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    Early optical sights for the Lee Enfield

    This came up in a thread on the Ross rifle forum, but as it relates to the long Lee Enfield, and a lot more, I thought I'd start a thread about it here.

    Ian Skennertonicon referred in his books to Dr. Common's telescopic sight for the Lee Enfield which the latter designed in response to the aiming and sighting problems exposed by the 2nd Boer War. One can see from the photos alone how his design was probably not equalled for compactness until the ZF4 of WWII.

    The fully sealed tube, with external adjustments is the same basic design as today's ELCAN. In those days when climate-proofing instruments was very difficult if not impossible, the wisdom of external adjustments only was obvious. And not only climate-proofing, but "soldier-proofing".

    The large range dial with markings easily visible and adjusted from the prone position is another innovation not seen again until the No.32 appears in 1940/41, although the Sovieticon PE scopes incorporated this from the early 1930s.

    But Dr. Common was not the only innovator, Sir Howard Grubb patented the first reflector gunsight in 1900, again under the impetus of the problems of directing rifle fire exposed by the Boer War.

    His article here describing the invention is a fascinating look forward as he anticipates the purpose of the general use of optical sights on infantry rifles as was perhaps first planned for the Enfield EM2.
    It is likely, so far as military interests are concerned, and more particularly as long as our army is recuited as it is at present, that the most suitable system will not be that which will enable a few keen-eyed men, with determined perseverance, to attain a wonderful pitch of perfection [in marksmanship], but on the contrary, the more useful system will be that which will enable the average man, with very little training and practice, to shoot practically as well as the best.
    He then goes on to envision what would become laser sights, at a time when lasers were I believe completely unknown:
    It would be possible to conceive an arrangement by which a fine beam of light like that from a search-light would be projected from a gun in the direction of its axis, and so adjusted as to correspond with the line of fire, so that wherever the beam of light impinged upon an object, the shot would hit.
    [the wikipedia author has mixed this conceptualization up as a description of the functioning of Grubb's reflector sight]

    This appears to also be the first known "bifocal" optical sight in which both eyes can be kept open while aiming (assuming normal vision), in contrast to sights such as certain "red-dots" in which the FOV of the aiming eye is obscured and only the superimposition by the brain of the FOV of both eyes produces the image of the aiming mark or reticule on the target. [Another point the wiki article seems confused about]

    Dr. Grubb perhaps goes a little overboard in saying that, "it is the only sight that can be used with or without magnifying power", unless telescopes of "0" power were unknown at that time, which seems unlikely.

    Of course the position of the light-gathering lens pointing forward at an angle would be likely to reflection giving away the shooter's position, so the vertical orientation as also proposed would have made more sense in the field.

    In his last point 10, Grubb anticipates, or perhaps we should say invents, illuminated reticules.

    All in all, one is reminded again how slowly innovations are accepted and how quickly forgotten. Dr. Common's sight had apparently been forgotten by WWI when the need for them was far greater than in the Boer War, and Grubb's concept was not brought into RAF service until the 1930s. There are more details about that here.

    So, does an example of the Grubb sight exist anywhere today?
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    "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." W.L.S.C..

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    A little more. The Burghers never did have to worry about Sir Howard Grubb's sight turning every Tommy into a marksman, and of course neither did the Germans!
    Grubb died in 1931 and apparently it all died with him. Did the WD ever revisit the matter? Perhaps the minutes of the Small Arms Committee would tell.
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    Last edited by Surpmil; 02-14-2020 at 01:44 AM.
    "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." W.L.S.C..

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    Sir Howard Grubb's sight has its design origins in the Voigtlander "Kontur" camera viewfinder, although I am unsure which came first. My money would probably be on the Voigtlander given their research into optics goes as far back as 1756 when the company was first founded.

    I also see a parallel here both politically and technically with the Singlepoint sight, whose use and private purchase was banned during the 1970's by Britishicon troops serving in Northern Ireland.
    Mick

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    The Germans actually had a bifocal scope in service in WWI, called "Zeiss Glasvisier 16". It was attached to the rear sight (therefore adjusted with the rear sight) and for better sighting it had a front sight cap with self-illuminating material.

    I'm attaching some pictures of one of my Glasvisier mounted on a Gew98. I have some more pictures of the carrying pouch as well, but can only post 10 pictures per post. If someone wants them, I could add them in another post.
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    Zeiss was no doubt keeping a close eye on developments abroad and pursuing them in the usual systematic fashion. For service use the Grubb design would be much preferable I suspect, especially as it could have been made much more robust and fully sealed.

    As for Voigtlander, is the Kontur bifocal viewfinder not a post-WWII product? I can't see it playing any role in a design from 45 years earlier.

    Sir Howard Grubb was mostly a designer and builder of larger astronomical instruments, as was Dr. Ainslie Common IIRC. Both were drawn into the design of military sights, but neither that nor cameras seems to have been an interest of theirs before the military need arose.

    Both of course would have had an excellent understanding of theoretical and practical optics.

    Another example of how the "outsider" taking a fresh view of a problem looks at it without the preconceptions of the so-called experts and often finds solutions that have eluded the latter.

    Sadly, the reflexive obstinacy of the War Office and the dullness of most of the senior officer corps meant innovations like this were ignored.

    The Anglo-Saxon weakness is not in the invention of technology, but in pursuing its development, protection and marketing with the national purpose and military focus found for example, in Germanyicon. "Economics is war by other means", as Bismarck said.

    Reminds me of how the Japaneseicon used to proclaim "this war last one hundred years!"

    Who's winning?
    Last edited by Surpmil; 02-15-2020 at 03:23 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surpmil View Post
    As for Voigtlander, is the Kontur bifocal viewfinder not a post-WWII product? I can't see it playing any role in a design from 45 years earlier.
    I cannot find any online reference at the moment but I'm sure an earlier version was often seen on pre war Bessa 6x9 cameras along with the usual albada viewfinders of the period.
    Voigtlander were reborn after ww2 with new and some old rebranded products; ironically the Britishicon army captain put in charge of rebuilding the business lived in my city of Salisbury, sadly this was unknown to me until his son came into the shop one day to sell his late fathers cameras. I would have loved to have questioned the man about his involvement with Voigtlander.

    After I left the army in 1974 I spent the next 42 years dealing with vintage & classic photographic equipment, when I retired to a full time life with Lee Enfield's I gave away all my camera reference books!
    Mick

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    There was also the "Leitz Glasvisier" from WWI period of which very little is known, plus I somewhere have files which I've been sent for a rear sight attached sight on the Austrian Mannlicher rifle, can't find it right now. Will dig it up, I guess that all originates from the same period.

    Not really fitting to this topic, but nevertheless worth mentioning in this context: a post WWI prismatic sight was "invented" by Dr. Karl Jung of Germany which was later trialed also in Germany in WWII. An early commercial rifle with Jung sight that made it to the UKicon was sold here: HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT FUNK 764 MM GEWEHR 98 HUNTING RIFLE WITH JUNG PRISMATIC SIGHT. . Pictures of the K98kicon (with aluminum bedding) in the K98k rifle here: S42K, Mauser Oberndorf SN61, Test bed for new optical system . I couldn't find much information, but I guess this was more of a scope (meaning magnifying fuctionality).

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    The Zeiss bifocal sight does look less than ideal for trench warfare.

    I don't know if this is the Leitz "Glasvizier" or not, but it was described as such. A long eye-relief scope perhaps? Or an early bifocal? (Arrow points to Leitz markings)

    The mounts for that one also look less than ideal for service use, though the optics were no doubt of the usual very high quality.



    Note the very close resemblance to the early Sovieticon PE overhead scope mounts - we know for example that the focus mechanism of the PE scopes was copied from the Emil Busch Paravisar.

    The same large female dovetail on the PE mounts. (Clamping screw looks like a replacement - presumably a lever system originally from the circular scratches and hole for a spring-loaded detent pin or ball)

    Another souvenir of Reichswehr-Red Army cooperation in the 1920s?
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    Last edited by Surpmil; 02-22-2020 at 12:36 AM.
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    Yes, that picture shows the Leitz Glasvisier. I know the owner of the particular shown scope. He always told me it is a bifocal scope as well, but only in trials stadium, so I honestly don't know where it got attached - but surely not above the receiver, so it must had been on the rear sight.

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    If there was a not a dedicated dovetail block mounted on the barrel then presumably the male dovetails were put on either side of a standard(?) scope base. There does seem to be a gap large enough inside the scope base for the iron sights to be used with the scope fitted.
    "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." W.L.S.C..

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