The Lee-Enfield rifle was the main firearm used by the British Empire from its adoption in 1895 until 1957.
The Lee-Enfield rifle takes its name from the bolt’s designer, James Lee and the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) in Enfield.
The Lee-Enfield rifle was designed to fire the high-powered rimmed .303 British cartridge. First produced in 1896, there have been numerous design changes resulting in many models of the Lee Enfield rifle. This overview will overview the Lee Enfield #1 Mk III* model.
Late in 1915, the #1MkIII* rifle was introduced and this rifle was commonly known as the Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield or SMLE. The SMLE had a blunt nose cap and the ten round magazine could be loaded with ammunition captured in a ‘stripper’ clip.
The SMLE #1 Mk III* saw extensive service throughout the First World War, and the Second World War, especially in the North African, Italian, Pacific and Burmese theatres, in the hands of British and Commonwealth forces.
The British Government ceased production of the SMLE Mk III* in 1953.
During World War 1, new rifle ‘accessories’ were designed to improve a heavily laden down soldier’s efficiency. It was found that grenades were more effective if they could reach
out farther than a soldier could throw. With this idea, a cup style discharger was designed to fit to the end of the rifle so a standard grenade, with a round steel plate screwed onto the bottom base plug, could be fired. When the discharger was attached, a special ‘Blank’ round was used to discharge the grenade out to distances as far as 183 meters (200 yards). When the Discharger was attached, the rifle could not fire a ball round unless it was removed. Higher chamber pressures as well as barrel fouling became an issue so, some rifles, which had worn out barrels, were dedicated to the task of firing grenades. The forestock of these rifles were wrapped with copper wire that helped reduce heat transfer to the user’s hand as well as providing protection in case of barrel rupture. The wire wrap also helped identify these dedicated rifles.
Overall, the Lee-Enfield rifle was very successful and was one of the few rifle designs that was remained in active Service for over 100 years.
· The first weapon that was labeled and marketed as a "Submachine Gun”.
· Nicknamed "Tommy Gun" by the media.
· The M1921 and M1928 Thompson guns could fit a 50 or 100 round drum. Wartime models used a box magazine as the drums were easily damaged.
· This gun gained popularity among civilian collectors for its historical significance.
Advantages: Rugged, very reliable, excellent automatic fire control, comfortable to fire, selective fire, excellent short range hitting power, staggered box magazines are easily reloaded without a charger, the detachable butt stock allows for compact storage.
Disadvantages: It is very heavy for a SMG, complex to maintain, awkward to carry, relatively long for a SMG, expensive to manufacture
Countries of use: Used extensively by the armed forces of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Russia, China, and many South American countries and South East Asia.