Enfield No.5 Mk 1, the ‘Jungle Carbine’: Introduction

Cold War, Lee-Enfield, No. 5 Enfield, Weapons, WWII

Mention the No.5 Lee-Enfield rifle and you will always get a reaction. It is one of the most controversial British small arms, beaten only by the SA80 system and the EM-2.

 

 

The idea of the No.5 was to create a shorter, handier and lighter version of the British service rifle, the Enfield No.4. This had already seen some upgrades from its predecessor the No.1 MkIII. Contrary to popular belief, this effort to lighten and shorten the Enfield design was not specifically to aid in jungle fighting (though this was clearly on the Empire’s radar) it was, in fact to provide Airborne troops with a rifle less awkward to carry in the confines of an aircraft.

PARATROOP TRAINING AT NETHERAVON,WILTSHIRE, NOVEMBER 1942

Climbing into a Hotspur glider during training. Although glider design improved on this compact format you can see where the desire for a handier weapon came from.

 

This it certainly achieved, it is around 2lbs (0.9kg) lighter and nearly 5″ (125mm) shorter. Most of this saving was achieved by shortening the barrel, though also through lightening cuts around the receiver to remove excess material and lightened versions of certain components (such as the bolt handle and trigger guard/magwell).

 

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As a result of this shortened barrel, a flash hider was added. The length of the standard rifles meant that most of the .303 cartridge load was effectively used and produced only a (relatively) usable muzzle flash. The No.5 however has a significant muzzle flash, which could be blinding to the shooter in low-light conditions. The flash hider is not actually there to hide the flash from the enemy, it’s to hide it from the user.

 

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As a result of the lightening, perceived recoil is also greater. To counteract this, the designers added a rubber butt-pad in place of the traditional brass or steel plate. A good idea, except that they made it very small, a bulging pad missing out a lot of the butt’s surface area. So that increased perceived recoil was forced into an even smaller part of the shoulder. Thank goodness it was comfy, soft rubber right? Err, well concerns around durability meant that a pretty hard rubber compound was used. Not great at the time and 70 years on they have only grown harder.

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The controversy was that these rifles allegedly suffered from a ‘wondering zero’. This means that once sighted in, the rifle would not hit the same aimed point consistently. This was the reason the War Office gave for discontinuation of No.5 production in 1947, only three years after is was introduced. This makes it one of the only military service rifles to be outlived by its predecessor.

Several aspects of the rifle design have been suggested as causes including:

-The lightening cuts causing the receiver to flex when fired. This could cause headspace issues or inconsistency between shots over time

-The flash hider if fitted incorrectly or damaged may cause gas imbalances around the projectile, allowing shots to wonder of their typical course

 

Modern No.5 MkI owners have been unable to reproduce this wondering zero effect, which makes it look likely that this was only given as an excuse to shift bolt-actions to the rear echelons and give them in aid to allies to speed up introduction of the self-loading rifle that every other major power was adopting or had already.

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Nevertheless, the No.5 saw limited service in Northern Europe, notably during the liberation of Norway, but most of its service life was post WWII, in Korea and Malaya, where they were not only used by British troops but also local forces.

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For an outline on the No.5 MkI, see Ian’s video at Forgotten Weapons.

For some in-depth information, see C&Rsenal’s article on the rifle, including how to spot the many fakes available.

When the build posts go up, you can see the progress here.

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If enjoyed this piece 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 some of our complete products via Etsy

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Creating an impression: 82nd Airborne, Italy 1943-44

Creating an impression, WWII

This is part of a new series, written by contributors outside of Vintage Airsoft itself (though I am sure I and some friends will have to do some of our own as well). Although I edit, pictures and words are from them and they have done their own research. Accreditation is at the bottom of the article.

82nd Airborne: Operation Avalanche

A less common impression in both the reenacting and airsofting community, as most loadouts are based on the Normandy Campaign.

The equipment pictured can be used for Operation Husky (Invasion of Sicily), Operation Avalanche (Invasion of Italy), or Operation Overlord (Invasion of Normandy). As the war progressed, the standard M42 jump uniform, as well as most of the equipment was phased out in favor of the M43 field uniform.

This is the one of the earliest variants of the U.S. airborne uniform that saw combat during WWII, with most jump uniforms being reinforced after the invasion of Italy in late 1943.

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Head

M1C/M2 Helmet: $99.99-345.00 (UK approx £200 from Soldier of Fortune)

The standard U.S. airborne helmet used throughout the war was the M2 “D bale” helmet. This helmet differs from the standard infantry helmet in that it uses curved fixed bales that resemble the letter “D.” This design was eventually decided to be inadequate as the bales that secured the chinstrap would often break in the field, necessitating constant repairs to helmets when returning from the field.

Due to large demands for airborne helmets, a number of standard M1 infantry helmets were converted with a jump liner and paratrooper straps to meet the demands for M2 helmets.

Eventually the M1C jump helmet was introduced to replace the M2, and added swivel bales to the helmet to prevent the bales from snapping off; however, they were not common until late 1944.

All versions of the jump helmet usually also had an airborne jump liner, which was a standard infantry liner with the addition of “A yokes” to hold the leather chinstrap. This chinstrap was used to secure the helmet to the paratrooper when jumping from aircraft.

The helmet pictured was compiled from various auctions on eBay, full M2s or M1Cs can be found at: At the Front, Jmurray and Soldier of Fortune

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Uniform

M42 Jump Uniform: $150

The M42 jump uniform was the standard uniform for paratroopers during 1943. The uniform was later upgraded with reinforcements at the knees and elbows, and later replaced by the M43 uniform.

The uniforms are common, however At the Front has the most durable and accurate for their price.

 

Khaki summer shirt: $50

The khaki summer shirt was often worn by airborne and infantry under the M42 jump uniform during the summer months. While technically not permitted, this was a common practice due to the hot climate of Italy in late summer.

What Price Glory is one of the few vendors to still sell khaki summer uniforms. (the one pictured is an original)

1937 wool shirt: $50

The standard regulation shirt (not pictured) was worn under the m42 jump uniform. This is the same shirt used under the M41 jacket by infantry; however, there are several photos of paratroopers wearing khaki shirts under their M42s instead of the wool shirt.

At the Front, What Price Glory, and other vendors have reproduction wool shirts, and originals are still plentiful.

 

Insignia

Sewing patches: Each paratrooper was to sew on their own insignia to their uniforms, this lead to a variety in the manner in which the patches were affixed to the uniform. Some would spend time meticulously sewing intricate patterns for their insignia, like the cross stitching pictured, while others would attempt to quickly sew insignia to the uniform, creating a sloppier look to the uniform. Others, especially units like the 509th parachute infantry regiment chose not to sew on a unit insignia.

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Divisional patches should be sewn onto the left shoulder, approximately the width of two fingers below the shoulder seam. American flags should also be sewn two finger widths below the right shoulder seam. Rank patches should be sewn approximately one finger width below the unit patch or halfway between the elbow and the bottom of the unit patch.

At the Front makes quality patches for uniforms, as original airborne patches are nearly impossible to find.

82nd Airborne Patch: $10
The 82nd Airborne was the first airborne division to see combat in the European theater in WWII. The division fought in Sicily, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

PFC Stripes: $5
Private First Class stripes, added to denote rank of private first class.

48 Star American Flag: $5
American flags were commonly sewn on the arm of invasion forces, leading to several variants of patches or armbands to be attached to paratroopers. Often, these patches would be removed after landing, so their inclusion is not necessary.

Feet

Corcoran Jump Boots: $125-256
Jump boots were issued to U.S. paratroopers throughout WWII, and are still used today. These jump boots are taller than most other boots to secure them to the paratrooper when jumping. The boots should be polished to a shine, as this was a common sign of pride among paratroopers. WWII jump boots should be brown, and polished to a dark brown shine.

At the Front, Amazon, and most other WWII vendors sell brown Corocan Jump Boots.

 

Field Gear

For the invasion of Italy, all field gear should be OD3 (khaki), there should not be any OD7 (green) field gear, as OD7 was not common until D-Day.

Webbing set: (pistol belt, rigger pouches, canteen, entrenching tool) $175
The standard web gear for U.S. airborne in 1943 consisted of a 1936 pistol belt, rigger pouches which could hold four enbloc M1 Garand clips or five M1 Carbine 15 round magazines. The canteens should be stainless steel, as original aluminum canteens contain large amounts of aluminum oxide. The T-Handle entrenching tool allowed soldiers to dig foxholes, clear brush, and could be used as a weapon of last resort. In 1943, the standard T-Handle or shortened airborne T-Handle shovels would be appropriate.

Much of the web gear pictured are originals, the e-tool was from At the Front, and the rigger pouches were from Man the Line

1936 pack system: $60
The 1936 Musette bag and suspenders are an important part of any airborne impression. The system allowed the paratrooper to be able to jump while carrying a pack, and was issued throughout the war to U.S. Airborne forces.

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The pack and suspenders pictured are both originals.

1916 holster: $30
The 1916 holster was designed to hold the 1911 handgun, and was issued to officers, machine gun crews, and other units who were not given an M1 Garand rifle. Additionally, U.S. paratroopers often acquired 1911s from various sources and were able to keep them for the Italy jump.

The holster pictured is an original.

Gas mask bag: $20
The 82nd Airborne jumped into Sicily and Italy still using their training gas masks. These were usually discarded soon after the jump upon the realization that the Germans were not using poison gas. These training masks were replaced by the M6 gas mask and M7 rubberized gas mask bag for the Normandy invasion.

Parachute first aid pack: $14
The parachute first aid pack was a small first aid kit for the individual’s use should they be wounded in action. Soldiers were also issued a separate bandage and pouch, however during the Italy invasion, the content of the second bandage pouch were often stuffed into the M42 jacket pockets.

The one pictured is an original.

At the Front, Man the Line, What Price Glory, World War Supply, and other vendors sell quality reproduction field gear. I would recommend against buying off eBay, as reproductions are often poorly made and poorly dyed.

 

Weapon

M1A1 Carbine (King Arms): $350
The M1A1 Carbine was a M1 carbine with a wire folding stock to allow easier use when jumping from aircraft. The rifle was folded and placed in a scabbard secured to the parachute, and unlike the M1 Garand, could be immediately used upon landing. Carbines were usually issued to machine gun crews, officers, and radiomen; however, there is evidence that some riflemen were issued carbines.

The King Arms M1A1 is CO2 powered, full metal and real wood, giving it a similar feel and weight to the real version. Unfortunately, King Arms did not base their model off the WWII version of the M1A1, and therefore the rifle needs modifications to bring it closer to WWII specifications. Additionally, the rifle shoots at 487fps using .2 bbs, making it difficult to use at normal fields.

KAAG127_3

 

1911 (WE Tech): $95
The Gen3 WE Tech 1911 GI model is an affordable, reliable sidearm. The handgun shoots reliably and possesses a 15 round magazine. A very capable sidearm, and one of the few 1911s made to WWII specification.

M3 Trench Knife: $50
The M3 trench knife was issued to U.S. soldiers who did not have an M1 Garand bayonet. This knife was used as both a fighting and utility knife from 1943-1945.

Rubber knives can be found on eBay for $40, while the M6 scabbard can be found on eBay separately for $20. 

Editor’s note: Other suitable main arms would of course include the M1 Garand, M1 or M1A1 Thompson. You can of course find some rubber knives in the Vintage Airsoft Etsy Store.

 

Vendors

There are a variety of vendors from which to source a U.S. Airborne impression, for simplicity’s sake, the links to quality vendors of reproduction equipment in the United States will be listed instead of the prices for individual items, which are subject to change at any time.

US: At the Front: www.atthefront.com 
World War Supply www.worldwarsupply.com
Man the Line www.mantheline.com

US/UK: What Price Glory www.whatpriceglory.com

UK: Soldier of Fortune www.sofmilitary.co.uk

 

As a rule of thumb, At the Front has the highest quality reproduction uniforms and field gear, however they are more expensive. Man the Line and World War Supply have some items that are of high quality, but others that tend to fall apart quickly. What Price Glory offers a larger selection of uniforms than At the Front, but often are lower quality.

Original items will vary in price greatly, and generally sell for approximately the same price of At the Front. USThey will be the highest quality, and most accurate, but due to age, they may not be as durable as good reproduction gear.

Editor’s note: Apart from strong items like helmets or garments not exposed to the elements such as shirts, I’d personally avoid using original items in the field as they are likely to succumb to wear or loss and it’s sad to lose a piece of history! That said I wear original uniforms for airsoft myself sometimes, just bear in mind historical value.

Text by Jacob Riley
Photos by Roger Harris

Edited by Dominic Evans

The Sten MkV kit in action

Add-on kits, Customer Reviews, Products, Sten, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWII

Many of VA’s followers are also on the UK WW2 Airsoft forum and will know regular contributor Ken by his handle ‘Kendo’. Ken was one of the first people to buy one of my ready-designed kits and has been using it heavily for well over a year now. I caught up with him recently to get some feedback:

“I was first made aware of Vintage Airsoft’s MkV Sten kit through the WW2 Airsoft forums, perhaps better known to some as ‘Comrades in Arms’. Dom had posted his prototype MkV build, and was looking to put together some more kits for those of us stuck with the perhaps not-entirely-accurate MkII Sten, especially for the many folks like me that portray the iconic late-war British paratroopers!
The idea was inspired: a hand-built, wooden stock, comprising a mounting bracket and pistol grip, that slotted directly onto the receiver of the AGM Sten, replacing the standard T-stock; the kit would be complete with a wooden foregrip that bolted to the Sten barrel shroud, and topped off with a metal front sight that slipped over the outer barrel. As if that wasn’t enough, the wooden stock was hollowed out and wired, meaning the Sten was no longer bound to tiny batteries. All of that for a fraction of the price of a full custom gun, and you could swap back to the old MkII components without any permanent modifications.

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I jumped at the chance, and I’m pleased to say after a solid year of near constant use in all weather, the kit has held up admirably. It’s been dropped, fell on, submerged in nasty bog water, and survived me crashing through foliage in full combat kit, with the only appreciable outcome being a slight looseness at the stock mounting (which was subsequently fixed with the liberal application of B&Q’s finest super glue). I’ve found it to be a very comfortable weapon to hold – a far cry from the plumber’s nightmare that was the MkII – and the battery compartment in the stock is truly a godsend; battery switches can be done in a flicker of the time, and without dismantling the gun to boot.

Now, being a drop-in kit, as it were, all of the pieces are obviously made to be easily installed or removed without modifications to the base gun, and there are some drawbacks to this. The front sight, for example, was initially held on by friction, meaning that knocks and bumps to the gun would frequently misalign it with the rear sight. I also found that the paintwork of the metal band that fits around the barrel shroud would wear away very easily, due to the steel fitting of the sling rubbing against it with use. The nature of the kit also means that certain aspects of the real MkV cannot be replicated – the rear pistol grip sits further back, most tellingly, although this is a small price to pay in my opinion.

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The front sight issue can be easily solved: boring and tapping a small hole through the underside, then using a pointed screw to tighten it against the outer barrel of the Sten would help immensely. Indeed, the user could go one step further and drill a shallow hole into the outer barrel itself for the tip of the screw, which would eliminate the front sight shifting altogether, and with minimal modification to the base gun.
The barrel band, meanwhile, I would most certainly improve by chemical or oil blacking, rather than painting. This will allow it to resist the worst of the wearing the sling attachment subjects it to, and means I won’t have to keep repainting the bloody thing!

I have been let down by certain individuals in this line of work in the past – sometimes criminally so. I am very pleased to report that my experience with both individual and product in this case has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s safe to say I have put the MkV kit through its paces from day one, and it has rarely let me down, with Dom always on hand with troubleshooting should I need it.
Truly though, in a hobby dominated by yet more M4 derivatives and Multicam FAST helmets, nothing beats attacking an objective in full British airborne kit with a proper MkV Sten in your hands. I have Vintage Airsoft to thank for that that one.”

 

I have reproduced Kendo’s full review here, unedited for full disclosure! Feedback like this is really appreciated and we’ll be improving our product accordingly by oil blacking the foregrip band and tapping the foresight mounting. This sort of feedback can only be gained after the sort of heavy use Kendo has subjected it to!

 

You can buy our Sten MkV kit and many other items from our Etsy store.

 

A big thanks to Syfer Airsoft Photography for use of their fantastic photographs. Check out their page for great kit and action photos.