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British Industrial History

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Lee-Enfield Rifle

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The Lee-Enfield was, in various marks and models, the British Army's standard bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle for over 60 years from (officially) 1895 until 1957.

The Lee-Enfield was chambered for the .303 British cartridge, and featured a ten-round box magazine which was loaded manually from the top, either one round at a time, or by means of five-round chargers. The Lee-Enfield superseded the earlier Martini-Henry Rifle, Martini-Enfield, and Lee-Metford rifles.

1889 The British Army decided to adopt the Rifle, Magazine, Lee–Metford (MLM) as a standard issue armament based on James Paris Lee's bolt and magazine design.

1895 The Lee-Metford rifle was developed into the Rifle, Magazine, Lee–Enfield (MLE) (which became the standard British service arm for many decades, subsequently the Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee–Enfield (SMLE)), by adapting the Lee–Metford for the new smokeless powder which was found to wear away the shallow, rounded, Metford rifling after approximately 6000 rounds. Replacing this with a new square-shaped rifling system designed at the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield) solved the problem, and the Lee–Enfield was born.[1]

1900 Birmingham Small Arms Co and the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield) shared the large orders for the Lee-Enfield Rifle; the Royal Small Arms Factory (Birmingham) would probably be called on to help although it had principally be involved in repair work in the past few years[2].

1957 Officially replaced in the UK by the L1A1 SLR in 1957, it remained in British service well into the early 1960s and is still found in service in the armed forces of some Commonwealth nations, including India, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Total production of all Lee-Enfields is estimated at over 17 million rifles, making it one of the most numerous military bolt-action rifles ever produced as well as being the longest-serving military bolt-action rifle still in official service.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wikipedia [1]
  2. Leicester Chronicle 10 February 1900