RIC Carbine Research and Survey (please sticky)
This message is being posted to various historical and gun-collecting forums, specifically to those related to the Royal Irish Constabulary, early Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield firearms, and general Victorian-era British and colonial history. I regret that this is quite a long posting, but please bear with me.
In 2014, a New Zealand antique firearms association published some research two colleagues and I had done on New Zealand pattern Lee-Enfield carbines. This included the results of a survey of carbine owners. By now, that detailed survey spreadsheet is up to 169 carbines, and the same New Zealand association will in spring 2020 be publishing a follow-up monograph.
I would like to undertake something similar for Lee-Enfield Royal Irish Constabulary carbines (RICCs). Accordingly, I am asking carbine owners to provide a certain amount of information to me, either publicly via this forum or privately by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. So far, I have a spreadsheet comprising 129 RIC carbines.
As you know, the carbines are said to be of three types, produced in five batches, as follows:
• Type 1 — Converted from Lee-Enfield carbine (LEC), Mk I.
• Type 2 — Converted from LEC Mk I*.
• Type 3 — Converted from Lee-Metford carbine (LMC), Mk I.
• Batch 1 — Production year 1903-04, all type 1s (2,000).*
• Batch 2 — PY 1904-05, all type 2s (8,000).
• Batch 3 — PY 1905-06, all type 3s (500).
• Batch 4 — PY 1906-08, all type 3s (450).
• Batch 5 — PY 1912-13, all type 1s (250).
Total………………………………………………………. 11,200 carbines.
* Note: The Enfield production year ran from 1 April of a given year to 31 March of the following year, and was named for the terminating year. By this I mean that the year which ran from 1 April 1903 to 31 March 1904 was called PY 1904, even though most of it fell in calendar year 1903.
I have in my possession the Enfield production figures for these years. The figures do indeed show what I have listed above. But the survey findings so far do not entirely bear this out. That’s why I’m so keen to find out more. My anomalous findings so far are:
1. Even though RICCs were supposedly being produced as late as 1912 or 1913, the latest issue date observed is March 1905.
2. The highest observed issue number is 9789, dated March 1905. This means that the vast majority of carbines had been issued by early 1905. This is as expected. What is not expected is that no issue number above 10000 has been observed, even though at that point 1,200 carbines were still due to be converted. My working hypothesis is that these 1,200 were not issued in their own right. Instead, they were used as substitutes for earlier, now broken carbines, and took the issue number and date of those earlier carbines. (This is undoubtedly what happened with the later New Zealand carbines.)
3. The type 2 LEC Mk I* conversions are massively underrepresented among the surviving carbines. The figures below show the percentages of the 129 survey carbines by type (compared to the expected figure).
• Type 1 (LEC I) — 44.2% *(expected, 20.1%).
• Type 2 (LEC I*) — 34.9% (expected, 71.4%).
• Type 3 (LMC) — 16.3% (expected, 8.5%).
4. Broadly speaking, the type 1 survey carbines have the earliest issue numbers and dates (as expected). Most, though certainly not all, the type 2 carbines have issue numbers/dates later than type 1 carbines (as expected). However, the type 3 carbines’ issue numbers and dates are spread quite evening throughout the entirety of the 129 carbines on the spreadsheet (not expected; theoretically, the type 3s should all have been issued after the type 2s). I suspect that this is explained by the hypothesis touched upon at anomaly 2.
5. Most type 1s were converted at RSAF Sparkbrook, Birmingham (as expected), but some were converted at Enfield (not expected, indicating they were in fact converted at the same time as the type 2s). Most type 2s were converted at RSAF Enfield (as expected), but many were converted at Sparkbrook (not expected, indicating conversion at the same time as the type 1s). The type 3s were all converted at Sparkbrook (not expected because by 1905-06, that factory was about to close or indeed was closed).
There are various other anomalies, also, but these are the major ones. All anomalies great and small will, however, be described in the resulting article. If you would answer the questions below, I would appreciate it. If you could e-mail me good photos of your carbines, too, that would be excellent. No ownership information will be published.
Even if you are not a carbine owner, but you have pertinent knowledge either about specific carbines or just about the model in general, please drop me a line. I’m very interested in how, when and to whom the carbines were disposed of, too.
Here are the questions. For your carbine, please answer:
1. Receiver type (from left side of buttsocket):
• Type 1, Lee-Enfield Mk I.
• Type2, Lee-Enfield Mk I*.
• Type3, Lee-Metford.
2. Receiver date (from left side of buttsocket):
Answers will probably vary from as early as 1894 (on type 3 LMC conversions ) to as late as 1903 (type 2 LEC I* conversions).
3. Serial number (please provide all):
• Receiver (right side).
• Barrel (right of nocksform).
• Bolt (back of handle).
• Backsight (underside of leaf).
4. Acceptance date (brass butt disc):
5. Acceptance number (brass butt disc):
• R.I.C _______
6. Butt type (there has been a fair bit of swapping over the years):
• LEC type (no slingbar).
• LMC type (slingbar in recess on right side of butt).
7. Buttplate screws:
• Iron (usually on LEC types).
• Brass (usually on LMC types).
8. Butt roundel (this is very important):
• Birmingham and, if so, date: ______.
• Enfield, date n/a.
9. Butt mark-of-arm stamp (I, I*, etc.):
• If Birmingham, ___ (will usually be “I” superimposed over the earlier roundel and stamps).
• If Enfield, ___ (will usually just be the original “I*” with nothing superimposed over it).
10. “Sun” stamp:
Some carbine butts have a retroactively impressed “sun” stamp next to their butt roundels. This does not seem to appear on the Enfield roundels, but quite often does on the Birmingham roundels. This sun stamp is not the same as the asterisk that appears next to the “I” on the Mk I*-converted RICCs. That older asterisk comprised eight short lines radiating out from nothing (there is nothing in the middle, in other words). The newer sun stamp is eight short lines radiating out from a small circle (so there is something in the middle). This sun stamp also sometimes appears on CLLE Mk I* conversions. I suspect it to be a general retrostamp impressed on models that once took a clearing rod, now converted to models not taking a rod.
• Sun stamp, Y/N.
11. Conversion inspection stamps (will appear in various places, such as under the butt wrist):
• BR (Birmingham Repair facility).
• RE (Repair facility, Enfield).
12. Receiver conversion stamp:
There is sometimes a sideways set conversion stamp on the lower left side of the buttsocket, just above the screw that attaches the back of the triggerguard to the underside of the receiver.
• Receiver conversion stamp, Y/N.
• If yes, what? ______ (for example, crown over BR over 10).
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I see that you have asked this on the British Militaria Forums so I think you would get some answers there. Good luck