History of Hunting Scopes

Our rifle scopes are most directly related to refracting telescopes of which the first practical versions were seen in about 1608 in the Netherlands. These first refracting telescopes are credited to Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Janssen, spectacle-makers and Jacob Metius. We are probably more familiar with the name Galileo Galilei who heard of the invention in 1609 and proceeded make his own version. The first experiments to give shooters a telescopic sight go back to the early 17th century but all the early attempts had practical or performance limitations.

The first documented telescopic rifle sight was invented shortly after 1835 by Morgan James of Utica, NY. John R. Chapman, a civil engineer, worked with James on some of the concepts and design, and they produced the Chapman-James sight. In 1855, William Malcolm of Syracuse, NY began producing his own sight. Malcolm incorporated achromatic lenses like those used in telescopes. He also improved the windage and elevation adjustment…