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Remembered Today:

SMLE


Devils Own
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TonyE, Heatseeker, Anybody,

What is the best (and least messy) way of bedding a barrel in the forestock of an SMLE. Where is the barrel meant to 'float' etc? Were all of the barrels in the Great War bedded to the same level thay they are now?

Cheers

Steve

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Steve,

I was always under the impression that they weren't floated and bedding was as they bolted up, timber to metal fit, nothing special done.

I might be wrong though.

Smokey.

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I am not the best person to answer you on this. For normal military use the bedding consisted of the barrel bearing against the spring loaded plunger in the fore-end of the SMLE to centre the barrel in the nosecap.. For civilian target shooting, all sorts of special bedding have been used.

During manufacture the rifles were assembled and then shot for accuracy in an Enfield rest, and the foresight was then adjusted to put the shots on the point of aim.

Hope this helps,

TonyE

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Thanks fellas

That is reassuring. I am not keen on doing a whole load of bedding processes for the sake of civilian accuracy. With regard to authenticty, I am just pleased if I hit the man-sized target (anywhere) at 300m.

I was more concerned about the vibratory effects of the barrel on the wood and whether it causes damage. I have turned my attention to this as a result of my own stupidity. I recently stripped and cleaned one of my guns, which was not bedded but I forgot to return the spring plunger that Tony mentioned. I shot it on a few details and a crack developed in the forestock. I only noticed that I had forgotten the plunger when I found it on my cluttered workbench at the weekend. I then wondered whether the crack had occurred as a result of this or poor bedding. The forestock actually fitted nice and tightly anyway. Was the crack a result of ageing or my stupid error? Duh.

Cheers

Steve

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Come on fellas, What can you tell me about my crack?

Will the forestock need replacing do you think?

Cheers

Steve

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The crack should be fine........I'm just glad it's not in the rear end........

Smokey.

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Oo err. Steady on Smoke you'll end up getting our posts removed. All this talk abount bedding and cracks is making me feel faint.

Steve

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There's supposed to be an Inner Band which is a running fit on the barrel, with a tapped hole in the underside. The screw that goes into the tapping has a plain shank around which a compression spring should be fitted. This exerts its force between the floor of a counterbore in the underside of the forestock and the head of the screw, tending to stress the barrel slightly downwards just in front of the rearsight (IIRC - I haven't got my Mk.III* in front of me), whereas the spring plunger in the nosecap pushes the muzzle upward.

I think the purpose is vibration damping. I dunno how well it works as I haven't got the right spring in mine, and it won't shoot much better than 4" or so at 100 yards. When I can find and fit the correct spring, I'll know more...

Regards,

MikB

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I wonder if playing around with that spring, changing it etc, can improve accuracy. Maybe its possible to try a range of different ones. I was thinking of stuffing a whole load of play-dough into the rear of the fore end.

Steve

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Steve,

I remember when chopping the forewood off the SMLEs was all the rage over here to make shootable sporters, had one myself. From memory the action and first few inches of the barrel were bedded and the front timber was removed, effectively floating it. I'm not suggesting you do that, but it gives an insight into what was needed to be done to make them shoot straight. The vast majority of pig/deer/roo shooters and farmers over here would have carried a sporterised SMLE at some stage.

Smokey.

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Thanks fellas

I am not so much interested in maintaining accuracy in the form of close groups, as I only really shoot the SMLEs for the sense of tradition. I am not sure how close a group a guy in a trench would have shot in the middle of an assault. I am certainly more concerned about the preservation of the woodwork. Some of the really old woodwork that has not been consistently oil almost metamorphosises into a completely different material. It looks like pottery or bakerlite. I think it must be really open to shattering or cracking.

Don't mention sporterised SMLEs Smokey. Wash you mouth out.

I like that site Albert and look at it a lot but I can't work out that bedding section at all. I think that you basically just need to keep it tight around the receiver.

Cheers

Steve

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Thanks fellas

I am not so much interested in maintaining accuracy in the form of close groups, as I only really shoot the SMLEs for the sense of tradition. I am not sure how close a group a guy in a trench would have shot in the middle of an assault. I am certainly more concerned about the preservation of the woodwork. Some of the really old woodwork that has not been consistently oil almost metamorphosises into a completely different material. It looks like pottery or bakerlite. I think it must be really open to shattering or cracking.

Don't mention sporterised SMLEs Smokey. Wash you mouth out.

I like that site Albert and look at it a lot but I can't work out that bedding section at all. I think that you basically just need to keep it tight around the receiver.

Cheers

Steve

Must apologise for the late reply Devil's Own ... my gawd, you must have the only surviving shootable SMLE left in the Old Country!

As much as Aussie gun laws are restrictive, none of the firearms that were banned held any interest for me, but I hope the SMLE, and other service Lees, will soldier on in the decades to come

Yes, with the correct "setting up", a SMLE will cause an enemy some worry out to ranges of 1000 yards ... they are not "tack drivers", but with proper maintenance and operation will not jam, will consistently put holes in a man sized target at battle ranges (out to 300 yards) and they are also handy as a club of pike if your target manages to stray too close.

SMLEs the Empire over are generally set up with the standard barrel band in the centre and spring plunger applying upward pressure just back from the nosecap.

Alas, Australia has its own oddity in the No1 MkIII and MkIII* (H), or heavy barrel, which had its origins with the target shooting fraternity (a traditionally conservative lot), who insisted that the heavier barrels used the the Long Lees were superior, and some even thought moving on from Metford rifling was retrograde (I remember reading similar arguments when the L1A1 SLR replaced the SMLE in the 1950s, and similar shock horror when it was replaced by the F88 Austeyr in the 1990s).

What essentially began as a bastardised range modification was standardised essentially to allow Australia's military shooting teams, and hence made the rifle valid for use by civilian competitors, when the heavy barrel (which had the same profile or thickness of the Long Lee, but was shortened, resulting in a barrel 11oz heavier than the standard) proved to be a good performer.

Testament to the accuracy of the Aussie .303 (H)'s was that in 1944 a batch of them pressed into service from the rifle clubs in World War II were picked over and 1600-odd were mounted with telescopes and converted to HT (Heavy Telescopic) sniper rifles in 1944-46.

Because the heavy barrel was stiffer due to its increased profile (resulting in less "whip"), the centre barrel band and spring plunger was dispensed with on the Aussie SMLE H's, but over the decades many of the "belly floppers" (big bore target shooters) practiced all sorts of "black arts" involving floating the heavy barrel, corking packing the barrel channel, fibre glass bedding the action and even opening up the nosecap and "rubber nosing" the end of the barrel with grommets.

There was essentially no tried and true method, and what worked superbly on one rifle turned another in to a dog.

I have several standard No1 MkIII SMLEs in my collection, however, following in the steps of my forefathers my main "range shooter" is a 1942 Lithgow which has been upgraded to "H" specs (it was a sad old range rig that was on its way to the furnace, and its greatest appeal was it had already been monkeyed with ... it's the cheapest rifle I own - $25 plus a new $150 heavy barrel - but the best shooter).

Moving right along, I doubt you'd have anything as exotic as a heavy barrel in the Old Country, but with the "standard weight" SMLE the factory set up has been proven time and again to be the soundest.

Down here in Australia you encounter many "sporterised" SMLEs, but what the cultural vandals who did this "enhancement" don't realise is the full length fore end, barrel band, plunger spring, nosecap and svivel band were an essential part of stabilising the barrel for consistent accuracy, particularly when the barrel heated up after rapid firing.

Without the stabilising bedding and packing the relatively light barrel will "whip" with inconsistent results and the heat haze after only a few rapid rounds would make it difficult to sight, and that's not taking into account the hazards of the uninsulated barrel.

That said, the factory set up was accomplished using new components, and after several decades fore ends will shrink and crack resulting in "slappy" action bedding ... as much as these are pieces of history, if you do plan to regularly use them and suject them to several tons of pressure they will need to be maintained.

I've found the best way to "discretely" tighten bedding is a two pack compound such as that made by Brownells ... this not only provides a snugger fit for the action, but the rock hard polyeurathane also fills and strengthens where the stocks inevitably crack at the base.

You may also want to take a look at the barrel channel and see if there's any "hot spots" left by the hot barrel touching which may need to be relieved to give the barrel unrestricted harmonics (fore ends can and will warp over time and touching points can cause "stringing" as the barrel heats).

Also run a feeler gauge around the end of the barrel in the nosecap - if it is touching metal-on-metal this can often be rectified by loosening the screws, re-positioning the nosecap and tightening again, or in extreme cases refitting the nosecap.

SMLEs also were supplied with three butt lengths - all with a half inch difference - which can make a difference in your shooting ... all my "shooters" are fitted with long butts, but the HT sniper needs a medium butt to allow me to get the correct short eye relief.

I reiterate I am first a collector, but these rifles will need some modern maintenance if you regularly fire them, however, it should be kept to a minimum in the case of an original firearm comprising all its original components.

Hope this isn't too much information!

Snaps of my small brood follows: 1913 BSA No1 MkIII, HT sniper converted in October 1944 based on a 1916 Lithgow action, 1941 Lithgow No1 MkIII*, 1942 Lithgow SMLE "H", 1947 Lithgow No2 MkIV .22 trainer:

post-8287-1144376153.jpg

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Thanks Heat.

That's great, you can never have too much information about SMLEs. I probably shoot about 20-30 rounds out of mine once a month. I've bought another one now which has been completely refurbed, so that will take over as my main shooter. I think I will try to get hold of the Brownells rig and give it a go.

Cheers

Steve

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Yes mate ... I only have one "token Mauser" in my collection - a Swede '96 - which is a work of art and amazingly accurate, but in a brawl you can't beat the SMLE.

They are also a very versatile target shooter because there's a heap of spares and accessories, and they are far more easier to modify for the individual, especially when it comes to butt length.

There's also a cool selection of aperture sights that can be fitted without modding the rifle which transform them in to very respectable big bore target rifles.

That said, out to 300 yards, I will hit a man-sized target in a rapid match every time with the standard V sights ... sure the group's not great, but hit is hit!

Oh, and I found the Brownell's bedding compund is great for cementing patches and filling cracks, which have often opened ip as the wood shrinks ... I would never think of applying it to my all matching intact 1913 BSA, but it is great for repairs to a working rig.

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