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Posted: 1/31/2006 10:19:15 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 10:21:37 AM EDT by Old_Painless]
One of the truly great military firearms has to be the British SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield) .303 Rifle. This rifle was the mainstay of the British army for more years than most other rifles ever approach. It served from the First World War through the Second, and did so with honor.

I bought mine at a gun show many years ago.

Here it is:



Mine was produced at Lithgow Arsenal in Australia.



It appears to be used, but not abused. The bore is excellent and it is a fine shooter.

I reload for mine, but there are some problems with reloading for the .303 SMLE. The British made the chambers extra large to allow the chambering of dirty, muddy, even corroded rounds. This means that when you fire the brass, it swells a lot. When you then resize it, it really "works" the brass and can lead to incipient head seperations. In fact, today as we were shooting, I had a brass head seperation.

You pay a price for "reliability" in chamber size.

We noticed that the "kick" of the SMLE is very easy and is more of a "shove" than a kick. A very nice rifle to shoot.

The SMLE has a 10 shot magazine that is removable, but not actually designed to be removed in combat. Instead, stripper clips are used to fill the magazine. Being a 10 shot rifle was a big improvement in the days of 5 shot rifles.

The British troops in WWI developed a neat way of using this rifle. They called it "volley fire" and it was a way of shooting a bolt gun really fast.

To do this trick, you hold the bolt knob with your right thumb and first finger and work it that way.

Here I am opening the bolt:



The bolt opens easy on a SMLE because it is designed to cock on closing. This was done to allow the easiest opening as possible, in case of dirty rounds.

Next is the rear of the cycle, the ejection:



Next, closing the action and chambering a new round:



Lastly, the middle finger is used to pull the trigger. Not as clear as I'd like, but here it is:



Notice that the thumb and first finger stay on the bolt and the middle finger pulls the trigger.

This was so fast, that I was able to fire about 1 round per second with little practice. This was the rate of fire that the British wanted to get.

The first time they used this tactic against charging German troops in WWI, the Germans reported to their Officers that the British had automatic weapons.

As we walked to another range for some more pics, I was carrying the rifle as many, many Brits had carried them across the plains of Africa, on the shoulder, muzzle forward.



Here I am working the rifle, volley fire. On the shoulder, brass in the air.



And finger on the trigger, ready to fire.



It is amazing how quickly the rifle can be fired in this manner.

SMLEs are great pieces of history.

You can often find them for very reasonable prices at gun shows.

Don't miss a chance to get one and enjoy it.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:22:08 AM EDT
Looks like a nice rifle but how does it do against a loaf of bread.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:22:30 AM EDT
Nice!

One of the best bolt-action rifles ever, no contest!! I love mine.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:23:41 AM EDT

Originally Posted By MaddMan:
Looks like a nice rifle but how does it do against a loaf of bread.



Probably bounces off like a wet string bean against a boulder.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:24:37 AM EDT
how's the ammo cost & availability?
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:24:52 AM EDT
I would love to get a Nolll Enfield.

'Cause I truely love my No.4mk1.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:28:53 AM EDT

Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:
how's the ammo cost & availability?



Good question. I haven't found any good, cheap ammo recently, but I'm looking.

I heard that Wolf may produce some .303. I wish that they would.

In the mean time, I will continue to reload. I enjoy reloading and it's fairly cheap.

Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:33:36 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:

Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:
how's the ammo cost & availability?



Good question. I haven't found any good, cheap ammo recently, but I'm looking.

I heard that Wolf may produce some .303. I wish that they would.

In the mean time, I will continue to reload. I enjoy reloading and it's fairly cheap.




I believe they are. At least, the CTD website shows it on backorder. $8.98 a 20 round box.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:33:50 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:38:25 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 10:40:05 AM EDT by -Duke-Nukem-]
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:40:10 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:41:18 AM EDT

Originally Posted By -Duke-Nukem-:
Don't forget the mighty Ishapore No. 1 in 7.62 NATO. A recoiling beast to be sure, but a strong action and a straight shooter. Plus some of the stocks were made from Bombay mahogany and they clean up very nicely. Examples can still be had for cheap.

img.photobucket.com/albums/v236/MolonLabe/Ishapore.jpg

img.photobucket.com/albums/v236/MolonLabe/Ishapore3.jpg




Nice rifle, Duke.

I've always been a little cautious about a .308 in a SMLE, but haven't read of any problems with failures.

If you blow yourself up with yours, please have your wife send me some pictures.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:43:35 AM EDT

Originally Posted By raf:
Nice report.

Your term "volley fire" is more correctly referred to as the "Wallbridge Method".



Thanks, Raf.

I tried to remember "Wallbridge", but couldn't shake it lose from all the other clutter in my brain.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:43:36 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:43:51 AM EDT
They are great guns...I have 20....

The best part about collecting Enfields is all the markings that you can find on them...unit marks, ownership marks...what stories they tell...

One I own is a 1910 dated BSA, with New Zealand ownership markings from 1912...might very well be a Gallipoli gun...

Another is a 1919 Lithgow, with Osterriche Gendarmerie stamping on the barrel, meaning it was one of the guns issued to the Austrian Police soon after the war...coming from Ozzie land, did she see service in the Desert, with the Desert Rats, make its way to the continent, and then get issued in Austria...who knows?

Another Lithgow I have is a 1928...interesting since much fewer rifles were made between the wars, but even more so since it still has a chunk of shrapnel buried between the forearm and upper handguard, right about where some digger would grip it...I hope he made it ok....

Also have a 1936 Lithgow....considering they only made about 9000 rifles that year, she's a keeper.

I have a Mk IV Con'D...originally a Long Lee...complete with the VR (Victoria Regina) stamp (ahh, the days of Victorian England...)...originally built in 1900, converted in 1909 to No.1 Mk III configuration....

A 1909 Ishapore No.1 Mk I**IP, India Pattern conversion....1909 was the first full year of production at Ishapore...

A No.1 Mk I*, 1906 LSA....a very early production SMLE, still in Mk I* configuration, a rare gun...

and a bunch of others...I still weep about the ones I have had, and let pass through my hands.

Grand old guns, with a hell of a history, more often than not, stamped somewhere on it!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:44:30 AM EDT
Damn, I have a Lithgow made in the same year no less. I have to find a set of furniture for it, the original set fell apart from time & poor care from the previous owner. Mine has a dark bore but very strong rifling.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:46:46 AM EDT
Brings me back some of good memory. My first rifle was SMLE with Austrian re-proof mark (not Austrialian)
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:48:28 AM EDT
Neat rifles, I've been tempted to grab one several times but just never "pulled the trigger."
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:51:48 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:
I reload for mine, but there are some problems with reloading for the .303 SMLE. The British made the chambers extra large to allow the chambering of dirty, muddy, even corroded rounds. This means that when you fire the brass, it swells a lot. When you then resize it, it really "works" the brass and can lead to incipient head seperations. In fact, today as we were shooting, I had a brass head seperation.
You pay a price for "reliability" in chamber size.



Can you have the barrel set back and rechambered to the correct dimensions to solve the case separation issue?
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:55:05 AM EDT
anyone know where I can pick a decent one up for a decent price?
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 10:56:56 AM EDT

Originally Posted By pzjgr:
Grand old guns, with a hell of a history, more often than not, stamped somewhere on it!



Yep. I have often looked at the markings on mine and imagined who carried it and where they fought.

A true piece of history.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:01:26 AM EDT
tag for the limey gun
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:04:20 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 11:07:19 AM EDT by The_Bricklayer]
A Lithgow No.1 mk3 is on my list of must have guns. I have a Savage made No. 4 with the US property marking and the flaming bomb. It was made in 1942 and it has some initials carved in the stock. I love the history behind these fine old rifles.

thanks for the pics OP
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:06:11 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Recon_Rabbit:

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:
I reload for mine, but there are some problems with reloading for the .303 SMLE. The British made the chambers extra large to allow the chambering of dirty, muddy, even corroded rounds. This means that when you fire the brass, it swells a lot. When you then resize it, it really "works" the brass and can lead to incipient head seperations. In fact, today as we were shooting, I had a brass head seperation.
You pay a price for "reliability" in chamber size.



Can you have the barrel set back and rechambered to the correct dimensions to solve the case separation issue?



Case head separations with these rifles really aren't that big of an issue if you are a careful reloader. Four firings TOPS; I only reload my brass three times and download a little after the first firing. I never had a problem, just DON'T try to get "more mileage" out of the brass.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:09:11 AM EDT
Ive got a survival rifle that was remade from an Ishfore(sp?) 308 Enfiend. Nickel plated with a synthetic stock and a survival kit in the butt. Fun little piece and a good trunk gun. I have never heard of using your middle finger for increased rate of fire, ill have to try it!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:09:23 AM EDT
I have No.1 Mk.III as well, but the stock on mine is beat to hell. My favorite 'C&R' rifle by a mile.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:10:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 11:11:49 AM EDT by TheFreepster]

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:

Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:
how's the ammo cost & availability?



Good question. I haven't found any good, cheap ammo recently, but I'm looking.

I heard that Wolf may produce some .303. I wish that they would.

In the mean time, I will continue to reload. I enjoy reloading and it's fairly cheap.




Try sportsmans guide, as of a week ago they had very nice cheap .303. Wolf is already making .303 but it is kind of expensive (like 40 cents a round).

I love enfields, but I don't own one because of the difficulty finding cheap ammo. Otherwise I would snap one up in a second. If only some cheap .308s come back on the market....

eta: ammo
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:10:18 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Recon_Rabbit:

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:
I reload for mine, but there are some problems with reloading for the .303 SMLE. The British made the chambers extra large to allow the chambering of dirty, muddy, even corroded rounds. This means that when you fire the brass, it swells a lot. When you then resize it, it really "works" the brass and can lead to incipient head seperations. In fact, today as we were shooting, I had a brass head seperation.
You pay a price for "reliability" in chamber size.



Can you have the barrel set back and rechambered to the correct dimensions to solve the case separation issue?



I tried an experiment with the last lot (100ct) of virgin brass I reloaded.

Using my Hornady .30-06 New Dimension dies (these feature a very tapered expander button) I size the neck up to .33 and then .35 cals. You can run the decapper rod with the button way down the body and do this very easily. I then resize the cases in my .303 Brit dies, adjusted to let the bolt just close on the case. In effect I expanded the case's mouth to remove the shoulder and moved it forward while cold. Rather than being slammed forward from firing. In theory this should lenghten the life of the cartidge case. I may run into splits of the mouth, but annealing the cases would solve that.

I've fired about 60 of these and have no problems. Didn't think I would, but the proof of the theory will come with about the 3rd or 4th reloading.

Better get busy.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:14:20 AM EDT
I have dies, components, and ammo for a .303, but no rifle!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:24:05 AM EDT

Originally Posted By ironoxbows:
Neat rifles, I've been tempted to grab one several times but just never "pulled the trigger."



Well????

What are you wainting for???
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:26:16 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Recon_Rabbit:

Can you have the barrel set back and rechambered to the correct dimensions to solve the case separation issue?



As stated before, this is not really a big problem.

I am not using the rifle for combat, so a stuck case is merely an inconvience.

But I don't usually have a problem as I only neck-size the brass and carefully inspect for incipient head seperations. I must have missed this one.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:29:59 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 11:30:14 AM EDT by Old_Painless]

Originally Posted By BuckeyeRifleman:
Ive got a survival rifle that was remade from an Ishfore(sp?) 308 Enfiend. Nickel plated with a synthetic stock and a survival kit in the butt. Fun little piece and a good trunk gun. I have never heard of using your middle finger for increased rate of fire, ill have to try it!



Yep, they will do the job.

I once read a report of a British trooper in the mid-east during WWII. He was in a firefight with some Japs and 3 charged him from close cover.

He fired one shot from his SMLE .303, and it just happened that the three Japs were in a straight line. His round went through all three and killed them all.

The Japanese Soldiers O' Truth!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:32:07 AM EDT
My Grandfather died when I was about two so I don’t really remember him. But he left me an original Remington 1858 and left my brother a SMLE. That SMLE was a big part of my childhood. To me it typified what a real rifle should be. My brother still has that one and I always wanted to get one for myself.

Several years ago I was at a local gun store looking at the incredibly abused SMLEs they had on display. One of the clerks asked me if I wanted to see one that was in better condition. The rifle he had wasn’t just in good condition, it was in perfect condition for a military rifle. Of course there were some minor stock dings and such but it’s a military rifle. Apparently the man who had owned it brought it home from WWII and his family sold it to the gun store when he passed away.

The $300 price was a lot of money to me then, and it still is, but there was no way I could pass it up. It wasn’t just that I was getting a rifle to own but that I was preserving a piece of history. I couldn’t run the risk that someone would chop it up and turn it into a hunting rifle.

Anyway, they are great rifles and a lot of fun to shoot.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:41:14 AM EDT

Originally Posted By sp1shooter:
I have dies, components, and ammo for a .303, but no rifle!



No problemo.

You just load it up and ship it to me.

I'll shoot it in my rifle and ship you the brass.

We'll work as a Team.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:45:19 AM EDT
Good post Old_Painless ,


I wish I could get some good surplus .303 to
shoot .

My Enfield is a #4 Mark 1 .
Very fast accurate rifle.

A stamp on it says it's made in
Vermont USA ,1942.

There's another stamp on the reverse side that I never
did look up.
Perhaps I should get into the gun vault tonight ?

All these semi -autos here ,but there's just something about
the classic bolt actions that makes them fun to shoot.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:50:00 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:

Originally Posted By sp1shooter:
I have dies, components, and ammo for a .303, but no rifle!



No problemo.

You just load it up and ship it to me.

I'll shoot it in my rifle and ship you the brass.

We'll work as a Team.



I think I'll just buy an Enfield. Thanks for the offer!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:50:31 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:
Nice rifle, Duke.

I've always been a little cautious about a .308 in a SMLE, but haven't read of any problems with failures.

If you blow yourself up with yours, please have your wife send me some pictures.




IIRC, the Ishapore SMLE are the only ones that can take 308 pressures. They were factory-built (1963-1970) as 308, using a different (EN) steel and heat treat.
(sourced from 'The Lee-Enfield story')

308 in ANY WW1-era smellie is a big no-no!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 11:55:17 AM EDT

Originally Posted By cobrasks:
Good post Old_Painless ,


I wish I could get some good surplus .303 to
shoot .

My Enfield is a #4 Mark 1 .
Very fast accurate rifle.

A stamp on it says it's made in
Vermont USA ,1942.

There's another stamp on the reverse side that I never
did look up.
Perhaps I should get into the gun vault tonight ?

All these semi -autos here ,but there's just something about
the classic bolt actions that makes them fun to shoot.



I think you are looking, at least partially, at the import stamp....no Enfield would ever be stamped Vermont USA when built. The only No.4's built here in the US were Savages, and those were built in Chicopee, Mass.

You would know very easily if it were a Savage. Many British built No. 4's didn't have much explicit in makers marks on them. Some were marked S 47 C which is BSA Shirley, some will just have an "M" and a date, those are Maltby's, and some will have ROF(F) which is Royal Ordnance Factory Fazakerley....

Get all the markings, and post them, I can help you out if you wish....
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:04:13 PM EDT
OP is my hero.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:14:20 PM EDT
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:17:06 PM EDT
I used my #4 mk1* to get a nice Doe over the christmas vacation when visiting family in VA.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:18:58 PM EDT
pzjgr,

I took it out for a quick look.

I remember partially incorrectly.
The one with the funny markings is a No.5 Jungle carbine .
(Currently at my father's )
This one has on the left of that steel part forward of the stock ,
1942
G9810

Above that there's an "I" that's on it's side.

It says Vermont US on the left side of the receiver.
As you said this could be an import stamp.

This rifle also came with a non-variable scope that was broken.
Very low power ,like 3 or 4 .No writing on the scope.
There was also a scope mount on it with "1942 ,K "
either series,variant ,or something .Can't remember.I'm not sure on the year
for that mount either ,but it's early 1940s.
It's in storage.No scope I could find would mount to it.
It also came with a bowie style bayonet .
Any of these items could have been added later of course.

I found a US made scope mount that matched the holes in the receiver
closely ,modified the mount ,
and it's been on there with a Bushnell 3-9 X 40 for 20 years.
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:33:22 PM EDT
love mine too!
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:57:35 PM EDT

Originally Posted By cobrasks:
pzjgr,

I took it out for a quick look.

I remember partially incorrectly.
The one with the funny markings is a No.5 Jungle carbine .
(Currently at my father's )
This one has on the left of that steel part forward of the stock ,
1942
G9810

Above that there's an "I" that's on it's side.

It says Vermont US on the left side of the receiver.
As you said this could be an import stamp.

This rifle also came with a non-variable scope that was broken.
Very low power ,like 3 or 4 .No writing on the scope.
There was also a scope mount on it with "1942 ,K "
either series,variant ,or something .Can't remember.I'm not sure on the year
for that mount either ,but it's early 1940s.
It's in storage.No scope I could find would mount to it.
It also came with a bowie style bayonet .
Any of these items could have been added later of course.

I found a US made scope mount that matched the holes in the receiver
closely ,modified the mount ,
and it's been on there with a Bushnell 3-9 X 40 for 20 years.



Hmm, look on the left receiver wall, it should be either stamped or electro pencilled No.4 Mk I(*)...see if there is an ROF(F) there as well...sometimes the markins are very faint...but from what you described it doesn't seem there are makers marks on the butt socket (BSA Shirley and Maltby marked them there, Fazakerley marked it on the receiver side...sometimes it will just be an "F").

Is there a wooden cheekpiece on the butt? Its possible the was a No.4 Mk.I (T) which was the sniper rifle...I'd have to check what sort of markings were on the mounts...don't have one, would love to get one....if it was, the mounts were for a British No. 32 Scope, which was the standard sniper scope....
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:59:53 PM EDT
So... do you pronounce SMLE "Smelly" or "smile?"
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 1:01:23 PM EDT

Originally Posted By MagKnightX:
So... do you pronounce SMLE "Smelly" or "smile?"



Smelly is the traditional pronunciation....
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 1:07:16 PM EDT

Originally Posted By pzjgr:

Originally Posted By MagKnightX:
So... do you pronounce SMLE "Smelly" or "smile?"



Smelly is the traditional pronunciation....



Must be a regional thing.

I've always heard "Smiley".
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 1:13:43 PM EDT

Originally Posted By raf:
Personally, I'd rather have a US Rifle, M-1917. Much better sights, fires the superior .30-'06, very similar (and fast) action, and equally robust. The Brit version was slated to replace the Enfield, but WWI intervened.

Oh, and M-1917's dog-legged bolt? Designed that way for "volley fire".



BTW, not to hijack my own thread, but here's my 1917.



I looked for a good one for years and found this beauty.

As a bonus, do you know what this carouche means?



Link Posted: 1/31/2006 1:24:48 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 1:37:39 PM EDT by swingset]
OP, great post. The SMLE is my favorite service rifle, and I collect them.

Your Lithgow is a Jovino gun, the stamp is on the right side of the charger bridge. Jovino co., NY, imported Enfield parts by the truckload and assembled most of them from parts. Very few original Lithgow rifles came in with the JJCO (or sometimes JVO) stamp - most were built here from parts.

It doesn't diminish the value of the gun as a shooter, however they are not original Lithgows from the Australian arsenals. I have several Jovino guns, they are interesting guns with a history all their own, but unfortunately not as original military issued weapons.

Another interesting note about Jovino Lithgows is that often times when they were built they neglected to put recoil blocks in the stock, and with repeated use the stock can crack. If you have disassembled yours, check for the brass blocks. It's quite easy to put them in, if you don't have any in your gun, and might save a split stock down the road.

BTW, reloading for the SMLE is not difficult or problematic, providing you use good thick brass, and neck-size only. I can get 7-10 loadings on good brass on even a generous chamber.

Here is my nice '41 Jovino No1mkIII*:


Here is an original 1919 Lithgow (still stocked in Queensland maple, and wearing the original Suncorite finish, more "park" than the blueing of the Jovino gun)
Link Posted: 1/31/2006 1:32:05 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/31/2006 1:34:52 PM EDT by Old_Painless]

Originally Posted By swingset:
OP, great post. The SMLE is my favorite service rifle, and I collect them.

Your Lithgow is a Jovino gun, the stamp is on the left side of the charger bridge. Jovino co., NY, imported Enfield parts by the truckload and assembled most of them from parts. Very few original Lithgow rifles came in with the JJCO (or sometimes JVO) stamp - most were built here from parts.




Thanks for the excellent info, Swingset.

You made me dig the rifle back out of the safe.

I do not find any markings on either side of the charger block.

Could it be anywhere else?

I would like to know more about this rifle.

All serial numbers match and the stock catrouche says Lithgow, just like the metal proof.


Edited to add: Used a better light and found JJCO under the bridge on the right side. So?


Link Posted: 1/31/2006 1:33:53 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:

Originally Posted By raf:
Personally, I'd rather have a US Rifle, M-1917. Much better sights, fires the superior .30-'06, very similar (and fast) action, and equally robust. The Brit version was slated to replace the Enfield, but WWI intervened.

Oh, and M-1917's dog-legged bolt? Designed that way for "volley fire".



BTW, not to hijack my own thread, but here's my 1917.

photos.ar15.com/ImageGallery/Attachments/DownloadAttach.asp?iImageUnq=32242

I looked for a good one for years and found this beauty.

As a bonus, do you know what this carouche means?

photos.ar15.com/ImageGallery/Attachments/DownloadAttach.asp?iImageUnq=32243




Cartouche...rework at the Ogden Arsenal, inspected by Elmer Kieth....
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