Lewis Gun: Build 2

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lewis Gun, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At the end of the last build post, I had made the bipod legs but not the bipod itself. I designed the bipod leg mounts and assembled them. I missed out the hinge on the cut list (something has to be missed out, it’s Sod’s law) so had to hand-make them.

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The distinctive bands at the front of the Lewis cooling jacket are welded into place. The rear one will also house the bipod unit made previously.

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The rear sight block is another piece of laser cut steel, welded into place at the back of the receiver. I’m going to braze together the sight leaf itself together and use a 3D printed aperture to give elevation adjustment. (P.S.: Yes to other welders this weld is obviously pretty dire, I literally ran out of gas on this seam, I’ll clean it up).

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The donor is held in by two screws pinching it from either side…

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And a plate that will be welded into place at the back that holds under the buffer tube mount on the AEG.

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I brazed together the parts for the rear sight leaf. The aperture is adjustable and is based on an ‘upgrade’ Lewis sight that gave a clearer field of view in low light conditions. The flat spring underneath locks it into upright or stowed positions.

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The foresight is also 3D printed, this was by far the simplest way to get the weird shapes around that front post. This is secured by a screw and will be painted up to match the rest.

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The buttstock is quite a simple one, secured by machine screws running through from one securing tang to the other. Once shaped it will be stained and finished with hardwax oil.

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At the front end, the 3D printed cooling fins have arrived. They fit well, once painted up they will serve very nicely for the detailing purpose they are designed for.

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Painting up and assembly under way, I have to touch up a couple of areas previously missed.

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Once painted up, you can appreciate the sinister, gaping mouth of the cooling jacket.

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Finished photos to follow!

If you are interested in the history of the Lewis, you can check out the introduction article here.

If you 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.

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

Lewis Gun: Build 1

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lewis Gun, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWI, WWII

The base gun for this build is an M4. Nothing too fancy, but with lots of options for upgrade parts if needed. The first step to making the transformation into a Lewis is to build the receiver. I have modified plans I was given some time ago to build a replica to take the donor and be made from steel.

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Inside this I will fit a ‘harness’ to hold the donor.

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The drum magazine, on this I’m not sure if it will be functional, but it will be removable so I may do a very high capacity magazine in the future.

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The external detailing is welded on.

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I designed this spacer to mount on the rails, there are two of them to steady the barrel shroud.

 

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Dry fitting the parts, you can see the space where the rear end of the cooling fins are to go.

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I’m also making use of 3D printed parts for the taper on the fore-end. This part was simply much too big to make on the lathe and this system keeps the cost and the weight down.

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The bipod is the next major component. It will need some feet, and hinges made up for the top, which will have to come in a later instalment.

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Also for the next instalment, the design for the back of the cooling fins is complete (a long day’s work making this!) and it will be 3D printed much like the spacers before being painted to look like aluminium. It may even be a project for the new furnace.

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If you are interested in the history of the Lewis, you can check out the introduction article here

If you 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. 

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

Lewis Gun: Introduction

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lewis Gun, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Before I go any further, if you are seriously interested in the history and workings of the Lewis gun, check out C&Rsenal’s video. If you just want a quick overview, you can skip that and carry on reading…

Issac Newton Lewis, Colonel, US Army designed his machine gun in 1911 and spent around two years banging his head against a brick wall trying to persuade the US Ordinance Department to adopt his gun. In 1913 he left the United States and set up shop in Belgium where he received a respectable first order from the Belgians. In 1914 BSA bought a license to produce it and as war loomed Lewis moved his factory to Britain to keep it out of German hands. Lewis’ BSA license proved very profitable: between BSA and Savage Arms around 50,000 Lewis Guns were produced by 1918 and the license granted him commission on every one made.

The design itself was based on work done by Samuel Maclean, but between Lewis and designers at BSA it was transformed into a reliable and easy to produce machine. It is gas operated, open bolt with three locking lugs at the rear of the bolt. The most distinctive feature is of course the massive aluminium heat sink/fins/barrel jacket arrangement.

Shot of the Lewis receiver. On the right you can see the barrel jacket and the rear end of the cooling fins. On the bottom of the gun, forward to the trigger is the clock-type main spring.

The idea of this was to wick heat away from the barrel as quickly as possible (quick-change barrels weren’t really a thing yet). The large mass of aluminium took the heat into the fins and the muzzle blast would suck air through from the back towards the front. In theory. In reality the necessity of this sophisticated arrangement is dubious, aircraft Lewis Guns were pressed into service on the ground during WWII, even in North Africa and the guns were found to function perfectly well without.

The magazine is also worth mentioning, coming in 47 and 97 round versions. This Pan magazine is NOT a drum magazine (which relies on a spring to feed, keeping ammunition aligned with the bore) and is manually rotated and indexed as the gun operates.

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The indexing system for the Lewis. If you want to know how it works, see the C&R video above for the animation.

Last but not least, the mainspring is a spiral clockwork type, mounted in that distinct protrusion from the belly of the receiver. This is very efficient and saves space over a much larger conventional mainspring, also allowing for easy adjustment to account for field conditions to make for reliable firing in all weather.

 

The Lewis gun’s service was long and varied. Before even leaving for Europe, Lewis had put the gun on a Wright Flyer and as a result it has the distinction of being the first machine-gun fired from an aircraft (1912).

During the Great War, Britain used them extensively, eventually outnumbering the Vickers by about 3:1 in spite of being more expensive. That the government was willing to spend so much more on these than an established home-grown piece is a comment on the quality of the design.

Due to its light weight, the Lewis was readily adopted by Air Arms where it was widely used for observer’s defensive guns. It was also mounted as foreward firing guns but had to be mounted outside of the propeller’s arc due to firing from an open bolt (therefore being nigh-on impossible to synchronise to a propeller).

By the Second World War, the Lewis was outdated for the role in which it was originally used. After Dunkirk and the fall of France, Britain pulled its Lewis guns out of reserve where it was used by the Home Guard and for low-level anti-aircraft fire. In the Far East it served with Empire forces on the front lines. Throughout the war it remained in use with the Navy and RAF for air defence from boats.

 

As well as versions chambered in .303 British, there were Lewis guns made in 7.92 and 7.7 Japanese rimmed, the Japanese having copied the design from versions captured in the Far East.

 

The Lewis had some limited influence on other designs, the FG42 taking inspiration for its bolt/piston arrangement and from that the M60. There was also a Lewis pistol, which fired from an open bolt.

 

Links:

Lewis gun firing in slow motion

Lewis Gun video, manuals and pictures

The Lewis Pistol

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.

Complete builds, 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.