When Were Gun Scopes Invented?

Hunters, gun sports enthusiasts, military personnel, law enforcement officers, and other firearm users will all tell you how valuable, efficient, and technologically-advanced gun scopes are. 

However, they weren't always that way. 

Keep reading this article to learn about the several centuries of industrial innovations and wars that gave us the firearm optics tools that we have today.

What are gun scopes?

In short, gun scopes are the lenses that are attached to your firearm. Each gun scope device has the following contents, and each of them serves multiple purposes:

  • Lenses: Every gun scope contains a series of lenses. They magnify your target and give you a zoomed-in view of it. For example, hunters can use their gun scope lenses to take a close look at an animal from afar.
  • Reticle: The lines on your gun scope's lenses act as an instrument that helps you aim at what your bullet will hit and measure the distance between different objects. Some reticles come with an attached laser that further enhances your aiming precision.

Today's gun scopes are highly accurate and technological. This is because, over the last three centuries, these tools underwent a lot of innovations and improvements.

History of Telescopic Gun Scopes

Guns and rifle-like firearms have existed long before the eighteenth century. The modern-day scope devices were initially introduced during the late 1700s.

However, the history of rifle scopes that are used in contemporary times goes back to the 1630s. When a spider built a web on an English astronomer's microscope lens, the latter noticed that the lines of the web increased his view's focus and precision.

This story gave firearm makers and innovators new ideas. As a result, gun scopes were invented and started to become more and more advanced in the subsequent centuries.

The Late 1700s and Early 1800s

In 1776, Charles Wilson Peale developed the first-ever telescopic rifle sight. Nonetheless, this initial version had its own shortcomings.

Peale's invention was flawed because the recoil/kickback from firing a shot aggressively pushed the gun scope against the shooter's eye. Therefore, it wasn't widely adopted.

About 50 years later, Morgan James created a more successful and efficient gun scope for rifles. In fact, many historians consider James' gun scope to be the original version of the one that's commonly used today.

The American Civil War

In 1955, William Malcom gave gun scopes additional improvements and modifications, including achromatic lenses.

Malcom's model was utilized during the Civil War since it gave fighters a narrower and closer view of the battlefield. The gun scope took the shape of a long metal tube.

Having said that, the devices that Malcom invented still had their own problems. The lack of reticles/crosshairs made it difficult for soldiers to accurately aim at their target.

As a result, only highly-trained shooters were capable of using them, up until newer versions were introduced. 

The 1900s

In the previous century, pointers, crosshairs, and other changes made gun scopes more precise and effective.

This was influenced by several events. Here are the most noteworthy ones:

  • World War I: The Germans created new gun scopes and manufactured 25,000 of them so that their soldiers' rifles can also be used as snipers. This made Germany the first-ever country in history to produce firearms with optical devices in large numbers. 
  • World War II: In comparison to World War I, the gun scopes that were deployed during the Second World War had better-quality lenses, enhanced magnification capabilities, and were built more compactly. As a matter of fact, the advancements that the gun scope went through between World War I and World War II were the quickest ones in history.
  • The Vietnam War: Carlos Hathcock took charge of developing new firearm optics in the mid-1900s. His basic - yet modified and improved - gun scope was attached to the M2 machine gun model. The terrain and nature of the conflict in Vietnam, which were very different from those that characterized the Korean War, meant that American soldiers needed new firearms that came with sophisticated optics.

In Brief: When Gun Scopes Were Invented

After you read this article, the close-up view of your target and the crosshairs that help you aim aren't the only things that you will see the next time you use your gun scope.

That is to say that the lenses will give you a glimpse into a history that's filled with innovation, technological advancements, and wars that got us to where we are.

Whether you use your firearm for hunting, sports, or professional purposes, you can thank the inventors, entrepreneurs, and gun manufacturers that we covered in this piece for giving you the tools that you need to be the efficient shooter that you are today.


Have questions about our service or product?

See FAQs now

Not Sure Which Rifle Scope is Right for You?

Get expert advice and find the rifle scope that will increase your shooting accuracy and improve your hunts!

Our business hours are Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm.