Unertl vs. Leatherwood 1903 Scope Help

Jul 30, 2012
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#1
Hey guys, so I bought a Gibbs 1903a4 a while back and I really like the gun, but I really don't like the 2.5x scope.... :LOL:

I'm looking to swap the scope for something a little more friendly for longer ranges without putting something modern on...

I've been reading for a while, but haven't really found a good answer, so here we are. I'm thinking of going the unertl route with this gun. I know it's not necessarily proper, and I'd never mess with a piece of history, but this is a reproduction and I want to want to shoot it more.

The two options I'm looking at are the leatherwood USMC scope, which I've heard has crap mounts, but I haven't really heard anything else negative outside of that. Or I get an Unertl target scope that is close to the USMC one as possible...

If you were going down this path, what would you pick or am I overlooking so better options?
 
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Apr 28, 2012
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#4
The main issue if you get the Unertl style scope is, they do mount on the 03A4 base. See the Unert scope has to be mounted at 7.2 inches from center to center of the blocks. So the clicks of the adjustment on the scope are 1/4.

See the 03A4 M73B1 is an internally adjusted scope. But the Unertl USMC scope is a fixed tube, and all adjustment is in the micrometer that mounts on the rear block.

I don't know of any way to mount it on your A4 without drilling and tapping the receiver and barrel. There is only one hole in the front nose for an A4 redfield mount, and the Unertl mount takes two. So you would have to ad for sure another hole in the reciever, plus drill the barrel. And just remove the Redfield style A4 mount, and add Unertl O&E blocks.

You would be better to find another internally adjusted scope.

Army 03A4 vs USMC Unert

P1330224.JPG
 
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FatBoy

Chris Hayes, Nashville TN
Jul 29, 2001
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#5
the stock,sight base etc., are all different BUT a good Smith can change it. My buddy builds a lot of these rifles each year, split between the models.

The direction you go is going to be personal. You'll end up spending around $750 for a 1.5" Unertl with a parallax head. 16X looks just like an 8x but real deal 8x Unertls are like $7000 now. Save $6300 and get a 12 or 16x, they're nice. The Smith work is also probably going to be a couple hundred plus maybe $100 on parts if you don't change the stock or bolt handle. You can save a little on the scope by going with a Lyman.

Good modern scope or rebuilding, either way, you're probably going to be in the $1000 neighborhood.
 
Jul 30, 2012
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Houston, TX
#6
Hey FatBoy, ya I was looking at some Unertl Target scopes as well as the repro scope. Not sure which way I want to go as I've heard the repro mounts are shit. I'm definitely aware of the cost as I spent about $1,200 getting a mauser k98 outfitted with a scope and getting it to "Sniper Spec".
 
Jul 30, 2012
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Houston, TX
#8
Don't need it for comps, possibly yet, although that is something I'd like to get into, however I just don't enjoy using the scope that mine has on it. I get no joy shooting the rifle, since the crosshairs on the reticle are twice the size as the steel plates I shoot at.

Does anyone have any first hand knowledge/experience with this website?

http://unertl.alexweb.net/for_sale.htm
 
Sep 14, 2012
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Savannah, GA
#10
you're better off with a Lyman than a repro, unless you need 8x for the CMP sniper games.
Not necessarily... Leatherwood makes some very good repro scopes. I don’t have first hand experience with their USMC 8x reproduction scopes, but i can say that their M73 and M82 2.5x scopes are better than the originals.
 

FatBoy

Chris Hayes, Nashville TN
Jul 29, 2001
842
262
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Nashville, Tennessee
#11
My gunsmith used one for his latest CMP build. the 8x scope is acceptable. the black mounts are no Unertl. The adjustments at 600 yards were nowhere near as precise. BUT, once it was zero'd in it held zero. We'll see how it does Saturday. If it tracks, maybe it'll be a keeper.

If someone had an extra set of Unertl mounts laying around, they could build a hybrid for just the CMP matches. If you're not going to shoot CMP, get the 10, 12 or 16x. They are great.
 
Jul 30, 2012
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Houston, TX
#12
My Zielsechs on my K98 has no fine windage adjustments and the drop adjustment has no clicks or anything.... haha so I'm not worried about being a scalp with this, just can't stand the 2.5x scope on it.

My gunsmith used one for his latest CMP build. the 8x scope is acceptable. the black mounts are no Unertl. The adjustments at 600 yards were nowhere near as precise. BUT, once it was zero'd in it held zero. We'll see how it does Saturday. If it tracks, maybe it'll be a keeper.

If someone had an extra set of Unertl mounts laying around, they could build a hybrid for just the CMP matches. If you're not going to shoot CMP, get the 10, 12 or 16x. They are great.
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#14
Im looking for an original Unertl right now.

Ive tried to contact Dewey Greiner on that site without making contact.

If you get intouch with him please forward me the good info.

There are lots of original Unertls out there depending on how picky you want to be on details.

Im looking for a specific 1.25" combination target scope. It will take time but Ill come across it.

If you are fine with the Leatherwood scope go for it. I highly recommend the modifications proposed over at the CMP site if you intend that product to give you good service.

If you are patient you will get a much better scope waiting for a Unertl.

If you have either an A3 or M1941 built I recommend using the CMP.

The M1941 mounts a much better target scope. The A3 is better suited to combat and capable for what it was intended to do. You need to decide which how far and what matters to you in your project.

My decision...

I51uEi4.jpg
 
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Jul 30, 2012
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#15
Ya, I know it would look proper my A4 since all the period correct ones were A3's, but I don't like my scope haha. I'll probably get a unertl if I can get in touch with him.
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#16
Ya, I know it would look proper my A4 since all the period correct ones were A3's, but I don't like my scope haha. I'll probably get a unertl if I can get in touch with him.
Just buy some one inch rings for the Redfield Jr base and choose any number of great vintage scopes to shoot with if comps and authenticity dont matter.

I have a beautiful 4X kollmorgen I paid short money for that has incredible glass for its era and coin slot adjusters that are solid as hell.

Save the lack of magnification it would be way more field friendly than the Unertl.
 
Jul 30, 2012
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Houston, TX
#17
Just buy some one inch rings for the Redfield Jr base and choose any number of great vintage scopes to shoot with if comps and authenticity dont matter.

I have a beautiful 4X kollmorgen I paid short money for that has incredible glass for its era and coin slot adjusters that are solid as hell.

Save the lack of magnification it would be way more field friendly than the Unertl.
I don't need it to be exact, but if I'm going to go way out there I'll just put a modern scope on and call it a day. I'm 100% getting either an unertl or the leatherwood.
 
May 16, 2012
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#19
To answer your question, the Leatherwood scopes are good and brighter than the original Unertls. However the Chinese screws used on the mounts are too soft and need to be replaced. The turret clicks are iffy, and typically better on a real Unertl, but for $550 the Leatherwood is a good scope and mine has worked well since 2012 (I replaced the screws around 2015, as a pre-caution).

Years ago I spotted someone with a 1903A4 but with the civilian version of the 4x Bear Cub. That scope can be bought for $150 or so, and is is decent for the money and its a real 1950s era scope. They even have a nice dark grey finish (tube is 26mm diameter, and aluminum). The USMC used a similar scope called an MC-1 but they are $4k scopes with large, click-adjustable turrets. Very rare.
A lot of guys think this 4x configuration is not historically correct as only C.J. Harrison's book makes any reference, but my guess is some Marine made 1 or 2 for testing back in the 1950s and Harrison saw it, or heard about it so he put it in his book.

Anyhow, I noted that the front handguard was sanded down/notched to allow clearance for the front bell. Not crazy about that, so I think the slightly higher rings would look better. It is possible that CMP might allow this configuration, but its controversial.

1903a4.1[1].jpg

Personally I would not put an 8x Unertl or 8x Leatherwood clone on an 1903A4 as it would look really odd as the military never fielded an A3 with that long scope. I suggest a 4x scope with taller rings than shown above as an option if you can't stand the 2.5x scopes.

BTW, I have seen guys shoot at Quantico with a vintage 1903A4 with a vintage 2.5 Lyman Alaskan with a cross hair reticle and make good hits at 1000 yards. In 2017 this guy let me try 2 shots after the competition with this rifle with that 2.5x scope, and much to my surprise - I hit the 9 and 10 ring at 1000 yards that day with those 2 shots(!) I think it was mostly luck, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless, as this configuration at least looks "correct". The reticle is pretty thin in the vintage scopes, possibly thinner than current reproductions.

IMG_5983.JPG

Good luck with whatever you do, but a 4x "vintage" scope with internal adjustments would look much better on a 1903A4 replica.
 
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Apr 28, 2012
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#20
Years ago I spotted someone with a 1903A4 but with the civilian version of the 4x Bear Cub. That scope can be bought for $150 or so, and is is decent for the money a real 1950s era scope. They even have a nice gark grey finish (tube is 26mm diameter, and aluminum). The USMC used a similar scope called an MC-1 but they are $4k scopes with adjustable turrets. Very rare.
A lot of guys think this 4x configuration is not historically correct as only C.J. Harrison's book makes any reference, but my guess is some Marine made 1 or 2 for testing back in the 1950s and Harrison saw it, or heard about it so he put it in his book.

Anyhow, I noted that the front handguard was sanded down/notched to allow clearance for the front bell. Not crazy about that, so I think the slightly higher rings would look better. It is possible that CMP might allow this configuration, but its controversial.
The Army as well trialed these Bear cub scopes, and the Army even had the Marine version with turrets with the loud audible clicks. But they trialed them on the M14. I have the report on them. I want to say it was early 60's, and they mounted both styles, the bear cub and and USMC turret type on a pachmayer mount on the M14.

But like you, I love that scope. I have a real 8X Unertl and a real 4X USMC Kollmorgen, and the Kollmorgen is hands down a better scope by leaps and bounds. I even liked it better than the 10X Unertl on the 40A1. :)
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#21
I have a 4X Kollmorgen with the commercial capped coin slot turrets.

It is vey clear and exudes quality.

Lots of brass in manufacture.

I'm thinking the adjustable turrets used the coin slot somehow just as an add on to the commercial scope rather than a complete new assembly.

Love to see prints comparing the two.
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#22
Love to see prints comparing the two.
I think they are different. Don't quote me, but I remember in those documents from Kollmorgen they talk about the bear cub and USMC style scope and there was a big price difference to the Govt between them. I don't think it was a simple conversion. But it's been at least two years since I read those docs, so I might be wrong.

Here's some pics of it. I'm not that familiar with the commercial one, other than in passing.

P1330620.JPG

P1330624.JPG P1330629.JPG
 
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pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#23
Body of commercial looks similar, erector housing may be closer to center, and If I recall right when you open the caps there are two screw on the brass coin slot system.

I'll go down and get some pictures after dinner

I'm wondering if bottom cup screws down on existing cap threading than marked adjustment cap fits over and gets screwed down onto adjustment mechanism.
 
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May 16, 2012
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#24
The civilian Bear Cub has simple "coin slot" turrets that have no detents. The USMC turrets have click adjustments with all kinds of springs and small bearings to give it both audible and tactical adjustments (1" inch per click at 100 yds for both windage and elevation). Very different turret design b/t the military scope and civilian scope....

Kollmorgen_Bear_Cub_left_caps_removed.JPG
 
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pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#25
Here is my Stith Kollmorgen.

The outer profile matches the USMC scope despite my memory thinking the erector housing was closer to center.

P3127852.JPG

P3127853.JPG

Its a tank of a scope. Clear view and razor sharp thin crosshairs.

and the turrets.......

Elevation

P3127854.JPG

windage

P3127855.JPG

Note the screws on the adjusters.

Im guessing this scope and the USMC scope have a lot in common.

I dont know whats under those MC-1 scope caps but Im thinking a gear and a toothed clicker is all.
 
Jun 11, 2013
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#26
In the movie "Saving Private Ryan" the prop folks humped up an M1903A4 sniper with a Unertl (or possibly a Lyman) target scope. In closeups from the film you can see the scope is installed in ¾" Redfield rings but the external style Unertl mounts are retained (mounted backwards!) as dummies.

The best course of action IMO as has been suggested.
1. Forget the long skinny target scopes which were essentially a flop in combat anyway. The Unertl order was cancelled after about 3 or 4 months.
2. Get some 1" Redfield (or Leupold STD) rings which will fit your Redfield JR base.
3. Select and install the best scope that fits your particular needs and budget.

Going this way does not require any additional holes in the receiver and or barrel; no modification of the barrel guard and is totally reversible.

Good Luck :)

Regards,

Jim
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#27
Hey Jim it's good to see you again. I haven't seen you running around the forums in a while, and I was wondering if everything was ok with you.

In fact I even asked some people if they had seen you around. lol

But good to see you again, and always love reading your posts on the A4. :)
 
Feb 16, 2017
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#29
I have a leatherwood 8x on a 1903A1 and an Unertl 15X Ultra Varmint on a Model 70 Bull Gun. While the leatherwood scope is good the mounts are terrible if you do anything other than leave them zeroed and the bases are soft and deform easily. The unertl mounts with the clicks are vastly superior in construction and operation to the leatherwood. If your just looking for a shooter my recommendation would be to find an unertl with a 1" tube as they are much clearer and brighter than any of the 3/4" ones.

However if you decide on nostalgia and go with the leatherwood scope DZ Arms makes a set of mounts that match the quality of the unertl mounts.

Now if only I could track down a 36x Programmer that doesn't cost more than a Gen 2 Razor . . .
 

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pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#33
Its a rare scope $4K was the price a few years ago.

Will be interesting to watch.

Judging by the hand model not a spring chicken. Probably knowledgeable collector.
 
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