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Lee Enfield Rifle

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The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield

The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle, or SMLE, was developed to provide a single rifle to replace both the Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle (MLE) and the Lee-Enfield Carbine (LEC). With an overall length of 44.5 inches, the new weapon was referred to as a "short rifle"; thus, the word "short" refers to the length of the rifle--not the length of the magazine.

Beginning in 1901, trials were conducted at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) in Enfield on the new short rifle, resulting in the adoption in December 1902 of the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I. (marked "SHT L.E." and "I"). Production of the SMLE Mk I began in 1903 at RSAF Enfield and in 1904 at RSAF Sparkbrook, the Birmingham Small Arms Co. (BSA), and the London Small Arms Co. (LSA). Minor modifications led to the adoption of the SMLE Mk I* in 1906, with production at Enfield, Sparkbrook, BSA Co., and LSA Co.

In 1903, conversions of various "Long Lees" to SMLE configuration were approved. These converted rifles were designated SMLE Converted Mk II (marked "SHT L.E." and "ConD II" with varying numbers of stars, or asterisks). "ConD" is an abbreviation for "Converted." In 1907, additional conversions were approved, designated SMLE Converted Mk IV (marked "SHT L.E." and "ConD IV").

Further improvements and simplifications of the SMLE led to the adoption in 1907 of the SMLE Mk III. Production of the Mk III began in 1907 at Enfield, BSA Co., and LSA Co. (RSAF Sparkbrook having been acquired by BSA Co. in 1906). Production of the Mk III also began in 1909 at the Ishapore Rifle Factory in India and in 1913 at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory in Australia.

Earlier Mk I* and Mk II rifles were upgraded to include several of the improvements of the Mk III, yielding the SMLE Mk I** in 1908 and the SMLE Mk I*** in 1914. Similar upgrades done at the Ishapore Rifle Factory were designated the SMLE Mk I* I.P. and the SMLE Mk I** I.P., with the "I.P." designating "India Pattern."

To allow for more rapid production of rifles during WWI, further simplifications were approved, leading to the adoption in 1916 of the SMLE Mk III*. Production of the Mk III* did not begin simultaneously at all rifle factories; BSA Co. actually began production of the Mk III* in 1915, while LSA. Co. didn't begin producing the Mk III* until 1918. After the cessation of WWI hostilities in November of 1918, both Ishapore and Lithgow reverted to Mk III production. In Great Britain, the LSA Co. factory closed, but BSA Co. continued to produce both Mk III and Mk III* rifles--for use by the British military and for overseas sales through the "trade." RSAF Enfield shifted its focus to developing trials rifles with aperture rear sights.

In 1922, the SMLE Mk V was approved as a trials rifle, although some 20,000 of them were manufactured from 1922 through 1924 at RSAF Enfield. In 1926, the No. 1 Mk VI rifle was approved as a trials rifle, with B, and C patterns following in 1929 and 1935. The Mk VI eventually became the No. 4 Rifle.

In 1926, the British government changed the nomenclature of its rifles, redesignating the .30 caliber SMLEs as No. 1 Rifles, the .22 caliber conversions of SMLEs as No. 2 Rifles, and P-14 Enfields as No. 3 Rifles. Purists will distinguish between earlier SMLE rifles and later No. 1 rifles, but for all practical purposes "SMLE" and "No. 1 Rifle" are alternate names for the same weapon.

It is not correct to think of the SMLE (or No. 1 Rifle) as a solely a WWI firearm. While it is true that the British government adopted the No. 4 Rifle in the late 1930s, production of the No. 1 Rifle continued, with more than 250,000 of them being produced during WWII by the BSA Co. factory at Shirley. In addition, the Ishapore factory in India manufactured more than 600,000 No. 1 Rifles during WWII, while the Lithgow factory in Australia produced more than 500,000 No. 1 Rifles between 1939 and 1945.

Except for several thousand Mk III rifles manufactured by Lithgow from 1939 to mid-1941, all of the WWII No. 1 Rifles are in the Mk III* configuration. Ishapore changed over from Mk III to Mk III* production circa 1936, while Lithgow did so in 1941. All of the No. 1 Rifles produced by BSA-Shirley were Mk III* rifles.

Production of No. 1 Rifles continued at Lithgow until circa 1956 and at Ishapore until circa 1974, with a number of improvements to the design of these rifles being implemented at both the Ishapore and Lithgow factories. All post-WWII rifles--both Lithgow and Ishapore--are Mk III* rifles. Circa 1949, Ishapore began using Arabic numerals rather than Roman numerals for the Mark number ("Mk 3*" rather than "Mk III*").

In the mid-1960s, Ishapore developed a version of the No. 1 Rifle in the 7.62mm NATO cartridge, which was designated the Rifle 7.62mm 2A, with minor modifications leading to the Rifle 7.62mm 2A1. For several years in the early 1970s, Ishapore resumed production of Mk 3* rifles in .303 British caliber.


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As nobody has relied so far, I thought that I would just say thanks for a very interesting and useful post.

Anybody got any closeup piccies showing markings and modifications?

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The "LEE" in the Lee-Enfield denotes the name of its designer - James Paris Lee who was born in Hawick on August 9th, 1831, the son of a watchmaker and jeweller.

When he was just five years old, the family emigrated to Gault, in Canada. From an early age James displayed an intense interest in all things mechanical and he began to design and build intricate pieces of metalwork.

As an article in the Hawick Archaeological Transactions of 1969 recorded: ‘In 1879, he patented a bolt-action magazine rifle which marked the beginning of his success. His vertical box magazine, first used in this weapon, was a milestone in rifle design and the principle was to become a standard for all military rifles.’

He did not actually conceive the box magazine but he perfected it. The bolt-action repeating rifle that he invented, the Remington-Lee was tested by both the United States Army and Navy and soon attracted the attention of the British. In 1880, Lee’s basic magazine rifle, modified to fire a British service round and fitted with a Martini-Henry barrel, successfully eliminated several foreign and domestic rivals in British Service Trials. Trials were continued in Britain throughout the 1880’s with modified Remington-Lees. In 1888, prototype Lee magazine rifles were tested fitted with barrels featuring the seven-groove rifling of William E. Metford. This rifle, the “Magazine Lee-Metford Rifle Mark I’, was Britain’s first general service repeating rifle. It was a bolt action, .303 calibre rifle and had an eight-shot box magazine. British firearms experts began work to modify the Lee’s rifling to take better advantage of a newly designed bullet. It was called ‘Enfield’ rifling because it was developed at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Enfield and this led to the introduction of the first ‘Lee-Enfield’ rifle, which was approved for service on November 11, 1895.

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BJOW and Derek,

Many thanks for such brilliantly concise and truly enlightening pieces on the dear old SMLE . I consider myself truly educated and very grateful.



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May I add my thanks too. I originally didn't want to spoil what is a superb post by adding a superfluous reply, but I too would be very keen to see some photos of the markings that may be found on the various Marks. I long to own an SMLE exactly as would have been carried by the Old Contemptibles - I now know what I'm looking for (Mk III) righr?! Just need to persuade my wife first!



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Superb info - thanks for the posts.

All you need to know about the Lee Enfield in a concise form.

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I have got various pictures of My Grandfather at Gallipoli with the 11th London Regt (Finsbury Rifles) and later on in Eygpt and Palestine,and the Battalion all seem to be armed with the Long Lee-Enfield,this has always puzzled me as i thought that the PBI general Rifle was the Short Lee,any ideas or thought on this oddity ??? :D

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As I understand it, there were many units still equipped with the long Lee Enfield in the early part of the war and even IIRC Lee Metfords.

At Messines in 1914 the London Scottish found that the MkVII ammunition would not fit their LLE magazines and so could only fire by loading each round in to the breech and in one LS soldier's account of their attack at Loos in 1915 it says that they spent some time before the attack checking the ammunition they had been issued to make sure they didn't have the problem they suffered at Messines which would suggest that they still had the LLE's.

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Many thanks to everyone who, put such positive replies to this thread. I wasn`t sure that anyone would find it interesting, I`m glad I`m not alone out there. :D

I would like to add something else that might also be of interest, I think it will be to SPotter.....I like you had always wanted a Lee Enfield, it took me 15 years, before I eventually bought one!!! Now heres the sad part, I`ve been informed that in October of this year, we`ll no longer be able to buy any more rifles,bayonets, etc in this country as the law is changing!!! Just as I`m in a position to start collecting these rifles, the law goes and changes, so if you are wanting to buy one, nows the time to do it!!!! So in the mean time I wonder will this put the price up, or make them cheaper? :(

Finally, sorry but I`m not in a position to put close ups of the markings on my rifle as I haven`t got a digital camera, however, there are 3 books, on the market, which should hold the key for anyone trying to identify the markings on their rifles.

I`ll try and post them below.

One last thing, I`ll post some more infomation which might be of interest. :P




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The Early Rifles from Enfield

The "Enfield" in Lee-Enfield refers to the town of Enfield on the northern outskirts of London, where a government arms works was established in 1804 to assemble "Brown Bess" flintlock muskets. The first rifle to bear the Enfield name, however, was the Enfield Rifle of 1853.

Similar in appearance to earlier muskets and rifled muskets manufactured at the London Tower armoury, the Pattern 1853 Enfield is a single-shot muzzle-loading percussion firearm with a rifled bore. Several variations were made, including the three-band infantry model with 39-inch barrel, the two-band "Navy" model with 33-inch barrel, and the artillery carbine or musketoon with 24-inch barrel. Various commercial, or "trade," rifles are also encountered.

The British wanted a breech-loading firearm, so in 1866 the Snider Enfield was adopted as an interim measure. Early Sniders are conversions of Pattern 1853 Enfields with a hinged breech block and barrel designed to accept the a .577 cartridge. Later Sniders were newly manufactured.

In 1871, the British adopted the Martini-Henry rifle, a falling-block single-shot breech-loader actuated by a lever under the wrist of the buttstock. The Martini-Henry rifles went through several model variations, and carbines were introduced as well. The Martini-Henry was the standard British service rifle for nearly two decades.

For further information on the early rifles from Enfield, see the appropriate entries on the "Enfield-Related Web Sites" page.

The Bolt-Action "Long Lees"

The "Lee" in Lee-Enfield is James Paris Lee (1831-1904), a (Scottish-born) American arms inventor who designed, among other things, the box magazine that allowed for the development of bolt-action repeating rifles.

Another important name is that of William Ellis Metford (1824-1899), an English civil engineer who was instrumental in perfecting the .30 caliber jacketed bullet and barrel rifling to accommodate it.

The first British bolt-action magazine rifle was developed through trials beginning in 1879, with adoption of the Magazine Rifle Mark I in December 1888. This rifle is commonly referred to as the "Lee-Metford," or "Magazine Lee-Metford" (MLM). It has an overall length of 49.5 inches, the same as the Martini-Henry. Minor changes led to the adoption of the MLM Mk I* in 1892, the MLM Mk II in 1893, and the MLM Mk II* in 1895.

In November 1895, changes in the rifling and the sights were made to accommodate smokeless powder cartridges, and the new rifle was designated the Lee-Enfield Magazine Rifle Mark I, or in common parlance, the "Magazine Lee-Enfield" (MLE). Minor changes led to the adoption of the MLE Mk I* in 1899 and the MLE Mk I (India Pattern) in 1905.

From 1903 to 1909, a good many MLM and MLE rifles were converted to SMLE configuration by having shorter barrels installed and other minor modifications made. Around the same time, a good many others had charger bridges installed and were re-designated Charger-Loading Lee-Metford (CLLM) and Charger-Loading Lee-Enfield (CLLE) rifles.

In 1894, a carbine version of the Lee-Metford was approved, having an overall length of 39.9 inches. 1896 saw the approval of the Lee-Enfield Cavalry Carbine Mk I, with minor changes leading to the LEC Mk I* carbine in 1899. In 1900, a version of the carbine fitted with a P-1888 bayonet was approved, and in 1903 the Magazine Lee-Enfield Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) carbine was approved. The final Lee-Enfield carbine was the Australian Rifle Club Pattern, approved in 1904.

Since the MLM and MLE rifles are 49.5 inches long overall, they are often referred to informally as "Long Lees."




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The Pattern 1914 (No. 3) Rifle

Although not a Lee-Enfield, the Pattern 1914 is most often considered an Enfield rifle inasmuch as it was designed by engineers at the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory.

In 1910, the British War Office began considering a replacement for the SMLE Mk III. Field experience with Mauser and Springfield rifles had indicated the desireability of a one-piece stock, a receiver-mounted aperture rear sight, and forward-mounted bolt locking lugs. Also under consideration was a rimless cartridge with a smaller caliber, higher velocity bullet. Over the next two years, various prototypes were examined and trials were conducted, leading to extended field trials in 1913 of over 1000 new rifles. Manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, this new rifle was designated the .276-Inch Enfield Magazine Rifle, or as it is more commonly known, the Pattern 1913 rifle.

With the outbreak of WWI, the War Office decided both to continue production of the SMLE and to commence production of the new rifle--but in .303 British caliber. In October 1914, the .303 Pattern 1914 Rifle was approved. A contract was let to Vickers, Ltd. for 100,000 rifles. Vickers had difficulty getting into production, however, and other British rifle factories were tied up with SMLE production, so the War Office approached the American firms of Winchester Repeating Arms Co. and Remington Arms/Union Metallic Cartridge Co. to manufacture the P-14. Production began in January 1916.

Winchester manufactured the P-14 at its New Haven, Connecticut plant. Remington/Union manufactured the P-14 at its Ilion, New York plant and also purchased a half-finished locomotive factory in Eddystone, Pennsylvania through its subsiderary, the Remington Arms Co. of Deleware. This factory became known informally as the “Eddystone Arsenal.” In the rush to get arms to the British, each factory operated independently in making design improvements. This led to some parts incompatability, so in June 1916, three separate models were approved: the Pattern 1914 Mk I E (manufactured by Eddystone), the Pattern 1914 Mk I R (manufactured by Remington), and the Pattern 1914 Mk I W (manufactured by Winchester).

In December 1916, a new bolt with a longer locking lug was approved. Rifles fitted with the new bolt are designated the Mk I* E, the Mk I* R, and the Mk I* W.

By April 1917, the manufacture of 1.2 million P-14 rifles for the British was nearing completion. An additional 100,000 had been sent to India. With the U.S. entry into WWI on April 6th, the need for additional American rifles was acute, and both Remington and Winchester offered to design a .30-06 caliber version of the Pattern 1914 and retool for its manufacture. The rifle became the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1917, with production beginning in the summer of 1917.

By the fall of 1917, the need for a British sniper rifle was apparent. A new backsight was developed which had a micrometer adjustment for elevation. In November 1917 this backsight was approved for installation on Winchester-made P-14 rifles, the Winchesters having proven more dependable and more accurate than the others. Rifles with the fine adjustment backsight became known as the Mk I W (F) and Mk I* W (F), the “F” indicating “fine adjustment.” In April 1918, a scope-sighted model was approved. Again, only Winchester-made P-14s were fitted with scopes. These are designated the Mk I* W (T), the “T” indicating “telescopic sight."

After WWI, both the P-14 and the M1917 were relegated to substitute standard or reserve status, with significant quantities of P-14s being sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Nearly 700,000 P-14 rifles and over a million M1917 rifles were put storage.

In 1926, the Pattern 1914 rifles were redesignated as the Rifle No. 3 Mk I, the Rifle No. 3 Mk I*, with both the (F) and (T) models carrying the Rifle No. 3 designation as well.

In 1939, the British government began removing P-14 rifles from stores and returning them to service status, as specified in the Weedon Repair Standard (WRS). Work was done at RSAF - Enfield and at a number of private firms, including B.S.A., Purdy, Greener, Holland & Holland, and Paker Hale. Rifles were de-greased and inspected, and the long range volley sights were removed. A number of new stocks were manufactured as well, the new stocks not having inletting for the volley sight dial. Rifles equipped with these stocks are designated the Rifle No. 3 Mk II, although all rifles converted to WRS specifications are sometimes referred to as Mk II rifles.

In 1941, a quantity of P-14 (No. 3) rifles were fitted with Aldis scopes, utilizing a low side mount. The low mount required that the sight protector “ears” on the receiver be milled off. In addition, a wood cheekrest (similar to that of the No. 4 “T-Model” rifle) were attached to the buttstock. This rifle was designated the No. 3 Mk I* (T) A, the “A” designating “Aldis.”

Also in 1941, the American government began removing M1917 rifles from stores and returning them to service status. Over 100,000 M1917 rifles were shipped to England, for use by the Home Guard; another 152,000 were sent to China; and 40,000 were sent to other allies. The remainder were issued to U.S. troops.

In 1944 and 1945, large numbers of P-14s and lesser numbers of M1917s were provided to the resistance fighters of the Free French and the Free Dutch. Following WWII, Great Britain send a large number of P-14 rifles to Greece, as well. The “American Enfields” have been observed in Palestine in the 1960s, in Pakistan and Angola in the 1970s, and in Afghanistan in the 1980s; and sporterized P-14s and M1917s are currently used for hunting the world over.




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The Lee-Enfield No. 4 Series Rifles

The Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifle was developed to provide a receiver-mounted aperture backsight similar to that of the Pattern 1914 (No. 3) rifle. The No. 4 rifle also reflects a new (British) standard in screw threads, making nearly all threaded components incompatable with those of the SMLE (No. 1) rifle. In addition, the No. 4 rifle incorporates a heavier barrel than that of the No. 1 rifle, stronger steel in the action body and bolt body, and a short “grip-less” bayonet that mounts directly to the barrel, rather than to a separate nosecap mounted on the fore-end. The Lee-Enfield No. 5 rifle is a shortened and lightened version of the No. 4 rifle; while the L8A1 through L8A5 rifles are 7.62mm NATO conversions of No. 4 rifles.

Beginning shortly after WWI, trials were conducted at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) in Enfield on a rifle with a receiver-mounted backsight. Trials continued through the 1920s and 1930s, yielding the No. 1 Mk V rifle in 1922 and the No. 1 Mk VI rifle in 1926. In 1931, the No. 1 Mk VI was altered slightly and redesignated the No. 4 Mk I. Trials resulted in the adoption in November 1939 of the No. 4 Mk I Rifle as the new British service rifle.

In England, two new Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF) were established to manufacture the No. 4 rifle: one at Fazakerley (a suburb of Liverpool) and one at Maltby (near Sheffield). In addition, BSA Co. built a plant in Shirley (a suburb of Birmingham) to manufacture the No. 4 rifle. Production was under way at these plants by the middle of 1941.

The British government also contracted with the Savage Arms Company in the U.S. and with Small Arms, Ltd. in Canada to produce the No. 4 rifle. Production of Mk I rifles began at the Savage-owned Stevens Arms Co. plant in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts in July 1941, while production of Mk I rifles began at the Small Arms Ltd. plant in Long Branch, Ontario in September 1941.

In February 1942, a telescopic sighted version of the Mk I was approved as No. 4 Mk I(T) Rifle. Mk I rifles were selected for demonstrated accuracy and had high-comb cheek rests and scope mounts added. The “T-Model” rifles were issued as a kit, consisting of the rifle itself, a leather sling, a No. 32 scope, a scope carrying case, a carrying chest for the rifle and scope. Some 25,000 to 30,000 Mk I(T) rifles were produced by RSAF Enfield and Holland & Holland. In addition, SAL Canada converted several thousand Mk I* rifles to T-Model configuration at the Long Branch factory and issued them as the No. 4 Mk I*(T) rifle. The scopes used were marked “C No. 32,” although mounts by Griffin & Howe and Lyman Alaskan scopes were used on some Canadian T-Models.

Modifications to the bolt release mechanism of the No. 4 were approved for Savage and Long Branch rifles, leading to the changeover at these factories in 1942 from the No. 4 Mk I to the No. 4 Mk I* Rifle. About the same time, Savage began producing rifles under the Lend Lease program, with these rifles being marked “U.S. PROPERTY” on the left side of the receiver.

In 1943, trials began on a shortened and lightened No. 4 rifle, leading to the adoption in 1944 of the No. 5 Mk I Rifle, or “Jungle Carbine,” as it is commonly known. The No. 5 rifle was manufactured by ROF-Fazakerley and by BSA-Shirley from 1944 until 1947.

Production of No. 4 rifles ceased at Savage in June, 1944, with a total production of just over 1 million rifles. Production of No. 4 rifles was suspended at Long Branch in 1945. In December 1945 Small Arms Ltd. ceased operations, and the Long Branch factory was operated after that by the Small Arms Division of Canadian Arsenals Ltd. (CAL). Production of No. 4 Mk I* rifles resumed at Long Branch in 1949 and continued until 1955, with a total production (1941-1955) of just over 900,000 rifles. CAL ceased operations at Long Branch in June 1976.

In 1944, Long Branch developed a .22 caliber version of the No. 4 rifle for training purposes. This was designated the C No. 7 .22 in Mk I Rifle. It has the same overall appearance as the No. 4 rifle, but the backsight is somewhat different. The British version of this .22 trainer--the No. 7 Mk I Rifle-- was developed in 1948. It, too, has the same overall appearance as the No. 4.

Introduced at about the same time as the British No. 7 rifle was the .22 No. 8 Mk I Rifle--a competition version of the No. 7. This rifle has a pistol-grip stock, a shortened fore-end, and a special heavy barrel with a hooded foresight. Many of these underwent FTR in the late 1960s at the Enfield factory.

In 1947, the design of the trigger mounting was changed to allow the trigger to be hung from the action body rather than from the trigger guard. In addition, light-colored beech wood was approved for rifle furniture, and Arabic rather than Roman numerals began to be used to designate various Marks of components. These changes led to the adoption in March 1949 of the No. 4 Mk 2 Rifle, with production beginning at ROF-Fazakerley in July, 1949. Production continued until 1955, with Fazakerley being the only plant manufacturing the No. 4 Mk 2.

At the same time that the No. 4 Mk 2 rifle was approved (March 1949), authorization was given to convert earlier rifles to the new configuration. The converted No. 4 Mk I rifle was redesignated the No. 4 Mk I/2 Rifle, while the converted No. 4 Mk I* rifle was redesignated the No. 4 Mk I/3 Rifle. Conversions were done at ROF-Fazakerley.

Production ceased at BSA-Shirley in the late 1940s, and in the mid-1950s the rifle fabrication machinery was sold to the Pakistan Ordnance Factory in Wah, Pakistan. The Pakistan Ordnance Factory (P.O.F.) undertook an extensive FTR program, refurbishing a good many No. 4 Mk I and Mk 2 rifles.

Additionally, No. 4 series rifles were refurbished and parts were manufactured in South Africa and in Indonesia. Rifles and parts so marked show up from time to time.

In the late 1950s, the Royal Navy contracted with the firm of Parker-Hale to convert circa 3000 No. 4 Mk 2 rifles to .22 caliber. This rifle, designated the .22 R.F. No. 9 Mk 1, has the same overall appearance as the later No. 4 Mk 2 rifles--including the beechwood furniture.

In the late 1960s, the British government approved conversion of various Marks of No. 4 rifles to accommodate the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. Conversions of the No. 4 Mk 2 rifle were designated the L8A1 Rifle, while conversions of other Marks of the No. 4 rifle were designated L8A2 through L8A5. The conversions were accomplished by installing new barrels and new extractors, enlarging the magazine wells slightly, and installing new magazines.

Also in the late 1960s, a 7.62mm NATO competition target rifle was approved as the L39A1 Rifle. The L39A1 rifles were converted from No. 4 Mk 2 and Mk I/2 rifles by installing 7.62mm barrels, shortening the fore-ends, and installing micrometer-adjustable aperture rear sights. Also, many L39A1 rifles had pistol-grip buttstocks installed. The L39A1 rifles were set up as single loaders, the standard .303 British magazine being used only as a loading platform. About the same time, the Enfield factory issued a commercial version of the L39A1 which they called the 7.62mm Envoy Rifle.

In need of a sniper rifle chambered for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge, the British government approved the L42A1 Rifle in August 1970. The L42A1 rifles are essentially 7.62mm conversions of No. 4 “T-Model” rifles with shorter and wider fore-ends and shorter handguards. The L42A1 rifles use magazines which are similar to those of the L8 rifles. The L42A1 rifle remained in service until 1992.

Finally, in the mid-1970s, a non-firing drill purpose conversion of the No. 4 rifle was approved for use by cadets. Designated the Drill Rifle L59A1, this conversion amounted to rendering No. 4 rifles incapable of being fired by milling away portions of the breech, the action body, and the bolt and welding a plug into the breech. L59A1 rifles were converted from No. 4 Mk I, Mk I*, and Mk 2 rifles.




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Many thanks to everyone who, put such positive replies to this thread. I wasn`t sure that anyone would find it interesting, I`m glad I`m not alone out there. :D

I would like to add something else that might also be of interest, I think it will be to SPotter.....I like you had always wanted a Lee Enfield, it took me 15 years, before I eventually bought one!!! Now heres the sad part, I`ve been informed that in October of this year, we`ll no longer be able to buy any more rifles,bayonets, etc in this country as the law is changing!!! Just as I`m in a position to start collecting these rifles, the law goes and changes, so if you are wanting to buy one, nows the time to do it!!!! So in the mean time I wonder will this put the price up, or make them cheaper? :(

Finally, sorry but I`m not in a position to put close ups of the markings on my rifle as I haven`t got a digital camera, however, there are 3 books, on the market, which should hold the key for anyone trying to identify the markings on their rifles.

I`ll try and post them below.

One last thing, I`ll post some more infomation which might be of interest. :P

.I like you had always wanted a Lee Enfield, it took me 15 years, before I eventually bought one!


Where could I buy one, and what sort of price would I have to pay?


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Just thought I'd comment on some of the design features of the Lee-Enfield action.

The fact that the bolt locks at the rear, behind the magazine well, is often criticised, or at least commented on, as undermining the accuracy of the rifle. In some senses this is true, as it means that the steel 'straps' on either side of the well are placed in tension by the backward force on the bolt at the moment of firing. Because that tensile stress is applied on such a long length of material, a certain amount of elastic stretch will occur, and small variations in charge and pressure will have an exaggerated effect compared to a much more rigid action like the Mauser or P14 which locks at the front of the bolt. For that reason, a Lee-Enfield action needs to be very precisely set up to get accuracy close to that available from standard production Mauser actions. Even so, a good No.4T made a perfectly adequate sniping rifle.

But it's the very same layout, combined with the tapered, shallow-shouldered cartridge, that enables the extremely slick reload action of the LE. Rounds have a shorter feed path and don't have to cross a complicated series of machined locking recesses to get into the chamber. The bolt turnover doesn't have to be so abrupt and the reload process feels much more like two movements than four. That's why the rate of fire from the LE could reach the levels it did - even a lever action rifle using a cartridge of that length would require more careful operation. Short of a semiautomatic action it's hard to imagine how anything could be as fast, and indeed, when practiced at it, racking the bolt seems to happen so quickly the shooter is hardly conscious of doing it - it can even be partly overlapped with recoil recovery time.



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Interesting addition to the debate, thanks.

We all know of the 'mad minute' when the firing rate reached 15 rounds per minute, but what was the absolute maximum that could be achieved by the sharpest of shots? Even at say 20 rounds per minute is seems incredible that the approaching Germans at Mons could have confused rifle fire to machine gun fire (with a rate of 500 rounds per minute). Unless they were overwhelmed with the sheer volume from a whole Bn blazing away at them - this would give (in round numbers) 15,000 aimed bullets per minute coming their way. Perhaps it was this precision that made them think they were facing machine guns?


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Hi Guys,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but I`m back out in Iraq now for the final part of my tour. I`ve had to set up a new account as I can`t remember what my password was, and the reminder email is being sent to my PC at home, rest assured that big jar of wasps will return, in the meantime desert wasp will have to take its place.

Right Maenforren, yes your picture looks like a MkIII, to me. A nice example, do you own it?

Corkhead, you best bet is to go to a military fair, and pick one up from there or you could try a military dealer. I think they go for a few hundred quid these days, they used to be a lot cheaper. Didn`t everything!!!! As regards to the change in the law, your guess is as good as mine as to whether this will put the price up or do, we`ll have to see. i`m sure yuo`ll be able to still get hold of them, but you`ll have to do it privately.

Hope this has been of some help.


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  • 2 weeks later...


Cpt Henderson of the London Scottish was wounded and taken prisoner at Messines in 1914. In his report of his capture in WO161/95 page 364, he describes an interview with a German officer about a British rifle. The German officer questioned what a certain part was and was told it was the "cut off". The german officer had already assumed this was to cut off the ends of bullets to make dum dums and proceded to do so. He was told that it was actually to enable the rifle to be used as a single loader and that the round hole he used to cut off the end of the bullet was to save metal and weight. He was also told by Cpt Henderson that he had never seen a bullet treated that way and to fire them would surely burst the rifle after a few rounds.

The type of rifle is not indicated and it may not have been one used by the London Scottish. Does the inscription mean anything to anyone as my knowledge of firearms would fit on a pin head.

Pte McKenzie of the London Scottish, wounded and taken prisoner in the same action also witnessed German anger at the British use of dum dums and a clip with the points broken off was flung into a wounded prisoners face.


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Thought it might be of interest, to list the various bits of kit issued with the rifle.

Oiler & pull through.


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More on the London Scottish and Their Mk1 rifles at Messines.

Lt Colonel J H Lindsay in his book 'The London Scottish in the Great War' Comments that they were modified to take Mk VII ammunition. However it was not until they were first used at Messines that they discovered that the magazine springs were weak and that the front stop clips were the wrong shape. This apparently resulted in the bullet failing to enter the chamber of the barrel as the point either hit the bottom of the breach entrance and jammed or hit the top, often breaking off the tip of the bullet. These bullets would presumably be discarded and would account for the Germans finding so many apparent 'dum dums' scattered about the London Scottish positions. A misunderstanding that was perhaps the cause of widespread anger amongst the Germans.


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All the Lee Enfield series up to and including the Mark III had a cut-off fitted so that the rifle might be used as a single loader whislst keeping a full magazine of 10 rounds in reserve.

The Mark III* dispensed with the cut-off, volley sights and various other minor alterations to simplify production.

If the rifles in question were having trouble feeding Mark VII (pointed) rounds they also could have been Mark IIIs, as the Mark III was introduced in 1907 for Mark VI (round-nosed) ammo, but the Mark VII round was not in service until 1910.

If this was the case than they must have been from Territiorial or Reserve stock as all regular army rifles had been converted to Mark VII by 1914.

However, it is more likely that the rifles were long Lee-Enfields from Teritorial Force stores.



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