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New Lithgow Enfield!

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Cosmoline, Dec 5, 2012.

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  1. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    This one was too pretty to pass up. It appears to have different wood for the rear stock, but the SN's I can see match up and the bore is minty. The marks are Lithgow 1941 C241XX SN on side of the receiver and the back of the bolt handle. Under the bolt handle there's a different number that matches a corresponding number opposite. Not sure what that is. Lots of "MA" stamps on the parts except the nose cap which is "BA." My bet is it's a post-war refurb but I know little about Enfields and less about Aussie Enfields. I'm hoping it makes a good shooter, and most of the Enfields I see locally are really ratty.

    It does have the copper reinforcements on the receiver lugs so I don't think it's just a recent parts gun, but who knows. I'm just hoping for a good shooter.

    Anyone know much about these?
     

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  2. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Member

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    Certainly looks brand new, pretty nice looking. The wood appears to be Brit and the butt appears to be Beech. Lithgows used Coachwood and they treated the wood with a linseed-tar concoction, Original finish would be almost black to dark brown with little grain showing.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    OP, nice-looking rifle. What does the importer stamp say?
     
  4. 303tom

    303tom member

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    Damn nice looking rifle, I am going to say probably a refurb, good luck with her..........
     
  5. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I was looking for parts from my Lithgow back in the 80's, bolt heads I think, and got to talk to a person at the Warehouse where these rifles were being stored.

    It turned out a very good number were being assembled from parts. They had tens of thousands of Lithgow's and tens of thousands of parts. Per discussions I found they were taking old stocks off and replacing them. Some of these stocks had art works carved into them, the stockman mentioned a beautiful Kiwi Bird on one, some had notches, one at least had multiple tens of notches, hopefully no explanation needed for that.

    I don’t remember if they were reparking things, from the rack examples I saw, I don’t believe so.

    Madcrate's rifle looks like old wood.

    Regardless of the difficulty of proving whether it is all “factory”, a pointless exercise since all military rifles go through rebuilds anyway, these Lithgow’s are some of the best made SMLE’s ever made.

    You need a bayonet. The Australians were bayonet crazy. I worked for a man “Broadway Joe” who was on the first Troop ship to Australia. We were so unprepared that a commercial passenger liner was being used to carry troops to a war zone and Joe said they were welding machine guns to the deck and that was the only antiaircraft protection they had. If they had run across some real Japanese Naval Torpedo bombers they would all have been fish food. Joe said when he got to Australia the Australians put the Americans through lots and lots of bayonet practice.

    Joe was always rankled by the fact that his term of enlistment was to end Jan 1942. Seventy one years ago to the day, Joe was dreaming about getting out of the Cavalry, starting a new life in a growing America, and little did he know that something big was going to happen on Sunday 7 Dec 1941 that was going to keep him in the South Pacific for four years.
     
  6. aka108

    aka108 Member

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    I purchased one of the Lithgow rifles a good number of years ago. Exactly like the one described in post no. 1. I have no idea if these are rebuilds or simply post war assemblys of left over parts. Nice condition and nice shooting rifles none the less. The bolt number does not match the rifle serial number but the bolt number is stamped into the rear of the reciever where the bolt is inserted. A little wierd but the good folks down under are upside down so we'll just call it all matching.
     
  7. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I haven't been able to find any importer stamp yet. I'll probably know more when I do a teardown to remove the grease.

    I have little doubt it's a post-war refurb, though the core of the rifle appears to be original. The finish to my eye appears to be redone at some point but it's no aftermarket blue. It looks to be a very solid blue-black. And the rear stock has gotten loose possibly implying some amount of aging after it was installed (or a sloppy instal job).

    So I'll find out more when I can see the stamps under the wood and maybe find an importer mark.

    That sounds very much like mine. Does anyone know what the two sets of numbers on the bolt and receiver are for? One SN is on the back of the bolt which matches the SN on the front side of the reciever. The other number is under the bolt and has a corresponding number on the receiver. They match each other but are different. I'm assuming the "C" prefix is the SN as that matches a 1941 date.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  8. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    From what I have read, they are assembly numbers. Apparently, there was some receiver/bolt fitting done prior to SN assignment so they wanted to keep the pairs matched.
     
  9. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Thanks! That makes sense. From what I've been reading, headspacing these bolts was a tricky business. I guess mine is as it should be, with a set of matching bolt numbers and a serial number that was then engraved on the back of the bolt handle.
     
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Well I took it apart and I have no clear answers. Everything matches under the wood, and it appears mint from the factory or refurb. Every indication is I'm the first person to take the stock off since it was put on after the finish was applied.

    The stock and parts are covered with a very fine grease. Not cosmoline, but something lighter weight by far. I'm cleaning it off now.

    There are no importer marks I can find. Condition is excellent. But it sure doesn't look like any 1941 Lithgow, at least the wood doesn't. And its condition is far too nice.

    Interior parts and the nose cap all say "BA".

    There's a "3-42" on the barrel, presumably the date of manufacture? There are ten little starred numbers 1-10 on the back of the receiver. There are some roman numeral marks on the barrel.

    Front sight says "MA" as does the barrel and the receiver.

    The rear stock has the marks 12832 and then 11/10 under it. These may be some kind of mark for indicating its deployment or garrison?

    There are three very small holes drilled next to each other on the left side of the receiver, just behind the chamber. Some kind of gas vent perhaps?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  11. Ash

    Ash Member

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    I have noticed that SMLE's come with very, very small import marks, sometimes so badly stamped as to be difficult to find. That is a real plus as there are no billboards to deal with.

    In looking at your rifle, I really don't think it is a refurbished rifle. The finish is pretty standard Australian WWII. Also, there are no FTR with Broad Arrow marks which would indicate a rebuild. I think it is an honest war model that is in original condition. It may, probably likely did, come from India and there was not a broad refurbishment program there post war. Of course, there are many places Australia had its fingers post war and it could come from any of those places.
     
  12. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Member

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    All Lithgows were stocked with Coachwood. Cos's rifle appears to possible have a Coachwwod fore-end that has been refinished and the butt stock is off a No4 and is made from beech. You can see the "flecking" on the butt and no No1 butt's were made in Beech that I'm aware of. The Brits started using Beech during war2 with the No4 MkI, and continued until end of production in 1955.

    No1 and No4 butts are interchangeable but there is a minor difference in shape at the wrist.

    MA= Mamgrovite, the typical Lithgow mark.

    BA= Bathurst rifle factory

    OA= Orange rifle factory
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  13. 303tom

    303tom member

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    You need to believe this guy when he says something, he knows what he is talking about.

    http://home.earthlink.net/~smithkaia8/index.html
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  14. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Thanks! You can really see the differences in the two woods now that some of the grease has been removed.

    So the next question is whether this was done in 1941/42 or sometime after the war as part of a rearsenal process. And I suppose the third possibility is that some importer did it much more recently. My gut tells me this rifle was rearsenaled, but I don't know SMLE's well. I can tell you the stamps appear to have had that blue-black over the top of them, which to me indicates the stamps were imprinted in 41/42 and then sometime later the rifle was given a fresh bluing. But if it was standard for the Aussies to stamp directly on steel in the white prior to bluing, maybe this isn't a post-war refurb. It's a really thick sort of bluing.

    It looks too well fitted to be some kind of importer parts gun, too. Other than the slightly wobbly rear stock, the parts were pretty snug and don't look like they were pieced together out of bins.

    From research I've done it appears the term for rearsenal was "FTR", but would this have been stamped somewhere or maybe some kind of mark akin to the Mosin slashed square?

    It may show up in the cleaning process over the next few days. Apparently a bunch of SMLE's were cobbled together in NJ or NY some years back, but apart from the buttstock this one looks to be the real deal and not a parts rifle. The main stock has the copper lug reinforcements and the main parts all seem to match. There's a hairline crack where the rear stock screw lug sticks out. Maybe someone tried to tighten it at some point? Thankfully there's also a metal reinforcement right there that has kept the crack from spreading.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  15. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I did a complete tear down and reassembly. No sign at all of an import stamp anywhere, and the proofs match up with madcratebuilder's list. It's a superb rifle. The down side is the range is shut down for December so it's going to be a bit before I can test it out. I'm planning on trying out my favorite Woodleigh 215 grain SP's that were actually designed for the Enfields.

    I think I really lucked out with this one!
     
  16. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    Outstanding!

    A few years ago, after looking for a long time, I managed to finally acquire a "correct" Lithgow (with a shiny bright bore & tight muzzle) for a market-reasonable price ... but although I still think it is gorgeous, it pales in comparison to the beauty you just snagged.

    Congratulations, Cosmoline! :)
     
  17. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Member

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    I can't be 100% certain from just the two pic's, but I would bet the Lithgow was imported before 1968, therefor no import marking.

    I would say a previous civilian owner restored the rifle. The metal is refinished as is the wood. Any Brit/Aussie work would have more than likely involved Suncorite (paint) on the metal and linseed oil (dull finish) on the wood.

    You say "It's a really thick sort of bluing" it could possibly be Suncorite, when properly applied it can look very nice, like a semi flat blue to smooth semi-gloss parkerize process.

    It was pretty common in the 70's and 80's to restore in mil-surp configuration but with modern finish on steel and wood. Guys that did this grew up hearing all the war2 stories from dad's and uncles and wanted these rifles, but in like new condition.

    Go back to the 50 and 60's every one sported there mil-surps, short barrels, new custom wood and high gloss blue. Guys that did this had probably been through war2 and the last thing they wanted was a rifle that was like what they trained with and carried daily.

    Today most mil-surp nuts want to keep the original finish on both wood and steel.

    The modern refinish does make a very good looking rifle.
     
  18. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    It's not ordinary bluing. I'm not familiar with Suncorite, but whaterver is on this rifle I'm 90% sure no American gun shop did it. It's more black than blue. The wood is another matter. It could have been redone. Unlike the metal it doesn't look like other Enfields. Its surface is pretty slick and shiny. It could be shellac but it could also be linspeed oil or some other polymer, though it's quite nicely done. As you say, maybe an early import that was fancied up at some point in the past. The fellow who sold it said it had been sitting in a closet for at least a decade and he didn't know its history prior to that.

    In any case it sounds like it's fine for me to shoot it without worrying about doing injury to a pristine wartime Lithgow. Thanks!

    I'm now thinking about scrounging up a dark old coachwood stock off GB and retrofitting this one into something closer to its original condition. Was there a darkening agent used with the wood originally? Obviously linseed oil itself is pretty amberish. Some kind of pine tar or potassium permanganate perhaps? They remind me of Finnish mosins. And coachwood in its natural state looks more pinkish brown than dark. Maybe I could retro-restore this wood to its original condition by replicating whatever process Lithgow used.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  19. Ash

    Ash Member

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    The problem with the butt stock being a replacement - it might be - is that is is not marked #4 but rather III*, which was the nomenclature of the SMLE following WWI. Also, it is dated separately from the receiver. It could be a replacement, but it is marked Lithgow, has the model number, and a year. Lithgow did not make #4 rifles at all.

    From what I can tell, it is not a refurbish. It might have a replacement butt stock, but it might not. It might have been imported pre 1968, but it might not, depending on where it came from. Not all firearms that should have import marks on them actually have them. I had that confirmed by Dennis Kroh over at Empire Arms.

    In any case, it is a fine rifle and after Burma or New Guinea or Korea, it has many stories it could tell.
     
  20. 303tom

    303tom member

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    Me thinks you talking about wrong rifle.................
     
  21. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Unfortunately, yes ;-)

    One thing I noticed in investigating this business is that some folks seem to think coachwood is naturally dark. But surprisingly in its finished form it looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    http://www.woodsolutions.com.au/Wood-Species/species-coachwood

    And I'm pretty sure the front stock on my SMLE is indeed coachwood, complete with reinforcement tabs. Something was being done to the wood on SMLE's out of Australia to make them dark.

    One suggestion I've found is a 50% creosote and 50% raw linseed oil mix.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  22. Ash

    Ash Member

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    Heh, heh, heh, I was looking at the wrong rifle...
     
  23. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I took this one out to test at long last. It's been danged difficult to find .303 around town for reasonable prices. I removed the tru-oil this winter and stained it darker, so it looks better now. Some initial observations:

    --It does not like to feed SP/RN bullets. The ones on the right side of the mag gum up at the nose on the feed ramp, smearing lead.

    --Extraction was good and there are no pressure signs on the brass, so headspace seems fine.

    --The action was stiff to start, but began getting more loose. I think this was the first time anyone had shot it since its rearsenal.

    --Mojo rear sight was a disappointment. It really should be combined with the front aperture to work on this rifle, since you don't have a clean post to sight on. Your picture includes part of the sight base and it's tough to center. I had better luck with the issue sights in spite of the high point of impact. I'd aim at the base of a large green bull and it would impact 6" above.

    --The most accurate factory ammo was the 174 grain FMJ Remington UMC (green and white box). I have not yet done any tuning with the screws, but even so it gave me a very nice group around and in the bull at 100 yards. I'd say it was about a 2" group, which is fantastic for my eyes and the fact that the "rest" I was using was my hand sitting on a wood block.

    --The hunting ammo ranged from poor to terrible in comparison. It just doesn't like the stuff. Won't feed well and won't shoot well. So my handloading efforts will be on fine tuning a military style load in the 174 grain range.

    --Ergonomics for me are not good. I'm just too danged big for the little tiny stock and bolt. I have improved it a bit by putting on a cheek rest. This will get my head in the right spot, but the stock is still really cramped. I wonder if they just built them for little guys, figuring the big guys could make due. At the same time, the rifle is remarkably heavy to carry. I much prefer Mosin ergonomics, though I suspect I'm in a minority on that point. But with all that weight on the barrel end, I expect off hand shooting to be excellent.

    --The sight picture is remarkably busy, with many bits of metal here and there. But it works in spite of this.

    --The bolt throw is nice but still stiff on mine. As noted I think this one just needs breaking in. It's already loosening up.

    --The stock is quite smooth and needs some rubbed on beeswax to really get a good grip.

    --My hand doesn't really fit in the spot for it without doing some yoga. I'll have to figure out something.

    I'll have more info once I get some handloads worked up.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
  24. aka108

    aka108 Member

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    I posted back in Dec that the number stamped on the rear of the reciever matched the number stamped on the bolt but no serial No. on the bolt. I did find the serial No on the bolt and it matchs the rifle serial No. All good. I run Greek HXP ammo thru it and some handloads. 180 gr round nose. They fly pretty well
     
  25. MJ

    MJ Member

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    Coachwood

    [​IMG]
     
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