I had a chance to take a trip back in time recently and shot the Winchester Model 70 .30-06 using an 8-power Unertl scope, the same set up that the famous Carlos Hathcock used while he was in Vietnam. I was quickly brought back to reality when shooting this system. The fact that the guys using this rifle shot at distances exceeding 800 yards (1000+) on human sized targets, is a great accomplishment in itself. The Unertl Scope used during that time didn’t have the glass clarification that we have become so accustomed to. It’s almost like comparing your 1980’s television to today’s HD plasma flat screen, or VHS to Blue-ray.
The Winchester Model 70 is a bolt-action sporting/hunting rifle. The Model 70 was largely based on the Model 54, and is today still highly regarded by shooters and is often called “The Rifleman’s Rifle.” The sniper system shoots the M72 match ammunition loaded with 173-grain boat-tailed bullets (.30-06). The M72 173 grain .30-06 was something that I could familiarize myself with as it is fairly similar to the M118LR. As long as you understood the effects wind had on the projectile and understood the ballistic drop, you could do fine. The only problem was the fact that this scope reticle did not have something that all snipers use with modern-day sniper scopes, Mil Dots.
Mil Dots give you an accurate unit of measurement and a way of compensating for gravity and wind drift. Without them, it can be extremely tough to hold for the effects. It is an odd scope by today’s standards. There are no internal adjustments to zero these old style Unertls. The scope adjusts with turrets integral to the rear scope mount, and the tube of the scope floats inside adjustment pins.
Using this rifle, we shot at increments of 100 yards, all the way out to 1,000 to test our modern-day sniper skills. From 100 -500 yards, things were fairly easy to compensate. Stretching it past 500 and reaching out to 1000, put all of us in a humbling state of mind. I’m sure with a lot of practice and tons of time behind the rifle, it could become almost second nature, but for the time we had it, it wasn’t something to brag about. As a sniper of a modern era, I am truly amazed at what the guys were able to do using what they had at the time.
You can pick up a replica of the Unertl Scope online for an MSRP of around $550.00. If you get a chance, test it out for yourself.
*A USMC sniper uses his Unertl scope to search for enemy snipers in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, circa 1967.
Photo courtesy of the NRA
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