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GUNS Magazine Digital February 2011 - Page 52
Meets World War ii sniper rifles—how good were they? Mike “duke” venturino & dave Emary photos: Yvonne venturino couple of very popular World War II movies would have viewers think that a sniper could put a bullet right through his enemy’s rifle scope. Such was shown in both Enemy At The Gates and Saving Private Ryan made in the 1990s. not! It’s hollywood nonsense. A If such ever did happen, it was an accident. WWII sniper scopes were weak in power. In the European Theater of Operations (ETO) they ranged from a mere 1.5X with the German’s Zf41 to 4X, with that same nation’s ZF4. Coupled with coarse crosshairs and/or post reticles, such For the British test, Duke provided an original No. 4, Mk I (T) sniper rifle with original a 3.5X No. 32 scope in .303 British. Duke’s rebuilt US M1903 .30-06 is fitted with a 3X Leatherwood scope (top) and the original German K98k 8mm Mauser is fitted with Numrich reproduction 1.5X Zf41 scope. Duke’s US sniper rifles include an original US M1903A4 with original 2.5X Weaver 330 scope (top) and a new reproduction by the Gibbs Rifle Company of the M1903A4 with reproduction 2.5X scope. 52 allow at best a decent aim point on a human body at modest to moderate ranges. Perhaps the most limiting factor in WWII sniper marksmanship was the issue ammunition was just not of high enough quality in many cases. Last summer, I traveled to Nebraska for some special shooting with my friend Dave Emary, ballistician at Hornady. We are both into WWII history, and, between the two of us, we rounded up a variety of sniper rifles to test fire. Some were all-originals, some were facsimiles and some combinations thereof. For instance, my German K98k with Zf41 1.5X scope is an as-issued German rifle, even shown in the book Backbone Of The Wehrmacht Volume II. However, its original scope was too dim to use, so I’ve fitted it with a modern replica from Numrich Arms. In Nebraska, Dave has access to a private rifle range all the way to 1,000 yards. We had suitable rifles and a nice place to shoot. The trick was to find proper ammunition. From prior experience with modern ammo, we knew the rifles collectively were capable of good accuracy. What about wartime production ammunition? With some difficulty we searched out some modest amounts of proper military ammunition dating either from the 1939-1945 period, or in the case of the ’06s, we used some from the Korean War. Has such old ammo deteriorated? That’s where Dave being a ballistician was beneficial. He test fired our vintage military loads for pressure and velocity in the lab. The results can be seen in his charts. The .303-British stuff gave some problems in the form of hangfires. Therefore we pulled powder and bullets from the .303s and reloaded it in Winchester brass primed with Federal 210s. Nothing really changed in the rifle’s performance, so we attribute its relatively mediocre showing to the quality of the bullets. For comparison, in a couple of ’06 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • FEBRUARY 2011