Hi-Lux Optics Vintage Scopes

Hi-Lux Optics Vintage Scopes

The U.S. military got a comprehensive education in sniping during World War I. Troops at the time were shooting Springfield Armory M1903 rifles equipped with either the 1908 or 1913 model Warner & Swasey (W&S) telescopic musket sights. Dismal in performance by today’s standards, these sights represented the best technology of the times. Both had an odd sight offset and a mounting system that made it difficult for the shooter to put accurate rounds on target.

While only two models of W&S sights saw action during World War I, there were other telescopic sights in use within the military’s competitive shooting teams, and a few of them were in testing to be fielded. With the W&S sight offset issue solved, the Winchester A5 and Winchester Model 1918 scopes showed great promise. However, as soon as World War I ended, the military halted further funding, testing or fielding of these fine scopes.

The next time sniper rifles and optics hit the military’s radar was in March 1941. The U.S. wasn’t involved in World War II yet, but the war was already raging in Europe. The United States Army Ordnance Department made design improvements to the M1903 rifle and awarded Remington a contract to produce them. On September 11, 1941, Remington received its first order to produce 208,000 M1903s with a specified rate of 1,000 rifles per day. On November 24, 1941, the production order was increased by another 74,000 rifles, and on December 13, 1941 it increased again, by another 100,000.

By October 1943, most M1903 rifle orders would be modified to specify an M1903A3 variant, and by early 1943, the Ordnance Board gave Remington orders to begin production of the M1903A4 variant.

The U.S. military was short on sniper rifles, and there was little thought or selection given to their design. The A4s weren’t much more than a M1903A3 rifle, except that they were modified to accept a commercially available telescopic sight. They had a scope mount attached to the top of the receiver, the front sight was removed and a pistol grip stock, similar to the M1903A1, along with a modified bolt handle was incorporated to allow the bolt handle to clear the scope when cycled.

In the rush to field sniper rifles, the first wave of scopes were purchased right off the shelf from W.R. Weaver Co., the 2.5X Model 330C. That same scope was later purchased under a military contract as the M73B1. (The two only differ in external markings.) When the M73B1 scopes were unavailable, Lyman Alaskan scopes were pressed into service. Unfortunately, very little is known about the Lyman scopes or the actual quantities issued. Additional 2.2X scopes were provided with the M1903A4 during World War II and they included the M81 and M82. The M81 featured a crosshair reticle and the M82 a post reticle.

Hi-Lux Malcom 2.5X M82G2
Under the turret caps, Hi-Lux’s M82G2 offers more windage and elevation adjustment than the original — 80 MOA each.

While the U.S. Army was busy issuing scoped M1903A4 rifles in massive numbers, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) adopted a different approach. Up until about 2009, Marines took sniping much more seriously than other military branches, with a proven sniping program. Regardless of their small numbers, today’s U.S. Special Operations community enjoys better funding and superior equipment than both Big Army or the USMC. As a result (and in my opinion), U.S. Special Operations currently turns out a better-­trained and better-equipped snipers. Still, the Marine Corps was the uncontested world sniping champion for World War I and II, and in both Korean and Vietnam.

Part of the reason the Marine Corps sniping program was so successful was their willingness to invest the time and effort to build each issued rifle correctly. When World War II began, USMC sniper rifles came from the Marine Corps shooting team armorers. Each rifle started life as an ’03 match rifle built to incredibly demanding standards. Marine Corps rifles had hand-­selected barrels and each saw a star-­gauge before being built by the most experienced, best-trained Marine armorers of the Precision Weapons Section (PWS).

So-­called “star-­gauged” barrels have a bit of a mythical status among ’03 aficionados, but all that means is that an armorer ran a gauge through the bore to check the condition of the rifling prior to assembly. Many ’03 experts, including author Lt. Col. William Brophy, were skeptical of the star gauge’s effectiveness. In Brophy’s opinion, “To interpolate between one one-­thousandth-­inch graduation to read the gauge to the ten-­thousandth of an inch was somewhat guesswork.” I, like Brophy, am skeptical that almost every barrel rolling out of Springfield Armory in the early 20th century was so consistent — down to the ten-­thousandth of an inch — that the gauge couldn’t detect any differences between the barrels.

Star-­gauge trivia aside, Marine armorers were tasked to build the shooting team rifles and, if they were anything like their modern-­day counterparts, Marine snipers knew their occupation well. Brig. Gen. Van Orden, USMC (Ret.), told Lt. Col. Brophy that the Marine Corps rifles were built to National Match (NM) standards by the U.S. Marine Corps Depot of Supply Activity in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Van Orden said that the Marine depot had been building rifles for the competitive shooting team for years, and that their rifles were every bit the equal to Springfield Armory’s match rifles.

Hi-Lux Malcom M8 USMC Sniper Scope
The M8 is adjusted by external mounts. The rear mount adjusts windage and elevation. Mounts fit special bases, which are provided.

All USMC M1903A1 sniper rifles bearing the 8X Unertl scope were easily recognized by the fact that they were built on 1903A1 rifles and not the A3 or A4 models. USMC rifles also have the handguard professionally modified to accept the larger objective bell of the Unertl scope.

While original M1903A4 or USMC M1903A1 scoped rifles are becoming harder to find among collectors, it’s now easier than ever to source better-­than-­original glass to help replicas appear identical to those rifles carried by snipers in World War II. Hi-­Lux Optics currently offers three period-correct models that would be at home on a M1903A4 and the USMC M1903A1 sniper rifles.

The Hi-­Lux Difference 

Hi-Lux 2.5X Malcolm M73G4
Hi-Lux 2.5X Malcolm M73G4

The Hi-­Lux Malcolm M73G4 is a 2.5X scope that is externally identical to the Weaver 330C and M73B1, but with two differences: It has slightly more magnification (2.5X instead of 2.2X) and is marked with “USMC Scope M73G4, Hi-­Lux Optics.” The Hi-­Lux Malcolm M73G4 has a fine crosshair reticle and is optically superior to the 1940s scopes. Advancements in lens composition and coatings are what give the M73G4 a huge advantage over what was originally issued.

Hi-Lux 2.5X Malcolm M73G4
The windage adjustment screw is on the left where a clockwise turn moves point of impact to the left, a half MOA per click.

Power: 2.5X
Objective: 16mm
Tube Diameter: .75 in.
Elevation Adjustment: 60 MOA, .5 MOA per click
Windage Adjustment: 60 MOA, .5 MOA per click
Reticle: Crosshair, fine
Length: 11.8 in.
Weight: 8.3 oz.
Eye Relief: 3.54 in.
MSRP: $360 

Hi-Lux Malcom 2.5X M82G2
Hi-Lux Malcom 2.5X M82G2

The Hi-­Lux Malcolm 2.5X M82G2 is another scope that would be historically correct if mounted to a M1903A4. These scopes came later in the war and featured post reticles. Like the M73G4, they are optically superior.

Hi-Lux Malcom 2.5X M82G2
The eyepiece allows users to focus the reticle sharply and includes a larger multicoated lens and a 6mm exit pupil.

Power: 2.5X
Objective: 20mm
Tube Diameter: .75 in.
Elevation Adjustment: 80 MOA, .5 MOA per click
Windage Adjustment: 80 MOA, .5 MOA per click
Reticle: Crosswire, 3 post
Length: 11 in. (12 in. w/ sunshade ext.)
Weight: 12.9 oz.
Eye Relief: 3.5 in.
MSRP: $465 

Hi-Lux Malcom M8 USMC Sniper Scope
Hi-Lux Malcom M8 USMC Sniper Scope

While the early World War II-period Marine Corps rifles wore the M73B1 scope, later rifles had the 8X Unertl. How many of these scopes made it into the field is unknown, but paperwork from October 1943 documents a late shipment of 350 Unertl-topped rifles. (To this day, the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions would still like to know where they are located.)

The Malcolm 8X USMC sniper scope is also a recreation of what the Marines were pining for in October 1943. It has a fine-wire reticle and is a near-clone of the Unertl, a scope the USMC put in service for World War II.

Hi-Lux Malcom M8 USMC Sniper Scope
Though the M8 mimics the vintage model, the sunshade protects a superior quality lens that’s multi-coated.

Power: 8X
Objective: 31mm
Tube Diameter: .75 in.
Elevation Adjustment: 12.5 MOA, .25 MOA per click
Windage Adjustment: 12.5 MOA, .25 MOA per click
Reticle: Crosshair, fine
Length: 23 in.
Weight: 1 lb., 5 oz.
Eye Relief: 3.15 in.
MSRP: $575 

All three Hi-Lux scopes are Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) approved for vintage sniper matches. I’m thankful that Hi-Lux continues to offer these scopes, not only because of the improved performance, but because they allow for preservation of the originals.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos


Trijicon's New Specialized Reflex Optics (SRO)

The Trijicon SRO is specifically designed for pistol use. The wide field of view and clean, crisp dot makes it easy for users to find and track the dot in both target and competitive shooting applications.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.


Beretta's New 92X

The 92X Performance model from Beretta was created to satisfy two requirements: Speed and accuracy. Beretta's new competition pistol is uncompromising and aims for top performance.

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of the 94 Winchester rifle.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles


9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

The one glaring weakness in the .30-­caliber magnum cartridge lineup is best highlighted by examining the requirement around which Hornady designed the .300 PRC; the requirement came from the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Rifle

.300 PRC Review

Tom Beckstrand - March 12, 2019

The one glaring weakness in the .30-­caliber magnum cartridge lineup is best highlighted by...

A guide on how to pair .223 and 5.56 NATO rifle barrel twist rates with bullet weights. Conventional wisdom says slower twist rates wouldn't properly-stabilize a heavy bullet. On the other hand, faster rates could over-stabilize lighter bullets. This is correct in theory, however, modern ballisticians have all but debunked the over-stabilization theory. All things being equal, it is better to have too much twist than not enough. How-To

Pairing Barrel Twist Rates with Bullets for .223 and 5.56 NATO

Keith Wood - November 17, 2018

A guide on how to pair .223 and 5.56 NATO rifle barrel twist rates with bullet weights....

Here's the latest competitive intel on what are the top ARs in 3-Gun today and why. Rifles

Top ARs in 3-Gun Shooting Today

James Tarr - May 14, 2019

Here's the latest competitive intel on what are the top ARs in 3-Gun today and why.

See More Trending Articles

More Optics

From its clarity to the usefulness of the MRAD Precision Tree reticle, the Trijicon Credo 2-10x36mmhas a host of features that standout in a crowded field. Optics

Trijicon Credo 2-10x36mm Scope Review

D. Faubion - April 16, 2020

From its clarity to the usefulness of the MRAD Precision Tree reticle, the Trijicon Credo...

The rugged and versatile Steiner DRS 1X red dot sight sets a new standard for CQB optics, making it a great option for home defense and other fast-target acquisition applications. Optics

Steiner DRS 1X Red Dot Sight Review

Brad Fitzpatrick

Sponsored By
The TruGlo Ignite series includes two affordable red dots ready for your AR-15: Ignite 30mm and Mini Red Dot. Authors James Tarr and Tom Beckstrand test them on a Springfield Armory Saint Victor rifle and pistol in 5.56 NATO to learn more about the features that come at an affordable price. Optics

Guns & Ammo TV: TruGlo Ignite Red Dots

Guns & Ammo Staff - May 22, 2020

The TruGlo Ignite series includes two affordable red dots ready for your AR-15: Ignite 30mm...

Using two lasers horizontally aligned to a chart, Axeon's Absolute Zero reduces the number of shots required to zero a rifle. Optics

Axeon Absolute Zero Review

Richard Nance - December 26, 2019

Using two lasers horizontally aligned to a chart, Axeon's Absolute Zero reduces the number of...

See More Optics

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now