|This is the Lee-Enfield used during WWII
Caliber- .303 caliber
Action- rotating bolt, manual operation
Overall Length- 1260mm
Barrel Length- 767 mm
Magazine Capacity- Two five shot magazines
The Lee-Enfield series of rifles was born in 1895 as a marriage between the magazine and bolt action, designed by the J. P. Lee, and the new pattern of barrel rifling, designed at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield. Originally known as Lee-Metford, this design was adopted by British army in 1888 and used a Metford pattern rifling with shallow groves, intended to be used with ammunition loaded with black powder. Introduction of the smokeless powders in the form of the Cordite showed that the Metford rifling was very short-living, so it was soon replaced with Enfield rifling, with 5 traditional land and grooves and left hand pitch. Early Lee-Enfield rifles, officially known as a ".303 caliber, Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Enfield", were carried by the British army through the Boer war (South Africa) of 1899-1902, and Boers, armed with their Mausers, taught to the Brits some hard lessons. And, unlike some other Empires, Brits were quick lo learn. In 1903, they introduced a new design, which improved over the older Lee-Metfords and Lee-Enfields in some important respects. The main improvements was the introduction of the "universal" rifle idea. The common thinking of the period was to issue the long rifle for infantry and the carbine for cavalry, artillery and other such troops. The Brits decided to replace this variety of sizes with one, "intermediate" size, that will fit all niches. This "one size fits all" rifle was called ".303 caliber, Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield, Mark 1", or, in short SMLE Mk.I, where "short" referred to the length of the rifle. This rifle passed some improvements during the following pre-WW1 years, finalizing in the 1907 as a SMLE Mk.III. Development and introduction into service of this rifle was accompanied with constant complaints of some "theorists", which stated that this rifle would be no good neither for infantry, nor for cavalry, so RSAF was set do design another rifle, patterned after the German Mauser, which also should be more suitable for mass production, than the SMLE. This rifle finally appeared in 1914 as an ".303 caliber Enfield Pattern 1914 rifle", or simply a P-14. With the outbreak of the Great war British troops were still armed with the "poor" SMLE Mk.III rifles, which soon turned far from any "poor", giving some hard time to the Germans. In fact, the SMLE Mk.III was a really good rifle, quite accurate, reliable and suitable for rapid and accurate firing. British soldiers were rigorously trained for both individual and volley fire marksmanship, and were routinely capable of firing 30 aimed shots per minute, which was quite a rate of fire for any non-automatic rifle. There were times when advancing Germans were impressed that they were under the machine gun fire, when Tommie used their salvo-firing techniques. During the war time the basic Mk.III design was slightly simplified to better suit the mass production needs, with omission of "volley" sights and magazine cutoffs, and with some production shortcuts. When the World War One was over, there were no questions of quality of basic SMLE design, but some improvements were suggested and introduced in later patterns, such as peep-hole, receiver mounted sights. These "interwar" patterns were not issued in any significant quantities until the 1941. In 1926, Britains, quite confused with numerous 'Marks' and 'Marks with stars' of their weaponry, decided to adopt a new numbering system, so the SMLE Mark III became the "Rifle, No. 1 Mark 3". The "Rifle No.2" was a training version of the SMLE No.1 but chambered to .22LR ammunition. The "No.3" was assigned to the P-14 rifle, which was used in limited numbers. And the "Rifle No.4 Mark 1", widely known as a SMLE No.4 Mk.1, appeared in 1941. This was an improved and strengthened SMLE design, with heavier and stronger receiver, which also was faster and easier to machine, and with heavier barrel. The stock shape was shortened at the front part, giving away with the characteristic Mark III snub-nosed appearance. The barrel-mounted open rear sights were replaced with the receiver-mounted peep-hole sights, which were micrometer-adjustable. The latter feature was substituted by the simplified flip-up rear sights for wartime production, and this version became the No.4 Mk.1* rifle. By the end of the World War 2, when British and Commonwealth troops (also armed with SMLEs) started to fight in jungles of the South-East Asia, it was soon discovered that a "short" SMLE was still not short enough for the jungle combat, so a carbine version was adopted late in the 1944 in the form of the No.5 "jungle carbine". This gun was somewhat lighter and handier than No.4, but suffered from the "wandering zero" problems, which meant that the point of impact wandered during the time. The muzzle flash and recoil were also too strong, despite the flash-hider and rubber buttpad. The last, and by some opinions the finest "general issue" version of the SMLE was the No.4 Mk.2 rifle, which appeared in 1949. It was made by higher peacetime standards of fit and finish, than a wartime No.1 Mk.3s and No.4 Mk.1s, and served with British army until the mid-1950s, when the self-loading L1 SLR (semi-auto copy of the Belgian FN FAL) rifle in 7.62mm NATO was introduced into general service. The SMLE is a manually operated, rotating bolt action magazine fed rifle. The Lee-designed SMLE magazine is a first easily distinguishable feature. It holds 10 rounds of ammunition in staggered column form, and while the magazine itself is detachable, it is not intended to be reloaded when detached from rifle. Early Lee-Enfields (Long Lee-Enfields and SMLEs prior to Mark III) were loaded only by single rounds via the top receiver opening. Latter, the clip (charger) loading was introduced, and a rear receiver bridge with charger clip guides was added to the design. Some of the earlier marks were then retrofitted with charger loading ability during the 1907 - 1910. To load the magazine, one must use two standard 5-rounds clips. Loading by loose rounds was still available, but some care must be taken when loading cartridges into clips or in the magazine, due to the rimmed ammunition cases. Prior to the 1916, all SMLEs (and earlier Long Lee-Enfields) were issued with so called "magazine cut-off" - a simple device, located at the right side of the receiver and intended to cut off the cartridge supply from magazine to the action when engaged, so rifle could be used as a single-loader, and ammunition in the magazine could be saved for the hottest moments of combat. This was an outdated idea even when it was first introduced, so it was easily discarded when the need to speed up production arose. The magazine itself should be detached only for cleaning, maintenance and repair, and every rifle was issued with only one magazine. The magazine catch is located inside the triggerguard. In general the SMLE were ones of the best bolt action battle rifles, fast-firing, powerful and reliable. While being less suitable for "sporterizing" than Mausers, they are still popular among civilians as a hunting and plinking weapons, and also as a part of the history. The key deficiencies of the SMLE were probably the rimmed ammunition and non-interchangeability of bolts, but the advantages of this design were mush bigger and Lee-Enfields in all its guises served the Britain and the British Commonwealth for more than 60 years in the front line service and much longer as a specialized weapon (training and sniper).