We're joined today by Chris Wu and Corbett Leatherwood, talking over the beginning of the A.R.T. line and the early years of a young Jim Leatherwood.
(If you're a veteran that's used an A.R.T. Scope during your career and are interested in sharing your story, please reach out to us!)
This episode is all about how the company came to be, interspersed with stories from the early days of A.R.T. Scope development.
The A.R.T. Scope's development started sometime in the mid 60s. Officially, the patent was submitted in 1968, though development started back while Jim was in college. The first iteration was a 3-9X scope on a mount pretty similar to the modern version. This was the era when external-adjustment scopes were being phased out in favor of internal adjustments. Reticles were still fairly simple, so Kentucky windage was the name of the game. Having a scope that took away the need to automatically compensate for one of the values - elevation - sped up training immensely. Added in to the ability to estimate range, the scope functioned in more fields than just sniping.
At the time, the M40 scope also had ranging capabilities. It used two stadia lines to frame a torso-sized target, combining first and second focal planes to provide a 'tombstone' view of the distance. However, it still required dialing (slow) or holdovers (imprecise) to make the adjustment. By combining ranging and elevation adjustment, the A.R.T. scope cut down engagement time in the guerrilla warfare conditions of Vietnam. The A.R.T. Scope functions quickest using FAST - the Frame, Aim, Shoot Technique. Frame the target, aim at the target, take the shot.
Jim was a lifelong shooter while growing up in central Texas. When hunting, he was confronted with the classic question, "How do I not miss this shot?" Later, and a 2nd Lieutenant in Vietnam, his base came under fire and he realized that the same question applied.
The Vietnam War was a time of development for American sniping. The military realized that they needed effective ways to train their soldiers to engage in accurate fire, especially at distance. As some think tanks worked on ways to employ snipers, others figured out weapons systems, and still others tackled training. The formal systems of training and combat were still under development. The A.R.T. Scope, once introduced, sped up the training cycle by eliminating the need to deal with some of the tricky fundamental aspects of distance shooting.