THE SNIPER HAS lurked in the shadows of war for over two centuries evolving from paid assassin to the most highly trained of infantryman during World War Two, undertaking the most extraordinary missions. Little wonder then that in the field of collecting militaria, for many the sniper rifle is one of the most sought after relics. Here is our pick of the most collectable weapons from WW2.
Serving as very small cogs in every nation’s military machine during World War Two were designated snipers armed with scope-sighted rifles. The damage such individual soldiers were able to inflict upon their enemies was out of proportion to the cost of their equipment and the time spent in their training. The reason was simple: fear. Sniper attacks were secret, sudden and deadly. A competent marksman in a good hide picking off an officer with a single shot could bring entire units to a standstill. Evidence of the feelings common troops had for snipers is evident in the snipers own preparations for the eventuality of capture whilst armed with a scope-sighted rifle. Many snipers chose to carry a sidearm to avoid the inevitable brutality capturing troops would meter out as revenge for their and their colleagues deadly attacks.
For many militaria collectors a sniper rifle is the ultimate acquisition not only due to relative rarity, but the thought of the extraordinary missions the weapon may have been part of. Although nearly all sniper rifles of the era were standard issue adapted to the sniper role by a fittment of a telescopic scope, each type had subtle engineering modifications to make it fit for the role. Unsurprisingly a period sniper rifle with scope comes at a cost. Expect to pay anywhere from around one to five or more thousand pounds. With this in mind, as with all our militaria guides, the underlying principle is buyer beware; research your subject thoroughly and know what you are buying.
Here are our top 5 picks of the most collectable deactivated World War Two sniper rifles:
1) Soviet Mosin-Nagant Model 1891/30 with PU scope
The Red Army’s 91/30 PU rifle was made in greater numbers than any other sniper rifle in history. But that’s not to say they are common, or uninteresting – entering service with Russia late in 1942, the 91/30 PU remained in Soviet service until at least the early 1970s. An iconic weapon, legend has it one of Germany’s most deadly snipers started using one of these weapons he picked up on the battlefield.
2) British Lee Enfield No. 4 MKI (T) with No.32 scope
Standard No. 4 rifles, selected for their accuracy during factory tests, were modified by the addition of a wooden cheek-piece, and telescopic sight mounts designed to accept a No. 32 3.5x telescopic sight. This particular sight progressed through three marks with the Mk 1 introduced in 1942, the Mk 2 in 1943 and finally the Mk 3 in 1944. Holland and Holland, the famous British sporting gun manufacturers, converted the majority of No 4 Mk I (T) sniper rifles.
3) American Springfield 1903A4 with M73 scope
The Springfield Model M1904A4 sniper rifle was a modified M1903A3 Springfield infantry rifle specifically designed for use by marksman and introduced in 1943. The M1903A4 had no iron sights, using a M73 (mil-spec Lyman Alaskan) or M73B1 (mil-spec Weaver 330C) 2.2X telescope. Famous for its successful use in many campaigns, including the beaches of Normandy.
4) German K98k with Zf41 scope
With origins as far back as the Great War, the Kar 98k was a direct descendant of the Mauser produced Gew, appearing as a short stock design. Starting from 1941 the short 1.5x Zielfernrohr 41 (Zf41) telescopic sight was fitted to some Karabiner 98k rifles for sharpshooting use. The Zf-41 was in fact the first attempt to provide the ordinary infantryman with a rifle capable of being used, if not for pure sniping, then at least for sharpshooting.
5) Japanese Arisaka T-97 with scope
Coming into service in 1937, the Type 97 rifle was basically a standard issue Type 38 Infantry Rifle with a scope and mount attached and the bolt turned down to clear the scope. There were at least eight scope makers that made scopes for the Type 97 rifle. The scope had the same official designation as the rifle, i.e. Type 97 and was mounted to the left to allow stripper clip loading.