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Britain’s Tubeless WW1 Sniper Optics: Martin Galilean Sight


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and today we get to take a look at a British SMLE equipped with optical sights. Not telescopic sights, but optical sights. The British in 1915 distinguished between these two. The British didn’t have a sniping program when World War One began. The Germans did, and German snipers quickly convinced the British that the British really needed to have a sniping program too. The British then kind of had to rush to come up with scopes and mounts and how do we do this? What’s the right pattern? And they contracted with a bunch of different companies. And before they were able to really get telescopic scopes,
telescopic mounts and rifles into service and into production they found another option. And this was something
that they got off of the competition ranges at Bisley. They’re called Galilean scopes or Galilean optical sights.
And the idea is this is basically a telescope without a tube. So there is a little tiny, tiny little lens in the rear sight here. And there’s a rather larger lens attached to the front sight here. And looking through the two, you
actually get about x2.5 power magnification with a system that … you can hold in the
palm of your hand. It’s this little tiny thing, mounted just right on to the rifles, easy
to ship, easy to attach, relatively cheap. The British would buy … about
like 14,000 of these sights, ship them to Europe and actually
issued them and used them in the field. … Well, tell you what, before we talk about what
happened to them, let me go ahead and show you this. This is a Martin/BSA, really it’s a Martin, Galilean sight. Alright, we’ll start with the front sight here. This
just sort of clips onto the nose cap of an SMLE. There’s a cross screw that holds the nose cap in place.
This just replaces it to hold that nice and securely in position. There are some markings on this but, boy, they’re really
hard to see. They’re right down on there and over here, and they say Martin of Glasgow and Aberdeen. This was
actually one of the smaller contracts for Galilean sights. The most common was the Lattey with 9,000 made,
next after that was the Barnett with 4,250. Martin did 695 of these that he sold to the British government.
They were formally added to the list of changes in March of 1915. So relatively early, and they were probably
in use actually in the field before that. Alright, so you can see that there’s a little round
dot inscribed in the centre of the sight there. That’s your aiming point. And of course
this isn’t just plain flat glass, this is a lens. So you’ll get about x2.5 power magnification from this. And you look at that through what … at
first glance looks like just a rear aperture sight. But that is actually an aperture
with another little tiny lens inside it. Now the way that you actually line
this up is actually kind of like iron sights. You have the round aperture here concentric with the round
front sight, and the dot in the centre is your point of aim. That rear lens is actually part of a larger assembly. It was
assembled onto a BSA Model 9C adjustable rear sight. So this was originally like a micrometer adjustable aperture
rear sight, and it does some cool stuff like folding. So that folds up, this folds forward, and that kind
of gets things out of the way so that this doesn’t get, you know, destroyed in transit.
And as a result I can actually show you… So this is your windage adjustment.
This is your elevation adjustment. If I fold this down, you can get
a little bit better view into that. So there is indeed a little tiny lens there. I’ll do my
best to show you what the sight picture looks like, the camera doesn’t quite work the same way as a human
eye though. You can see that there is a change in focal point through the lens versus not through the lens,
that’s about the best I can show you, unfortunately. So this was something that was
originally used in rifle competition at Bisley. There was, of course, a big hullabaloo
when they were first introduced about whether this sort of optical sight was competition legal. And this really is sort of an interesting example
of, like, the push and pull that you get between competition and target shooters versus the military. Because
the military of course is quite interested in marksmanship, and you will often find technology bouncing back and forth
between the competition range and the military system. So sometimes things like this will transition from, you
know, the Bisley match field over to actual military use. And you … still see that today with things like low-
power variable optics being adopted by the US military. … Sighting systems that originally came
out of multi-gun competition shooting. So these Galilean sights did not last long in active
field service, it turned out they had a lot of problems. Perhaps better than iron sights, however they were clearly inferior
in a whole bunch of ways to proper telescopes mounted on rifles. So the field of view was very, very small.
As small as like 5 feet at 100 yards, really tiny. You had a lot of potential to get
dirt on either one of the lenses, or poor lighting would have a much worse impact
on these than it would on telescopic sights, they were obviously kind of exposed. … And frankly they’re just a little bit hard to use. I wish I could give you guys a better view through
the camera of how these actually look in use. This was actually my first opportunity to
finally get a chance to test one of these out. We didn’t do any shooting with it, but
just in the open in good sunlight looking at stuff through these Galilean sights. And man,
it does actually magnify, but just a little bit. Your aiming point is really pretty
hard to see in actual practice. And, wow, honestly if someone offered me
these versus iron sights for a combat rifle, I would have to think pretty hard
about which one I actually wanted. So, this was an opinion that was fairly widely shared I
think, because these optics tended to get thrown away. As soon as there were scopes
available, these things just went away. To the point that very few of them survive today. … It’s interesting, … some things are
too big to have been kept as souvenirs. These are kind of too small, these get taken
off and then just kind of lost or abandoned. They don’t really look like anything, they don’t have all that much
in the way of markings on them, and they just didn’t survive well. So finding them today is quite difficult and they bring huge
amounts of money, like, embarrassingly huge amounts of money. So, I am very grateful to the collector who has
this one, who gave me the opportunity to bring it out and take a look through it and show it to
you guys. Hopefully you enjoyed the video. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Britain’s Tubeless WW1 Sniper Optics: Martin Galilean Sight

  1. "The Germans convinced the British they really needed a sniper program" wow, how nice of the Germans to be so helpful and lend advice like that.

  2. As mentioned, open optical sights kinda like this are in use on bows today. Additionally, open or tubless optics are also still used in a surprisingly useful child's toy called the optic wonder. Also the optic wonder junior. Certainly you can order these today but can probably be found in the gift shops of most zoos and museums in the united states.
    Its basically a plastic set of binoculars with the lenses that fold into the body. The focus is adjustable but there is no enclosure for the optics other than the rings in which they are mounted. Additionally it typically has a whistle built into it along with a very basic and janky compass, a angle guide for range and height estimation and a signal mirror. Also a lanyard. The objective lenses can be used singly as magnifiers or fire starters.
    Its kinda a junior survival tool kinda toy to introduce the concepts and it comes sometimes with a pouch to store it in. Cool toy from my childhood i thought of when i saw this.

  3. Really interesting stuff! Actually saw an Aussie show a couple days ago about Gallipoli and the main characters used one of these as a roaming marksman for a couple episodes

  4. I kinda want to see modern reproductions with better materials and maybe just maybe, 4X magnification through several lenses. Probably not though…

  5. Just so you know there's another channel using your clips, monetizing it, and not citing you. Here is a link to one of them.
    https://youtu.be/f41mCg9O0wU

  6. The fact that you can buy a perfectly reasonable, large A/O variable zoom scope for £15-20 today would blow our grandfathers minds

  7. Since you can't show us, perhaps the next best thing would seeing how it compares in actual use (to iron sights and a telescopic one)! Presuming you can find an owner willing to let you borrow one.

  8. Interesting that they called it Galilean telescope. Christiaan Hyugens had a 210 ft long aerial telescope in the 17th century while Galileo Galilei's telescope had a tube frame.

  9. An idea for the look through the scope: Take a DSLR with a good macro lens and use various images with different focal length to create an image using focus stacking . The result will have a much larger deapth of field then a single image. It is not a video, but I think still better than your current option is.

  10. Thank you for sharing a good video on the Galilean sight! I've heard of these but couldn't really find much info except for some pictures finally on English rifles.

    Too bad the camera view through it is so hard to get. If you have the chance could you try something? Use a lens that is or can be zoomed to a full format equivalent 43mm focal length and focused to infinity. That should match the eye focal length and possibly yield a better result.

  11. That is a great idea! Kinda reminds me of the 4X short scopes that Russians fitted to the Mosin-Nagant M91-30 so that their snipers could more accurately "snipe" targets at 1-200 yards:) More like a magnified aiming device than a scope, IMHO-John in Texas

  12. Постригись как мужик, пету шара пень доская, а то выглядишь как 6ородатая 6а6а!!!

  13. So kinda basically a peep,very interesting! I have a peep on my no4, i do like it a lot for target shooting, able to get under 2moa which is pretty good for an old 2 groove 303!

  14. Would it be possible to make one with greater magnification?
    Additionally would it be possible to have a wider field of view if the sight radius was shortened?

  15. I went my whole life not knowing these existed then in about a week I’ve seen this then they were shown in the season finale of peaky blinders

  16. with the better machining, and better glass of today…
    they should make these for some rifles
    i would love one for a 16 or 18 inch ruger 10/22
    or maybe a set for my henry pump action 22

  17. I really wish firearms like these were still produced with that same feel they had 100 years ago because they seem really fun to shoot

  18. Way cool! I saw these in an Aussie mini series about Gallipoli, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallipoli_(miniseries), where the main character becomes a sniper.

  19. I just finished watching the Australian series Gallipoli where the ANZAC snipers used these sights. I was trying to figure out how they worked as I was watching it and now I know.

  20. I am very surprised thiis sight was ordered in such numbers…It seems madness to handicap a workhorse of a rifle in all battle conditions with such a delicate sighting system.
    I bet even in light rain the optics would cease to function.

  21. I can't see how that contraption could possible hold a zero for long. The first time you folded the rear sight or bumped against something and it would be all over the place.

  22. Thats pretty much how target rifles still work except we use only a front lense upto 0.5x magnification called the eagle eye. My current rifle actually is running no eagle eye which reminds me I need to buy one and some new rings lol.

  23. Hey you got an unavoidable ad, you must be moving up in the world! I’m just kidding and I just want to let you know that you’re getting some ads. That’s good!

    This is really cool, I didn’t know you could have sights that were tubeless like this

  24. I found a set of the Lattey sights for about £1200, double the going rate for a decent SMLE, or the price of a good one at a rip-off merchant gunshop

  25. With all the Information released from the war has the designs and build data for these ever been released.
    With multiple companies making things like this you would think that the government would have control of the designs.
    I would love to look at the schematics and information used for making these.
    Maybe even information about the original designers.

  26. There’s a series on Amazon Prime Video called Gallipoli. The show uses something that looks similar to it in episode four

  27. I've used similar sights on a Parker Hale Sportco at Williamstown. I can see why they're not suitable for battle.

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