Tag Archives: Unertl

Unertl Scope Base Chart

I been working on something pretty long lately and so won’t have anything meaty up for today 7-19-2018 since It will be a few days before it is finished.   So today I am posting this and another shorter post later this evening.     This is something I am often asked about  from people who are interested in getting a Unertl for a rifle they have . This info sometimes can be hard to track down.  It also shows some interesting options  available at the time.    If you have an old target rifle or varmint rifle with the old hole spacing it may still worth tracking down these bases and putting them on the gun to complete it.

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.

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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.

http://www.neiljones.com/html/rimfire_gauge.html

rimfire

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.

 

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.

A BOY AND HIS RIFLE II

After college I worked for a man who really became a mentor to me when it came to precision shooting, I had been shooting for all of my life  of course, but he was the person who is responsible for most of my knowledge of precision hand loading for extreme accuracy, Bench-rest shooting, proper cleaning methods for match barrels,  a taste for vintage target /varmint rifles and optics and most of my knowledge about firearms history from  the early 1900s up until about  1990.  He had been a national bench rest shooter,  he tested prototype rifles from Ruger, was one of the testers of the rim fire ammo used by the US Olympic teams in the 70s and earl 80s and even had a few wild cats rounds to his name among  many other things.

Above is my mentor and friend shooting a heavy varmint Model 70 Winchester in .243WCF using a 12x Unertl sometimes in the  mid 80s.

I got to hear a lot of stories from his past over those years and one of my favorites is this story from his boyhood.

He grew up and lived all of his life , not including a few years in the Army with 18 months of that in Vietnam, in a small town in WV named Stollings, which is just a couple of miles from Logan, WV.  From his office window I could see the famous Blair mountain.  If you don’t know, Blair mountain is the site of the Battle of Blair Mountain.    If you don’t know about that, here is  some text about it I ganked from  Wikipedia.    My friend was also paid by the state to help identify fired cases and gun parts found on the mountain while searching it for historic items some years ago.

“The Battle of Blair Mountain was the largest labor uprising in United States history and one of the largest, best-organized, and most well-armed uprisings since the American Civil War.[3] For five days from late August to early September 1921, in Logan County, West Virginia, some 10,000 armed coal miners confronted 3,000 lawmen and strikebreakers, called the Logan Defenders,[4] who were backed by coal mine operators during the miners’ attempt to unionize the southwestern West Virginia coalfields. The battle ended after approximately one million rounds were fired[5] and the United States Army intervened by presidential order”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain

As a side note. Blair mountain is now history itself.  The mountain is gone since it has  been stripped mined.  Like most things in Southern WV, Logan WV in particular ,  if the local politicians  can get a kick back from it, then history be dakjed

It was a rough area in those days and was through his childhood and honestly it still is.   I live and have lived in KY my entire life, but o very close to the border of WV.  The Matewan massacre , which you may have heard about or seen the movie, happened only about 20 minutes drive from me, and the entire area was the stomping grounds of the Hatfield and McCoy feud.

I said all that so you can see how  wild the area was for some one born in  1948 and had to grow up there.   Many places in the outskirts of the town he grew up in was full of less than honest businesses.  One of those places of less than high moral standards  helped him earn money for ammo.

In Stollings at the time he was about 10 years old there was a building that was like a small hotel.  Two or three stories and multiple rooms.  The entire building was more or less a brothel.  One part was used  as a small bar.       The  occupants of the building would set any garbage out back  before some one would come collect it for disposal and this of course drew in rats from all over.    It didn’t take long for a population of rats to grow out of control.

My friend some how worked out a deal with the owner of the brothel for his services.   So, every summer day my friend would walk down to the area and wade across the little creek and  set  up on the opposite bank.  He would lay there with his Winchester model 1904 and shoot rats all day.     At the end of the day he would cross back across the creek and collect up all the dead rats. The owner would give him 25 cents for every 2 rats he killed.    He would use that money to buy  his 22 ammo and soda and snacks all summer long.

As you can imagine, he had a lot of fun with that rifle and made a lot of good memories with it.    I asked about it after hearing this story and sad to say, he told me about it’s fate.  When he went off to Vietnam,  his younger brother got it some how.  His idiot brother decided he wanted to mount a scope to it and in typical Hilljack fashion,found some kind of mount meant for side mounting to a receiver. His solution was to take nails and nail the side mount to the stock on the left side of the gun below the action.   This did exactly what you would expect it would do and split the wood and ruined the gun.   Having ruined it, the brother just tossed it into the garbage.

I have  have been on the lookout for the same model on an off over the years since he told me this story.  If I ever find one in good shape at a reasonable price I intend to buy it for him.

NOT MUCH FOR FIGHTING: THE M1903 SPRINGFIELD IN WWI

NOT MUCH FOR FIGHTING: THE M1903 SPRINGFIELD

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            HAS LOOSEROUNDS GONE TOO FAR?!

 

 

There are some US  military  fire arms that enjoy the love  and adoration  of millions of people. These guns earned a reputation from major battles and wars.   Guns that entire generations used to fight off the enemies of America large and small.  The M1 Garand, the M1911,  the M1 Carbine.  The M14…  ahem..        One of those seems to have a lure and romance about it equal to or maybe  beyond even the M1 Garand.  That being the United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903.  Also known as the “’03”  or  “Springfield”.

The  story of the M1903 being adopted as the US service rifle is  pretty well known to anyone who knows anything about it.  The US was not happy with the  very finely made and smooth action-ed  side loading Krag rifle and its .30-40 service round after being shot to pieces by Spanish Mausers  in the Spanish American War.  Something about being under effective long range rifle fire from the other guy while you can not return same really drives a demand for change.

The Army got together all the experts, took a look at the captured Spanish Mausers and decided  the US Army needed to be using comparable.   In fact it was so comparable that a law suit was brought about over just how comparable the 03 was to the Mauser.

After a  being adopted the M1903 had its share of problems.   A number of  Pre WW1  rifles had brittle metal and and the receivers would come apart in various uncomfortable ways while shooting. The problem was figured out and fixed eventually but it is not advised to risk shooting any “low number” M1903.

 

After getting this squared away the rifle  then went on to glory and ever lasting fame in the hands of Doughboys like  Sgt York ( maybe.. maybe not reports vary) and the USMC and its marksmanship skill.  Official accounts of Marines mowing down Germans from long range with their rifles  tell of great marksmanship with great rifles and images are every where os snipers using the  03 for the dawn of modern sniping.       Though it was  the standard service rifle it was not the most widely issued and used rifle by the troops. That was actually the M1917.  But even though the 03  was still the rifle most coveted by the US troops.  As  said by Cpl. Mike Shelton: “What we really wanted were Springfields.  They were the best rifles in the war”.

But were they?

 

The 1903 is a fine, fine rifle  with beautiful lines.  It handles like a dream compared to most of its peers and was accurate enough to be used to the US team int he Olympics.   This makes for a beautiful military bolt action rifle.

 

It has a very finely adjustable precision rear sight  and blade front sight.  When folded down the rear sight is the open V notch and very small.  When extended the rear sight has a tiny peep sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation.  The adjustment was so fine it was capable of very precise adjustments.  When using a sling  while prone on a nice sunny day  at Camp Perry a rifleman could  show what the 1903 could achieve.    The story of the Farr cup trophy and why it has that name is a great example of just what can be done with the sights of the standard M1903.

Those things  are all that great  , but not for the combat of WW1.

The  rear sight in on the front of the receiver. Too far away for best most efficient use.  Trying to look through the tiny  rear aperture was useless in low light.  And the light  didn’t have to be all that low to make it impossible to use.    The rain and mud of the trenches and battlefield could find its way into that peep.     The front sight blade was  too small and easily  damaged.  Low light also renders it difficult to see.  The front sight was so easily damaged that a thicker blade was used by the USMC and a protective hood  was used.   This did protect the front sight but it also allows a little less light  in.  It also capture mud into the hood and front sight assembly.   That being a common thing with all hooded front sights.

The rear sight’s  fine precision adjustments are just that.  Finely  made with micrometer like precision.  And slow. Very slow to use.  The marksmanship of some units like the USMC was at  a high enough standard that the rifleman could adjust their rear sight for outstanding long range precision fire on enemy infantry and machine gun positions.  But this was not  as often done as many make it seem.    Adjusting the rear sight for precise long range fire on moving targets at undetermined distance  while under rain and with  mud covered hands as artillery fell around them  made using  the long range sights a daydream for most.     The rear sight does have an open notch for faster firing and and closer range  but it is small and not easy for anyone with less than perfect vision. This sight was set for 547 yd (500 m), and was not adjustable.  Not very useful for ranges most likely encountered when  time is critical .    It also had the problem of not being well protected.   Something the sights on a battle rifle need to be in such an unforgiving environment.   Later  on the M1903A3 rifle had  a  more simple peep sight on the rear of the action closer to the eye.  The peep sight was better for most infantry engagements and was an improvement over the original.

The M1903 had a typical for it’s day safety lever.  It would be easy to complain about how slow it is to use if you need  to fire quickly  it was common.  Other Bolt action combat rifles of the day had similar systems and a few had a fast  and some what more natural  feeling system .

One  thing the military thought it needed was a magazine cut off.   This little bit of  brilliance was a lever that when activated would not allow the action to feed from the magazine. This would require you to load a single round by hand or flip it to allow magazine feed.  The idea was you would fire and load one round at a time while keeping the internal magazine in reserve for when you really needed it and had no time to single feed by hand.   This supposedly  would save ammo.    Either way it is always a dumb idea.  It was dumb when it was on the Krag and it was dumb on the 1903.  Especially since it could be unknowingly engaged.

None of  of the things certainly deal killers or mentioned are deal killers or make the rifle useless by any means.   The M1903 is a beautifully made gun and wonderfully accurate.

There is a reason for that old chestnut about service rifles from WW1. “The Germans brought a hunting rifle, the British brought a combat rifle and the US brought a target rifle.”

Now looking at the other option carried by US rifleman in WW1.  The rifle at the time not as well admire but more widely issued and used.  The M1917.

The M1917 was a rifle being made in the US for British troops in  .303.   When the US entered the war it did not have enough 1903s and there was no way to make enough in time.  The decision was made to tweak the  .303 rifle into using the .30.06 service round.   This went off easily and the gun became the M1917 and was issued.

While it is heavier, it is built like a tank.

The magazine held one more round than the M1903.   The safety was a lever on the right hand side.   Much easier to quickly disengage.

The rear sight  is positioned much closer to the eye  and has a nice peep  with a fold up sight for more precise longer range shooting.  A great feature is the huge “ears” on each side that protects the rear sights from damage,

Another  part of the M1917 that aids in fast action for combat is the action.  Unlike the M1903 the M1917 cocks on closing.  This may not seem like much  of a difference but it is.  In rapid fire  it is much easier to work the bolt and cock it while rotating the bolt down with the speed and momentum of forcing the bolt forward then turning down opposed to cocking while lifting the bolt handle.  The dog legged angled bolt handle is also very usable despite it’s oddball look.  This allows for a very fast operation.   It is also a feature of other British bolt action designs like the Lee Enfields. The MK 3 and MK 4s are very fast and smooth.   British troops famously practiced rapid long range volley fire using their rifles  and a technique of working the bolt and depressing the trigger with their bottom two fingers of the firing hand as soon as the bolt closed.   A company of British troops firing in this manner could  wreak a larger unit a long range  and was an effective way to compensate for lack of machine gun support.

The M1917 has recently started to  get the respect it deserves, it still does not have the   admiration or mythical status of the M1903.

Luckily most of the things  that make the M1903 less than idea for comabat were addressed in later models.   AS I mentioned the M1903A3  corrected the rear sight issues with a peep sight that was simple to use and  more suited for ranges most firefights  really  occur.      It wasn’t made with the same aesthetic care and old world craftsmanship as the M1903 but it worked is  really the better gun if you had to take one to war.

The M1903 served several roles in its career and is much respected.   In some of those roles it was everything you could ask and more In others not so much.     As a sniper rifle its  target rifle accuracy , handling and trim lines really made it shine.

 

 

It served as a sniper rifle  into WW2, Korea and even some in Vietnam.  The Army opted for using a  4x weaver with the M1903A4 while the USMC  adopted and used the Unertl 8x optic.  A deadly combination that  produced many  Japanese widows. As seen below a team of USMC sniper on Okinawa.

Today the Springfield still  enjoys a status as  a real classic.  A real icon of US military Arms.  It’s accuracy being the stuff of legend and its full powered 30 caliber round  will always be unquestioned in it’s ability.       But, its original classic M1903  incarnation  never saw  nearly the  amount of combat as many believe and it was certainly not the best bolt action of the war.   It wasn’t even the best Mauser action combat rifle of the war.

Just like the M14, the original issued M1903 was. not much for fighting.

 

 

 

 

Point Of Impact. ( Books for the gun enthusiast )

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“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.

A look Back, Guns and People Over The Years

We have seen a lot  of change in firearms advancement and their use.  Even the owners of this website have seen major changes in firearms and their application for sporting and war  in our relatively short times. Keeping that in mind, it is always worth a look back at the rich past of  our favorite tools.

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Testing of one of the early “bullet proof ” vests.

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US Special Forces vet helping Rhodesia fight off the communists.

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A picture of some very, very famous men who would greatly influence rifle development. Among these worthies are Harvey Donaldson and  John Unertl.

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NRA marksmanship badges.

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Famous barrel making genius, Harry Pope’s gun collection.

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Women practices running to her fighting position during the Rhodesian Bush war.

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US Green Beret adviser in South Vietnam in the very early years.

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S&W Heavy duty.

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Indig troop sets watch against the communists with his child in his lap.

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An advertisement for the old excellent Marble cleaning rod.

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ARVN troops learning how to use the M16 at the firing range.

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Back in the good old days, when gun stores had all manner of exotic foreign weapons.

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Dillinger’s weapons.

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All of the guns or a true genius and a gift to us all.

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The Block I SOPMOD kit. that was the start of a giant industry that continues.

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Over 100 years and still serving perfectly.

And a reminder. Facts that should always be handy for those who try to rob of such an important history and right.

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A PICTURE OF JOHN UNERTL

Time to take a second and turn back the page of time for a bit. If you have followed us for any amount of time, you have heard the name Unertl. A long gone very high quality rifle scope maker. The optics  were the best made for the time.  Unerlt was the maker of the 10x scope the USMC used on the M40A1 and some are still in use.

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This is a picture of the best of their day.   John Unertl, is second from left in the top row. He is the gentlemen with the tie and mustache. He stands among the top placing winner and all of those worthies are well known shooter, handloaders, experimenters  and industry people of the day. the man holding the target is Harvey Donaldson, a man mush responsible for bench rest shooting and a lot of the accuracy improvements we enjoy today.  All use Mr. Unertl’s precision optics on their winning rifles.

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The Winchester Model 52

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.