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Old rifle....what is it?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by bsparker, Sep 27, 2019.

  1. bsparker

    bsparker Member

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    This rifle was just given to me by my 84-year-old neighbor who picked it up from a guy a while back. Just trying to figure out what it is, let me know your thoughts. See photos for details.
     

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  2. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield or SMLE

    Or Lee Enfield No 1 Mk 3 from the looks of it but someone else with more expertise can verify.

    British WWI era service rifle.

    .303 caliber.

    The general rifle is pretty common in the US but all milsurps suffer from minutiae that can add to value.
     
  3. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    earlthegoat2 is correct. It is the Lee Enfield No. 1. Mk. 3* (a simplified WWI design that leaves out the mag cutoff and the receiver cutout for it.) Unless rechambered, it fires the British service round which is known as the .303 British. It is a rimmed cartridge and you can buy it pretty readily from a number of sources online and in better stocked firearms shops. Your rifle appears complete so it is worth approximately $400-450 at a minimum as a WWI relic even as a wall hanger and you will lose value if you sporter it, cut it or something else. Better to sell it and get a good sporting modern sporting rifle rather than sporterizing it as the rifle was designed for battle use and it minute of man accurate and there are not really affordable barrels for rechambering and the action is not suitable for modern higher pressure rounds.

    Make sure to thoroughly clean the barrel as the Cordite ammo that these rifles fired was pretty hot, the primers in the WWI era were corrosive, and this often left considerable pitting and a roughened bore that fouls easily. Not a few of these were then fired in the states using that old corrosive milsurp ammo and it may have not been cleaned properly. Have it checked out by a gunsmith before firing as this rifle is over one century old going by the markings and Lee Enfield receivers can and have stretched. You may also have a non-matching bolt (bolt and receiver serials should match) and the bolts for these were handfitted along with the bolt head to the particular action. Also check for any EY or DP markings on the receiver or bolt as the EY means for emergency use only and the DP was for drill practice only.

    The England stamp means that it was exported from England and you should have a proof stamp on the barrel's knox form (under the rear handguard). Be careful on removing it as the ears have been known to snap off and the rear handguard is retained by two springs that go partially around the barrel.

    A good cheap book to read up on these is Stratton's Northcape book on the No. 1 rifle. A more expensive one is Skennerton's Lee Enfield Story in various editions.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
  4. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    That one looks like it was "rode hard, and put up wet", and not just once!

    It might want a gunsmith inspection prior to shooting. I have had several No. MkIII* rifles, and all of them have functioned well, but none of them were as rough as that one.

    As a side note, this is the exact same model rifle that my maternal grandfather was issued during his "Indian" service (Khyber Pass, between Afghanistan and modern Pakistan) during the inter-war period with the Essex Regiment.
     
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  5. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    British Enfields were known to have headspace opening up issues. Most likely from the rear locking lug design....or that they were military rifles and built to a minimum standard.

    Just from observing the exterior condition of the rifle? It may be worth investing in some Go No-Go gauges before firing.
     
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  6. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Wartime No. 1 rifles had , ahem, generous chambers in order to go bang in some of the most abysmal conditions ever fought in as Flanders was a sandy bog where most of the British army fought with incessant rain, mud, and among the presence of their fallen comrades and enemies.

    WWI ammo also was to put it kindly substandard which more or less put paid to the Ross rifle reputation (it had tight sporting chambers) along with the chance for faulty bolt reassembly after cleaning issue. The generous chambers of the No. 1 helped chamber that soft brass crappy ammo in muddy dirty trench conditions. Because of that, if you plan on reloading the cartridges, you might want to think about neck sizing only and even then you may have short brass life.

    Tommies liked the ten round magazine and the No. 1's open sights are better to me than the German GEW of the era either the ridiculous vizier or the more functional tangent. The rifle was also relatively easy enough to disassemble enough to clean it sufficient to go bang so more. The Russians had their Mosin which was and is rock tough and overbuilt for its cartridge, the French had their Lebel and Berthiers, while the U.S. had its Springfield or its alternative 1917 rifle. The Austrians and Italians shot at each other with similar Mannlicher actions while the Turks used whatever they had which were mainly mausers of different flavors.

    Out of all of them, I prefer the good ole SMLE for its ease of handling and rapidity of fire, its relative toughness. As an aside, because of cordite, the British switched to nickel steel well before WWI including for their P14 series. In part, the success of the U.S. 1917 rifle derived from the P14 with that steel persuaded the Ordnance folks to finally switch from the carbon steel used in earlier Springfields but mostly too late for WWI.

    If I was a sniper, I would probably prefer the Ross, Springfield, or Mauser in that order. Both the Lebel/Berthier and the Mosin would not be my favorites to carry day and and day out as both lack some pretty critical subsystems (ahem a functional safety for example) and certain parts are problematic like the interruptor for the Mosin mag and the complexity of the Lebel and Berthier trigger and cartridge feeding systems. The Brits had everything necessary in the old SMLE to have a functional rifle that is simply "good enough" in each critical part for battle that was easy to produce.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
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  7. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    I am a bit jealous. I would love to have an old, rusty "Smelly" (an SMLE nickname) like that to work on.

    It appears to sport the Mag Cutoff slot so one of those could be reinstalled as a point of interest.

    Even if I determined that it should not be fired, once cleaned and "refreshed" it would look great over a fireplace.

    Oh ... do yourself a favor and do not start taking the wood off of that rifle until you google the process. :)

    Have fun with it, bsparker, and thanks for sharing the pics!
     
  8. bsparker

    bsparker Member

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    Thanks for the quick info. I had seen these, but had no knowledge of what they really were. Neighbor said a guy was going to throw it away (not sure he knew what he had either). Bolt action, trigger and safety are smooth and functioning. I ran a cloth down the barrel and it's pretty rusty. I can see the lands and grooves pretty clearly, but without a barrel light I can't tell pitting or rust level.

    I did see another comment about removing the wood and am rather hesitant to do so at this point. There is a significant chunk out of the wood in front of the rear site. Other than that no cracks or significant gouges.

    Excited for this project and learning more. Keep the recommendations and resources coming, appreciate the help!
     
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  9. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    It looks complete but it needs a good cleaning.
     
  10. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    303 Brit Enfield that needs a bath. Still found in weapons caches in afg.
     
  11. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

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    And that last part of the post is a true testimony to the practical and historic legacy of the Enfield rifle.
     
  12. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    Some old rifles, you clean-shoot-clean-shoot-clean... it seems they get easier to clean as you shoot them some more... you gotta shake the stuff loose. But, some of those old ones like that... they were meant to shoot and even though you get the rust out, you'll never get the first clean patch no matter how many times you scrub.

    From the pics, I don't see any wood missing in front of the rear sight.
     
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  13. bsparker

    bsparker Member

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    Thanks for the comment on a clean patch seems about right for this one, we’ll see if that changes. I’ve attached a photo of the wood piece that is damaged.
     

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  14. bsparker

    bsparker Member

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    Any recommendations for which ones to purchase? I talked with my local gunsmith, he had a few questions about it but wanted his $120 diagnostic fee before checking it out further.
     
  15. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    Clymer and Forster are the standards.

    PT&G (Pacific Tool and Gauge) I believe sells them too. All will serve your purposes just fine.
     
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  16. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    IIRC, MidwayUSA has Forster headspace gauges for just about anything. I'd look there first.
     
  17. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    Yes good recommendation. I forgot to mention specific retailers to deal with.

    Midway USA and Brownells will have what you need.
     
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  18. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    Since the .303Brit headspaces off of the rim, a coin-style gauge would be your best bet.

    An outfit called Yankee Engineers used to make such a critter. It is what I have always used.

    Google something like "Yankee Engineers Headspace Gauge" to track them down.

    BTW, their gauge does not require disassembly of the bolt. IIRC, I magnetized mine to make it easier to use. ;)
     
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  19. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    The handguards on the old SMLE were the most fragile feature. What has happened is the "ear" of the front handguard broke off which was designed to shield the rear gun sight and left its mark where it separated.

    Here is a picture of the complete front handguard from liberty tree collectors. The rear handguard has similar ears with a similar problem except the rear often also breaks in the center of it by removal and reinstallation due to the spring barrel clamps working the wood. Even new rear handguards have what looks like diagonal inlays of wood repairs that are designed to strengthen the handguard from breaking in the middle.

    GunnyUSMC has quite a bit on wood repair of these old milsurp rifles and it is relatively easy to repair the lost ear of the front handguard on your rifle if you wanted to.
     

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  20. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Unfortunately them and Okie gauges no longer are in that business. Okie gauges, the guy running it died and the Yankee Engineers quit making them about 5-6 years ago, maybe more. You can still find them popping up on ebay. Fireworks or something like that still makes the coin gauges for Mosin Nagants.

    Occasionally on either gunbroker or ebay, you will still see genuine British military headspace and chamber gauges for sale which have the proper headspace for Brit military rifles. The commercial ones such as Forster used to be too conservative.

    Here is a thread on this subject at milsurps including mentions of specific brands and the techniques necessary to check the headspace, bolt head clocking, and a bunch of other diagnostic threads on Enfields.

    http://www.milsurps.com/showthread.php?t=36213
     
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  21. bsparker

    bsparker Member

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    Thanks for the info. I did notice that Yankee was out of business. I'll keep an eye on ebay.

    I was able to see a little better down the bore, so I grabbed a few photos. Hoping this gun is safe to fire, not that I want to run a lot of ammo through it but would love to be part of it's history.
     

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  22. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    Schade. They are very handy little gauges.
     
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  23. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Thank goodness you rescued it from the dump!

    Keep us updated on your progress in restoring it please. A functional Enfield is truly one of the classic "riflemans rifles" that everyone should have at some point.

    My youngest shooting her .410 Enfield-
    index-41.jpg

    Honestly that bore isnt that bad. Ive saved worse with foaming bore cleaner, a good brushing, Naval Jelly then soap and water.
     
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  24. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    O-O-O-O-OH! Look at that poor bore! Mercy! :( Run a phosphor-bronze brush thru that pup and see it will remove most of the gravel, tree limbs and roadkill.

    It is bound to clean-up better than it looks in that pic. And I have found that a fugly bore does not necessarily mean an inaccurate rifle. ;)
     
  25. bsparker

    bsparker Member

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    Ha! You should have seen the racoon I pulled out the first time I ran a bronze brush through it. I've got some work to do on it that's for sure. at least you can see some rifling.
     
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