Enfield No.4: Introduction

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

The British had been looking at replacing the Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield No.1 MkIII for some time. In fact from the adoption of the Lee-Metford, the general design had been replaced in general service at least twice and with dozens of minor modifications to boot.

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Trials had even taken place to find its complete replacement before 1914, though the outbreak of the Great War (along with some problems with the .276 Enfield cartridge) prevented the Pattern 1913 Rifle from being adopted and issued. For those not familiar with the P13, it was very much a departure from the Lee design.

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  • It used a Mauser type bolt, front locking rather than rear locking (greater potential for accuracy)
  • It had a rear-mounted aperture sight, rather than a notch mounted halfway down the barrel. This longer sight radius improved accuracy potential and the aperture is a much more natural sight for acquiring mobile targets
  • A 5-round built-in magazine well rather than 10 round detachable. Given the Lee design was put up against Mausers of the 5 round built in magazine type during the Boer Wars and been found drastically wanting it clearly wasn’t seen as much of a disadvantage

These concepts did see some use in the form of the P14 rifle which was almost a .303 version of the P13 and later in the M1917, a version produced by the US in .30-06.

After the end of the Great War, once armies had begun their conversion back to a peacetime footing it was clear that there would be more SMLEs and P14 rifles than they had any use for and the idea of replacing such a plentiful inventory with yet another rifle built from scratch did not hold much water with the Brass. Doing so would also require political motivation and this was lacking in a war-weary country, member of the disarmament-prone League of Nations.

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There were some attempts to bring in the valuable aperture sight, with the added benefit of cheaper manufacturing (the SMLE is an expensive design to produce), though the No.1 MkV of the 1920s proved to actually be more expensive than its predecessor with the rear mounted aperture being quite fragile, though the No.1 MkVI of the 1930s is the predecessor of the No.4, even though it wasn’t adopted (well, sort-of).

As a result, Great Britain and the Empire began WWII with exactly the same rifle as they began WWI. Not an alteration, updated or refined version. Exactly the same. They had even put the magazine cutoff back in place to spite that bit of efficiency saving made during the last war.

However as before, the rifle was still expensive to manufacture and a replacement had to be found. While there were some reserves of SMLEs and P14s (and the US shipping over their unloved M1917s for use with the Home Guard) after the fall of France, Britain needed lots of rifles, fast.

 

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The No.4 MkI was the answer. Adopted in 1941, this design ditched a lot of unnecessary machining on the left side of the receiver and charger bridge and had a simpler stock design. The barrel was heavier and free-floating, meaning greater potential accuracy and last but not least: the aperture sight was mounted on the receiver and was here to stay.

Savage Enfield No. 4 Mk I

 

Further modifications were made during the war for efficiency resulting in the MkI* and postwar the No.4 Mk2 (note the change from Roman Numerals to Arabic in 1944) made improvements to the trigger by attaching it to the action itself rather than suspending it from the trigger guard. A number of MkIs and MkI*s were modernised in this way and the buttplates swapped back to brass after the war efficiency saving of zinc alloy models.

 

The No.4 didn’t make it to the Far East during the War. India and Australia just kept making the SMLE and these were used throughout the campaigns against the Japanese. Postwar No.4s were used in Korea, but by the Malayan Emergency in the late 50s British soldiers were at worst carrying the No.5 Mk1 and much more likely to be seen with the SLR L1A1.

 

This was a long introduction, but the Rifle No.4 was a long time in coming and it seemed a shame to not cover its long and rich design history. If you want to see the very sexy No.1 MkVI trials rifles you can see them here at Forgotten Weapons.

 

I am currently building a No.4 MkI from a VSR for a customer, you will be able to follow the build progress here as it is published.

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.

 

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LMG25: Complete

Complete builds, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

The finished LMG25 is a funny-looking beast!

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The magazine isn’t quite right, the one shown is a standard stamped metal AK magazine. The plan is to modify some more modern AK magazines to resemble the smooth sided LMG mags.

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The leather strap to hold the bipod is correct. Most guns use a mechanical latch to lock bipods in place, but this system overcomes the risk of undetected corrosion or dirt ingress.

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The foresight and muzzle.

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Now they’re painted up, they blend in quite nicely with the rest of the gun.

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The bottom strap on this securely holds the receiver in place.

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The extremely wide rear sling swivel is for a two-piece sling, which allows the gun to be work like a pack.

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The only part I’m not 100% happy with is the magazine well. If I were to do this again, I would attach it straight through into the receiver tube with bolts, rather than with protruding lugs welded on as I did here.

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The trigger placement is strange, but authentically so. This gives it an odd trigger pull, but it is comfortable enough once you get used to it.

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If you would like to see the build posts for this, you can do so here.

If you want to know the history of this obscure Swiss Light Machine-Gun then you can check out the pre-build piece here.

If you enjoyed this content join us over on Facebook and check out our Etsy store. If you have an idea for a custom build of your own get in touch on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

LMG25: Build 3

Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

I wasn’t quite happy with some of the pictures from the build post, so I’ve taken some more and added to them.

The bipod, now largely finished, I have welded the ring that goes round the cooling shroud shut and screwed the bipod in place. In some pictures of the LMG25 in use the bipod has been removed and it seems to be used like a heavy assault rifle of sorts, so I’m hoping to keep this removable.

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A better picture of the foresight, the print quality on this piece is really clean and the part is surprisingly solid.

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This was my initial idea for attaching the back-cap/battery compartment cover. Two neodymium magnets (which are very, very strong for their size) meeting the steel receiver. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite strong enough and would fall off easily when running about. I’m adding a bayonet lock for this to keep it solidly attached.

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The bayonet lock is attached to the back cap with araldite. I’ll put two screws into the receiver for them to lock into.

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With the majority of the parts done, I started to prime them to keep the rust at bay.

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The rear sight has been 3D printed in ABS, along with the sight adjustment. I’ll be flipping it upside down so the screw head isn’t visible.

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In situ on the receiver, this gives a surprisingly nice sight picture! The V-notch itself is a little on the small side, but the high position means you get a very nice view of the periphery.

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The back cap locks in really solidly using the new bayonet mount. I’ll have to trim down the securing screw so it sits flat of course.

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The cocking handle has been turned on the lathe, in steel. This was then drilled and tapped blind on the back side so it could be screwed onto the wood.

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The muzzle has been 3D printed in ABS, it will be painted up and secured in place with a screw. The last few bits are just finishing touches, so this is the last build post for this project!

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If you have a thing for obscure Swiss Light Machine-Guns then you can check out the pre-build piece here.

If you enjoyed this content join us over on Facebook and check out our Etsy store. If you have an idea for a custom build of your own get in touch on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

LMG25: Build 2

Cold War, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

At the end of the last post, I had most of the large components roughed out for the LMG25. However the cooling ports in the barrel jacket are a little rough at the ends.

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So I welded the outsides edges, so I could grind them down and round out the ends.

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Next I welded up the ejection port.

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And the rear sling swivel, attached to the mount.

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The bipod was an interesting challenge. In order to go from the stowage to the deployed position the lugs all have to rotate, so a little tweaking was needed to make everything move freely.

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The end result is a pretty stable bipod with good movement, allowing the operator to sweep over an arc of fire.

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The dry assembly of the rear sight and ejection port. From this I learned that the ejection port needed a little trimming off the bottom to sit tidily. I also decided to chamfer the edges of the rear sight base to get a deep penetration for the weld.

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The foresight has been 3D printed, it screws into place on the barrel jacket.

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It sits just ahead of the bipod.

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The back-cap is also printed, I may replace this with a cast aluminium version now I have a working kiln.

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Most of the remainder of the work is now detail parts such as the rear sight unit, operating handle and the attachment for the back-cap. 

If you have a thing for obscure Swiss Light Machine-Guns then you can check out the pre-build piece here.

If you enjoyed this content join us over on Facebook and check out our Etsy store. If you have an idea for a custom build of your own get in touch on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

LMG25: Build 1

Cold War, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

The LMG25 is a really weirdly formatted gun, but with a Sten and some modifications I’m hoping to make something really interesting and unique.

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As ever, this started with a load of research and design work. There aren’t too many parts to this compared to some of my builds and they nearly all attach directly to the receiver. The first step of construction was to make this receiver, which I made a template for and centre punched for the drill, before cutting the space needed for the donor.

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The welding begins with the mock-upped ejection port and the trigger grouping/pistol grip.

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I also cut a hole for the magazine feed.

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The magazine well has an awkward and distinctive shape, so it is being 3D printed and will be mounted with metal plates and screws to the receiver.

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In place it fits quite nicely! This replica takes AK magazines which look the part well enough from a distance.

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Onto the stock. I cut it out in the usual way from the blank, but I can’t cut out the action recess in the usual manner due to the awkward lump at the front of the stock. It would have been possible to have this as a separate piece but it’s not a major issue to work around.
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The pistol grip unit is, fortunately, an entirely separate unit. This means making it is a lot easier than a one-piece pistol grip/stock. It somewhat resembles some of the early semi-auto conversions of bolt-action rifles in this respect of its design.

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There is quite a pleasing curve to the back of this pistol grip which is easily missed.

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This means that all the major working parts are in place. The next important step is to get the working parts actually working! Then we can enjoy the detailing, sights and bipod.

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If you have a thing for obscure Swiss Light Machine-Guns then you can check out the pre-build piece here.

If you enjoyed this content join us over on Facebook and check out our Etsy store, and if you have an idea for a custom build of your own just get in touch with us on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com.

Mad Mondays: 9. Percussion

History, Imperial Era, Mad Mondays, Weapons

Last week and the week prior, we looked at Colt’s revolvers and some early repeaters, which benefitted hugely from the introduction of the percussion cap. This week we shall look at the more conventional mainstream military uses. Although the Colt revolver did slowly catch on, it was still a freak in military terms, every other man on the battlefield was still using a single-shot, muzzle loaded musket or rifle. The rate of fire had not changed for the majority of soldiers since the mid 1700s.

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We’ve already looked at the development of the percussion cap here so we shan’t go over it again. There were clear advantages to military adoption of the percussion cap over flintlocks in the form of reliability (in nearly all conditions), consistency, ease of loading and the lack of the initial puff of smoke and sparks from the pan that makes it easier to hold your aim.

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In spite of this, it still took around 20 years between the initial development of the percussion cap and its common military adoption.  Once the technology had proven itself, the changeover was actually relatively painless in comparison to later developments. Muskets and rifles could be fairly readily modified to take the new technology at relatively little expense.  As a result, this is what pretty much every world military did and it is quite difficult to pin down the first adopters of the percussion cap as there are no distinct new firearms having to be produced to accommodate this new technology.

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Some early examples of the percussion cap in military use include the ‘Brown Bess’ musket, which was converted in fairly large numbers from 1842.  the US adopted a form of the breech-loading M1819 Hall rifle which used a percussion cap in 1833, though this was far from standard issue. The French converted a handful of their 1766 pattern muskets.

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It appears that once the concept had been proven, many countries started to build firearms exclusively for this system. Changes were afoot however, which meant that the smooth bore musket  had seen the last of its military usefulness.  Rifles were far superior for accuracy, all that was holding them back was a way to load them at least as fast as a musket so that they could be used for regular troops…

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You can find other articles on the development of firearms overall here and on historical interest pieces here.

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The LMG25 Furrer

Cold War, Custom builds, Inter-War (1918-1939), LMG25, Machine-Guns, Weapons, WWII

The LMG25 is a Swiss Light Machine Gun adopted, as the name suggests, in 1925. It is a real oddity, even for a time when LMG designs were far less standardised than today.

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This Swiss soldier will get a very warm thumb if he opens fire now.

It was developed at Waffenfabrik, Bern by Adolf Furrer over seven years and was produced until the end of WWII. It served into the 1970s with the Swiss military, so must have been a pretty serviceable firearm to have hung around for so long.

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So, why is this an oddity? Well, the magazine is on the right-hand side, when most side-feeders (though not all) feed/fed from the left. There was a monopod at the back for support during sustained fire which wasn’t an uncommon idea at the time, but this could be moved to the front and used as a foregrip, which was.

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Monopod used as a fore-grip in the assault role.

But most interesting of all, this is a toggle-locked design. There are very few toggle locked guns due to the complexity and expense of manufacture as it is. There are even fewer rifle-cartridge toggle-locked guns (especially that went into production). As well as the high level of accuracy required for these to function, they also need to have a very strong recoil spring and a conventional toggle-lock doesn’t provide great purchase when cocking. The LMG25 has a separate operating handle to aid with this.

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The LMG25 is also interesting because as well as being toggle-locked it fires as you would expect a support weapon to do, from an open bolt. It is the only firearm of which I am aware that is both of these.

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The open toggle. When opened, it kicks open the two-part dust cover. Anyone familiar with the Luger will recognise the parts of this.

Just in case this wasn’t different enough for your liking, it is also unconventional in that the barrel does not stop once the toggle is broken open but keeps moving backwards. The shell is still ejected as the toggle moves much faster than the barrel.

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The dust cover in the closed position below, and open above. It is in two parts to fit around the toggle. Very Swiss. 

In spite of all this strange-ness and the alleged complexity of toggle-locked guns (over-egged by those who have spent no time with them) it is very simple to field strip. One large nut at the back of the receiver allows you to remove the recoil spring, then pull out the barrel assembly. What about the bolt? Well the bolt/locking mechanism is all part of the barrel assembly on this so the whole lot pulls out together. Neat for cleaning in the field.

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The barrel/bolt/locking unit, showing the extravagant fluting on the barrel normally hidden by the shroud.

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Top view of the toggle when removed from the receiver.

While beautifully made, this type of gun never really caught on. It served the Swiss well, where money was no object for a relatively small army but for any other military the expense would have far outweighed any advantages. 

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Of course due to never being adopted outside of its home country, which didn’t participate in any conflicts during this period (or ever since about 1847) it never saw active service so it is difficult to say how it would have performed. 

 

If you want to see some footage of the LMG25, Ian at Forgotten Weapons has a nice video talking through one in Belgium here:

He also has some awesome footage of another LMG25 firing, including a lovely bit of slow-motion:

Don’t forget to check out Forgotten Weapons’ page on the LMG 25 here for more information on the gun and high-res pictures.

Vintage Airsoft will be building an LMG25 over the next few months with progress posted up here.

 

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog or 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. 

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