If you are a fan of the Unertl type external adjustable scopes for your vintage single shot rifle, you are well aware that a Unertl, Lyman or Fecker scope, in just about any condition, is an expensive proposition.
(Stevens 44 1/2 with Unertl 1oX external mount scope)
Unertls in good condition are demanding, and getting, upwards of $1000 dollars. So if you have older eyes or simply want to relive the target and sniper rifles of the past, what do you do?
Enter Hi-Lux Optics Co, maker of a line of scopes called Leatherwood ( http://hi-luxoptics.com/ ).
Leatherwood has a vast catalog of scopes. From totally modern target and tactical scopes to a line of 1800 / 1900 vintage William Malcolm reproductions. Just the thing for those of us born 125 years too late!
Here is what Leatherwood has to say about their William Malcolm scopes:
Fine Vintage Style Riflescopes for Fine Vintage Style Rifles
Malcolm is the oldest name in scope manufacturing, established in 1855. Leatherwood / Hi-Lux Optics has stepped back in the time to once again produce this historic line of telescopic rifle sights, bringing to today’s shooter authentic styling with the added benefits of modern scope production, including far brighter fully multi-coated lenses and sealed tube construction. The finest quality reproduction vintage style riflescopes available today! Three basic models cover scoping needs, from late percussion muzzleloaders through the black powder cartridge rifle era and for the early “smokeless cartridge” rifle models. Both the long 1860s-1870s style “Wm. Malcolm” scope and the shorter late 1880s-1890s style models come with appropriate and authentically styled mounts of those periods.
Wanting to add a scope to a vintage Stevens 44 1/2 rifle I recently acquired, I purchased a William Malcolm 18″, 3/4″ Tube, 6X scope model number M634181.
This scope is a fixed 6 power and includes a set of very simple front and rear external adjustable mounts as was available during this scopes period of manufacture.
At the time of this writing, this scope sold for $280 at various online suppliers ( http://www.buffaloarms.com/Detail.aspx?PROD=164753 ) and it includes the mounts shown in the picture above.
When I received the scope I mounted it to a Winchester 1885 BPCR in 45-70 as my Stevens 44 1/2 was out having the barrel rebored and chambered from 32-40 to 38-55.
Once mounted to the Winchester 1885, off to the rifle range I went.
I soon realized what I had was a very nice optical scope with no so great adjustable mounts. The optics were crystal clear with a nice fine cross hair. No issues with the optics
Now before I continue. The included mounts might be fine for hunting or plinking at one known distance, but they were totally inadequate for any type of long range shooting where you will need to adjust the scope for different distances. The turrets were simply very crude and settings were not repeatable.
The search was on for a set of mounts that might make this great piece of optics into a workable Black Powder Cartridge scope.
A set of Unertl mounts proved to be “unobtainium”. Every time a set showed up on the various auction sites or in a classified ad, they sold for much more than I was willing to spend.
I even went so far as building a set of external adjustable mounts out of a set of calipers!
You can read all about the making of these rings elsewhere in this web site. ( http://rvbprecision.com/shooting/fabricating-a-unertl-type-scope-mount.html ) This mount works great. But it is used on another rifle and I simply don’t have the time to make another one.
I found a company called DZ Arms that offers a very nice set of Unertl type mounts ( http://www.hepman.com/images/dzarms/index.html ) But at $400 a set, they were more than I wanted to spend for a less than $200 scope. But the quality and reviews report they are every bit as good as the vintage Unertl mounts, and in fact are probably better as more modern machining is used to manufacture them.
Around this time, the folks from Leatherwood introduced an external mount, Vietnam Era, USMC type sniper scope. From the available pictures, the mounts for this scope mirror the Unertl type mounts.
Here is what Leatherwood has to say about their Vietnam Era Sniper Scope:
The 8X USMC-Sniper Scope is a piece of history. One of the most recognized names in military sniping during the Vietnam conflict was Marine Corps marksman Carlos Hathcock. During his two tours, he was credited with 93 confirmed kills. The rifle he relied on for very precise long range shot placement was a Model 70 Winchester, of .30-06 caliber, topped with an 8x USMC Sniper scope – very much like the rifle shown at the lower right.The accompanying photo at the lower right shows an 8X USMC Sniper Scope on a 1903a1 rifle. Scopes of this design, with micrometer click external adjustment, were once favored by long-range precision shooters, and quite a few different scope manufacturers offered very similar models. Today, an original USMC marked scope in mint condition can be hardly found or at very high value. Leatherwood/Hi-Lux Optics is now adding an extremely well built 8X USMC-SNIPER model to its Wm. Malcolm line of vintage style riflescopes. Not only will this scope match the originals for extremely precise adjustment of windage and elevation, the new made scope also offers the advantages of modern lens making, with fully multi-coated lens surfaces for maximum light transmission. This scope offers the brightest, clearest, and sharpest optics ever in a riflescope of this design. The scope will be marked with the Wm. Malcolm name over the USMC-SNIPER model designation, and each will be serial numbered – as were the original USMC models.
When I called Leatherwood to ask about purchasing the mounts separately, I was told this was possible! The only online retailer I could find that had them in stock was Midway USA ( http://www.midwayusa.com/product/534283/leatherwood-hi-lux-william-malcolm-usmc-sniper-scope-mount-front-and-rear-fits-1903-springfield-matte ) The price at the time of this writing is $246.00 for the set. Two bases and screws are included in the price. If these mounts are half way decent, this is a bargain!
I ordered up a set and they were on my door step in two days! Record time I might add!
My Stevens 44 1/2 38-55 barrel was back so I wasted no time in installing the mounts and the William Malcolm 18″ short scope. Pictured here on the top barrel assembly. ( The bottom barrel in 219 Zipper is wearing a vintage Unertl 10X scope in Unertl mounts. The Stevens 44 1/2 is a “Switch Barrel” design. Multiple barrels can be fitted to the action to give you different shooting opportunities)
So let’s review the Leatherwood mounts….
First, they are a near copy of the Unertl mounts. The rear mount features brass turret construction and a steel body.
The rear mount turrets have click stops at 1/4 MOA when the bases are mounted the proper distance apart. And 15 MOA adjustment per rotation. The rear base features 125 MOA of elevation travel and +/- 54 MOA of windage adjustment.
The adjustment points feature “F” tabs for the scope to ride against. I this way there is very little contact with the scope and the bottom of the turret is not in contact with the scope tube.
The rear ring is a split design and a TORX screw can be turned to lock the turrets or to apply more friction as needed. A TORX wrench is included:
A single spring loaded piston keeps the scope tube firmly against the turrets:
The rear and front mounts will accept either “POSA” or standard bases and they are very secure.
The thumb wheels ride on an internal threaded rod rather than simply having the mount drilled and taped:
The front mount is of a sliding configuration to allow the scope to slide forward to absorb recoil:
The following three pictures show the scope sliding forward in the mount.
At this point the scope would need to be pulled back to prepare for the next shot.
There is a recoil spring available that will push the scope back after each shot. I chose to simply pull the scope back after each shot. In the future I might add the recoil spring.
I’m extremely impressed with the front mount. When installed properly, there is zero movement side to side. And zero movement up and down. An extremely rigid mount.
This is partly accomplished by the use of a slotted front spring piston that holds the front of the scope firmly centered and tightly against the scope tube.
And here are the parts that make up the front piston:
I hope you can see how the piston straddles the tab mounted to the top of the scope and keeps it located perfectly. Nice!
So…How did it perform at the range you ask……
PERFECTLY! I clicked up down and left to right and back again and the POI was repeated as good as I could shoot on that day. Nothing loosened up. I never lost point of aim after firing 50 rounds of 250 grain 38-55 loads.
So the good……Inexpensive Unertl type mounts
Repeatable and no loss of POA
POSA or Standard mounting
Click type turrets with 125 MOA vertical adjustment available
The Bad…………Inexpensive. This leads to rough surface finishes and rough threads. ( I cleaned out all the grease and grit in the turrets and the threads for the turrets and this improved function markedly)
Click Turrets are not allowed in some Black Powder competitions. I haven’t attempted, but I bet this can be rectified by taking the turrets apart and removing some type of detent device.
They are not Unertl and you get no bragging rights… 🙂 ( Paint them silver and no one will know from 10 feet!)
So there you have it in a nut-shell. A quick review on some reasonably priced Unertl type mounts for those of us lost in the last two centuries!
I hope you enjoyed it!