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Starting from 1941, the short 1.5x Zielfernrohr 41 (Zf41) telescopic sight was fitted to some Karabiner 98k rifles for sharpshooting use. The Zf-41 was in fact the first attempt to provide the ordinary infantryman with a rifle capable of being used, if not for pure sniping, then at least for sharpshooting. Most modern-day armies have adopted some form of optical aiming device on infantry weapons (such as the ACOG scope). It was initially planned to equip most combat units with the Zf-41 scopes, but only 6% of German weapons production could fit the sight.
Though useful for sharpshooting with normal infantry units, the design was generally rejected by sniper schools and disliked by snipers, because the 1.5x magnifying scope was deemed insufficient for shooting effectively over long distances. Problems were the scope's extreme eye relief, poor functioning in bad light and low magnifying power. Nonetheless, lack of better scopes meant the Zf-41 was used by snipers at the early stages of the war in the Eastern Front, but many snipers preferred captured Soviet rifles and custom-equipped German rifles with civilian scopes such as the vintage Gewehr 98.
By the end of the war in 1945, more than 100,000 Zf-41 scopes had been produced, the largest production of German optical sights during the war. Approximately 3,000 were marked zf-40, 29,000 were marked zf-41 (zf-40 and zf-41 later had this etched out and zf-41/1 added when they came back for service or repair) and the rest designated zf-41/1
The G-41(m) and G-41(w) semi-automatic rifles had zf-40 scopes added in small quantities for test and evaluation in the field. MP-43, MP-44, FG-42 automatic select fire weapons had the ZF-41/1 fitted for test only, these were not produced past prototype stage,the zf-4 scope was then used on these weapons instead.
The Germans also produced a small amount of prototype and pre-production test batch of the g33/40 equipped with the zf 41 sharpshooter scope. These were photographed for inclusion in the zf 41 manual in 1942. However the BRNO factory switched over to the Mauser 98 K in 1943. Approximately 350 to 400 scoped g 33/40 rifles were made in total. As of 2013 only one has been examined and found to be a real test batch scoped rifle, it has serial number 3962C. It is a late dot 1942 production rifle.
- Pegler, Martin. Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper (Osprey 2004) p. 188-189