It occurred to me recently that my Enfield manufactured SMLE (Short magazine Lee Enfield) .303 battle rifle was turning 100 years old this year. The receiver is actually marked “Enfield 1917 ShtLE III” being a mark No. Mk III. What is interesting about my rifle is that by 1917, as I understand it, the rifles were mainly Mk III* and without the magazine cut off. Mine is not a * and most certainly has the cut off in place and full functioning.
The condition of the rifle is very good. Whilst the woodwork is far from stunning it is understandable as by 1917 all the good walnut had been used up and alternates had to be found. The wood has couple of small armoury repairs but is otherwise as it was exiting the factory. A MLE butt stock adorns the back end of the rifle as the length of pull of the older butt suits my arm length better.
The barrel is life new and is a 5 groove left hand twist (yes, the Brits knew about 5R rifling over a hundred years ago). FTR’d in 1953 I suspect the rifle never saw much use if any prior to being sold as surplus and as a result it shoots very well with cast bullets being a regular 2 MOA rifle when the operator does his bit. One of the best loads for it is a Mk VI ammunition duplicate pushing a 220gr cast bullet at 2000fps.
Another lovely feature is the rear sight is the original windage adjustable model. The rifle would be sighted with the rear sight centred on ‘0’ and the correct height front sight drifted to zero. Once completed the rear sight can be moved left or right to allow for wind and set back to zero again with ease. SMLE sights are some of the best open sights I have used with the square notch and blade arrangement.
So happy birthday old girl. You don’t get a letter from the Queen but I promised to take you to the range soon and dust of the cobwebs.
Keep your powder dry.