The unertl scope is something that doesn’t get discussed much in the shooting community. Simply, unertl refers to the brand of scope and not an actual design. It is correct to say unertl scope but unertl scope tube.
There were a wide variety of unertl scopes made during their run from 1915-1975 for government contracts and commercial sale. Unertls were most commonly found on high power rifles such as .30 caliber and 8mm Mauser and 1917 Enfield and 1903 Springfield rifles for military use and big game hunting arms like Winchester Model 70s, FN Brownings, Pre-’64 Win M70s, Remington 700s ,and others chambered in popular hunting calibers. The unertl scope was (and still is) one of the most rugged, reliable and durable scopes on the market. They were typically found with a 1/4 minute-of-angle (MOA) or finer crosshair reticle and adjustable parallax.
The unertl name is now mostly associated with a type of rifle scope tube used on high power rifles. Unertl tubes are basically a heavy duty tube that has a much thicker wall than most other tubes. This makes them much more rigid and less prone to bending or warping. They are also slightly shorter than most tubes which gives them a bit more strength. Because unertls are heavier, they tend to dampen a rifles recoil a bit better than other scopes, but unertls are not going to be as light and sleek as modern scopes either.
The unertl design was developed by Louis Unerth (Unertl) in 1913. He was an immigrant from Austro-Hungarian empire who came to work for the Iver Johnson Company in 1910 as an engineer. In 1912 Mr. Unerth began working on his own designs, primarily for military contracts. The unertl scope that we know today didn’t come into production until 1915 when he was able to convince Winchester to purchase 2000 of them chambered in .30-06 caliber for use on their M1917 rifle contract.
During World War I unertl scopes were mounted on United States Springfield Model 1903 rifles, the Enfield Pattern 1914 rifle (P14 Enfield), and Model 1917 rifles. After World War I unertls saw extensive use by the Marine Corps in their M1903A4 sniper rifles during WWII.
The unertl design was also used on several military sub-caliber devices for testing artillery ranges. During the war unertls were exported to other countries, including England, France, Canada and Russia for use as sniper scope’s on their own Mauser pattern sniping rifles.
Much like other military surplus guns unertl scopes were sold after their service life ended to commercial hunters and target shooters which increased unertl sales exponentially. In 1924 unertls were made available on the civilian market through mail order houses like Sears, Roebuck and Company for a retail price of between $30.00-45.00 per scope depending on tube size.
Unertls remained a popular commercial hunting sight up until the end of WWII when better scopes using newer technology started to gain widespread use in American hunting rifles. unertls continued to be sold by mail order houses such as Sears, Roebuck and Western Auto stores throughout the 1950’s and early 1960’s but unertl wasn’t able to keep up with technological advances in manufacturing or optical design and unertl was no longer made after 1975 when their contract for production ran out .
Although unertls are no longer being made, they are still popular with high power rifle shooters and collectors. They offer a unique look and feel, combined with excellent optical quality and durability that is unmatched by most modern scopes. Prices for unertls range from around $100.00-300.00 depending on condition and rarity.
Hopefully this article has given you a little more information about the unertl scope and it’s history. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them below. Thanks for reading!