Gun of the Month

This forum is a Moderator choice forum for moving posts that exibit particularly outstanding contributions of information about firearms. Only posts that move past the main page make it here for a second look by choice of the moderators.

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Woftam
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Gun of the Month

Postby Woftam » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:43 am

Just for fun I’ve decided to do a post each month titled Gun of the Month. What’s it for ? A mix of showing off something I like, a little bit of education, giving my connection with the firearm, maybe learning something I didn’t know about the firearm and contributing something to the forum, hopefully to inspire others.

First cab off the rank is my MkI***, manufactured at RSAF Enfield in 1911.



What is a MkI*** ?

OK let’s get the naming issues out of the way first. The Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield (Mark I) is the designation used in the LoC in 1902 when the rifle was introduced and again in 1903 when minor changes led to the pattern being re-sealed. Following practice at the time minor modifications/upgrades (which did not result in a new Mark) led to the addition of an asterix to the designation. Thus the various changes resulted in the SMLE MkI, SMLE MkI*, SMLE MkI**, SMLE MkI*** and the SMLE MkI** I.P..

In 1926 the British changed the nomenclature applicable to small arms in an effort to simplify the system. The current service rifle the Rifle, Short, MLE III* became the Rifle No.1 MkIII . The Rifle SMLE MkI and its brethren were simply “omitted from the Vocabulary but retained in store”. Subsequently there arises periodically the debate as to whether the rifles are a No1 MkI or simply a MkI. The more pedantic state as they were omitted then they should retain their initial designation and insist MkI be used. The less pedantic insist that No1 MkI is close enough. Personally I think if one wants to be pedantic then one should go the whole way and the proper designation is Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield (Mark I). If NoI MkI is used and the context is there (which it usually is) then it is a fairly safe assumption it is an SMLE MkI. If just MkI (or MkIII for that matter) is used and the context is not clear then it could be a Webley, a Lee-Enfield or a bayonet scabbard for the P1907.

The SMLE MkI series was the service weapon from its introduction until superseded by the MkIII from 1907 onwards. It was the first time in British Military history that there would be a standard arm for all branches of the armed services. They were produced at Enfield, Sparkbrook, BSA, LSA and Ishapore. Exact numbers are sketchy but Skennerton proposes a figure of somewhere around 445,500 (including Trials models and conversions).

They are not uncommon, many have been found converted to a grenade launching role. Probably the most noted ones are the MkI series showing up in the USA with CE and ER serial numbers, some retaining most of their MkI features and others more MkIII features. They were also used by entities other than the armed forces – in Australia they were used by the Queensland and NSW Police Forces. The British Navy also used the MkI series with the MkI** being a purely Naval model.

What makes a MkI*** different from a MkIII ?

Visually there are some easily spotted differences. Starting from the front and working back the first difference is the front sight ears. Unlike the MkIII the MkI*** sight ears curve inward. The initial trials models had a sight hood but the it was felt that quick target acquisition was not the best, hence the hood was “slotted”.



A pin is inserted across the forearm just in front of the outer band. The front handguard is also much more obviously stepped at the point it meets the outer band.



The rear sight is a much more complex affair than that found on the MkIII being adjustable for windage, as well as coarse and fine elevation. The buttons for the coarse elevation have bone inserts.



The knob for fine elevation can just been seen behind the bone insert in this photo.



The rear sight protector ears are set into the rear handguard as opposed to under it like the MkIII.



The rear handguard has two rivets to hold the spring clip. Initially it was one.



The MkI series had no charger bridge as does the later MkIII series. The charger loading system consisted of a sliding guide attached to the bolt head



and a charger guide machined into the side of the receiver wall.





The left and right rear receiver walls were initially left sharp but later rounded down after problems with snagging and damaging bandoliers and clothing.



The Trials MkI’s were not fitted with a magazine cut-off nor were the first production SMLE MkI’s, although provision was made for it. The cut-off was approved for Naval service in 1903 but not for Land forces until 1906. So we have a 3 year period where the cut-off was not fitted to British (Land) Service rifles. Why make provision for the cut-off but not have it in use ? Was the re-introduction of the magazine cut-off after 3 years absence simply the inertia of British military mindset overcoming some enlightened thinking ? What, if anything, happened to tactics in the intervening period especially in relation to fire control ?



The right side of the butt socket should be appropriately marked with a I and the requisite number of *. Most, like mine, will not have the * neatly lines up as they were added at different times.



Unfortunately the brass disc on mine is unmarked but it does carry a couple of other markings. The faint remains of what looks to be a crown is present in a couple of places. The butt carries a P340, possibly related to NSW Police use. Interestingly the MkI*** in Skennerton ‘The Lee-Enfield’ (attributed to Brian Labudda) has a P810 in the same place. This page also mentions the NSW Police connection.





Personally my MkI*** is, if not my favourite, definitely in the top 3. Part of that is the story of its acquisition. I’d dropped into my favourite gun shop to have a yarn with Fred (sadly now deceased) and he said he had a rifle I might be interested in. Turns out that a Police big shot (area commander or something) was being promoted and transferred to Sydney. Fred, being an ex-sergeant of NSW finest, the big shot naturally had come to Fred to sell his firearms as he didn’t plan on taking them to the bigsmoke. By the time Fred had it out of the gunbag and onto the counter I’d already managed to tell him 3 times I’d take. After haggling, not too hard, over the price (it’s hard to argue over a 2 figure sum) I suggested to Fred it was lucky it was coming from a copper as there should be no problems with transfer paperwork. At this point Fred became a little coy and when I asked point-blank if it was in fact registered he basically said “ask me no questions …..”



What do I like about the MkI*** ?

Well the short butt I find a very good fit. Also I find it more visually appealing than the MkIII/III*. Historically I like the fact that it was the first standard rifle in British service. From a personal perspective the fact that Fred thought enough of me to keep it until I came by and give me a bargain on the deal gives me a connection. Also its not a perfect specimen, it shows signs of use but not abuse.



What don’t I like about it ? About the only real complaint is the fiddling required to get the bolt into the receiver due to the sliding charger bridge.











Well, there it is, the Gun of the Month for November. Hope it was of interest. You have 3 choices now gents.

A) Greet the posting with howls of derision – in which case it will die a quiet death.

B) Offer encouragement – in which case there will be a repeat dose in December.

C) Join in.

Cheers

Graeme
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DuncaninFrance
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Postby DuncaninFrance » Fri Oct 31, 2008 12:26 pm

Bloody hell mate I was looking for trees :shock: I thought you said Gum of the Month!!

Seriously though, a great idea and one I will enjoy following - with a bucket and spade - so keep em coming!
Duncan

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Thanks for taking the time to do this post Graeme

Postby Niner » Fri Oct 31, 2008 2:23 pm

Once upon a time we used to have an exhibitiion forum to do something like what you are doing here....but after a while... nobody bothered to contribute and it fell by the wayside.

We probably should have kept it... in hind sight. But many photo links were not working any longer after a major contributor departed for parts unknown and it was looking pretty sad before it was deleted. The original EZboard blow up played a part in its demise as well.
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Postby DuncaninFrance » Fri Oct 31, 2008 2:36 pm

Well here is a good opportunity to start from scratch Robert :D

Graeme should have enough to keep us going for about 30 years :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Duncan

What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch? -- W.C. Fields
"Many of those who enjoy freedom know little of its price."
You can't fix Stupid, but you can occasionally head it off before it hurts something.

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Postby Aughnanure » Sat Nov 01, 2008 7:44 am

Geez, I hate people boasting about their bloody rare rifles, especially when I don't have one :D

Great post, mate. :bigsmile:
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krinko
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Postby krinko » Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:01 am

1911?

Beautiful piece, by the way.

-----krinko
Freudig wie ein Held zum Siegen
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Niner
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Our Present Exhibition forum could do what the old one did

Postby Niner » Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:50 am

While the previous Exhibition forum allowed anybody to post directly to the forum, the new forum is dependent upon moderators moving posts to the forum they consider of above average interest after they fall below the top page of individual subject forums.

The new Exhibition forum, as it exists, should collect posts of long term interest as well as individual show and tell firearms posts. How well the new forum works is dependent upon the judgement of moderators and their taking the time to move the posts from their individual moderated forums and not the individual iniative of members who's posts are collected.

All of this could change. I think such posts that offer detailed discription of firearms and other information of function and history should constitute a major function of a site such as this. Maybe the "new" Exhibition forum should be tuned back into the old Exhibition forum.

If we went back to the open forum idea with only show and tell kind of posts, would there be any interest....in posting, as well as reading?
Last edited by Niner on Sat Nov 01, 2008 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reese Williams
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Postby Reese Williams » Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:37 pm

Niner,

Great idea, I think it will bring a bunch of nice pieces out of the woodwork.

BTW I believe what you described as the fine elevation knob is in fact the windage adjustment knob.

Nice SMLE.
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Postby joseyclosey » Sat Nov 01, 2008 1:01 pm

Excellent post and a good idea Graeme.

Joe
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Woftam
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Postby Woftam » Sat Nov 01, 2008 5:58 pm

Thanks for the positive comments lads.

Niner, I hadn't actually considered the Exhibition forum. What I will do is move the post there when I make the next post.

Reese, I don't think we are singing from the same hymn sheet. Probably as it's not clear in the post that the photos follow the comment and not the other way around. I was referring to the following picture regarding the fine elevation knob.



Krinko, yes 1911 does seem late for a MkI of any description. I have heard of a couple of others dated 1910 or later.

I'm assuming it was made as a MkI* and then upgraded to a MkI*** in 1914 when the MkI*** was first announced in the LoC. The barrel is a replacement dated 1914.
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Postby Reese Williams » Wed Nov 05, 2008 8:37 pm

Duh. Ok so I'm old, half blind and subject to mental lapses.

Still a very nice rifle.
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Postby A square 10 » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:44 pm

superb post , beautiful rifle , and very informative narative ,

i was also taken back by the 1911 date as id not realised they were still in production that late , although i was aware of the production overlap but didnt think it was quite that long ,

mine is one of the ER marked imports you mention here in the states , a 1905 LSA

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