USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle

The USMC had their own sniper rifle based on the Springfield, in addition to the M1903A4 Springfield Rifle for snipers adopted by the Army. Building on successful experience with modified M1903 Springfields dating back to World War I, in November 1943 the USMC adopted an M1903-A1 mounted with the Unertl 8x telescopic sight for sniper use. The scope was marked "USMC SNIPER" and serialized from 1000 to 2775. The scope came with a Micarta carrying case.

Drawing of Sniper equipped with USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle, described as 'special reference' M1903A1 with Unertl 8x target scope.  Marine is identified as a PFC with 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Bougainville, 1943
Drawing of Sniper equipped with USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle, described as 'special reference' M1903A1 with Unertl 8x target scope. Marine is identified as a PFC with 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Bougainville, 1943. Drawing from US Marine Corps 1941-45 , by Gordon Rottman, Plate C.

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USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle

The origin of the USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle was in 1929, when the Springfield National Match rifle was modified with a Type-C stock in place of the non-pistol grip Type-S "straight stock." In this new form, the NM rifle was designated as the M1903A1 National Match. In 1942, the Marine Corps chose the military version 8X Unertl telescopic target sight for use on the Springfield M1903A1 NM rifle, creating the "USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle." The rifle was issued to Marine Snipers on Bougainville and was used extensively and successfully by the Marines in the Pacific Theater of World War II as well as in Korea.

USMC M1903-A1/Unertl Sniper Rifle
USMC M1903-A1/Unertl Sniper Rifle.

Selection of M1903A1 NM Rifles for the Marine Corps

Marine Corps selection of M1903A1 NM rifles for sniper use was made after test-firing. Most had star-gauged barrels but ordinary barrels were used if they performed well. After Unertl scope blocks were installed, trigger pulls were adjusted and the latest pattern components installed. These included parts received from the Springfield Armory that were then reworked by Marine armorers. There was no correlation between serial numbers and barrel dates.

Bolts were carefully fitted and electro-pen engraved with the rifle serial number, then blued. There is no conclusive evidence that suggests that all bolts were blued. Bright NM bolts have been observed on M1903A1 sniper rifles.

The hand guards were modified to fit the small front scope block. Once a M1903A1/Unertl rifle had undergone the prescribed modifications by a Marine armorer, the rifle earned the right to be called a "Model 1941 Sniper Rifle." Some Marine Corps armorers adopted signature methods that included chalking or pencil-marking initials and rifle serial numbers inside the hand guards and stamping their initials on the stock.

USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle Characteristics

This section compiled by Larry Reynolds as presented in USMC publication, "History of the M1903A1 Rifle" by Dieter Stenger, Curator of Ordnance. The USMC Model 1941 Sniper Rifle characteristics cited are:

  • Serial numbers ranging from 900,000 to 1,532,000.
  • Rifles predating 1936 exhibit the second gas port as recommended by General Hatcher (believed USMC modification).
  • Rails on almost all rifles were polished (NM).
  • Centered rear Unertl scope block and butted against the rear sight.
  • Top of receiver was ground to bare metal where sight bloc holes are drilled. Bare metal usually visible with bloc installed.
  • Barrel punch mark at 6 o’clock, directly under the front bloc. Re-barreled rifles may not have mark.
  • Serial numbers found on stock exhibiting NM features.
  • NM heavy checkered butt plates.
  • Pre-1936 rifles stamped with D.A.L. cartouche. Post-1936 stamped with SA over SPG.
  • Milled trigger guards and housings. Staked screws on trigger guard.
  • Standard front sights without covers.
  • Standard 1905 rear sight with pre-World War I notch.
  • World War II replacement hand guards with single straight cut for windage knob.
  • Bolts polished, numbered and blued.
  • Bolts marked on top of root where it joins body for type of steel. Most NS for nickel steel, last production marked D1.
  • Early Hatcher Hole modified bolts have a single gas hole modified to larger hole.
  • Later bolts, for factory receivers with Hatcher Hole, have two gas holes in bottom.
  • Later bolt extractors marked CV (chrome vanadium).
  • Scope blocks lettered on bottom, 0 - rear and E - front.
  • 7.8 x 1-1/4" objective, 24", Unertl Target scope with 1/4 or 1/2 minute clicks and anodized Duraluminum mount.
  • Scope marked USMC SNIPER and serialized from low 1,000 to high 2,775.
  • Scopes finished with commercial blue.
  • 1047 Team Rifles were available at Philadelphia for conversion to sniper. Sale of surplus USMC 03 rifles (Marine Corps only) began Fall 1954, mostly to Marine officers.

Recommended Books about USMC Sniper Rifles

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