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  #1  
Old 07-24-2017, 11:44 PM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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Location: Van Wert, Ohio
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Default Range Report, USMC Rifle (Sniperís) Caliber .30 M1903A1, W/Telescope, Sighting, Unertl 8X

Ever since I acquired my first Unertl Sniper, I have always wondered how accurate one really was. Iíve always sort of been afraid to shoot one, just for the fact that they are valuable and if something went wrong, or a part broke, I would feel horrible.

After a series of unfortunate events in my life over the past six months, my thinking has changed and I have now decided itís time to enjoy life. So out to the range behind my house they went.

I actually have been very blessed to have found two real USMC Unertl rifles in my travels. And both rifles are of the two types used in the sniper Conversion, which makes this range report even more interesting. The first type the Marines used, were factory NM rifles that were used by the Active and Reserve team at the National Matches. These rifles would have had the original SA star gauged barrel.

The second type they used were the re-barreled NM rifles, that they called Special Targets. At the start of WWII, they had a total of 1047 rifles that they sat aside for the sniper conversion. 574 of the Special Target, and 473 NM that were held for the Active and Reserve NM Teams. It is unknown for sure how many were actually converted. But they never got close to that 1047 number I believe, as a Korea war document seems to point to less than 300/400 that were still serviceable. I keep a log of all known real rifles that still exist and I know of around 20 or so personally, and seen research by others from 20 years ago that point to around 40 known rifles. Which I have seen about half on that list, but some seem questionable.

To make the test as accurate as possible to WWII standards, I used surplus 1957 Lake City ammo. The Marines did not use any match ammo in the wars out of these rifles. So I wanted to see what they actually shot in the field. I shot both rifles at a 100 yards on a semi windy day. I am also not the shooter some of you guys are. I shot expert In the Marines, but have damage to my eyes, so I have not shot that much over the past 15 years. I also have not shot either rifle that much to get used to the actual rifle. In fact, the one I only have only shot 5 rounds total. The other I have shot maybe 50rds total out of. I only have one real USMC Unertl scope, so it was used on both rifles. I was shooting for group, not so much to place rounds in the Bull. So I did not dial in the scope on either rifle, other than by using a laser bore slighter, so I could get the group on paper. The scope is a true 8X USMC Unertl and serial 2034.

Before I explain much more, credit needs to be given to Tim Plowman for finding the Marine team documents at the archives. He found hundreds of pages of USMC team documents from 1919 to 1940. They not only explain what these rifles actually were, but how they were used and rebuilt. So without his discovery, so much of the info that we know now would not be possible. So he should be commended for this discovery.

The first sniper is what the Marines would have classified as a NM held for the active or reserve team, as it still has its original star gauged barrel. The Marine teams only used new NM rifles that still had their factory SA star gauged barrel in competition. At the end of the season, NM rifles that needed re-barreled, would be re-classified as USMC Special Target rifles, after the new barrel was installed. This will be explained later.
This rifle would have been one of the 150 NM rifles that was shipped to the USMC in 1937. This rifle cost the USMC $49.50 in 1937. The ME is about a 1.5 and the throat Iím not sure of. As I donít have a TE guage for a 1903. The bore is good.

Five rounds of 1957 Lake City, at a 100 yards, grouped at about 1.25 MOA. Which is pretty comparable to what the reports say these rifles were capable of in the Marine documents with the standard ammo. Here are some pics:





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Old 07-24-2017, 11:46 PM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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My second sniper is what the Marines would have classified as a USMC Special Target rifle. The Marine NM rifles that needed re-barreled at the end of the season, were returned to the Philly Depot and re-barreled with standard barrels. The Marines did not re-barrel these rifles with SA star gauged barrels.

For one they state in the documents that it was not necessary as they were not used by the teams at the National Matches. They state that special targets were only being used for All Marine Divisional Matches, such as the Elliot Cup. Also the Marines owned their own star guage tool since the late 20’s. Tim found the purchase order from the Frankford Arsenal, for the Marines. So it all honestly it makes sense, as why pay SA more money for a star gauged barrel when you had the tool to do it yourself. And SA charged a lot more for a Star Gauged barrel over a standard barrel. Now honestly I don’t believe I ever saw any mention in the docs that the standard barrels, used on the Special Targets, were in fact star gauged before installation. In fact I think there is even a mention that they were not star gauged on purpose. As they didn’t want to give an unfair advantage in the Divisional matches.

This rifle was most likely in the 1935 shipment of 100 NM rifles that went to the Marines, or it could have possibly been in the 1936 of 150 rifles. Either way it did not have a factory SA hatcher hole. The Marines drilled it. So I do not believe this rifle came in the 1937 shipment, as all those found from that shipment so far, have had a factory SA hatcher hole. The Marines re-barreled this rifle with a standard 4/38 barrel and restocked the rifle in an S stock. The ME of the barrel is also around a 1.5ME with a good bore. Otherwise the rifle retains all the other NM modifications. In 1935 the Marines paid $40.90 for each NM rifle.

It is also interesting to note that I have orders from units in the 1930’s requesting that special target rifles be shipped with S stocks to units, instead of the C stock. The Regular Marine Corps resisted the C stock with a passion. And it wasn’t until the start of WWII and a huge demand for stocks that made them relent. So other than NM rifles on the active or reserve team, the average Marine would have never seen a C stock until WWII.

I believe this is why some of these Special targets were requested to be stocked with an S stock. There are pictures of S stocked snipers on Okinawa and I believe it is a common misconception that these Unertl snipers all had C stocks when assembled.
There is a memo from May 1943 that makes the suggestion that all future USMC Unertl rifles built should have C stocks. The problem with this is, the USMC Unertl rifles were built starting in Jan 1943 and most used by the first 3 Divisions had already shipped to the Pacific beginning in Feb/March of 1943. Other than the possibility of some going over with the 4th Division, it looks like the vast majority of Unertl Snipers had already shipped before this C stock memo came out. So I personally believe they just used whatever stock that was already fitted to the rifle, when the scope was mounted in the conversion. At least till May 1943. .

It is actually easy to determine if either an S or C stock is original to one these Marine NM or Special Target USMC snipers as the Marines modified them in a way that is unique.

This was the first time I had ever fired this rifle, and I shot five rounds of the 1957 Lake City ammo that grouped about a 1 3/8’’ at a 100 yards. So for all intensive purposes, both rifles shot about identical to each other, and identical to what they state in the documents. Here are the pics:





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Old 07-24-2017, 11:47 PM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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Now out of morbid curiosity. I wanted to see how well it compared to a 1903A4. I have a 3.41 Remington with itís original 7/43 barrel and M73B1. I shot this on a different day with the same surplus 1957 Lake city. It shot a fuzz over 1 5/8Ē. Now on this day there was no wind and I have shot this rifle a lot, which might mean I am used to firing this rifle, where the USMC ones I am not. But here are some pics of them side by side in a comparison shot and also of the target.




Last edited by cplnorton; 07-31-2017 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 07-24-2017, 11:49 PM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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Now I would like to retry this experiment again at about 300 yards and 600 yards. I would imagine that is where it would get pretty interesting. I would also love to see what they can shoot with real Match ammo. So someday when I try these other experiments I will come and update this post.

I was thinking some of you might really enjoy this discussion, as I’ve never really seen a real range report of a real Unertl Sniper on the Internet. So I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did shooting them.
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Old 07-25-2017, 12:20 AM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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By the way I thought I would address one more misconception I beleive about these rifles. That is the M1941 name that you see in books. I really do believe that is a name, we as collectors, have created for these rifles. There is never one mention of the M1941 name in the Marine Corps Documents. Even when they are declared obsolete, they never once call them the 1941 name. I know some books claim they meant to call them that, and never did. But that seems like a stretch to me.

In fact, we as collectors have created a lot of terms for these firearms we collect. For example a 1897 Winchester Trench shotgun. You will never see the term "trench" in the description of the official documents from back then. They always refer to them as riot guns, with bayonet adapter. We have created the "Trench Gun" name.

I believe this same misconception has been applied to these Unertl Snipers. Usually in the Marines docs they are called a bunch of names. Some examples are M1903 W/Telescopic sight. Or M1903 w/Unertl Telescopic Sight.

The only official name of these rifles is placed at the end of WWII. They are officially named at that time as:

Rifle (Sniper’s) Caliber .30 M1903A1, W/Telescope, Sighting, Unertl 8X
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Old 07-25-2017, 12:33 AM
KenD KenD is offline
 
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Steve, thanks for these posts. Very interesting, and great info. From looking at those shot groups, your eyes aren't too damaged - good shooting! Ken
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Old 07-25-2017, 12:42 AM
S99VG S99VG is offline
 
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Yes. Nice post, nice pictures, nice rifles, nice shooting. Thanks much.
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Old 07-25-2017, 12:53 AM
captain-03 captain-03 is offline
 
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Enjoyed the read!!
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Old 07-25-2017, 01:25 AM
AzMedic AzMedic is offline
 
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Great post and info.... thank you!!!
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Old 07-25-2017, 07:06 AM
parmel parmel is offline
 
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Excellent post. Thank you.
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