The Lee-Enfield Rifle
By 1957, Great Britain had switched to the .308 or NATO caliber. In the constantly changing world of military arms, 63 years is a very long lime for one rifle to remain the number one battle rifle. As a comparison, the ubiquitous Mauser 98 was introduced in 1888, but did not come on the scene as the 98 until 1898. The secret of the Lee-€nfiet<fs staying power was the sound design and the many modifications made during the rifles tenure.
A good many of the Lee-Enfidd military rifles have been sold to the United States civilian market by the British and Canadian governments. Witness the current stocks of these fine rifles at gun shows and on the shelves of gun dealers. Some of the appeal of the Lee-Enfield rifles is the fact that many of these rifles were made by American companies such as Remington and Winchester, to tide the British over until they could produce their own weapons during World War II. American shooters and collectors have another excellent rifle to shoot collect, customize and hunt with at very reasonable prices.
British rifles have undergone a rigorous inspection and proofing system to insure that the weapon is safe to shoot. American commercial ammunition for the .303 British is normally loaded to comparable military velocities and current import rifles should be safe. Handloaders should adhere to the loading manual recommendations. If there is doubt about the safety of a rifle, it should be checked by a reliable gunsmith.
The .303 cartridge was designed for the Lee-Metford Mk. 1 bolt action, magazine rifle by an American, James Paris Lee. In 1895, he changed his shallow rifting of the Metford to the deeper rifling of the Enfield. From this point on. the rifle was known as the Lee-Enfield.
The Lee-Enfield rifles were first produced in the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield. England. It is also known as the SMIE (Short Magazine Lee-EnfleidJ. The No. 1 rifles were also produced in large quantities by the BSA Co. in England. Australia and in India
Although the unconventional lines of the Enfield did not appeal to the eye as a typical fine British firearm. It survived due to its durability, accuracy, smooth working action and rapid rate of fire, it was used in both World Wars. Before World War I. it was criticized because of certain design features, but these criticisms were unfounded when the Enfield proved to be an excellent battle rifle and was well liked by British troops.
Thefto. 3 Mk. I rifle, known as the Pattern 14, was adopted in 1914. Shortly before Work! War I, It was charged from a .276 caliber Mauser type to the standard .303 British. The magazine had the typical staggered cartridges of the Mauser and the one piece boft found in the German rifles. In addition to the regular sights, it has long range auxiliary sights consisting of an aperture on the left side of the receiver and a bead front sight on an arm pivoted to the left side of the fore-end.
During World War I, this rifle was produced in small quantities by Winchester, Remington In llfon. New York, and a Remington-owned plant at Eddystone, Pennsylvania. The British Army used the rifle with a telescopic sight as a sniper rifle in that war. It was also used by the Royal Navy.
The No. 4 Mk. 1 rifle was developed from the No. 1 SMLE between the World Wars. It retained the basic Lee action design of the No. 1 rifle, but was extensively modified to improve performance and made easier to manufacture.
Important modifications included a heavier barrel» heavier receiver, aperture rear sight and simplified bedding of the barrel in the fore-end.
Before the Battle of Dunkirk, only a few No. 4 rifles were built. However, after the British disaster, these rifles went into major production in England. Canada and the United States. After World War II, No. 4 rifles were used by Italy, Greece and some Arab countries. The No. 4 Mk. 2 rifles were used during the Korean War. In 1954, the No. 4 rifle was replaced in the British. Canadian and Australian Services by the FN-FAL in 7.62 NATO. No. 4 rifles are by and large in better condition that No. 1 's. but for the most part, are not finished as well as the peacetime rifles.
During World War II, the No. 1 SMLE and No. 4 rifles were found to be too long and heavy for jungle fighting. A shorter more handy rifle was needed and the No. 5 Mk 1 was developed and adapted from the earlier rifles. The new rifle became popularly known as the "jungle carbine", as was a No. 4 with short fore-end and barrel.
It was also fitted with a flash hider and a rubber buttplate. The short fore-end makes the No. 5 look like a sporting rifle. Many of these rifles were built and used in Burma and the South Pacific during the later part of World War II. This version of the Enfield is very popular with shooters and hunters and will likely bring a premium price.
Introduction or Adoption Date
Some Features of New Pattern
Oct. 22.1888 Magazine We. Mark I
-Aug 8.1891 Lee MHford Magazine Wle.
Jan. 19.1892 Ue MHford Maga/ine Rifle.
J«l 50.1892 Lee Metford Magizfne RWe.
Apr. 22. 189S Lee Metfon! Marine Wle.
Ow|erlM(Kn| lee Metford
Nov. 11. 1895 Ut-Cnfietd Mjfuinc Rfle.
July 1.1907 Dec. 25.1902 Jan. 18.190$
July 2. 1906 July 2. 1906
Charger Loacftn« lee ErfeM Magazine RWe. Marti I
Short Magazine Lee Enfiekf Rile. Mark I
Short M*azinc Lee Enfield Rife Converted Mark II
Short Magazine Let Wield ftfle, Markl
Short Magazine Lee-ErAM Wit. Converted Marti N
Jan. 26.1907 Short Maga/w* Lee-Enfield
Sept. 1.1907- • Short Magazine Lee-Enfield t Wle. Converted Marti PV
Jan. A. 1906 . Short Machine Lee Enfield
Same rie. renamed.
Safety catch omitted. Altered sighting. machine, handfjard. mainspring
New I Ground magazine. UgWer barrel. Weight reduced io9fcs.4 ozs.
Mew pattern safety catch fitted to cocking piece.
Converted to charger loading
Sunt m Le« Metford, Mirti ML but fitted WWd barrel
Oeaning rod. and provWon lor rod in fore-end omitted.
Converted from Lee Enfiehfc and Lee Metford*.
A new rite.
Converted to Maik I pattem from Lee EnfteWs and Lee Met fords.
Deeper magazine case. etc. Weigk of rile 8 lbs 7 on.
Deeper maguine than converted Mark II. PuUhnwrfi accommodated <n butt.
Bridge Charger guide flUed to body Weight of rife.. BfcslO'fro*. .
Converted to Mark 41 pattern from LeeEnMd*andLae-Metrords.
S^ilinc altered for Mark V9
cartridge. Converted from
Mark I for Royal Navy.
Adoption Dot* Designation
Some Features of New Pattern
1977/23 (Not adopted
1950/31 |Not adopted)
Short Maguini Lee Enflrtd Rifle. Mark II
Short Mjfla'ine Lee infield Rifle, Mark II
Short Mjftutne LeeEnfieti Rifle. Mark!
Short Marine Ice Enfiekl Rifle. Mark HI
Short Maga/inc Lee^nfietd Rifle. Mark V
Short Magaznc tee Enfiekl föfle. MarkVI
Nov. 15,1939 Nu. 4 Rifle. Marti
Nov. 15.1939 No A Rifle. Mark I (Adopted 1939)
Offidaly imroduced Nov. 11, 1946.
No. 7 Rille
New sighting. dc. Converted from converted Mark II rifles.
New sailing etc. Converted Irom converted Mark II rifles.
Sighting altered for Mark VI cartridge. Converted Iran Mark I rifles Tor Royal Navy.
Long range sights, cut-off omitted.
Aperture backsight. One piece hgndguard. etc.
Heavier barrel. Two piece hand guard. Similar to later No. 4 rifle.
Development of No. I Rifle, Mark VI. but vrith strengthened body.
Alternative method of manu facture to Mark I. Differs in body rfbway. bolt-head catch, and bridge piece.
Mark I or Mark I Rued with Telescope No. 32 lor snipers
Trigger pivoted on body, and not hung on trigger guard.
Mark I converted to Mark I pattern.
Mark I converted to Mark N pattern .
Mark I (T) with trigger pivoted on body.
A flattened No. 4 Rifle. A Mark N pattern was made, but not produced. There was never a Mark I.
Similar to No. 4 Rile, but fitted cai. .22 barrel Issued to RAF.
Cai. .22 rifle for Military Forces.
No. 4 Rifle fitted with cai. .22 tubed barrets. Issued to Royal Navy.
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