WWII USMC Mann Niedner Winchester A5 Sniper

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
215
201
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
I'm starting a new research project so if you have one of these rifles please contact me. There has to be more of these out there. The Marines built 40 of these for Sniper Training around May 1941. Which 20 (each) went to the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions.

Then the Marines built 80, forty each to the forming 1st and 2nd Raider Battalions in Febuary/March 1942.

As of right now, only 3 of these are known. One that is about 300 digits off this one in the 1.25 range. Then a third that is in the 1.33 serial range that was actually sold at CMP auction.

I think most people that know of this variation, think of the Mann Niender as a WWI rifle, but it really wasn't. There were a 150 built in May and June of 1917 by Niedner for the Marines, but he was then fired as being a potential German Saboteur. Winchester then received the contact for the A5 sniper rifles, but that was not a Mann Niedner style rifle. By the time the Marines started to produce their own version of the Mann Niedner in house at the Philly Depot, the war was basically over. So the Mann Niender's were used in training or by the Marine rifle teams in between the wars.

Some Mann Niedners were built with a heavy Remington or WRA barrel, sporter or commercial stock with lyman 48 sights, and were called Free High Pressure rifles. The Marines nicknamed these rifles as "Free Rifles"

Just reading the docs, I do believe this receiver was likely at one time built into a Free High Pressure rifle for the Marine rifle team. That is why I think it has the lyman 48 sight holes. The holes were drilled before it was parked the last time, so I do think they were drilled while in service.

At the start of WWII, almost all of the Mann Nienders left in the Marine Corps inventory had been broken down and show up as loose components in storage at the Philly Depot. It appears at the start of WWII, the Marines just removed the parts from storage and built sniper rifles out of them.

As for this particular receiver, I believe it was in a shipment of 50 1923 National Match Rifles that the Marines had kept in 1928. At least one from this shipment was built into a Free High Pressure rifle, which is still located at Quantico. I assume this one was as well.

The serial is 1257998. Serial on the bolt is faint, but is 1277332. Barrel is a 5/38 and has the same vise pattern as you see on the Unertl Special Target rifles. The Marines drilled the Hatcher hole, and put in a 2nd gas relief hole in the bolt. The bolt is a straight handle J5.

If you do have one of these rifles please contact me. I don't think a lot of research has been done on the WWII Mann Nienders yet. The Unertls have always overshadowed this rifle, and everyone always thinks of these rifles as only a WWI rifle.

But the WWII Mann's have a very interesting history. For sure 11 of these were used on the Canal and probably more that were not recorded. One was pictured in use on Bougainville. The 5th Marine Division received 20 in 1944 and the 5th Division participated in action on Iwo Jima.

These probably saw a lot more action than ever has been recorded as the entire war the Marines kept on confusing this rifle with the 8X Unertl Sniper. Everyone had a tendency in the Marines to just call them both the 1903 Sniper in logs and official reports. Which caused mass confusion for the HDQ Marine Corps.

These were also the main training rifles for the Marines that went to sniper school in 1943 and 1944.

Again if you have one of these please contact me, there has to be more of these out there.

P1060756.jpg

P1060908.jpg
P1060667.jpgP1060675.jpgP1060738.jpgP1060804.jpg
P1060668.jpg

P1060710.JPG
 

Attachments

Last edited:

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
215
201
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
This WWII A5 program I believe has long confused some first hand accounts of Marines and also some of the authors in our books. The more actual documents we find, it is clear the Marines were confused as well.

You have two very different sniper programs running at exactly the same time. Then both rifles share some similar features that to the average 20 year old Marine, I could see them getting easily confused. Especially when they were asked about it 50 to 70 years later.

What essentially damned the Unertl Sniper rifle in WWII was a 1943 Field Repot by the Marine Raiders stating the 1903 Sniper was not effective in combat. They state a regular M1 was just as useful in the hands of a trained sniper. But it's still really unclear if the Raiders ever had any Unertls at all. But they for sure had the A5's.

This is the Raider Report that condemend the Unertl. It's very likley this was actually about the A5's.

Raider report that condemned the unertl.jpg



Which I've shot both of these rifles. The A5 is nothing at all compared to the Unertl sniper. I would rather use a regular M1 in combat than the A5 anyday.

It's probably likely any bad press you have ever heard on the Unertl Sniper in combat, either in books or online, was probably a confusion between the A5 and the Unertl. What little I can find that clearly is detailing the Unertl by name in combat, has always been very positive.

But here is a side by side comparison bwt a real Unertl Sniper and the A5. I could see how they confused so many back then and even today.

P1070028.jpg


I think the A5 is also the reason that there are claims that regular rifles were used in the building of Unertl Snipers. Of the 3 A5's known so far they were also at one time team rifles as well. But they look like the normal complete Marine rebuilds. Unlike the Unertls which still retained the original SA finishes and the NM features.

I think the sightings of these A5's have lead to the story of the Marines building Unertl snipers on regular rifles.

It's pretty clear in the docs over and over, all Unertl Snipers were NM rifles. But even the Mariens called the A5 a standard rifle.

rifle team rifles vs standard lyman team rifles.jpg
 

sandwarrior

Sergeant
Belligerents
Apr 21, 2007
5,226
805
219
in yooperland
Wow! cplnorton, you've brought amazing pics and story to the forefront again. Interesting about your pics of the A5, the pic in Bougainville has the M1A1 Thompson with a drum mag. and the guy in the forefront has a knife that looks like a Sykes-Fairbain, not a Kabar.

I find the Thompson interesting as I understand the drum type magazine was dropped for it's lack of reliability. I wonder where the guy traded to get that knife. Raiders had a knife like that I thought.
 
  • Like
Reactions: cplnorton

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
215
201
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
You do see drum mags on some of the 1928 Thompsons in the Marine Pics. I think I even have pics of them using them as late as Okinawa. Personally I would have stuck with stick mags if I had used a Thompson in combat. :)

But I imagine the knife is a Marine Raider Stiletto. The three Marines in that Bougainville pic are identified as 3rd Div Marines. But I have always wondered if that was a mistake. You have two weapons in that pic that I can only trace to the Marine Raiders, the A5 and the Stiletto. Plus the Raiders were on Bougainville. I guess it's possible they borrowed/acquired some for the pics, or even used them. But I just wonder if those are actually 3 Marine Raiders who were misidentified.
 
  • Like
Reactions: LG65CM

rth1800

Member
Belligerents
Sep 16, 2009
5,658
1,508
219
I will post up some photos tonight. I am not sure but I was told that was the original purpose. The scope case is too small for the USMC Unertl.
 

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
215
201
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
Interesting...

How can you tell?
If it was real, it would literally be a one off. Nothing on it matches up to a real USMC Sniper. The thing is when you get these sniper rifles together, you see very distinct patterns. The Marines are very much a creature of habit and you can tell it in their work. LIke for example I have detailed pics of about 30 Unertl sniper rifles, which this one is half way trying to clone, and they are almost all identical.

There are little tweeks that the Marines did that are dead giveaways, plus serial ranges and barrel dates. It's getting really hard to clone a Marine sniper rifle and have it pass.

The distinct advantage we have now is, we have thousands of pages of unpublished team and sniper records from this era that deal in nothing but these specific rifles. So they give a lot of clues what to look for. For example many of these weren't released till 2012 at the Archives and Senich's scout sniper book which had been previous the gold standard on these rifles was written on about 70 pages of sniper docs, we have thousands. That is just how much more info we have now, that we have only had access to for a few years.

This rifle doesn't show any traits of being USMC except for one. But that trait is VERY poorly done. Otherwise I think someone faked the one and only trait that even remotely ties it to the USMC. :(

My thoughts of this rifle, it was someone's scoped match rifle back in the day, most likely mounted by a civilian gunsmith. Someone found it and faked the one USMC trait on it to what we say is correct, and that is where is stands now.

I do think the scope blocks were mounted back in the day, I just don't think they were put on there by the Marines.