May 29, 2015

Weapons of Choice: Lee-Enfield Rifle

Lee-Enfield MKI
The British Lee-Enfield rifle was designed after the similar black-powder rifle used in the American Civil War by Confederate troops, while most of the Union army used the US made Springfield rifle of similar cap-and-ball design using the newly introduced “minié ball” bullet introduced by Frenchman, Claude-Étienne Minié. The newly designed cartridge Enfield rifle was designed with a rear-locking bolt system like Mauser, but quicker to operate. It was fitted with a 10-round magazine and became the British military rifle beginning in 1895 until 1957 with variations in its design and using the .303 British cartridge. It is a valued rifle among collectors no matter what period it was made.
The Lee-Enfield name comes from the designer of its bolt system, James Paris Lee, designed by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, England. It would be used in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Southern Africa, and India; and became known as the “three-oh-three”.
With the advent of more powerful smokeless powder, the shallow, rounded Metford rifling would wear away after approximately 6000 rounds. The problem was solved when Enfield replaced the rifling with the innovated square-shape rifling.
No. 4 MKI
A lighter model was introduced in January of 1904 that has a shorter barrel (26.2 inches/640mm) as a carbine Enfield – the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield MK V. It had a trademark of SMLE on the nosecap because it was modeled after the Swedish 1894 Cavalry Carbine; which in turn was borrowed from the Mauser. It still had the 10-round magazine that was filled by cartridges carried in 5-cartridge chargers with guides on the bolt head and body pushed into the magazine with the thumb. The rear sight is fitted with a leaf pivoted to the bed at the front end. Elevation is provided by moving the slide that rests upon curved ramps on each side of the bed. The leaf is graduated by lines every 100 yards from 200 to 2,000, even numbers marked by numbers. A catch holds the leaf in position at 50-yard increments and is released by pressing the bone studs at each side of the slide sight. Dovetail sight system is used.
The .303 Enfield was used through the Korean War until it was replaced by the L1A1 SLR in the latter part of the 1950s, which then the receiver was upgraded along with the bolt to fire 7.62x51 NATO ammunition and designated the Model 2A, retaining the old 2000-yard rear sight system and then changing the sight system to metric at 800m (Model 2A1). These were manufactured until the 1980s and continues to be used as a sporting rifle with the MKIII action.
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902). the .303 British cartridge had poor performance because of its heavy, round-nosed bullets. The 7mm Mauser rounds of the Mauser Model 1895 were more efficient with higher velocity and flatter trajectory, giving it longer range. The cartridge was replaced in 1912 with the .276 Enfield cartridge. Based on the Mauser design, it was named Pattern1913 Enfield. It had better ballistics, but troops found that it had excessive recoil, muzzle flash, barrel wear, and it overheated. The trials of the new cartridge were stopped when World War I began and the MK VII model had improvements to include keeping the .303 cartridge.
Between World War I and World War II, more improvements were made that included replacing the spike bayonet with a blade bayonet. The World War II model is the favorite of most collectors.
Canadian rifleman, Operation Ortona, 1943

British troops fighting in the tropics against Japanese called for the development of the No. 5 MKI, called the “Jungle Carbine”. The stock was cut down, a flash hider added, and the receiver was machined to remove any unnecessary metal. It was shorter and 2 pounds lighter. However, despite the rubber butt-pad, it had excessive recoil and accuracy problems, so production was ceased in 1947.
Lee-Enfield "Jungle Rifle"
Snipers after World War II used the Enfield, modified to use the 7.62mm NATO cartridge, along with the latest scoped sighting system.
SGT H.A. Marshall, Calgary Highlanders, Sniper Section
Some Enfield rifles can be found that are chambered in .22 caliber (calibre) because they were used to train cadets in marksmanship exercises – a less costly round.
Gunsmiths in Australia and Britain converted the MKIII rifles to single shot muskets chambered for .410. While expensive to convert, it allowed those with Enfield rifles to keep them because of gun control laws and less trouble legally to own than shotguns. Several attempts have been made by collectors to reverse the conversion from .410 shotgun back to bolt-action .303 rifles with no success. Some owners have had gunsmiths adapt 3-round shotgun magazines made by Savage and Stevens in order to have a magazine-fed shotgun, however.
After Mosin-Nagant, the Lee-Enfield rifles are the oldest bolt-action rifles still in service. Commonwealth countries still issue them for law enforcement purposes. It is also used as a drill weapon and in ceremonies by the Sri Lankan military.
By far, the most popular use is by hunters and target shooters. Many surplus Enfield rifles are sold in Australia (before gun control tyranny), Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States; most of which have been sporterized by gunsmiths. The .303 British cartridge is effective for medium-size game and some hunters use the more modern soft-point ammunition for large game hunting.
It is a popular historical rifle and collectors as well as hunters/sport shooters enjoy the 10-round magazine it has to offer rather than the common 3-5 cartridge domestic bolt-action rifles available, such as the Remington 700. Iraqi Veteran provides an excellent video about this amazing and popular rifle:
Notice in the video that the shooters use the combat method of shooting the Enfield by holding onto the ball of the bolt and firing with the fourth finger instead of traditional second finger. As the video demonstrates, it provides the fastest method of quick firing a bolt action rifle.
Rhineland Arms produces an Enfield chambered for .45 ACP that uses M1911 pistol magazines and Lee-SpeedSporter” is a British quality version of the Lee-Enfield rifle.

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