Vietnam War sniper rifle 30-06 or .308


July 19, 2008, 09:55 AM
I'm reading the book Marine Sniper, its about Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam. In the book it says that he uses a Winchester 70 in 30-06 during his first deployment, but later in the book it said that the marines were switching over to the Remington 700 in .308 win. Was this change due to the fact that .308 was more accurate, more widely available, or a mix of the two? Ballistic speaking, the 30-06 looks better to me but my .308 has never let me down in terms of accuracy.

PS please dont post something about your 7mm mag being better than both, thanks.

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July 19, 2008, 10:08 AM
the switch-over to 308 from 30-06 was due primarily to logistics. The entire corps was going to 308 and it was problematic to continue with the 30-06.

The early sniper rifles in Vietnam were Winchester Model 70 30-06 heavy barrel target models adapted for sniper use. Later they switched to a purpose built Remington 700. But the Winchesters remained in service until they were deemed obsolecent into the 1970's.

I saw one of these Model 70's still in inventory at Little Creek in the late 1980's, although it had probably been some time since an operator had checked it out.

Art Eatman
July 19, 2008, 10:09 AM
"Snipering" was an evolving thing during Vietnam. There had been sniper versions of the Garand and the Springfield in Korea, but the concept had largely fallen into disuse by the time we got into Vietnam.

So, they used what was readily available. At first, basically sporters, and commonly in the '06. '06 Match ammo was available. As more rifles of better accuracy were developed, and .308 Match ammo became more available, the .308 came into use.

Ingenuity led to the development of .50BMG rifles for sniping.

I guess that it's fair to say that various field expedients were tried, both for equipment and for techniques. This all took place over a period of years, with many variations...

July 19, 2008, 11:14 AM
From what I read in the book 'Sniper' by Adrian Gilbert, it seemed just a logistical problem. It is also the same reason why the military is so hesitant to purchase sniper rifles today in .300 WM and .338 lapua when even the .300 was clearly superior to the .308 and 30-06 even in the 60s.

And even if one is better than the other, Carlos was excellent with both.

Vern Humphrey
July 19, 2008, 11:21 AM
The Marines wanted the Model 70, but not the post-'64 version. When they went to buy more, Winchester wouldn't make the old, pre-'64 for them, and Remington was willing to bend over backwards to accomodate them. The rest is history.

July 19, 2008, 11:28 AM
The Army used a slightly modified M14 with the 7.52 Nato round.

Here's a link to some info and a picture of a guy from my old unit.

Vern Humphrey
July 19, 2008, 11:41 AM
I bullied my battalion commander into getting me two pre-M21s, M14s accurized by the Army MTU at Benning. I had one man who'd been through sniper school in my company, so I kept the other.;)

Eric F
July 19, 2008, 01:08 PM
If you really want to know, Call Southern Gun Works in Suffolk Va.(757) 934-1423 ask for Mike. He claimed that the owner is some how involved with the estate of Hathcock and aparently worked with him ect ect. sounded like a line of BS but they were both from SE Virginia

July 19, 2008, 01:57 PM

Did you actually know Waldron?

July 19, 2008, 02:08 PM
I can't answer the question with any degree of authority.

I just wanted to post that I have Carlos' Hatchcock's autograph. I had it placed in a protective covering, and it hangs on the outside of one of my firearms vaults. His autograph serves as a daily reminder of the debt of gratitude that I own to our nation's veterans who risked life and limb to allow me to live free.

Sorry to stray, just the man is a serious hero in my eyes. May he rest in peace.


July 19, 2008, 02:15 PM
7.62 X 51 NATO M14s were used as sniper rifles in Viet-Nam

1969 - These U. S. Army 25th Infantry Division snipers in Viet-Nam are equipped with M14 rifles.
The M14 rifles have Sionics SS-1 suppressors and AN/PVS-2 night scopes.

Provided by: Lee Emerson/Different's M1A site (

July 19, 2008, 02:27 PM
7.62 X 51 NATO M14s were used as sniper rifles in Viet-Nam

by the Army....:)

Golden Hound
July 19, 2008, 02:29 PM
Guy on the right looks like actor Jude Law (Vasily Zaytsev in Enemy at the Gates)

July 19, 2008, 02:44 PM
hell even 1903A4s were being used early in the war... if i can find them i've seen photos of snipers with 1903A4s

July 19, 2008, 02:47 PM
(QUOTE) "Guy on the right looks like actor Jude Law (Vasily Zaytsev in Enemy at the Gates)"

Yep, you beat me to it !!

July 19, 2008, 03:29 PM
I didn't know the guy. The only snipers I ever knew were strange at best and loners. It's a chance he was not in the 6/31st at all but was more than likely in the 3/60th 9th Division in Vietnam as one site shows the 3/60th as being where he was when awarded both DSC medals. However,his having served in the same year, 1969. in which two brigades of the 9th were pulled out of Vietnam he may have been reasigned to the 3rd Brigade and subsequently to the 6/31st. Waldron was the sniper with the highest score for the US military according to this wikopedia blurb:

SSgt Adelbert F. Waldron, or Adelbert F. Waldron III, (March 14, 1933 – October 18, 1995) was a United States Army sniper serving during the Vietnam War (9th Infantry Div.) who is little known, but who currently holds the highest number of confirmed kills for any American sniper in history; 109. The legendary Carlos Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills, Chuck Mawhinney had 103-both were members of the US Marine Corps. However, despite both of them being fairly well known, Waldron is all but unheard of. Waldron also was one of the few two time recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, both awarded for separate actions in 1969.

July 19, 2008, 04:11 PM
I was with the Ft. Carson AMU unit in 1968, and later 5th. Army AMU in 69-70. During that time, we were rotating our top rifle shooters in & out of Vietnam on a regular basis.

When they were in Vietnam, they were snipers, and when they came back, they were National Match competitors.

At that point in time, both units had a very difficult time getting any GI issue sniper rifles, so we were building our own.

I know for a fact of several bull-barrel 30-06 Model 70's being pulled out of heavy 1,000 yard position stocks and dropped into Model 70 Varmint rifle stocks with a new glass bedding job. Scopes were the same Unertal & Lyman target scopes used in NRA competition.

M-14 National Match rifles were scoped with Leatherwood mounts and whatever 3-9 variables we could scrounge up, usually Redfields.

I also know of some of our .30-378 Mag 1,000 yard rifles going to Vietnam, along with a years tour-length supply of hand-loaded match ammo.

We also designed, tested, and built a few Unertal scope mounts that would fit any Browning .50 MG in Vietnam, and I can assure you, you wouldn't want one shooting at you 1 1/2 miles away.

At that time, the Army Sniper program was the same people running the AMU programs & shooting in the AMU Bullseye competition stateside, and it was a very close-knit, and closed group, both here, and over there.

The only thing I have to say is, I always thought the Marines had a much better & more vocal press spokesman in Maj. Jim Land then the Army ever had in our program.
That sucker could flat out generate some press releases for the Marines!

The Army took a much more low-key approach, and just didn't talk about it.


Doug Kennedy
July 19, 2008, 06:38 PM
rcmodel, thanks for the history and your service to our country!

Rifleman 173
July 20, 2008, 12:24 AM
When sniping first got started in Viet Nam, it was a sort of hit-and-miss, by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation for the Army, Marines and Navy. Different ideas were tried out with various degrees of success. Most of the very first sniper rifles were 30.06 bolt action hunting rifles. These were okay except when in mass combat (human wave attacks) or in some close quarter fighting. The Army decided that they would up the shooting capabilities of its snipers by giving some of them accurized M-14 rifles. Then the U.S. Army's Shooting Team, most of them Olympic competition shooters, began to give input about shooting accuracy and long distance shooting. By the time I got involved in the Sniper Program, in July 1970, the new rifle of issue was the technologically superior XM-21 semi-automatic National Match sniper rifle. That rifle was a jewel to behold. I would never have thought that I would have been able to hit a human silhouette target at 900 meters but we all did. With Sniper School the failure rate was extreme. Only about one-third of the original class would complete the course. With the gear that we had, we were shooting at night what most foreign soldiers can shoot as a maximum in the daylight. Our daylight zeroing procedures started at 300 meters and went out from there. Most foreign armies think that the average infantryman of theirs is only able to effectively see and engage targets out to 300 meters. In other words, we started where the other guys stopped and went beyond them. What is a little known fact is that the enemy actually put out bounty posters on soldiers from different special units and, sometimes, they would put out a bounty poster on specific people by name. A number of snipers from my unit, to include me, had our names listed on such posters because the enemy feared us to the point of hatred and unreasonable fear. The enemy's fear of American snipers almost overwhelmed them to the point of paralysis. The lead sniper in my battalion had about 50 confirmed kills but the enemy supposedly had him blamed for over 200 kills in their accounting of things. I have attached a copy or bit of a copy of an old communist wanted poster for the death or capture of any American paratrooper from the 173D Airborne Brigade. I've also attached a copy of the unit patch of the 173D Airborne Brigade. In the wanted poster, which came out shortly after the Battle for Hill 875 and for Dak To Army Airfield, the enemy is willing to pay 100,000 piasters for an American paratrooper. That, if I remember right, amounted to about $5,000.00 in American money. By the end of the war in Viet Nam, most snipers were using some form of M-14/XM-21/M-21 sniper rifle in 7.62 NATO National Match caliber to great effect. This is why so many of the M-14/M-21 rifles have been brought out of mothball storage, updated and shipped to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are just too good to ignore.

Doug Kennedy
July 20, 2008, 12:21 PM
rifleman173. Great post and thanks for the history lesson. Thanks to guys like you that serve our country so we can live in the land of the free and home of the brave

July 20, 2008, 01:22 PM
We're pretty free here in Canada and somewhat Brave as well.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
July 20, 2008, 01:38 PM
So if most were using the M-21, then who/what/when/which units used the Rem 700 based rifle during that era?

Rifleman 173, thanks for all the great info.

July 20, 2008, 02:16 PM
The way it worked with 5th. Army in the late 60's is, the sniper team used a bolt-gun and an M-14.

The shooter used the bolt-gun, which as I said earlier, most likely would have been a converted 30-06 Model 70 Target rifle with a big honk'n Unertal or Lyman target scope on it in sliding mounts.
This is not a good gun for getting out of firefights!

The spotter carried the M-14 National Match to provide more firepower in the event they needed it to extract.

He also might have got to take the easy ones! :D

Later on, I understand the XM-21 finally became widely available for issue, and was used a lot in conjunction with suppressors and night vision scopes. But that was after my time.


July 20, 2008, 04:27 PM
Unertal or Lyman target scope on it in sliding mounts.

I want to know more about the sliding mounts...I remember reading in the books about Hathcock and others "pulling the scope back through the mounts", and I thought that was unusual.

Vern Humphrey
July 20, 2008, 04:35 PM
The way it worked with 5th. Army in the late 60's is, the sniper team used a bolt-gun and an M-14.
The 5th Army is a Conential Army Command, and was never in Viet Nam. Do you mean the 5th Infantry Division, or the 5th Infanty (regiment)?

If the former, I was a company commander there in '69 (A-1/61 IN0.

Vern Humphrey
July 20, 2008, 04:39 PM
I want to know more about the sliding mounts...I remember reading in the books about Hathcock and others "pulling the scope back through the mounts", and I thought that was unusual.

Scopes can be damaged by recoil. Some scopes of that era and earlier, such as the Unertal, had a mount that allowed the scope to slide in the mount. When you fired the rifle, the rifle recoiled, and the scope basically remained still, with the rifle moving backward under it.

After each shot, you had to reach up and pull the scope back into aiming position.

July 20, 2008, 04:40 PM
I want to know more about the sliding mounts...
Well heres a pretty good picture of one on a .22 target rifle.

Those scopes, either Lyman or Unertl, did not have internal adjustments like all scopes today. They were also pretty delicate and didn't handle recoil at all well.

So, the rear mount contained the adjustments.
The forward mount on the barrel was just the pivot point and was semi-solid.

Except, when the gun recoiled, the scope could slide foreword in the mounts and was not subjected to the recoil of the gun it was attached to.

The one on the .22 in the picture has a return spring just to the rear of the front mount, but many of them did not, or had them removed on larger caliber guns because of the heavy recoil & spring return really slapping the scope around on the 30-06.

Ones without the return spring had to be manually pulled back into battery with the mounts after every shot.


July 20, 2008, 05:00 PM
Do you mean the 5th Infantry Division, or the 5th Infanty (regiment)?5th. Infantry Division, (A-5 patch).
They were in Germany at the time I think, but the AMU shop & shooting teams were still at Ft. Riley KS the whole time, and fully operational.

I was TDY for two years from the 69th. Infantry Brigade KNG while active duty & stationed at Ft. Carson, shooting & gunsmithing for 5th. Infantry Division AMU at Ft. Riley.

My various company commanders at Ft. Carson probably didn't even know who, or where I was for a year and a half!


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