The M1903-A4 was a specifically designed sniper rifle that came as a result of early U.S. combat involvement in the Pacific. There was a high demand, that could not be filled, for telescopic (sniper) rifles. The Infantry Board and the Ordanance Department conducted an evaluation and recommended that the Weaver 2.5x 330C hunting telescope be adopted for use on M1903 and M1903-A1 rifles. The rifle was officially adopted on 14 Jan 1943 as the M1903-A4 (sniper).

m1903a4-a

 

The M1903-A4 was an accurate rifle with an effective range of about 600 yards (550m), with the main limit on long range accuracy coming from its very low power scope (2.5x). From its adoption in 1943 until the end of the war, the M1903-A4 was used extensively in every theater of operation by both the US Army and the USMC. The rifle was again used in the Korean conflict, and even in the early stages of the Vietnam conflict when sniper rifles were in severe shortage. The M1903A4 is a legendary classic sniper rifle. It served with distinction in WWII, Korea, and even Vietnam.

m1903a4

USMC M1903-A1/Unertl
Unlike the US Army, the USMC had a standard issue sniper rifle at the start of hostilities in WWII, it was a M1903/Lyman 5A (5x), which was adopted (with the Winchester A5 Telescope) during WWI. After there was a push to standardize sniper equipment, the Marine Corps Equipment Board did an extensive study of optics under field conditions and recommended a scope of about 8x, with an objective lens of about one and half inches, a medium fine crosshair reticle, and double micrometer quarter minute click mounts. They specifically cited a 8x target scope made by John Unertl as being the best they found. They also recommended the scope be mounted on a Winchester M70 target rifle, but the USMC decided on the M1903 based on favorable accuracy comparisons between specially selected M1903’s and the M70. So the M1903-A1 mounted with the Unertl 8x became the “sniping standard” in the USMC.

m1903un

The M1903-A1/Unertl was tested and at 600 yards and with M72 Match ammo would group 3.5 inches (.58 MOA, wow!!!) but match ammo was about impossible to come by during the war, so most snipers had to settle with M2 Ball ammo, which was till respectable with groups coming in at 7.5″ at 600 yards (1.25 MOA). The M1903-A1/Unertl was used by the USMC through out WWII, along with the M1903-A4. The -A1/Unertl also saw use during the Korean war, with USMC snipers registering a number of kills out to 1000 yards. Like the M1903-A4 the M1903-A1/Unertl was a lethal system in the hands of a properly trained sniper during WWII and Korea.

 

1903a1usmc

Thanks to a loyal SC follower for the images.

41 Comments

Ken Dowen

When the 1903 Springfield was used as a sniper rifle, did the scope present any problems for the stripper clip? I’ve seen where there have been some detachable magazines for the rifle but they must be rare. Have you heard of or seen any of these? Thank you.

Reply
Mel Ewing

No, not on the 1903 springfields, there were not DBMs for them. Stripper clips were not usable on the 1903A4’s and 1903A1/Unertls as far as I understand it.

Reply
US M1C and M1D - Sniper Central

[…] June of 1944 the M1E7 (renamed M1C) was adopted as the standard issue sniper rifle and replaced the M1903A4 making it “Limited Standard”. The M1E8 (renamed M1D) was adopted in September of 1944 […]

Reply
SGM PANTANO

I have the ’03A1 Rifle w/UNERTL USMC Scope..
Scope is #2070… Does not have the DOT.. Must have gone in for repairs just after Korea..
Came from USMB – Pendleton about 1975..
Is like new..w/Micarta case.

Reply
Anthony

I have a 1903A4 that my dad gave me. It sat in a box in the rafters in his garage for well over 40 years. A few years ago he had me climb on a ladder and pull it down. I dusted off the box and the original shipping label from Utah was on it. My aunt (dad’s sister) worked at the Army Ordnance in southern Colorado. In the 60’s she was able to order a 1903 and gave it to my dad, who put it away and never touched it. I took it to a popular gun store in the Denver area, and when I walked in with the box and opened it, everybody in the store froze. It was pretty cool, especially because I had the box, with a shipping label, with my aunt’s name (same surname as mine). I asked them to clean it up. The guys were actually honored to perform the service. It is now locked up safely pulled out on occasion.

Reply
malcolm e hayes

enjoyed the chats about the o3a4, i got one from the dcm but i have never fired it. it came complete with the weaver i guess scope, it looks new and the stock is not w well sanded stock which i was told was correct. what i need now is the dementions of placement and size of scope bases to add a unertl scope. i also have a m1 c and a mi d and extra mounts and scopes for these rifles with the prong and cone flash hiders for my kids when i buy the farm. sure would appreciate the help. semper fi

Reply
John F. Gaul

I have a 1903 Springfield that is drilled and tapped for the Unertl scope. I have questions. The barrel has a start on top by the date, the bolt has the serial # etched on it. Never seen the star on top of barrel. Looking to talk to some one that may be able to answer some questions. Thanks Johnh

Reply
steven norton

We don’t know exactly what the star means yet. But it does show up on a few Marine Sniper rifles. We believe the stamp is post WWII, maybe something to do with Rifle Teams as some Marine Garand Team rifles also have it. If you want, we have a group of guys who have real rifles, including one who also has that star, you could see how your rifle compares. My email is cplnorton2@yahoo.com if you want to contact me.

Reply
Ed Jackman

This is the year 2016. I dont know when this was posted.
Nobody updates their sites.
I have a ww11 Unertl Marine sniper scope serial # 26xx
8x that I might be willing to sell if it goes to a good home
I’m going to monitor this site for a couple days and if no interest I’ll go to auction.

Reply
Franz Shoaf

Am currently building 1903 from ca 1916-1917 with Winchester A5 USMC scope and have almost completed 1939 USMC O3A1 National Match with Unertl O and E bases. I DO need a USMC sniper scope to complete my projects. Are you interested in selling yours? I am retired US Army Special Forces and am a gunsmith here in San Antonio.Thanks much for your consideration.

Reply
Max Talbott

I am embarking on a project to build a M1941 USMC ’03 sniper look alike. I have an original USMC Unertl 8x that I will mount on it. Would you be interested in doing the gunsmithing on this? Thanks for your consideration! Max

Reply
Ed Jackman

I do have an unertl usmc sniper scope 8x that I
am considering selling. Serial # 263X. I can send pics.

Reply
John Frederick Gaul

This was my Fathers rifle that he got from the DCM in the 1950’s so i would not be interested in selling.But am interested in the right unertl scope

Reply
G.G. Lewis

26 mo. to make Sgt. 5 min. to lose it, S.O.G. Army to Pendalton to Coronado U.D.T to Ft. Jackson 101, to Gary A.F.B. Bell Helicopter Mechanics. Korea, Ft. Eustes. Home San Antonio. Sounds like we chewed the same dirt.

Reply
Ken Dickson

Do you still have the USMC sniper scope? If so, please let me know, with price and photos if possible. I am in Birmingham, AL, and have a M1941 with a repro (Malcolm Leatherwood) copy of the Unertl and need the real deal. I am a collector, not a trader.
Ken Dickson
dicksonkenneth@bellsouth.net
205-317-6715

Reply
Alex

I might be. I would treasure such a gun. I will baby it and collect it. And shoot it some only. How much.?

Reply
John Frederick Gaul

Do you still have that scope and if so do you have a price for it. I am interested in it. Thanks John 609-847-6901 c#

Reply
John Frederick Gaul

I am interested in your Unertl scope if you still have it. If you still have it could you post some pictures or call me @ 609-847-6901 Thanks John

Reply
Mike Alexander

I’m interested in your Unertl. Please email me if you still have it for sale.

Reply
Greg Anest

Do you still have the scope for sale ? I have an 03 that i’m trying to set up , Looking forward hearing from you

Reply
Jeff Dill

I have a Unertl 10x sniper scope. Serial #197xx. 5 digit. Doesn’t have the USMC Sniper markings however is mounted on a 1903 RIA from 1919- ser # 334xxx , and then rebarreled at SA Armory in Nov of 1942. The scope has the black scope rings, #8 stamped on the ocular locking ring. So far all the info found suggests that the USMC ser # range fell between 1000-2700. It is clearly evident this scope was mounted by the military in late 42/early 43 for use as a snipers rifle. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Interested in selling the package- need to determine value . Thanks. Jeff.

Reply
Charles Bodin

Hi Jeff – Maybe this will help you. I just bought a Custom Sporterized Springfield 1903 Bolt-Action Rifle; .30-06 with a mounted Unerti 10x scope. The barrel was both re-placed and re-blued in 1942. The stock is a walnut Monte Carlo. It is immaculately perfect, smooth action without any magazine stoppages. The serial # is 18225, I believe I got a very good deal as the whole package cost me $868.00 from GunBroker.com on 04-04-16. I suppose I’m not suppose to cherish it but I do. Just a terrific piece!! I’ll send you some pics if you would like – Chuck

Reply
Max Talbott

While on the subject of 8X USMC Unertl Scopes, has anyone ever seen one that was parkerized? Thanks for the input, Max

PS: If you are looking for a true military gunsmith, MSGT Franz Shoat, San Antonio, Texas, is your man!

Reply
Laurence Lance

Is there any evidence that the USMC used 1903-A3 rifles mounted with Unertl scopes?

Reply
Mel Ewing

I have not heard of any evidence they used 1903A3’s, but some others that are more of an expert on the M1903 rifles might have some other info.

Reply
steven norton

No, the pool of rifles that were converted to snipers were all 1903 NM and Special Target Rifles. There were no 03A3’s.

Reply
steven norton

If you believe you have a Real 1903 USMC Unertl rifle, we have a small group of Collectors who all own real Rifles and are conducting a lot of new research on them. If you believe you have a real rifle, and want to see how it stacks against the group, we are always looking for more rifles to add to the pool. My contact info is cplnorton2@yahoo.com. Semper Fi.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *