As the Korea war raged in 1952, A captain in IX Corps Ordnance and veteran of infantry combat during WW2 in the Pacific , William S. Brophy recognized a total lack of US Army sniping equipment and marksmanship compared to its current and future needs. In an effort to reverse some of this and educate units in the field, he visited several units to discus with and educate them on sniping equipment and tactics.
At this time the Army had the scoped m1 rifle as their standard sniping rifle. This system limited the sniper to a range not much greater than 600 yards. To demonstrate what a skilled marksman with proper equipment could do and to hopefully get the Army to pay serious attention, Captain Brophy bought at his own cost a Winchester Model 70 “Bull gun” in ,30-06 and Unertl 10X target optic. The Winchester rifle listed as the “bull gun” was a target gun with heavy target stock and 28 inch heavy barrel.
Brophy ,using his rifle and skill developed during a career in competitive shooting, was able to register several Chinese communist kills. The reaction to his ability was quick and people began to take note. However, it was still the usual position of the Army that the weapon was not durable enough for combat use. Brophy and the selected men who used the rifle to demonstrate what it could do finally did get the Army to seriously consider the Model 70 as a sniping arm.
Ultimately, it was decided that it was not desirable to inject a special rifle into the supply system with a requirement for match ammo. Oddly enough, over the coming years in Vietnam match ammo, which was earlier labeled too hard to supply to troops in the field, was readily available to snipers. So much so that not one ever had concern about having enough match ammo.
The Model 70 was not the only equipment Captain Brophy suggested to improve US Army sniper ability. While out sniping with the Model 70, targets appeared beyond the range of even the match .30cal sniper rifle. To remedy this, Brophy had the barrel of a Browning .50cal aircraft model machine gun mounted to a Soviet PTRD 14.5mm antitank rifle. A butt pad and bipod were also added, as well as a 20x Unertl optic.
With this set up, Brophy and his team were able to make several Communists into good communists. Hits with the 50 were recorded at ranges from 1,000 yards to 2,000.
This rifle went on to inspire several others of its type with different barrel and scope combinations. This attempt at a longer range sniping arm no doubt was one of the predecessors to today’s Barrett M82. Below, Brophy demonstrates one of the 50 cal rifles in Korea to higher officers.
The concept of the 50 caliber sniping rifle was further developed by the AMTU and Col. F.B Conway. Later attempts used optics such as the ART scope system and even a Boys Antitank rifle.
And of course one of the \more famous early 50 cal sniping systems.
In these early attempts, accuracy of the ammo was the main problem holding back the weapons. Standard service ammo was the only thing available for use at the time.
Colonel Brophy passed away in 1991 and left behind an amazing record of accomplishment as a shooter, an Army officer who served in WW2, Korea and Vietnam and writer of many definitive books on US small arms.