My Holy Grail: USMC 1903A1 Unertl Sniper

sport10990

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Aug 22, 2018
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Well, I finally found my holy grail and not only found it, but won it at this past week's Poulin's Auction. This is a legit 1903a1 Marine Unertl sniper rifle with a low scope serial number. The rifle would have been originally sent to Quantico in 1937 for the shooting team and then sent to war once that started. It's estimated about only 250-300 of these rifles were ever made and today only 23 are known to exist. I was ecstatic and also felt like I wanted to throw up at the same time after I won it! Let's just say the collection got a little thinner in order to make this one happen. I'll be putting up more pictures once I receive it.
 

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pmclaine

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    Any unit history on it?

    As a "survivor" I would expect it was school house or stateside through the wars and quickly sold to the armory gunny when surplussed.

    Got to find the picture of the Marine cleaning his in the Pacific. My favorite USMC 1903 picture.
     

    Random Guy

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    As a "survivor" I would expect it was school house or stateside through the wars and quickly sold to the armory gunny when surplussed.

    I recall there are two originals with scopes that were found on a WWII era destroyer (or mine-sweeper?) ship that was being de-commissioned several decades ago (1960s?). A local collector has more knowledge about them, but my understanding is that they were presumed to be on the ship to target/ depose of floating mines, and reportedly got left on the ship until it was decommissioned. So they were not stateside guns, but rather on a Navy ship that was part of an anti-mining mission. CplNorton may know more, but I think that matched pair of rifles are the ultimate documented 1903 snipers given their history...
     
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    rgg_7

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    Always amazes me what turns up. Great to see a correct example.

    Ron (Canada)
     

    pmclaine

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    I recall there are two originals with scopes that were found on a WWII era destroyer (or mine-sweeper?) ship that was being de-commissioned several decades ago (1960s?). A local collector has more knowledge about them, but my understanding is that they were presumed to be on the ship to target/ depose of floating mines, and reportedly got left on the ship until it was decommissioned. So they were not stateside guns, but rather on a Navy ship that was part of an anti-mining mission. CplNorton may know more, but I think that matched pair of rifles are the ultimate documented 1903 snipers given their history...

    That would be a legit story and service life for them to survive through the wars.
     

    cplnorton

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    I had a long post that I wrote just talking about some of the history of the minesweeper rifles for the Navy, but I decided it detracted from Scott's post so I took it down.

    I am truly excited for Scott on this. I know how much he has wanted one and I'm glad to see this Marine Officer finally get his Holy Grail. :)
     

    Calfed

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    I had a long post that I wrote just talking about some of the history of the minesweeper rifles for the Navy, but I decided it detracted from Scott's post so I took it down.

    I am truly excited for Scott on this. I know how much he has wanted one and I'm glad to see this Marine Officer finally get his Holy Grail. :)

    I enjoyed reading your original post.
     
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    pmclaine

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    I had a long post that I wrote just talking about some of the history of the minesweeper rifles for the Navy, but I decided it detracted from Scott's post so I took it down.

    I am truly excited for Scott on this. I know how much he has wanted one and I'm glad to see this Marine Officer finally get his Holy Grail. :)


    Copy and paste that bad boy somewhere for the edification of the rest of us.
     

    Forgetful Coyote

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    I had a long post that I wrote just talking about some of the history of the minesweeper rifles for the Navy, but I decided it detracted from Scott's post so I took it down.

    I am truly excited for Scott on this. I know how much he has wanted one and I'm glad to see this Marine Officer finally get his Holy Grail. :)
    In the article posted by @navynambu it says the NM's had a offset rear sight slide? What was the reason for this?
    Anyone got a photo of what it looks like - ie offset in which direction??
     

    pmclaine

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    In the article posted by @navynambu it says the NM's had a offset rear sight slide? What was the reason for this?
    Anyone got a photo of what it looks like - ie offset in which direction??

    I think this is what's meant.

    As you raise the slide it compensates for spindrift at range.

    The leaf itself looks straight but if you look closely at the aperture plate it "floats" in its pocket and moves to compensate for both AJ and SD.

    The 03 system is the slide rule of its day.

    Government engineers had a lot of time on their hands.
     
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    pmclaine

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    @Forgetful Coyote

    I just read the article, parts of it, that @navynambu posted.

    Great stuff and in my present melancholy it made me wish I lived when the world was huge and campaign hats were the style.

    I note one thing in there.

    They reference "buttery smooth" nickle steel bolts.

    Its my understanding that National Match shooters actually preffered the pre nickle steel double heat treat bolts.

    Nickle steel was found to be "stictiony" compared to the steel dht bolts such as a WL3.

    USMC didnt have that option to "shop swap" bolts though.

    They took the base rifle from SA and performed mods to that without exchanging parts.

    @cplnorton

    Any research to confirm or correct my thoughts concerning the NS bolts?

    My knowledge comes from hearsay on the CMP Forums.

    My 1.3 million "A1" appears to have been a pet match rifle at one time. No star gauge at the crown but has WL3 bolt and reverse safety in addition to appearing very well cared for with its 8/31 barrel.
     
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    pitspitr

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    I think this is what's meant.

    As you raise the slide it compensates for spindrift at range.
    I'm not sure that's what it meant because my standard '03 does that too, as does my Krag and the Buffington sights used in the 1880's on the trapdoor. I thought what it was talking about was the receiver mounted Redfield and Lyman sights.

    I will admit I'm not sure that's what the article meant, but that was how I interpreted it. I hope you will forgive an opinion from the new guy and explain why I'm wrong if I am
     

    pmclaine

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    I'm not sure that's what it meant because my standard '03 does that too, as does my Krag and the Buffington sights used in the 1880's on the trapdoor. I thought what it was talking about was the receiver mounted Redfield and Lyman sights.

    I will admit I'm not sure that's what the article meant, but that was how I interpreted it. I hope you will forgive an opinion from the new guy and explain why I'm wrong if I am

    Service rifle competition would not have allowed for receiver sights...It would have to be "as issued" within reason.

    You may be right though......it is ambiguous.......you are correct that all sight leafs were manufactured with that AeroDynamic Jump/Spin Drift feature......

    Imagine how @lowlight would steam had the engineers included a bubble level.........
     
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    pitspitr

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    Now I'm confused.
    From the American Rifleman:

    American Rifleman | The Model 1903 National Match Rifle: A Peerless Precision Shooter

    " Full at the butt, it came with a shotgun-type steel buttplate. These rifles were originally sold for $40.44 through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship. Both the National Match Special and the Style B were all drilled and tapped at Springfield for the Lyman 48 receiver sight, but on the NB no stock cut was provided. "

    Why did they do that when you can't use it in competition?
     
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    Phil McGrath

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    @Forgetful Coyote

    I just read the article, parts of it, that @navynambu posted.

    Great stuff and in my present melancholy it made me wish I lived when the world was huge and campaign hats were the style.

    I note one thing in there.

    They reference "buttery smooth" nickle steel bolts.

    Its my understanding that National Match shooters actually preffered the pre nickle steel double heat treat bolts.

    Nickle steel was found to be "stictiony" compared to the steel dht bolts such as a WL3.

    USMC didnt have that option to "shop swap" bolts though.

    They took the base rifle from SA and performed mods to that without exchanging parts.

    @cplnorton

    Any research to confirm or correct my thoughts concerning the NS bolts?

    My knowledge comes from hearsay on the CMP Forums.

    My 1.3 million "A1" appears to have been a pet match rifle at one time. No star gauge at the crown but has WL3 bolt and reverse safety in addition to appearing very well cared for with its 8/31 barrel.

    I have heard the same said about NS bolts on the net, but of all the old time shooters that I knew that were hard core power shifters have never mentioned it. So strictly speaking for myself I have chalked it up too being a internet fable...
     
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    pmclaine

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    I have heard the same said about NS bolts on the net, but of all the old time shooters that I knew that were hard core power shifters have never mentioned it. So strictly speaking for myself I have chalked it up too being a internet fable...

    "But,but,but it was on the Internet"

    Almost seconds after making that first post I did see this somewhat related post at the CMP forums......


    Of interest was the comment NS bolts were soft and prone to set back.

    Seems counterintuitive.
     
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    D_TROS

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    we need a Holy Grail pic thread...maybe I start one. ha. do we even have a vintage pic thead? or should maybe make a snob vintage thread so we dont get a bunch of poors rifles...lol jk jk

    Just got one of mine. L42 with transport case. Pick it up this week. As mentioned, feel like throwing up at these prices, but still giddy.

    Now to get its older brother with transport case. Have a Savage Enfield N4 but not Enfield with case...if anyone has one they need to get rid of???

    It nvr ends.


    Still looking forward to pics of this rifle!! ha.

    DT
     

    9/11

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    Well, I finally found my holy grail and not only found it, but won it at this past week's Poulin's Auction. This is a legit 1903a1 Marine Unertl sniper rifle with a low scope serial number. The rifle would have been originally sent to Quantico in 1937 for the shooting team and then sent to war once that started. It's estimated about only 250-300 of these rifles were ever made and today only 23 are known to exist. I was ecstatic and also felt like I wanted to throw up at the same time after I won it! Let's just say the collection got a little thinner in order to make this one happen. I'll be putting up more pictures once I receive it.
    Nice I got an A303 and I love the gun it shoots great its a sporterised model but in emaculate condition!
     

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    Forgetful Coyote

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    we need a Holy Grail pic thread...maybe I start one. ha. do we even have a vintage pic thead? or should maybe make a snob vintage thread so we dont get a bunch of poors rifles...lol jk jk

    Just got one of mine. L42 with transport case. Pick it up this week. As mentioned, feel like throwing up at these prices, but still giddy.

    Now to get its older brother with transport case. Have a Savage Enfield N4 but not Enfield with case...if anyone has one they need to get rid of???

    It nvr ends.


    Still looking forward to pics of this rifle!! ha.

    DT
    https://www.snipershide.com/shooting/threads/vintage-sniper-rifle-picture-thread.6253441/
     

    Boatninja

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    Any unit history on it?

    As a "survivor" I would expect it was school house or stateside through the wars and quickly sold to the armory gunny when surplussed.

    Got to find the picture of the Marine cleaning his in the Pacific. My favorite USMC 1903 picture.
    PLEASE post the picture if you find it.
     

    Forgetful Coyote

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    we need a Holy Grail pic thread...maybe I start one. ha. do we even have a vintage pic thead? or should maybe make a snob vintage thread so we dont get a bunch of poors rifles...lol jk jk

    Just got one of mine. L42 with transport case. Pick it up this week. As mentioned, feel like throwing up at these prices, but still giddy.

    Now to get its older brother with transport case. Have a Savage Enfield N4 but not Enfield with case...if anyone has one they need to get rid of???

    It nvr ends.


    Still looking forward to pics of this rifle!! ha.

    DT
    As far as my Holy Grail(s)..
    1) Its gotta be Ben Comfort"s custom Remington Model 30 target rifle
    http://sportsmanslegacy.com/firearm...-wimbledon-cup-engraved-inspired-elmer-keith/
    2) USMC Vietnam Douglas medium contour-barreled M70 sniper
    3) USMC 1903 Unertl 8x sniper

    and in no particular order after that... M41b Swede sniper, M39 SOV, No 4 Mk 1 T, K98 ZF39 or ZF4, or K98 mounted with Russian PEM(correct me if wrong, the Huns did in fact mount PEM's on their K98 snipers in some cases due to better cold weather performance, no?)...

    So basically every WW2 sniper 👍
     

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    sport10990

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    As far as my Holy Grail(s)..
    1) Its gotta be Ben Comfort"s custom Remington Model 30 target rifle
    http://sportsmanslegacy.com/firearm...-wimbledon-cup-engraved-inspired-elmer-keith/
    2) USMC Vietnam Douglas medium contour-barreled M70 sniper
    3) USMC 1903 Unertl 8x sniper

    and in no particular order after that... M41b Swede sniper, M39 SOV, No 4 Mk 1 T, K98 ZF39 or ZF4, or K98 mounted with Russian PEM(correct me if wrong, the Huns did in fact mount PEM's on their K98 snipers in some cases due to better cold weather performance, no?)...

    So basically every WW2 sniper 👍

    I actually completed my sniper collection this last summer. My goal was one from every major power of WW2. Now my snipers are

    WRA M1D
    Z prefix 1903a4
    Springfield 1903a1 Unertl
    Arisaka Type 99 Sniper
    Mosin PU
    Matching K98 ZF41
    Matching K43 Sniper
    Matching No4 Mk1 (T)

    I sold my M41B to help fund this unertl rifle.

     

    Calfed

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    As far as my Holy Grail(s)..
    1) Its gotta be Ben Comfort"s custom Remington Model 30 target rifle
    http://sportsmanslegacy.com/firearm/griffin-howe-300-hh-magnum-bull-gun-ben-comfort-1935-camp-perry-wimbledon-cup-engraved-inspired-elmer-keith/

    2) USMC Vietnam Douglas medium contour-barreled M70 sniper
    3) USMC 1903 Unertl 8x sniper

    and in no particular order after that... M41b Swede sniper, M39 SOV, No 4 Mk 1 T, K98 ZF39 or ZF4, or K98 mounted with Russian PEM(correct me if wrong, the Huns did in fact mount PEM's on their K98 snipers in some cases due to better cold weather performance, no?)...

    So basically every WW2 sniper 👍
    Last year I glommed Griffin and Howe build # 1x27, a bull gun based on a Springfield 1903 action chambered in 30.06. I wasn't sure what it was, because Griffin and Howe heavy barrel target rifles are uncommon.




    In researching mine, I learned of Ben Comfort's rifle and concluded that mine had also been built as a bull gun. From what I've learned, prior to Ben Comfort's use of a rifle chambered in 300 H&H magnum, most bull guns were chambered in 30.06 (like my rifle) and based on a 1903 Springfield action.

    I mounted a Lyman Super Targetspot on my rifle and comparing it to Ben Comfort's Wimbledon "Bull Gun" is what convinced me that mine was probably also conceived as a "bull gun".

















     
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