TM L96: 308AWS to SMLE conversion

.308 SMLE, Cold War, Custom builds, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Quite some time ago, a client proposed making an Enfield with the magazine in the right place. Now, this is after the Matrix SMLE (Gas) but before the newer Red Wolf No.4, making it among the few with a magazine in the ‘correct’ place.

The simplest way to achieve this was to take a TM L96, which uses a feed ramp to take BBs from the magazine (located in the correct place for that rifle) forward to the chamber as it is effectively a VSR with an added on magwell/feed ramp system.

The first job was to modify the action/magwell to be as small as possible. I kept trimming it down until it was as small as possible without losing the rigidity required for this system.

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I could then fit to to the fore-stock.

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An original trigger guard was not an option sadly, as it did not fit around the dimensions of the donor.

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As a result, I designed a custom one. My first attempt didn’t quite look right.

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My second attempt was much better though.

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The next step was to attach the nose cap unit and top guards. 

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As with the VSR builds, I fit the metal parts before doing the shaping so that the shape fits around these. In the picture below, you can see the rear top guard has been cut away for the rear sight and sight guard.

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Cut down to size and part of the shaping done.

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It still needs to be shaped round the back end a bit to improve the grip, but the overall shape is coming together. 

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It interested, you can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

Spring SMLE: Complete.

Imperial Era, Lee-Enfield, Products, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At long last, the first spring rifle is complete! I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at a VSR based SMLE, though there are a few tweaks I shall be making to production versions.

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I think in future versions I shall sit the action lower down in the stock to achieve a lower profile. Then I can add things like a charger bridge, maybe even splitting the back of the receiver for added authenticity.

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This example is using an original rear sight leaf. In future versions I hope to make reproductions to minimise the number of irreparably modified originals. The rear sight will also host the TDC hop adjustment mod, saving you a helpful upgrade.

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I may have to use No. 4 Enfield swivels unless I can find a way to reproduce these, swivels are becoming harder to come by.

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After the success of the 3D printed Sten MkV foresight, I have continued to use this technology here to create the outer barrel impression and foresight unit.

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The barrel has been trimmed down to fit. The VSR barrel is a little long so I removed it, cut and re-crowned it on the lathe.

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Here’s an important feature, I have lined the magazine well with steel which means magazine release should be consistent and not pinched by the wood. Other VSR Enfields don’t have this lining and I have seen magazines get stuck. There is a new design for this which I will use in the production versions to allow very fast magazine changes.

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The fake magazine is solid resin, painted to look right. There is no need to destroy a perfectly good magazine for this build!

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The original buttplate. I’m hoping to make reproduction ones for future versions. As this is an original buttstock you would still be able to fit an original if this happens.

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I’m hoping to improve the bolt handle and back of the bolt shape. However I am pleased with where it now sits, nice and authentic on the rear band you can achieve quite a good rate of fire.

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So, there are some changes to come for production but I’m very happy with this first go!

You can see the whole VSR SMLE build here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy. This will be available soon.

Spring SMLE: Part 4

Imperial Era, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

I’ve had the mould sitting about from previous projects for SMLE magazines. I took a resin cast from this, cut it down to size and added some screws into the top to secure to the gun. I painted it with acrylics, which are great for getting metallic and weathered finishes.

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I’ve removed the rear band assembly to do some detailing and finishing work.

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I thought I would attach a few pictures of the band before being cleaned up here as I forgot to show the build process for this part. I’ll let you work out the details…

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Markings will be kept simple for this, no attempt to replicate the originals as they would require a very random set of stamps.

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As I’m replicating various Mks of firearm I can’t use the Mk system to denote changes in the designs of the airsoft versions as ‘SMLE No.1 MkIII MkI’ is a bit confusing! However I’m not going to stamp ‘V0.1’ onto this as it would look out of place, so it will be denoted as MkI. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

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Now it’s clean and marked up, it’s heated up and into the oil it goes for that lovely, black satin finish.

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Finally, screwing on the buttplate and some last finishing touches before assembly….

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You can see the whole build so far here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

Spring SMLE: Part 3

Custom builds, Imperial Era, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

The last SMLE build post was a view of the rear sight on its own. It is now mounted on the rifle, awaiting the rear sight leaf.

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The foresight unit for this is experimental, 3D printed in ABS. This design isn’t perfect but it’s not a bad start!

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The ridge on the back was accidental, I considered cutting a recess for this to fit, but decided against it. I cut this off and filed it flat.

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A view of the back of the foresight, which has slumped a bit in printing. The next version will hopefully be more square.

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I cut a flat section at the end to take the nose cap insert. The back of the insert doesn’t reach the back of the nose cap, so there is a piece at the back cut to a curve to fit this part into. The hole drilled through is for the vertical  bolt that secures the nose cap.

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In future versions I hope to have wood going further forward into the cap itself, with the transverse nose cap screw going through it. This system is still pretty strong though as it still has a substantial bit of walnut at the front.

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In place, the eagle-eyed among you may notice that the top guard is different to the last picture of it. I’m making a new top guard that is a bit chunkier and rugged than the original for durability.

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There’s still a good bit of material to remove, but this will just be a couple of hours’ work.

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Then some alterations to the rear sight before sanding, oiling and finishing up!
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You can see the whole build so far here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

Spring SMLE: Part 2

Cold War, Custom builds, Imperial Era, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At the end of the last post, the SMLE looked like this:

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The next steps were to permanently attach the buttstock and fit the top handguard.

I cut the recess in the top guard to fit around the action and the barrel.

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I then cut space for the middle band. Once fitted this gave a rough idea of the sizes the furniture would need to be trimmed down to.

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In place, it all looks a bit square. Time to put it on the shave horse and put it to the drawknife.

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A bit of working later, the stock parts are rounded off and level.

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There is a slight bulge above the action as it is thicker much further down the rifle than on the real thing, but is isn’t too obvious. Once the rear sight is in place it should break up this bulge and make it almost imperceptible.

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For future models I may do a Top Dead Centre (TDC) modification, which will allow me to make the action a little shorter and reduce the bulge as with this mod there is no longer a large sliding part needing space at the front.

I shall be making the rear sight from steel, laser cut. This will be easier than modifying an original as it has to fit around the spring receiver. It will however take an original sight leaf. 

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At long last, the parts arrived! Welded together and smoothed out, next step is to attach the sight leaf. 

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This will take an original Enfield sight or a copy I’m making. It will be oil finished for maximum wear resistance.

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You can see the whole build so far here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

Don’t forget to join Vintage Airsoft on Facebook to keep up to date with the latest build photos, history and classic firearms.

GaSMLE: Finished

Cold War, Custom builds, GaSMLE, Imperial Era, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Some pictures of the finished Gas SMLE!  In future I may add a charging bridge and a cut out for stripper clips in the receiver but for now I’ll keep it as-is.

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i have left the inner barrel protruding for now as it makes it easier to chrono! I may change this in future.

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Real steel rear sight, with the rear hand guard made to fit the receiver.

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If you are like this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles.

You can also buy many of our finished products in our Etsy store.

Spring SMLE: Part 1

Cold War, Custom builds, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

So, a few people have seen my GaSMLE project but don’t know I’ve also been working on a spring SMLE as well! If you’re not familiar with the story of the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield check out the introduction I did on this series of rifles HERE.

 

In the meantime, here is a bit of the build so far on the spring version:

 

The first item on the agenda was to modify the bolt-action. I used a VSR as the base gun as it has many options for upgrades available and isn’t dreadful to start with.

I made this extension on the lathe, turned to the diameter of the bolt so that it fitted into the action. In this I cut a slot at the front so that the out of battery safety can be operated when the bolt is turned. As you can see I have also made a backstop to prevent this extension from pulling back over the securing bolt.

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Then I cut a piece of steel bar and bent it to shape. I produced a rough ball on the lathe with a hole through the centre and hammered it onto the steel bar to a friction fit. This unit was then welded onto the extension.

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I had already designed the magwell unit to screw straight onto an unmodified VSR action. I have seen airsoft Enfields which just have a wooden magwell and found these tend to swell and shrink with moisture and temperature, gripping the magazine and making it difficult or impossible to remove during a firefight.

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Finished and in place on the action. The big spring locks the magazine in.

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Getting the action to fit the stock took quite a lot of work due to the shapes involved, so I shall skip to the stage where it is fitted. I am making this stock from scratch rather than trying to lever the VSR into a real SMLE stock as a real forestock is expensive and frankly a bit small to take this action very well. It can be done but it leaves the wood paper-thin at some points. This is walnut so is ideal for gunstocks and can be tailored for this action.

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Initially, this is cut a little deep but this is fixed later on.

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I planed it down a little and roughly fitted the nose cap into place-rounding off the fore-end a bit.

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Once planed down to size it is much easier to reach the magazine! I also started to fit the trigger guard at this stage, this will have the rear band attachment for the buttstock attached.

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A side view, so you can see where the band will be going now.

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OK, I confess, I forgot to photograph the band being made! It’s all coming together now, shaping the wood stock being the main priority, then making the rear sight, foresight and top guard.

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If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles.

You can also buy many of our finished products in our Etsy store.

GaSMLE: Build

Cold War, Custom builds, GaSMLE, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

The Gas SMLE has been a very long project in the making. It is actually one of my first attempts to build a custom airsoft gun but kept getting put back by problem after problem.

This was originally going to be spring powered, but I was offered a gas G&G G96 and couldn’t say no. This is a clone of the KJW M700 and is essentially made up of all of G&G’s upgrade parts for the same.

 

My first priority was to make the rear band, which in the original is a part of the receiver. My initial thought to replicate this complex shape was to cast it in aluminium. I used a deactivated Lee-Enfield to form the mould.

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I built my furnace from a bucket, gas torch, a load of cement and a few other bits!

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This allowed me to make quite a few castings. Each one improved on the last until I reached my pinnacle!

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The rough castings could be filed into shape, initially just to fit the (original SMLE) woodwork but then to it the receiver of the donor rifle.

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However as aluminium and steel have such different melting points fitting the band to the trigger guard proved troublesome, especially given the level of accuracy I could achieve with the casting process.

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Eventually I gave up on this and went with a more conventional way of building an airsoft Enfield. I wrapped a piece of steel around the attachment end of a buttstock and welded it in place. Then filed it down so the M700 receiver could fit.

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I then put an endcap over the front, to which I could attach a nut when the time came.

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The trigger guard was cleaned off at the back and bevelled in order to achieve a really deep, solid weld.

_dsf7656At this point, the action sat well enough in the receiver. By the taking of the next photograph I had also welded in the nut into which the bolt that holds the buttstock in place is screwed.

 

You can also see the new trigger, during the attempt to combine the original trigger and an Enfield trigger the original was all but useless. However this replacement is all-steel and a much better shape. It will need a little modification for comfortable use but it’s a good start and definitely an improvement on the donor!
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The magwell needed modification to take the M700 type magazine. With gas you need to be very precise: Not only does the BB feed need to line up (and this type of rifle is very picky about that) but the gas release valve on the magazine must line up with the trigger mechanism AND the gas port must line up with the bolt. In the end I decided to cut the magwell over-size and fill the gap with polymorph plastic. This has the added benefit of not being affected by moisture so it won’t swell and grip the magazine as I have seen some rifles do.

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I then needed to re-fit the barrel, having made a new hop-rubber for it. The donor has a weird R-hop style hop unit as standard, I may change it to a more typical AEG hop at some point. The rear sight is secured by polymorph at the moment, with a tiny trace of glue to stop it spinning. This will be replaced before use with a screw into the woodwork.

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At the muzzle end the barrel is secured with a piece of steel turned to the correct size to fit the nose cap. It also holds the foresight in place by friction. As you can see in the next picture the inner barrel pokes out.

Eventually this will be trimmed down to size and re-crowned but for now it is difficult enough to chrono it already without making it harder to line up!

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Aside from the bits mentioned above, there’s only a little to do.

Next I have to finish the hop-up adjustment unit, make a new top rear hand guard as the original doesn’t fit the gas receiver. It will then be usable, subject to gas control and a couple of Enfield parts.

The new top rear hand guard in place, before finishing.

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And another view, showing the receiver. Over the front of the receiver is a steel plate. The rear screw holds it in place, using one of the threaded holes that holds the scope rail on the original rifle. The front screw is the hop adjustment. I will have to replace these with some better-looking screws before use!

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The top guard is sanded and oiled to finish it and protect it during use.

Some last bits of finishing to do to make it usable and I’ll get some photos up in the next week or so! For now I’ll just be happy to have a usable rifle, but in the longer run I plan to make some modifications to the receiver to make it look more authentic such as cutting out a charging slot for the thumb and mounting a charging bridge at the back. That or make this receiver into a Lee-Metford prior to the CLLE upgrades!

 

If you would like an airsoft rifle of your own, do drop me a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss or follow VA on Facebook!

You can also buy many of our finished products in our Etsy store.

The saga of the Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield

Cold War, Era, History, Lee-Enfield, No. 4 L-E, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Notes:

In this piece I will refer mainly to the British use of the Lee-Enfield as it was predominant. In that I include the Empire as it was part of Britain for the majority of the time the Enfield was the British main service rifle. I shall only refer to other nations’ use in passing as that would involve covering most of world history from 1910 onwards.

British nomenclature is a specialist field and there are a few notes you should be aware of for reading this article, while most English speaking readers with be aware of these I will detail them in case you are unaware of their meanings or they are poorly translated:

No. : Number, abbreviated. Used to describe a series of rifles in this case

Mk: Mark, the sub model of a series

‘*’ or ‘star’: Used to denote minor changes that do not justify a new ‘Mk’ designation.

(T) : Telescopic

(TH) : Telescopic sight, heavy barrel

I should also make clear that while the P13s and P14/17 rifles are Enfields, they are quite unrelated mechanically. I have referred to the SMLE’s predecessor only as the Lee-Metford, or MLE as I am not intending to go into the sub-types in this article. Maybe another time.

Lee-Metford MkII. Wikipedia.

Lee-Metford MkII. Wikipedia.

The story begins

The Lee-Enfield was the main British service rifle from 1907 to the 1950s, born out of the arse-kicking the British Army received during the Boer war where the Lee-Metford (or Magazine Lee-Enfield) did not perform to expectations against the Boer Guerrillas armed with Mauser rifles.

P13 at RIA

P13 at RIA. Although an Enfield, this is not related to the Lee-Enfield series.

A replacement was needed, quickly. The War Office started investigations into the options, including adopting a Mauser-style rifle (which became the P13 eventually) and shortening the MLE to what, at that time, was considered a carbine length and issuing it as a standard rifle to all troops.

SMLE No. 1 MkI

SMLE No. 1 MkI. Rare as hen’s teeth.

There were a couple of early renditions of the SMLE but these were not widely issued, however on the No.1 MkIII they finally settled on one of the classics of the 20th century. A bold move, a short rifle to be issued to all troops from Infantry to Cavalry, Artillery and Engineers to simplify logistics. A far cry from many countries where all of these cadres had their own specialist rifle or carbine. The stubby, snubbed nose appearance given to the rifle by the nose cap, foresight guard and bayonet lug combined contrasts quite strikingly with the slender, elongated fore-ends of the French Lebel and the German Gewehr 98. The detachable magazine and multiple piece stock also means a greater level of modularity for repairs and personalisation, such as was available.

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The classic SMLE. Rifle No. 1 MkIII

Military service

This was ready for WWI where it served very well in the filthy confines of the trenches. Its rate of fire was so terrific that in the early stages of the war in the west, German soldiers overestimated the number of machine guns in use by the British.

During the war, it was supplemented in the field by a simplified version, the No.1 MkIII*, which sped up production in the pressured wartime economy and the P14, a development of the P13 with lessons from trials learned and applied. During times of need, old MLEs were also occasionally pulled out of storage.

P14 Enfield. Basically a better thought through short Mauser.

P14 Enfield. Basically a better thought through, short Mauser.

After the war, the SMLE was retained despite the moves to replace it pre-war, though some features such as an aperture rear sight were implemented in the 1920s. Although these improvements were great they were expensive and as a result Britain and the Empire went into WWII with exactly the same rifle as they went into WWI with.

During WWII, the No.4 Lee-Enfield series was introduced, though it was mainly used in Europe and didn’t reach the furthest ends of the conflict in the Far East. This featured an aperture rear sight at last! Different marks featured slight alterations in the rear sight configuration depending on location of manufacture (Long Branch, Savage and British models all varied slightly) and model. However the aperture sight went down well and the rifle was popular. Unlike the SMLE, the barrel is not in contact with the woodwork all the way down its length which improves barrel harmonics and accuracy as a result. The receiver and the woodwork is also lighter as well as easier to manufacture, all of which made it an ideal wartime improvement.

Lee-Enfield No.4 MkI

Lee-Enfield No.4 MkI

An even further lightened, shorter version in the form of the No.5 Mk1 was used in the Far East. Colloquially known as the ‘Jungle Carbine’, it looks much like a shortened, sporterised No4 with an enlarged foresight guard and muzzle flash compensator. When you look at it closer, you also see the rubber buttplate and integrated sling swivel. However this rifle was discontinued only three years after its introduction and phased out due to issues with a wondering zero, combined with aggressive recoil and large muzzle flash. It still managed to serve in Korea and Malaysia before seeing the end of British service entirely, though it was officially outlasted by the No.4 Mk2 which served right up until the replacement by the Self-Loading Rifle.

No. 5 Mk 1 'Jungle Carbine'.

No. 5 Mk 1 ‘Jungle Carbine’.

Even past the introduction of the 7.62 round and the semi-automatic rifle, the Lee-Enfield lived on in frontline British service in the form of the L42 Sniper rifle. SMLEs had been used as sniper rifles since WWI, when standardisation for such modifications was non-existent, and No.1 MkIIIs and No.4 MkIs had both been used officially in both world wars as well as Korea and a number of smaller conflicts.

L42A1 Sniper rifle.

L42A1 Sniper rifle. Note the cut-back stock and the magazine shape change to take the new round.

Many L42s were apparently converted from No.4 MkI (T) rifles, themselves chosen from the factory for their accuracy. They were converted to take the new magazine, re-chambered for 7.62 and their No. 32 scopes modified for the new cartridge. These served as the British Army’s sniper rifle until the introduction of the Accuracy International L96 in the 1990s.

Other countries have continued to use SMLEs right into the 21st Century. Notable examples include India (especially with the Police), Canada (with the Rangers) and Nepal. They are also still prized in Afghanistan, where open terrain and long distances are in some ways better suited to the Lee-Enfield than modern intermediate-calibre assault rifles.

There are also a number of specialist sub-variants of the SMLE, which I will cover at a later date as this is intended as a VERY brief overview of the rifle’s history and development before I start covering the multiple airsoft builds going on at the moment.