in the mid 1980s.  You can see in the image below what a high grade riflescope with all the trimmings looked like.  Box included.

J. Unertl Sr.  immigrated to the US from Germany and  worked for J. W. Fecker. Fecker scopes was a company that built the highest of quality target scopes which started selling his optics in 1922.  How high quality? Well, in 1926 when a Winchester Model52 rifle cost $36 yankee greenbacks, a Fecker optic would cost from $30 to $50 yankee dollars.  You can do the math on what the equivalent to 30 dollars   in the mid 20s  would be to today.   Unertl worked there as one of Feckers most talented and skilled engineers  until leaving to start his own optics business in 1928. In the early days of the Unertl Optics Co.  J. Unertl even supplied his scopes with Fecker mounts ( or what you would think of as “rings”) until developing his own.    Below is a Fecker advertisement and you can see the resemblance.  Fecker as a rifle scope maker more or less ended July 1956 as it was bought out by some one who had no interest in shooting. The company was purchased for its advanced designs for missile tracking and guidance systems during the cold war.  As of 2002 it still exists as a division of Contraves Co.    But the story of Fecker scopes will have to wait for another day.

AS mister Unertl said above, the last Unertl to  be developed and sold  as a new design was the USMC  10X sniper scope. A very tough optic that was the first to use the Mil-dot crosshairs.  A model was also made for use on the M82, 50BMG sniper rifle.  The original was developed for use on the M40A1 sniper rile and was in use even through to the M40A3 and A5  models though it is now probably complete phased out.  The USMC sniper 10X was a fixed power scope but it had some pretty trick features, especially for its time.   I promise that there will be  a longer upcoming article about it. The 10x was much loved by  Carlos Hathcock himself as he was one of the original  testers of the optic for adoption  to be used on the M40A1.   He even told of using the scope to pound a tent stake into frozen ground one day and the scope  was unfazed. 

It is a little sad to me that today few younger shooters even know the name.  A few years ago I saw a post on TFB where one of their worthies ran into a guy who had a Unertl optic and he was shocked as he had never seen nor heard of one.  Though I would expect  that from TFB.    Unertl optics helped set many world records,m win matches and make history in wars.  All of the  who’s who, of the shooting world used Unertls and knew  John Sr. back in the day and John Sr. was very active in the shooting community. He tried to give shooters what they wanted and offered nearly anything the heart desired.  

John Unertl Sr. pictured below, top row second from left. If you know who the other famous shooters are witout me telling you I will be very impressed. You can see  how well they thought of Mr. Unertl’s  product. The picture was taken in 1948 in Johnstown, PA at an important event in precision shooting history.

Truman Head ( California Joe) 1st U.S. Sharsphooters



Perhaps the best known of the Berdan Sharpshooters besides Hiram Berdan himself was Truman Head, Better known as “California Joe”. I was reported erroneously , by newspapers  that Truman was born in Philadelphia in about the year 1820. He was actually born in Otsego, New York. Joe was a bachelor, although stated on reliable hearsay that while he was a young man, was once engaged, the girl of his choice belonging to one of the finest families of the county; but owing to the opposition of a strict parent-the father-he lost the girl, both being too loyal to disregard the parent’s wishes.  he became a wanderer, crossed the Plains, and settled in California. The course of true love remained, for Joe remained a bachelor and his lady a maid.  He later struck  out for the California gold fields at the time of the Gold Rush there in 1849. Apparently, he was quite lucky in California to make a few good claims. Later after his enlistment Joe executed a will bequeathing $50,000, should he be killed, to be used for the care of disabled Union soldiers at The Philadelphia Old Soldiers Home, as Philadelphia had been his early home.”

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Truman headed back east to join up under the command of Colonel Baker an old friend of his.  Fate had it that Baker was killed before he arrived . He was granted permission to Join Company C ( Michigan), 1st US  Sharpshooters.  He appeared on the Company Muster is roll as of August 26 1861 in Detroit as a private in Captain Duesler’s Company of the 1st US Sharpshooters.

further records for Truman stated his age as 42 years, height  as 5’7″ with a light complexion, blue eyes, brown hair  and a listed occupation as  hunter. Because of his background of grizzly bear hunting and his time spent in the gold rush in California he became known as California Joe or sometimes just “Old Californ’y.” Described as past 50 ( he was actually 52years old having lied about his age at his time of enlistment) he was said to look “a score of years younger” stood “straight as an arrow” with “and eye as keen as a hawk, nerve as steady as can be,and an endowment of hair and whiskers Reubens would have liked for a patriarchal portrait.”

To become on of the Sharpshooters, a man was required to fire a course using a rifle  that he brought to the competition. The course consisted of firing ten rounds at a target that measured ten inches in diameter at a distance of 200 yards. All ten rounds a had to hit the target and the average distance could be no more than five inches from the center of the target. This was measured by the use use of a 50 inch long string,  “The end of the string was placed on the center of the target and then run to the nearest bullet hole in the target. The point where the string intersected the bullet hole was then moved to the center and the distance to the next hole was measured, and so on until all ten shots were measured If the end of the string was reached before the last hole could be measured the volunteer was disqualified. thus the term “A string of shots” was born.”

Bout the time of September of 1862, Joe privately purchased a New Model  1859 Sharps rifle from a sales rep of the Sharps Rifle Company. It was fitted with a single trigger and had been fitted for the saber bayonet. This would be the only Sharps Rifle carried in the Sharpshooter regiment until early May of 1862. Shortly after following a  number of trials at the camp for  the Sharpshooters the New Model 1859 sharps military rifle that was fitted with double set triggers and saber bayonet was chosen as Berdan as the rifle for the Sharpshooters.  The Sharps rifle chosen to be used by the Sharpshooters was a 52 caliber, breech-loading rifle that used a one piece cartridge that consisted of a lead ball.  “the ball was either glued to a cylindrical cartridge of paper or linen which  contained the powder.The block at the breech of the firing chamber slid downward by the operation of the lever under the receiver and when closed would cut off the tail of the cartridge. exposing the powder charge. A primer mounted on top of the block when struck by the hammer would ignite a fulminated mercury charge, which in turn would ignite the cartridge. The Sharps rifle could be quickly loaded and could fire  between 6-8 rounds in a minute compared to the 2-3 rounds per minute with the muzzleloader. With a greater range and better accuracy the Sharpshooters were credited with kills at distances of up to 800 yards and shots of 400-500 yards were not uncommon. 

The Sharpshooters went on to become the deadliest marksmen in the War of Norther Aggression credited with more kills than any other unit in the war.  They also suffered the highest casualties from being deployed exclusively as light infantry.   They screened in front of the main body of the army and would seek to find and engage the area of rebel deployment.  After, they would report back what they found to commanders. Once relived from forward scouting duties,they would reinforce standard infantry units, often supporting flanks. They would also support weaker spots in the main line of battle.  If the main force had to retreat, the Sharpshooters would stay behind to cover the main force with harassing fire to slow down any force trying to over run the main body.

On a rainy night of September 29, during a confusing firefight Joe earned the respect of the company when he stopped a near fatal mistake.  An officer appeared  and ordered the mento prepare for a charge against some troops in a nearby wooded area that had begun firing towards the in the dark. Joe stepped from the ranks and got into a brief argument with the officer:” you damned fool, do you want to charge out own men?” shouted Joe. After a short heated exchange Joe disappeared into the woods and quickly returned  with a Union soldier in tow.  When asked how he knew the troops in the woods were Federals, Joe replied he could see the profile of their caps in the muzzle flashes when they fired.

“Joe’s rep only grew larger as the Peninsular Campaign intensified. As Northern newspapers  were quick to write of the long range feats of Joe and other of the Sharpshooters, their prowess was soon exaggerated. One wrote that Joe had, “shot a man out of a tree two miles off, just at daybreak, first  pop”. A confederate officer settled for a more modest estimate that the men under Berdan’s command “rarely missed a man at a mile.”  This in fact was about three times the distance of their effective range.

Despite the accounts of journalists only slightly more honest than journalists today, Joe’s combat marksmanship and exploits would earn him widespread fame,  ” The Regimental Historian Stevens wrote. “Joe was one of those splendid characters that made him a hero, in spite of himself. Entirely free from brag or bluster, Joe was an unassuming man, past middle age, short in stature, light in weight, and a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He was always a special favorite with the entire command”.   Stevens also mentioned that the only time he saw Joe angry was when the Sharpshooters feats were wildly exaggerated in the press.

During the July 1st, 1862 battle of Malvern Hill, Va  and action recorded by the regimental historian showed the accuracy of the Sharpshooter  unit.  ” Colonel Ripley who commanded the battalion of Sharpshooters, companies  D,E,Fand K, was ordered to retire his men and did so, to the rear of the 4th Michigan. Before doing this, they utterly repulsed and silenced the battery of Richmond Howitzers, their guns being abandoned in the open field without firing a shot. Horses and men tumbling over so fast that nothing could withstand our terrific fire. The battery was composed of some of the most ambitious, aspiring youths of the “first families of Virginia” whose efforts to distinguished themselves early came to grief, and were in vain, their howitzers rendered useless”.  A member of the battery described it to an officer of the sharpshooters after the war. “we went in a battery and came out a wreck”. We stayed ten minutes by the watch and came out with one gun, ten men and two horses, and without a shot fired.”

Joe left the field at Malvern Hill late on the night of July 2nd. He had been led  away  unable to see, caused by exposure, the smoke and dust. Many were afflicted on the campaign with their eyes from these combined causes. Some reports say  his loss in eye sight was from the constant  use of the telescopic sight attached to his rifle.  He was admitted to a hospital in D.C. He would briefly rejoin his regiment in early September 1862 during which time he posed for several photos with Colonel Berdan. Joe re-entered the hospital on September 12, 1862 with jaundice. Finding him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of “senility, and impaired vision”  he was released from duty on November 4th, 1862.

Joe went on to San Francisco where he became a customs inspector. He died November 24, 1875 and was buried in the Presidio in San Francisco.



Precision Shooting Magazine December 2004

The Last Post- William Bentz

Stevens, Capt. C. A. (1892). Berdan’s United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac. St. Paul, MN.

Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper (Pegler 2004)

Complete Book of US Sniping  ( Senich)

US Sharpshooters Berdan’s Civil War Elite ( Roy Marcot)

Springfield Rifles: What’s the Difference?

I will be killing to  stones with one bird today with this repost from weaponsman.com.   Today is a post Kevin wrote about sprinfield M1903s.  I decided to share this  today as the 03  has been an ongoing topic over the last month, I have no idea how we got stuck on it lately but we have.   

Today we have the weekly re-share of a weaponsman.com post. We share these posts to honor our friend Kevin O’Brien who died early last year. Kevin was known as “Hognose” by his many friends and admirers and  post his work here in an effort to save his work and honor him in our own way.

Springfield Rifles: What’s the Difference?

The US model 1903 Springfield rifle was made in five major versions. New entrents to collecting American martial arms sometimes struggle to tell these very similar rifles apart, but actually it’s pretty easy. Here’s a Springfield cheat sheet to take with you to the fun show:

From GlobalSecurity.org. Note that the stock on the A3 is more commonly like the one shown on the A1.

From GlobalSecurity.org. Note that the stock on the A3 is more commonly like the one shown on the A1.


  • The US Rifle Model 1903 was originally made for the M1 Cal. .30-03 cartridge, and service rifles were rechambered to the improved .30-06. There were metallurgical problems with early serial number receivers and bolts, and firearms under number 800,000 from Springfield Armory and 286,596 from Rock Island Arsenal should not be fired, because those are the numbers beyond which improved heat treating methods are known to have resolved this problem. (The bolts aren’t numbered, but any bolt that has a handle “swept back” rather than bent at 90º to the bolt axis is good to go).
    This is the business end of an early (pre-1905) rod bayonet Springfield.

    This is the business end of an early (pre-1905) rod bayonet Springfield.

    A few very early models had rod bayonets, and these were mostly converted to Model 1905 16″ knife bayonets after 1905 (at the insistence, we’ve noted, of Theodore Roosevelt) so they’re extremely rare. The rear sight was a ladder sight that went through several iterations, mounted forward of the front receiver ring. It could be used as an open tangent sight or raised and elevated for volley fire to ranges of almost 3,000 yards. A variant of the 03 called the US Rifle M1903 Mark I was adapted for use with the Pedersen device. Most of these were made in 1918-1919 and they wound up issued as ordinary 1903s. They are not especially rare, but make good conversation pieces. Another rare variant (illustrated) used the Warner & Swasey telescope commonly fitted to the Benet-Mercié “automatic rifle” — it had a terrible time holding zero, but that’s what American snipers had Over There.

The rifle lasted decades more, but the sight didn't.

The rifle lasted decades more, but the sight didn’t.

  • US Rifle Model 1903A1 is identical to the 1903, except for the stock, which has a pistol grip.
  • US Rifle Model 1903A2 is another extreme rarity: a Springfield altered to be a subcaliber device for conducting direct-fire training on various artillery weapons on small arms ranges. The stock, handguards, sights were removed and the gun could be fitted into a 37 mm sleeve for use in a 37mm gun, or the 37mm adapter could in turn be fitted in a larger-caliber adapter for 75mm, 105mm or 8 inch (203mm) artillery. They were generally made from 1903s and will have the “A2″ notation hand stamped after the 1903 on the receiver ring. A brass bushing on the muzzle, just under an inch (0.994”) in diameter, adapted the bare barreled action to the adapter. A few have the A2 electro-penciled in place, it would take a Springfield expert to tell you if that’s authentic (the example Brophy shows is stamped). Most of the A2s were converted back into ordinary rifles, surplused, or scrapped at the end of the war as the Army had abandoned subcaliber artillery training.


  • US Rifle Model 1903A3 is a wartime, cost-reduced version of the 1903A1. Remington had been tooling up to make the 1903, not for the US, but in .303 for the British. WIth American reentry into the war, Remington converted back to making a simplified 1903. The A3 reverts to the straight (no pistol grip) stock, uses a stamped trigger guard, and has a ramp-mounted peep sight like the one on the M1 Carbine. This sight is simpler than the Rube Goldberg arrangement on the 1903, and actually has greater accuracy potential thanks to around 7″ greater sight radius. It is the version most commonly found on the market, and was carried by soldiers in the first months of the Pacific War, and by Marines for longer. Until a working grenade launcher was developed for the M1 and issued in late 1943, an Army rifle squad armed with M1s still had one or two grenadiers armed with M1903A3s and grenade launchers. By D-Day, most combat units had the M1 launchers. Remington (and Smith-Corona) produced 1903A3s from 1941 to February, 1944.

M1903A3 sight

  • US Rifle Model 1903A4 is a 1903A3 fitted with a Weaver 330C or Lyman Alaskan 2 ½ Power optical sight. The Weaver sight is 11 inches long and adds a half-pound to the weight of the rifle, bringing it to a still very manageable 9.7 pounds. The Lyman is a tenth of an inch shorter and a 0.2 pounds heavier (the Lyman was very rare in service compared to the Weaver). Both have an eye relief of about 3 to 5 inches. Very late in the war, the M1C came into service, but the 1903A4 was the Army’s primary sniper rifle throughout the war. Note that several vendors have made replicas of the M1903A4, some of which (like Gibbs Rifle Company’s) are clearly marked. All 1903A4s were made by Remington.

There you have it — the main variants of the Springfield Rifle in a short and digestible format


About WeaponsMan

WeaponsMan is a blog about weapons. Primarily ground combat weapons, primarily small arms and man-portable crew-served weapons. The site owner is a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S), and you can expect any guest columnists to be similarly qualified.

Optic Of The Week Unertl 20x Target RifleScope

The Unertl rifle scopes are  something most shooters know about today thanks to the web and videogames.  Few of them  know much about them otherwise. They know  Hathcock used one  on his sniper rifle during his first tour in Vietnam.  They know it’s “old”  and they know it looks ancient and complex.   And if you ever looked into buying one you know they are expensive and no longer  made.    So this week we will take a closer look.

John Unertl Sr. worked in the optical field while in the service with the German army in WW1. In 1928 he and his family  immigrated to the US.  He was hired by the J.W Fecker telescope manufacturing company  in Pitssburgh, PA where he later became the superintendent.      In 1936, Unertl left Fecker to start his own company. During WW2 Unertl provided the USMC with the 8x  rifle scopes most casual observers are familiar with then post war  continued on with new models.    In 1960 John Sr. passed away and his son John Jr. took over further expanding the line and company.   Commercial production for rifle optics ended in 1985. I doubt many shooters would realize the external adjustment Unertl scopes were made as  late as 1985.   Maybe even later as various people bought the left over parts from the shop and turned out a few more, Then various people bought the rights to the company name and things get really muddy and fuzzy there and I won’t go into it.

Now lets finally get to taking a look.  The Unertls  set on target blocks common in the past.   Basically target blocks are various sized and drilled metal blocks with a dovetail that the mounts on the scope slide over and secure to.   The mounts have  a bolt that tightens onto the block  and the dove tail keeps it from coming out of place.   Picture below shows a target block. The target blocks worked on iron sights and optics mounts.

Above is the rear mount with elevation and wind and below is front mount.  Both are aluminum and came in  a variety of styles I won’t go into here but will in comments if asked.

Also in the above picture you will note the spring.

The  body of the scope  set suspended between the two mounts.  This allows the scope to travel freely during recoil as its adjustments are external. That is, they move the rear of the scope  up.down/ left/right.  The spring is set depending on recoil force of round used. and the tension of the spring will return the scope to its full forward  position. If not you have to do it by hand.   Not all Unertls came with this feature  as it was an optional add on.   You will have noticed the USMC 8x sniper scopes do not have these as the Marines feared sand would get between the spring and body and score the tube. At the front of the mount is a clamp that holds it all in place of course.   This can be adjusted if you want the eye piece of the scope to come back further or to move it away from you.   Unlike modern optics you can also notice the rib that runs on the  top and through the mount. This makes sure the scope and crosshairs stay straight up and not canted.

Below is the rear mount. Here you can see the external adjustments and how they move the rear of the tube. The micrometer turrets  are very precise and repeatable.   And very tough.

On this model the objective lens can be focused by a  pretty nifty system.  Not as fast to use as modern systems but very precise.

The other setting are made on the eye piece.   At one time a piece was sold to replace the rear of the scopes that would allow you to boost the magnification by a few Xs.

The glass on these optics are outstanding.   Even  with all the modern advances in modern optics, a full 2 inch ultra varmint model Unertl is  super clear and sharp.   The crosshairs on this model are the pretty standard fine crosshairs. I  really regret that I did not have the right camera set up to  show you just how clear and sharp a Unertl in good condition can be.  Unfortunately  trying to take apicture through a 20x target riflescope is not easy.

Lastly the scope come with a front and rear metal screw on protective caps.

Needless to say, these scopes are fine quality and  old craftsmanship. Everything about oozes quality and I am not kidding.   They were made to last.

The down sides now.   The price for any of these is going up by the second.   The internet has made more people aware of these and of course the price  goes up.   Also, unless you are close to a gunsmith, you are not going to be able to pop one on most factory guns made after  the mid 1980s. And that is if you are lucky.   Old Remingtons, Winchesters,  and target guns will most likely  have the correct hole spacing  in the places needed to mount one. The down side is, most of those companies making factory guns in the 70s and early 80s also were prone to have barrels not straight and receivers not drilled in line and all manner of problems. If you over come that,  you need to find the correct target blocks. They came in a variety of heights and thickness to account for barrel contour and hole spacing and  models. Charts are out there people have scanned and put online  and some small companies make blocks new.  I don’t mean to discourage  you, just do your research carefully.



Winchester Model 52

The Winchester Model 52.  One of the greatest rifles of all time. Some even have called it “perfect” in the past.  I don’t know if it is perfect but it comes about as close to it as I would want in a rimfire target rifle that comes from a factory.     The M52 was made in a time when manufacturers still made  stuff mostly by hand. Especially when it was prestige or target model.

The 52 came out in 1919 and was used in the national matches that year and it was an instant hit.   The original models, often referred to now as “As’ or Pre As”  looked more like  a training rifle for the military ( which it was meant to be) than it looked like most people’s concept of a target rifle.   It went on to be refined over the years before it was discontinued.

The two we are going to look at here is the model52 “B” and “C” variants.

The differences in the two variants is slight.   The triggers are different designs, the barrel band is slightly different than the stock has minor differences but they would not really have been different enough for Winchester to bother to note  them as different models in catalogs at the time.

The top rifle is the “C” and as you can see, it has mounted on it a 20x power Unertl combination rifle scope. The Unertl/Fecker type optics attached to the guns via target blocks that are screwed to the barrels.  You can see see the target blocks the optics mount to  on the barrel of the lower rifle. I will have more on the Unertl in a few days if it as caught your attention

All rifles would accept all of the popular target iron sights of their time. Usually something made by Lyman or Redfield.   The lower gun has mounted Redfield  Olympic competition ironsights. The rifles take a standard 5 round detachable magazine that is removed via the mag release button seen on the right side.

The rifles have an accessory rail on the bottom of the stock forend.  This allowed attachment of the front sling swivel and the  combination handstop/sling swivel seen on both guns.  This was for shooting with sling in matches.  The rail also would accept  other items for use off hand standing,    The pattern of stock is known as the”marksman” stock and was used  on the Model70  national match  andd Bullguns. It was so well thought of that it continued on into the early 2000s but as a synthetic model made by HS-Precision with a bedding block and pillars for the heavy varmint line of Model70s.

The barrels are  heavy contour match barrels. When I say match I do mean match. They have a flat 90 degree target  crown  and you can see the target block  for placing the olympic  front sight with either globe of post.

Accuracy testing the rifles was done with the 20x Unertl on a rest. All groups were fired at 50 yards.


As with center fire rifles,  rimfires have their favorite loads.   If you want the best out of your rimfire,match ammo is a must and not the high velocity stuff.   A well known phenomenon is that  a 22 rimfire will shoot better of damp days.   For further accuracy  I recommend a Niel Jones rimfire headspace gauge for measuring rim thickness for consistency and weighing live rounds into lots.



Both guns were shot with a variety of ammo in five shot groups.


I won’t give any commentary  about the groups pictures and will allow readers to view them  all sine each group has ammo type used noted.

As you can see three different people  fired both guns using a large range in ammo. The Eley Edge and Federal ammo being the  best performers across all three shooters and both guns.   No surprise there.   The Fiocchi  320  was a surprise to me though.  My friend who purchased mentioned that only that lot shot that well. That identical boxes of a different lot shot terribly.  That is why you always test  your zero when going to a new lot of factory ammo. Especially if  you are a Police sniper.  Even if you are not, it is very prudent to check zero and accuracy when you use a different lot of the same ammo.

The Winchester Model52 is another great American classic. If you are into vintage target rifles or you want a rifle you could do well with in any local match , you can’t go wrong with a M52.


Interesting Firearms Image

Unless one of the others put up a post today there won’t be a full article or review from me today due to burgers and BBQ.

I did run across this image a few days ago I thought was interesting. I have no idea who this crew is. That M14 pattern rifle with that magazine drew my attention.  That sniper rifle and odd looking AR15 type gun in the background caught my eye.   I would like to read   everyon’e thoughts on all of it.   And of course tiger stripes are always cool to look at.