Lee-Enfield

The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire/Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century. It was the British Army's standard rifle from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957. The Lee-Enfield used the .303 British cartridge and in Australia, the rifle was so well-known, that it became synonymous with the term "303". It was also used by the military forces of Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, among others. A redesign of the Lee-Metford, which had been adopted by the British Army in 1888, the Lee-Enfield remained in widespread British service until well into the early 1960s and the 7.62 mm L42 sniper variant remained in service until the 1990s. As a standard-issue infantry rifle, it is still found in service in the armed forces of some Commonwealth nations. The Lee-Enfield featured a ten-round box magazine which was loaded manually from the top, either one round at a time, or by means of five-round chargers. The Lee-Enfield superseded the earlier Martini-Henry, Martini-Enfield, and Lee-Metford rifles, and although officially replaced in the UK with the L1A1 SLR in 1957, it continues to see official service in a number of British Commonwealth nations to the present day—notably with the Indian Police—and is the longest-serving military bolt-action rifle still in official service. Total production of all Lee-Enfields is estimated at over 17 million rifles, making it one of the most numerous military bolt-action rifles ever produced—second only to the Russian Mosin-Nagant M91/30, which was itself a contemporary design.
Date of Design (year): 
1907
Length (mm): 
1130
Barrel Length (mm): 
635
Weight Empty (kg): 
4
Muzzle Velocity (m/s): 
744
Effective Range (meters): 
550
Headline: 

The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire/Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century. It was the British Army's standard rifle from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957. The Lee-Enfield used the .303 British cartridge and in Australia, the rifle was so well-known, that it became synonymous with the term "303". It was also used by the military forces of Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, among others.
A redesign of the Lee-Metford, which had been adopted by the British Army in 1888, the Lee-Enfield remained in widespread British service until well into the early 1960s and the 7.62 mm L42 sniper variant remained in service until the 1990s. As a standard-issue infantry rifle, it is still found in service in the armed forces of some Commonwealth nations.
The Lee-Enfield featured a ten-round box magazine which was loaded manually from the top, either one round at a time, or by means of five-round chargers. The Lee-Enfield superseded the earlier Martini-Henry, Martini-Enfield, and Lee-Metford rifles, and although officially replaced in the UK with the L1A1 SLR in 1957, it continues to see official service in a number of British Commonwealth nations to the present day—notably with the Indian Police—and is the longest-serving military bolt-action rifle still in official service.
Total production of all Lee-Enfields is estimated at over 17 million rifles, making it one of the most numerous military bolt-action rifles ever produced—second only to the Russian Mosin-Nagant M91/30, which was itself a contemporary design.

The Lee-Enfield rifle was derived from the earlier Lee-Metford, a mechanically similar black powder rifle, which combined James Paris Lee's rear-locking bolt system with a barrel featuring rifling designed by William Ellis Metford. The Lee action cocked the striker on the closing stroke of the bolt, making the initial opening much faster and easier compared to the "cock on opening" of the Mauser design. The rear-mounted lugs place the operating handle much closer to the operator, over the trigger, making it much quicker to operate than traditional designs like the Mauser,[7] which force the operator to move his hand forward to operate the bolt; also, the bolt's distance of travel was identical with the length of the cartridge, and its rotation was only 60 degrees (compared to the conventional 90-degree rotation of Mauser-style actions). The disadvantage was that the rear lugs placed a greater load on the rigidity of the bolt up to the receiver.
The Lee-Enfield relied on various woods for its stock but chiefly walnut, both North American black walnut and European 'English' walnut, renowned for their qualities. The decorative figure of these timbers, prized amongst game shooters, was not required for military rifles, but it is not uncommon to find military Lee-Enfield rifles with almost presentation-quality wood stocks.
The rifle was also equipped with a detachable sheet-steel, 10-round, double-column magazine, a very modern development in its day. Originally, the concept of a detachable magazine was opposed in some British Army circles, as some feared that the private soldier might be prone to lose the magazine during field campaigns. Early models of the Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield even used a short length of chain to secure the magazine to the rifle. Critics also predicted that a repeating rifle with such a large magazine capacity would discourage soldiers from taking careful aim, relying instead on sheer volume of fire to repel the enemy. Both concerns proved to be unfounded.
The fast-operating Lee bolt-action and large magazine capacity enabled a trained rifleman to fire between 20 to 30 aimed rounds a minute, making the Lee-Enfield the fastest military bolt-action rifle of the day. The current world record for aimed bolt-action fire was set in 1914 by a musketry instructor in the British Army — Sergeant Instructor Snoxall — who placed 38 rounds into a 12" target at 300 yards (270 m) in one minute. Some straight-pull bolt-action rifles were thought faster, but lacked the simplicity, reliability, and generous magazine capacity of the Lee-Enfield. War stories from WWI tell of British troops sending the Germans home reporting they'd suffered withering machine gun fire, when, in fact, it was simply a group of trained riflemen armed with standard-issue SMLE Mk III rifles.
Standard Mk VII .303 inch cartridge for Lee-Enfield rifle
Standard Mk VII .303 inch cartridge for Lee-Enfield rifle
The Lee-Enfield was adapted to fire the .303 British service cartridge, a rimmed, high-powered rifle round. Experiments with smokeless powder in the existing Lee-Metford cartridge seemed at first to be a simple upgrade, but the greater heat and pressure generated by the new smokeless powder quickly wore away the shallow, rounded, Metford rifling. Replacing this with a new square-shaped rifling system designed at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) Enfield solved the problem, and the Lee-Enfield was born. Despite calls for a new rimless cartridge design better suited to the double-column magazine and the new machine guns then in development, the government demanded that the new design use the existing rimmed cartridge design in order to use existing ammunition stocks. This decision had the unintended effect of ensuring that the .303 British cartridge survived well into World War II and Korea, by which time the need for a rimless cartridge had become a priority to enable the Commonwealth militaries to field self-loading rifles (which require rimless cartridges for more-reliable magazine feeding).
The Lee-Enfield rifle was introduced in November 1895 as the .303 calibre, Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Enfield, or more commonly simply Magazine Lee-Enfield, or MLE (sometimes spoken as "emily" instead of M, L, E). The next year a shorter version was introduced as the Lee-Enfield Cavalry Carbine Mk I, or LEC, with a 21.2 inch (538mm) barrel as opposed to the 30.2 inch (767mm) one in the "long" version. Both underwent a minor upgrade series in 1899, becoming the Mk I*. Many LECs (and LMCs in smaller numbers) were converted to special patterns, namely the New Zealand Carbine and the Royal Irish Constabulary Carbine, or NZ and RIC carbines, respectively. Some of the MLEs (and MLMs) were converted to load from chargers, and designated Charger Loading Lee-Enfields, or CLLEs.

20 Comments

6 years 10 weeks ago, 2:09 PM

Dr wrink

Dr wrink's picture

Rank:
Lieutenant Colonel
Points:
77
Join Date:
Aug 2008
WW2

I remember from most pictures from WW2 that the british soldiers used seemed to be a good gun

5 years 17 weeks ago, 2:39 AM

rlworthington

rlworthington's picture

Rank:
Private
Points:
1
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Lee Enfield Gun?

'A good gun" You Say ???

Couldn't let you get away with that.

Rifle I would suggest.

Roy

4 years 49 weeks ago, 9:18 AM

Malik1

Malik1's picture

Rank:
Private
Points:
1
Join Date:
Dec 2009
Lee Enfield Rifle

Guys I have one. A Mk1 Number V (Jungle Carbine. I use it for stalking and Wild Boar Hunting. Has a wandering Zero and kicks like a mule. But I have been hunting good with it as I usually crawl too close so no miss

Height of a man is not gauged by the feet he puts on but by the magnitude of problem which bothers him
4 years 3 days ago, 9:20 AM

Larry Wagner

Larry Wagner's picture

Rank:
Lieutenant General
Points:
1860
Join Date:
Nov 2009
Location:
Arizona, United States
Good old rifle

I also have a 1 / 5 jungle carbine. 1945 303 Brit. Not a wanderer, very accurate. Stock is naturally a bit short but the addition of a leather lace up recoil pad makes the stock just right. Don't need recoil protection just the extra inch.

Any day above dirt is a good day!!! My New Motto: Where Do I Sign? (Oh yes I would)
3 years 4 weeks ago, 9:00 AM

texasranger

texasranger's picture

Rank:
Private
Points:
1
Join Date:
Oct 2011
lee Enfield #4 MK 2

I was lucky enough to buy a fairly rare #2 MK 4 a few years ago still in he greese tube. This rifle was brand new with all its extras in the tube. I tested it with federal 180 grain factory loads and was amazed at the accuracy of this gun.
With the small stand up peep it will deliver most shots in a foot square at 1000 meters.
I have only tested the rifle and never hunted with it.
I saw one of these for sale at Sheels in Reno NV. it was over $1000.00.
I will sell mine to the right buyer as I am retirering and have tooooo many fine guns.
I wonder what it would cost to make this gun at todays prices?

2 years 48 weeks ago, 9:16 PM

carpediem007

carpediem007's picture

Rank:
Master Sergeant
Points:
18
Join Date:
Dec 2011
Location:
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Lee Enfield No 4 MK II

This rifle is simply the best ever manufactured for its intended use. Born in 1895 and still in use in certain parts of the world today. I own several variations and am never ceased to be amazed at their functionality and accuracy. I had my first experience of a Lee Enfield many years ago when I was a guard in the sea scouts at the age of 12. At that time my rifle including its no. 9 bayonet was almost as tall as I was! Having moved from the UK to the States I'm happy to say that it's possible to collect pretty much any weapon you choose to, a privilege that is not extended to most citizens in the UK. When I first took this particular rifle to the range to take part in a competition I was discouraged from doing so as 10 shots had to be fired in one minute at a target 200yds away. I was told this was difficult to achieve with a bolt action rifle! I explained that the record was set in 1914 when a sergeant instructor put 38 rounds in a 12inch square target at 300yds! I was not believed but then went on to say that while I was not quite as good as that, I can certainly put 20 rounds on the target in a minute at 200yds and went on to demonstrate it. This has nothing to do with my marksmanship I hasten to add but just demonstrates that my no.4 after 60 years is still a force to be reckoned with! If you get a chance to pick one up please do so, you'll be in for a treat. You can still find a good one for $300 if you know where to look. Muzzle velocity is 2,438 feet per second incorporating a ten round magazine. It's accurate out to a 1,000yds and has been used in volley fire situations out to 2,500yds.

2 years 48 weeks ago, 9:33 PM

runawaygun762

runawaygun762's picture

Rank:
Vice President
Points:
8929
Join Date:
Nov 2008
Location:
Richland, MO, United States
Lee Enfield

I had a No 4 Mk 2 and wish I'd kept it, but I never could figure out how to adjust the windage on the sights. I think saying it's accurate to 1,000 yards is a quite a stretch, but it's definitely a viable battle rifle with ballistics similar (I think) to a .270, although I may be wrong as two boys fucking.

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
2 years 48 weeks ago, 10:07 PM

Ishootdaily

Ishootdaily's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4375
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Location:
Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States
Enfields..

I think that all of them were 303's excluding those that were coverted and the US versions in 308.
Closer to a 30.06?

303 Bal Chart

303 Ballistics Chart 1

No sir, he fell into that bullet... Never argue with a stupid person. They'll just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience!!
1 year 48 weeks ago, 4:03 PM

tallguy007

tallguy007's picture

Rank:
Lieutenant General
Points:
1982
Join Date:
Aug 2010
Location:
yavin, outer rim, American Samoa
Ishootdaily

merry christmas and happy new year wish you the best

DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR
2 years 48 weeks ago, 9:45 PM

carpediem007

carpediem007's picture

Rank:
Master Sergeant
Points:
18
Join Date:
Dec 2011
Location:
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Lee Enfield No 4 MK II

I have actually hit a target at 1,000yds but not consistently. However, that's not the rifle's fault but mine for being a crappy shot!

2 years 48 weeks ago, 10:27 PM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4652
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

almost as good as my 7.65 Mauser

iyaoyas
2 years 48 weeks ago, 11:04 PM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
Join Date:
Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Cambodia
Daisy.. ISD..

Evening gents.. this was a great read for me for obvious reasons..

ISD.. thanks for the balistic chart.. Brother had no less than 5 diffrent loads stashed away for the SMLE ..

Been years since i've fired it, but remember the SMLE had more (percieved at least) recoil than any Garand i had ever fired.. I believe the 30.06, is a bit flater shooting round, so guessing the recoil is more a factor of the lighter weight of the SMLE, coupled with not having any bleed off to get that big bolt back.

Daisy.. If you were going to pick one of them for a quick trip to Camp Perry.. which one buddy..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
2 years 48 weeks ago, 11:12 PM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4652
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

SMLE? Hummm.....
I do think the M1 would be a better choice for me but my Mauser would be my first choice if it were in your list.

iyaoyas
2 years 48 weeks ago, 11:25 PM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4652
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

the underlying question, sorry.
I confess, I've never fired a .303, I've loaded .303's for a friend but never fired one. The choice between the 2 for a long range shooting match would naturally bias me toward the one I am familiar with. I know the SMLE is a fine and accurate rifle, can't be anything else with it's history and great following.
To be sure, if I were to fire at Camp Perry and had my choice of weapons it would be my Mauser.
The 1913 Palma was the first of many shot at Camp Perry. Five teams met on the shores of Lake Erie and the United States team, using their '03s with precision, finished 30 points ahead of the nearest competitor. Unexpectedly the silver medal team, armed with 7.65 Mausers, was from Argentina!

iyaoyas
2 years 48 weeks ago, 11:26 PM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
Join Date:
Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Cambodia
Lou...

Brother.. im glad you brought that post up, i feel so sorry for Hamp.. The odds of me watching a "dog" movie is bout the same as me climbing Everest.. Just a lump of "wimpering" geezer..

Hey see ya got that 4th back.. good on ya..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
2 years 48 weeks ago, 11:29 PM

daisycutter

daisycutter's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4652
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Arkansas

`

iyaoyas
2 years 48 weeks ago, 11:33 PM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
Join Date:
Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Cambodia
Argentine Mausers..

I read and posted something last year about them.. If i was more awake i'd see if i could find it, i gave atribution.. one of my firearms books.. Anyway it had an interesting history, and "cord'n" to the book the Argentine (they did a cartridge change right?) was the best of the best..

Going to bed buddy.. thanks for filling me in on the palma thing.. i was in that "huhh" state..

later daised one..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
2 years 44 weeks ago, 1:21 AM

carpediem007

carpediem007's picture

Rank:
Master Sergeant
Points:
18
Join Date:
Dec 2011
Location:
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Kahr K9

Recently acquired a Kahr K9 9mm in stainless steel. It's double action only but is a delight to fire. I have now replaced my Smith and Wesson J frame with it as a day to day carry gun. Anyone else got any experience with a Kahr?

2 years 43 weeks ago, 5:44 AM

Ishootdaily

Ishootdaily's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4375
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Location:
Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States
Khar 9's

I had one for a little while but sold it to a friends father to carry. Very good shooting pistol and the trigger reminded me of a smooth double action revolver.

I've actually been thinking about picking up a CW9 single stack Poly Frame for a hid out.

Does it fit in the G26 holster? think it would be close if not actually fitting.

No sir, he fell into that bullet... Never argue with a stupid person. They'll just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience!!
1 year 48 weeks ago, 3:34 PM

GMG2_in_AZ

GMG2_in_AZ's picture

Rank:
Private First Class
Points:
1
Join Date:
Dec 2012

Anyone have a couple original mags for a #1 MkIII for sale, I look around various sites and some people want a kidney for a beat to shit magazine.

Rating Overview

This text will be replaced

Lee-Enfield Info

Lee-Enfield Pictures (4)

Lee-Enfield
View of the Bolt
Lee-Enfield Being used in war
Bayonets for the Lee-Enfield

Recent Activity