February 2nd, 2021

Seeing History … Through a 100mm Unertl Spotting Scope

Unertl 100mm Team Spotting Scope Dewy's Classic Scopes

This story is about the purchase of a super-sized spotting scope with a notable history. Forum member David Buffington explains how he located a rare Unertl 100mm-objective spotter that had served Team USA in international competitions.

Seeing History … Through a Spotting Scope

by David Buffington in our Shooters’ Forum

It is a rare pleasure to acquire a gun with a history. It is simply extraordinary to acquire a scope – in this case, a spotting scope – that has quite literally seen some of the best shots ever taken. The scope is an Unertl Team Spotting Scope, a beast of a 100mm scope especially made for long-range shooting matches. (For technical details, see: http://unertl.alexweb.net/100team.htm.)

And recently, I was pleased and proud to become its custodian …

In the AccurateShooter Forum Classifieds my friend, dgeesaman, found an ad for an Unertl “Team” spotting scope, a 100mm beast built by the famed Unertl company specifically for long range shooting spotting. I had tried to find one years earlier, but I had no luck. This time I struck gold. The Unertl Team was being sold by an accomplished shooter, Mike Dunia, and was in excellent condition complete with all the goodies, including the monster travel case you see above.

Now, because of its sheer size – about 60 pounds with the case – this scope is definitely NOT practical for casual spotting, but the image, well, it’s like being there. The image is extremely bright and sharp edge-to-edge with no hint of chromatic aberration. And once you get the beast to where you want to be, setup is remarkably simple, with a tripod, mount and scope all beautifully machined to move smoothly and easily.

Unertl 100mm Team Spotting Scope Dewy's Classic Scopes
Vintage Unertl optics can be purchased from Dewayne (Dewy) Greiner in MN, Classic Unertl Scopes.

The scope was sold to me by Mike Dunia, an accomplished marksman who served with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and represented San Francisco’s famed Olympic Club in competitions around the world, for example, winning the British Columbia Target Rifle Championship in 2002 and the California Palma Championship in 2003. Dunia has had a notable 50+ year shooting career, starting in college when Dunia was Captain of the Stanford University Rifle Team. The scope was owned by Dunia’s friend, Larry Wilkins, who also served in the U.S. Army, was also an accomplished marksman, and also represented San Francisco’s famed Olympic Club.

Below is a photo of the USA Palma Team in 1995 with multiple Unertl 100mm spotting scopes:

Unertl 100mm Team Spotting Scope Dewy's Classic Scopes

The names of the individuals in this 1995 photo were provided by tool-maker Alan Warner, who was there that day many years ago. In the same Shooters’ Forum thread, Alan posted: “Far left, white shirt and hat, squatting is Burt Rallins. Prone — close left with small scope is me, Alan Warner. Standing in team jacket is Ken Erdman. Next in background is Mike Dunia. The Coach, sitting, is Bob Jensen. The Next coach is Eric St. John. Can’t make out the other coach or shooters. Last coach is Bill Meek.”

Here is just a bit of the vaunted history of the San Francisco Olympic Club (click photo to read full screen):

Unertl spotting scope 100mm San Francisco Olympic Club

Although I do plan to use the scope, I feel an obligation to preserve as much of its history as I can, including, most importantly, the stories of the shooters who used it before it came to me. I should also mention that Wilkins served with the famous “Task Force Smith” at the start of the Korean War. If you’re not familiar with that horrific story of courage, do look it up.

Unertl Spotting Scope Original Cost … And in Current Dollars
What might this line of 100mm monsters have cost back in the day? Well, I’ve tracked down an Unertl price list from sometime after 1963 — we know that because it has a ZIP code in the address — and the price then was listed as $450, but another price list, dated 1994, puts the price at $2,200.

Of course, that’s $2,200 in 1994 dollars. That would be $3,842 in today’s 2021 money, according to USinflationcalculator.com. So the seven Unertl Team scopes seen here would cost $26,894 at present! — David Buffington

100mm Spotting Scope Operation
Were these scopes used to see bullet holes? Actually that was not their primary purpose. Shot locations on target were shown by shot markers placed by pit workers. But the scopes did serve important purposes, as explained by Forum member Dave Marshall: “You won’t be able to see any bullet holes past 300-400 yards with those scopes. They usually used a fixed 24X eyepiece. I don’t think there is a scope in existence today that can see bullet holes at 1000 yards. [It is possible — but only under very rare, perfect conditions. That said, spotting scopes ARE used all the time to see 1000-yard shot markers and thereby record scores. — Editor]

The main reason those scopes were used [in addition to seeing shot markers] was for better ability to read mirage and the larger objective made it possible to see bullet trace at longer ranges. Once the trace leaves the field of view due to steep trajectory, you can’t see it when it comes back down into the field of view.”

Description of Unertl 100mm Team Spotting Scope by Classic Unertl Scopes
The Unertl 100mm Spotting Scope is a large instrument which was designed to meet the requirements of team coaches to enable critical spotting of long range big bore matches. The coated prismatic optical systems, with a 100mm aperture objective and four element orthoscopic oculars is critically tested and hand-corrected so that the final system will yield matchless resolution. The objective cell has a sunshade which can be extended about 5″ when required and the eyepiece is screw focusing with a fast over-running push-pull travel. Dust covers are provided for each end. Workmanship is of the highest quality and the majority of the instrument is made from aluminum alloy and finished in a light gray wrinkle. The yoke mounting enables easy insertions and removal of the telescope from the yoke and tripod. By tensioning the binding screws the scope can be fixed by locked in position or so set to per-mit scanning of a series of targets. The lower portion of the yoke fits the cylindrical column of a floating action metal tripod. Within the tripod ram is a helical spring which counter-balances the scope and it can be raised or lowered with ease. A wooden carrying case of substantial construction houses the telescope, yoke, tripod and extra interchangeable eyepieces. Standard oculars are 6X, 24X. and 32X.

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