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    Unertl Sniper

    The next GCAicon Journal will also feature a major article on the USMC M1903 Sniper with the big Unertl target scope. This is a bit of a reach for the Garandicon Collectors Journal but it is cutting edge research by Steve Norton, one of our best authors. It is based on newly discovered documents in the National Archives by his associates Andrew Stolinski and Tim Plowman. It will be controversial because it contradicts accepted wisdom on these rifles and might even cast doubt on some of them. It's a humdinger.
    Real men measure once and cut.

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    Really Senior Member tr63's Avatar
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    I am looking forward to see if any thing is found on the use of non-national match Springfield rifles that were set up with the Unertl scope . Back in the 1960's I spoke to a retired Marine Corps armorer who worked in the Philadelphia Navy yard where they built the snipers. He said that they ran out of National Match 1903 Springfields and ended up using low number rifles . The order was given to install new barrels and proof them with a 70,000 lb. proof round and fire 10 standard rounds . Than use a 5 pound brass maul to beat the receiver ring fire a second 70.000 proof round and 10 standard rounds ,If the showed no damage it was good to go !!!

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    Bob--
    Looking forward to reading the article.

    Cheers

    --fjruple

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    Match Rifles

    One of the key findings is that non-match rifles were not used. They did not "run out of match guns" -- they had over 800 left over when the program was canceled. I don't want to spoil it, but the article explains all that, including the guy who said he was there.
    Real men measure once and cut.

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    Sounds like it will be an interesting read with the other articles mentioned.
    “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” - Will Rogers

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    Really Senior Member cplstevennorton's Avatar
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    Bob thank you so much for the kind words. I am always truly honored and humbled to have the opportunity to work with you.

    ---------- Post added at 01:00 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:53 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by tr63 View Post
    I am looking forward to see if any thing is found on the use of non-national match Springfield rifles that were set up with the Unertl scope . Back in the 1960's I spoke to a retired Marine Corps armorer who worked in the Philadelphia Navy yard where they built the snipers. He said that they ran out of National Match 1903 Springfields and ended up using low number rifles . The order was given to install new barrels and proof them with a 70,000 lb. proof round and fire 10 standard rounds . Than use a 5 pound brass maul to beat the receiver ring fire a second 70.000 proof round and 10 standard rounds ,If the showed no damage it was good to go !!!
    My initial thinking is, he's not lying. I have no doubt he is telling the truth. I just don't think he is talking about the Unertl. I think he is talking about something very few people know about. I think he is talking about the Winchester A5 rifles build in the WWII era. Which even the Quartermaster of the Marines Corps declared during the war there was a huge problem as both sniper platforms are constantly confused with each other.

    What most people don't know is the Marines did assemble Winchester A5 snipers in 1941, and there is a possibility they even assembled them into 1943. They for sure assembled 80 of these by 1942.

    The documents stat that these were standard issue rifles and not team rifles, like the Unertls. The Marines at this time had a good number of A5 drilled receivers in storage at Philly Depot. These would have been low number receivers whose barrel had become unserviceable after WWI, the barrel pulled, and the bare receiver put into storage. I have counts on these and they had I want to say over 500 of them, without going back and looking at the document. So reading your comment, I almost think he might have been talking about building those A5's. Which from your descrption could be dead on accurate.

    They very well could have pulled those low number receivers out of storage, that were already drilled, screwed on a new barrel, drilled the barrel, and fitted it to a stock. And the Marines did proof low numbers in a very similar way to what you are describing.

    Forty A5's were used by the 1st and 2nd Marine Division as training rifles at the start of WWII, and around 20 were used in combat on Guadalcanal. The Marine Raiders also received 40 A5 rifles about the same time.

    The A5's also were used in Sniper training in the US in 1943 and it's quite possible that the ones used were made around that time in late 1942 or early 1943. But I can't prove that. But there is a mention that makes me believe they made more A5's around that time. Even though there is no mention of where those A5 rifles came from, it does look like around 20 were at each school and there were 2 schools.

    I think he is 100% telling the truth. I just think he was talking about the older A5 snipers. Which as he describes were low numbers and just standard rifles, and not team rifles like the Unertl.

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    Really Senior Member cplstevennorton's Avatar
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    TR63, I would love to interview you and see what else you have heard from him. All of these guys were long gone by the time I started to research this stuff, so I find it fascinating to hear anything he might have told you.

    Here is a really good document on this. Note how they describe the Unertl rifles as team rifles, and the Lyman 5A as standard rifles. When they refer to the Lyman 5A, that is the WRA A5. Just like they confused Unertl vs A5, they confuse Lyman 5A to WRA A5. It's a long story but Lyman was making copies of the A5, and you see half of the time they called them Lyman and half the time they called them WRA.

    Even though the Marines bought a handful of Lyman 5A's around 1940, it was like less than 5 if I remember the doc. All the rest were WRA's left over from WWI. They had 887 A5 scopes at the start of WWII.

    [IMG][/IMG]





    Really take notice of this paragraph. I have this mentioned in other docs too. But this one is nice bc it makes it very clear. That first word is "Make." It's hard to read.


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    Really Senior Member tr63's Avatar
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    It seems there is still some disagreement on this matter within GCAicon. It was not my misunderstanding as to what I was told by the Marine who was one of the ones setting up the Unertl Snipers .

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    Quote Originally Posted by tr63 View Post
    It seems there is still some disagreement on this matter within GCAicon. It was not my misunderstanding as to what I was told by the Marine who was one of the ones setting up the Unertl Snipers .
    I'm not discrediting what he told you, I'm only trying to explain that there is nothing in the official Marine Corps docs that backs up the statements that he made. I mean they make it very clear that before, during, and after the Unertl rifles were made, all were built on National Match rifles.

    But I still think you can explain why he might be right, but just not about the Unertl.

    The more I dive into the A5 research, the more I'm finding they were being built at almost the exact same time as the Unertl snipers. In fact, I'm tracking a shipment built just a couple months before they started on the Unertl rifles, and there might have been some built in 1944 after the main builds of the Unertl were most likely done.

    Most of the A5's I believe were built from leftover parts that were in the 1938 counts at the Philly Depot. Otherwise when a Mann Niender sniper wore out in between the wars, they were not rebuilt, but just broken down for parts and put in storage. So they already had receivers drilled for the Mann blocks and it was most likely these were taken out of storage and built into complete rifles. They even had barreled receiver Mann's in storage. They were just literally a barreled receiver drilled for the Mann Blocks and that was it, no other parts.

    There was at least 120 Mann's made during WWII, and probably more likely at least 150. Then there might have been some builds in 1944 as well. So there was a considerable amount of Mann Niender A5 snipers made in WWII and the number is approaching how many Unertl's were most likely made as well. So you have two sniper rifles, built at basically the same time, but are quite different from each other, and a lot of them.

    Even in 1943/44 the Marine Corps states that both rifles are confusing everyone, and they can't track what rifles are which. There was just mass confusion on these two snipers Marine Corps wide. Then you figure in this gentlemen was making these comments to you at least 20 years later and there has been some time passed since he stated the comments to you as well.

    I think this Mann Niedner confusion is something that has never been explored in the books. Everyone in the books always detail the Mann Niedner A5 as a WWI rifle. But really they weren't used a lot in WWI. Most weren't built until the war was basically over and a lot more Mann's were made in between the wars and WWII, then there ever was in WWI.

    As of right now we know of 3 WWII Built Mann Niender rifles. Probably because no one knows to look for them. All three are identical and are complete rebuilds, and show no existing National Match traits other than serial number. All three basically look like the standard Marine rebuild, and look nothing like a Unertl Sniper.

    I have interviewed a lot of vets, and I see confusion in many of their statements. When you are in, you are just a kid and these weapons are just tools, and memories get fuzzy over the years. I think to even when I was in the Marines 20 years ago, and the details are pretty fuzzy on a lot of the stuff.

    Then as much as I hate to say it, there is also at least one Marine who claimed to know first hand details of how the Unertl Snipers were built. Well when I researched him, he was on Guadalcanal at the time, so there is no way he could have had first hand knowledge.

    I'm not saying he is wrong, the way they proof fired them in what you said, is actually really close to what I see in the docs. I just don't see any evidence that any Unertl Snipers were built on anything but the National Match rifles.

    This is sort of compelling too. But when you put a real Unertl Sniper rifle next to a real WWII Mann Niender, you can see how easy it would be to confuse these two rifles. We are collector's so we see the differences, but a 20ish something young Marine who at this time probably had never seen a rifle scope, it would be easy to mix these two up.

    Last edited by cplstevennorton; 05-15-2019 at 11:03 PM.

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    Looking forward to it Steve. It was good to see you at the OGCA. Regards, CC


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