A brief history on telescope rifle sights- Optical aiming devices on rifles have been around since the 17th century. The first documented modern telescope rifle sight was invented in the 1830’s. A man named Morgan James, a gunsmith had created the first documented rifle scope known as the Chapman-James sight.
In 1855, an optician from Syracuse, New York named William Malcom produced his own telescope sight that incorporated windage and elevation adjustments. These sights were between 3x-20x magnification. These sights became a common piece of equipment for sharpshooters in the American Civil War. In Charles Willson Peale’s “Riffle With a Telescope to it,” he depicts attaching some sort of telescope aiming device in the year 1776. Needless to say the history goes back hundreds of years now with mainstream adoption during the American Civil War.
Above is a picture of Union Sharpshooters equipped with heavy bench rest rifles. Notice the long metal tube above the bore of the rifle. This is one of the primitive aiming devices that first saw combat in the American Civil war.
First Mainstream Adopted Weapon Sight
Fast Forward to World War 1
One of the biproducts of war is the rapid expansion of technology. War drives innovation. War drives some of the brightest minds to create some of the best advances in medicine, machinery and weapons. Although the atrocities of war can shadow the creations of revolutionary equipment, none the less, the technological advancements are incredible. Above is a soldier utilizing a modernized telescopic sight. Looking at the timeline for the use of telescopes in combat, it was merely a generation removed from its inception. Primitive riflescopes, rifles, and ammunition had been relaced with centerfire rifle cartridges capable of lethality well past 1000 yards.
World War 2
M14 National Match
Introduction To The Modern Era Weapon Sights
Skip a generation and lets move into the modern era of Sniping. This where the most radical changes in technology have occurred in regards to the telescopic weapon sights. Not only were the previous generation of telescopic sights merely an afterthought, but they were nothing more than hunting scopes with some variation of a duplex style reticle. Nothing up until the 1980’s had spawned anything resembling the modern reticles or scope technology. With the need to engage targets not only during daylight hours but night-vision capable also, the modern tactical milling reticles were born.
Modern Weapon Sights
As previously stated, war creates some of the largest gains in technological advancements. The Military tactical mil-dot reticles were able to be used to measure, range and engage targets precisely. They were now able to make precise adjustments to account for wind, elevation, angle and movement speed. The U.S. Army re-opened their Sniper Course, and drove the long range shooting capabilities to the next level. Numerous companies had a hand in mainstreaming technologies such as reticle patterns per the needs of modern combat.