History of the Enfield Rifle
or what I have been able to figure out

Back to > Main Page > Rifles Page > Enfield Page
Updated Jun 05
  Enfield Rifle Pictorial Comparisons - Started

The Beginning
The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield
WW I developments
Inter War developments
The Lee-Enfield No4 Mk1
The No5, Shortened and Lightened
Sniper Rifles
.22 Caliber Trainers
Enfield 7.62x51mm Conversions
Post War Non Military Production
Final Thoughts

Enfield Factory Information (future links)

RSAF Enfield
RSAF Sparkbrook
LSA.Co - London Small Arms
BSA.Co - Birmingham Small Arms
Lithgow Arms Factory
RFI - Rifle Factory Ishapore
ROF Maltby
BSA Shirley
ROF Fazakerley
SSA - Standard Small Arms
NFR - National Rifle Factory 1
LongBranch Arsenal
Savage Arms Co
POF - Pakistan Ordinance Factory

Brief note on Parker Hale

In the Beginning

    Around 1860 the breach loading rifle was being adapted by the European powers.   The British, being thrifty, adapted the muzzle loading the .577 Snider into a breach loader as a stop gap measure.  Development and testing led to the .450 Martini-Henry rifle in 1871.  Technical advances in rifle design lead to a little arms race and development and trials went on and on, until all the major powers had some sort of magazine fed rifles, Lee Enfields, Mausers, Mosin Nagants, Springfields, to name a few all came out of this arms race.  Small Colonial Wars of the time saw these rifles employed against each other and against older rifles.  Such as the Americans with their Krags against the Spanish with Mausers, the Americans suddenly found themselves outclassed.   The Boer War pitted the Enfield up against the Mauser, and lead to some further developments of the Enfield Rifles.  But these events would take a series of books to describe in any detail…. So back to the Enfield rifle development.

    In 1888 the first British bolt-action magazine rifle was the Magazine Rifle Mark I.  This rifle was the Lee-Metford, or Magazine Lee-Metford (MLM) it was chambered to the new .30 caliber round (.303 British), and had a 30.2” barrel.  Minor changes led to the adoption of the MLM MkI* in 1892, many of the MkI rifles were converted.  More minor changes led to the MLM MkII in 1893, and the MLM MkII* in 1895.  The first Carbine was approved in 1894, it had most of the same mechanical features of the MkII* but with a 20.75” barrel.  Finally the last of the Metford line was the CLLM MkII, many of the earlier Metfords were converted by adding a charger bridge and removing the dustcovers and safety catches.  But this occurred around 1906 and these rifles were not considered first line weapons but issued to Reservist, Colonial Forces, and the Navy.

    1895, the introduction of smokeless ammunition saw more changes to the Enfield rifles.  The first Lee-Enfield the Lee-Enfield Magazine Rifle Mark I, or Magazine Lee-Enfield (MLE) was adopted.  This change in naming reflects the rifling used in the barrel the old Metford 7 groove somewhat rounded pattern was found to wear out quicker with the new ammo, and the deeper more square shouldered Enfield rifling was adopted.  Again changes, in this case the removal of the cleaning rod, and led to the MLE MkI* in 1899.  At this time a few carbine versions were developed, it seems that the 49.5” long rifle was too long.  The Calvary got the Calvary Carbine MkI (LEC MkI) in 1896, and MkI* 1899 (without the cleaning rod).  Carbines with Bayonet lugs were also produced, used by Artillery and other specialist troops.  There were also versions for the New Zealand contract, with a heavier barrel, and the Royal Irish Constabulary, which used the lighter profile Calvary Carbine barrel. 

   Charger loading, and cutoff plates.  Originally the cutoff plate was installed at the insistence of the General Staff that the average British Tommy would waste ammo given a magazine.  How this worked was soldiers were to load rounds singly and save the rounds in the magazine, until ordered, for rapid fire, (to repel Calvary charges) .  Now at cross purposes to the general staff, ammo was being loaded on charger clips that were used to rapidly reload the magazine.  Now as a soldier I can guess that the cutoff was not a popular feature.  So not using the cutoff and reloading using chargers would be the preferred method, and what they don't know won't hurt them.  The first charger loading Enfield conversion was the 1905 India Pattern, which used a different bolt head.  Using a larger bolt head, a slot was cut to accept the charger.  This was a fairly short lived modification, as receiver mounted charger bridges were quickly adopted and retrofitted on the older rifles giving us the Charger Loading Lee-Enfield (CLLE) MkI and MkI*.  Carbines were never fitted for charger loading.  All this went on as the New ShtLE was being trialed, modified and adapted.  Colonial forces in India were also issued locally converted Rifles.  These Rifles differed from the CLLE MkI, MkI* and were given an extra designation of I.P. denoting India Pattern.  There are also ShtLE MkI's that were converted to the MkIII standard that are marked I.P. And this brings us to the next step in the evolution of the Lee-Enfield Rifle.

The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield, ShtLE, SMLE, No1

    Trials began in 1901 to develop single rifle to replace both the Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle (MLE) and the Lee-Enfield Carbine (LEC).  The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle, or ShtLE, was developed, the short refers to the rifle, not the magazine.  These rifles featured a 25.2” barrel, bayonet that attached to the nose cap, rear ramp site that was windage adjustable, volley sights and safety on the left side of the receiver, and the Magazine cutoff.  These rifles were designated ShtLE MkI MkI* MkI** I.P. and MkI***, Older MLE were converted and were marked ShtLE COND I, II, and II*.  The common feature of these rifles was that like the 1905 India Pattern the charger was integral to the bolt head. 

    In 1907 another major step was made with the introduction of the MkIII.  Changes in design made it easier to manufacture, and the familiar charger bridge was added.  Older ShtLE’s were converted to the MkIII standard and were marked MkI*** and COND  II**, II***, and IV.  All really rather confusing.  Production of the Mk III began in 1907 at Enfield, BSA Co., and LSA Co. in 1909 at the Ishapore Rifle Factory in India and in 1913 at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory in Australia.

    In 1910 the MkVII ammo was introduced.  The 215grn round nose projectile of the previous Mk's was replaced with a lighter 174grn pointed projectile.  This new round was significantly faster, about 400 - 500 feet per second faster then the older rounds.  This meant a flatter trajectory and the rearsite ramps had to be adjusted for this ammo.  Rifles were recalled and modified and stamped HV just behind the rearsite to denote that they were calibrated for the new High Velocity MkVII ammo. 

   Also in 1910, further developments lead to a bit of an offshoot to the Enfield family, the development of a new rifle similar to the German Mauser or American Springfield, with a one piece stock, front locking bolt, and a rimless cartridge was began.  This resulted in the 1913 trial rifle, the Pattern 13 (Patt’13, P13 later the No3) chambered in .276.  The P13 development is halted when WWI breaks out, the War Office wisely decides that switching to a new rifle with new ammo at the start of a war is not a good ideal.

    Now its 1914 and we find WWI in progress, the P13 rifle development is abandoned and current stocks of ShtLE MkIII’s are in use.  The Germans are finding out that the Enfield rifles can lay down an impressive weight of fire and mistakenly attribute this to light machineguns.  However by 1915 there is a shortage of rifles (this may have been partially caused by Canadian soldiers abandoning their issued Ross Rifles, and reissuing themselves borrowed British rifles) so the British do 2 things.  First they simplify the manufacture of the MkIII leading to the MkIII*.  Production commenced in 1915 at BSA, with official approval of the MkIII* in 1916 RSAF Enfield and Ishpore begin making the MkIII* and LSA and Lithgow follow in 1918.  Changes to the rifle included the windage adjustable rear site and volley sites being omitted, and the magazine cut off was finally discontinued.  This was to be a temporary measure.   They also set up the peddle scheme rifles at a new factory, SSA (Standard Small Arms Factory, 1916) which was mismanaged and closed in 1918, later that year it was reorganized and reopened as NRF (National Rifle Factory No1, 1918).  This factory began producing parts for rifles, and these parts along with parts form other contractors were assembled into rifles by the BSA and Enfield factories to produce rifles.  Total production of SSA and NRF marked rifles remained very low, markings are found on the left rear of the receiver. Secondly they purchase rifles from other countries for the Navy and second line units.  These include Japanese types 30 and 38, Canadian Ross MkIII (perhaps these were left for the borrowed rifles), and American Winchesters, and Bannerman Springfield conversions.  They also bring out the P13 plans and the Patt’14 or P14 chambered for .303 is produced in the USA.

   The P14 story is another story all together, Few MkI's were produced in 1914 and there were some problems with interchangeably of parts between the factories.  By 1916 the MkI* without volley sites was being produced and production continues till 1917.  In 1917 the blueprints are once again dusted off as the Americans enter into the War and find themselves short of Model 1903 Springfields.  In 1917 the P14 is redesigned to chamber the 30-06 round and produced as the US Model 1917 .30 caliber, or M1917, M17.  The P14 and M17 rifles were after WW1 placed in warstocks and used again in WW2 by second line troops, the RAF, and Home Guard units.  After WW2 they were considered obsolete and sold off, many were modified and used as sporting rifles.

   Another side note on the Ross Rifle.  The Ross rifle was designed by Sir Charles Ross, and built in Canada by the Ross Rifle factory.  The Ross was designed with a straight pull bolt and was built to higher tolerances then the Enfield.  This resulted in a more accurate rifle but when it came to use in the trenches and rapid fire the Ross tended to heat up and jam.  Rapid fire could also cause the bolt to heat up till it was to hot to touch, and the bolts on occasion would blow back out of the receiver into the rifleman's face causing injury or death.  This blow back was caused by a series of flaws, improper assembly, and repeated stresses put on the rifle.  It is noted that soldiers would use their boot heals or entrenching tools to open stuck bolts in battle.  One solution was to ream out the chambers to the larger Enfield standard, and to pin the bolts so that they could not be disassembled.  In June of 1916 the Canadians finally (officially) traded in their Ross rifles for Enfields.  It should also be noted that 1 in 4 Canadians was already carrying a borrowed Enfield rifle, and that grenades, mortars and machine guns were the Canadians weapons of choice for trench fighting, not rifles.

Ok back on topic.

    Jump ahead a few years, WWI is over and there are lots of spare rifles around, and not a lot of serious development.  Production at some factories returns to a modified MkIII standard, the cutoff plate is once again installed on rifles.  Other improvements were made to the MkIII, MkIII* in 1922, resulting in the MkV rifle, only 20000 of these rifles were ever made.  Volley sights were omitted, rear site was a folding aperture site fitted on the receiver behind the charger bridge, and the magazine cut off was reinstated.  Further development in 1924 saw a variety of trial rifles and the final product of these limited trials was a troop trial of the MkVI in 1930-33. 

    Nomenclature of British service rifles also gets revamped in 1926.  The ShtLE MkIII/MkIII* become the No1 MkIII/MkIII*.  The .22 caliber trainer rifles ShtLE MkIV and other .22 caliber converted Enfields (which I have not addressed) became the No2 MkIV, MkIV*.  The Patt’14 or P14 became the No3.  and out of the MkVI trials came the No4 rifle.  Some of the trial rifles are marked as MkVI while others are marked as No4 Mk1, later these rifles were upgraded to the No4 Mk1 standard, but because they had non standard parts were all marked with the letter A as a suffix to the serial numbers.  It is interesting to note that the MkVI rifles had magazine cutoffs, and the No4 rifles do not but still retain the magazine cutoff boss on the right side of the receiver.   The cutoff boss is only eliminated later on the No5 rifle.  Also of interest is that the thread pattern on the screws were standardized and the screws from the No1 SMLE series rifles do not fit the No4 or No5 rifles.

    Other Projects in the mid to late 30’s were self loading versions of the Lee Enfield rifles and shortened and lightened versions, but as before these projects were interrupted by war and would have to wait. 

    While the No 4 rifle was adopted in 1939 the production of No1 MkIII and MkIII* continued until well after WWII,  Lithgow in Australia ceased production in 1963, and it is reported that the Ishapore factory in India continued production until 1987.  Changes in metallurgy and manufacturing continued in both countries and resulted in other variations of the MkIII.  Lithgow produced a series of heavy barreled rifles as well as some trial shortened and lightened rifles.  Ishapore produced a .410 shotgun based on the MkIII action, the 2A and 2A1 versions in 7.62x51mm, as well as some trial shortened and lightened rifles.

Enfield No4

    The No4 MkI rifle was adopted Nov 1939 but production of the No4 rifle only starts in earnest in 1941.  2 new factories were set up to produce these rifles, ROF Fazakerley and ROF Maltby.  BSA Co. set up the Shirley plant, and additional plants, Longbranch in Canada and Savage in the US were set up to produce rifles.  Output of all the plants in 1941 was low perhaps only 25000 rifles.  But by the end of WWII over 4 million No4 rifles were produced. 

    Even though new production methods were used and many of the parts simplified the demand for rifles was higher them production.  Various shortcuts were developed and implemented, the original button style cocking piece was replaced with a slab sided cocking piece with vertical grooves.  The No4 Mk1* modification saw the simplification of the bolt head release, a slot near the front of the receiver allowed the bolt head to be rotated and removed rather than the plunger and spring behind the charger bridge.  A 2 position L shaped rear flip site rather than the milled micrometer adjustable rear site.  Many of the other parts were made from stamped metal than machined parts, front site protector, barrel bands, and trigger guard.  Some of the other variations were cocking pieces without the half cock notch (deemed unsafe and replaced on most rifles) and cocking pieces without grasping grooves.  Barrels started out with 5 grooves left hand twist (Longbranch 5 RH, Savage 6 or 4 LH) and the simplified 2 groove barrel found mostly on Longbranch, Savage and Maltby Mk1*’s.  A British manufactured 3 groove barrel that the knox is not forged as part of the barrel but is a heat shrink fitted sleeve on a barrel tube, may be found, however these were also determined to be unsafe and recalled.  So we have 2,3,4,5 and 6 grooved barrels some left hand, and some right hand twist.  As the war went on and things started looking brighter for the allies some of the expedient parts replaced with better parts as rifles went through field repairs (FR) or factory thorough repair (FTR).

    After WWII further design changes led to the No4 MkII,  the trigger mounting was changed to allow the trigger to be hung from the action body rather than from the trigger guard. In addition, light-colored beech wood was officially approved for rifle furniture.  It should be noted that the Longbranch and Savage factories made extensive use of Beech and Birch wood throughout the war.  It is reported that all but the first few sample rifles produced by Savage were Birch.  The British factories also used Beech wood on war time production.  The No4 Mk II (or Mk2) was adopted in 1949, with production at ROF-Fazakerley in July, 1949 until 1955.  Fazakerley was the only plant to manufacture the No4 Mk2.  At the same time that the No4 Mk2 rifle was approved  conversion of MkI and MkI* rifles to the Mk2 standard was undertaken.  The converted No4 MkI rifle was redesignated the No4 MkI/2 Rifle, while the converted No4 MkI* rifle was redesignated the No4 MkI/3 Rifle, these conversions were also done at ROF-Fazakerley

Shortened and Lightened trials and the No5

   Trials were started in the late 30’s to produce a shortened and lightened version of the MkIII rifle, these trials were abandoned when WWII became inevitable.   British trials began again in 1943 on a shortened and lightened No4 rifle, leading to the adoption in 1944 of the No5 MkI  Rifle, commonly referred to as the Jungle Carbine.  Produced by ROF-Fazakerley and  by BSA-Shirley from 1944 until 1947.  The No5 barrel is 18.7” long, 20.5” with the flash eliminator, and it has 4 lightening cuts in the barrel knox.  The flash eliminator (more likely a flash directing cone) front site, and bayonet lug are one piece, and pinned to the barrel.  The receiver was lightened by lowering the sides behind the charger bridge and removal of the boss on the right side, the last holdover from the cutoff plate.  The bolt was lightened by drilling a hole in the bolt handle, this modification is seen on many No4 rifles as well.  The trigger guard is also narrower and material is removed just behind the front tang, these are also encountered on later No4 rifles.  The No5 had a rubber shoulder pad to help reduce the recoil from the lighter rifle. 

   Limited trials were also conducted in Canada 1943 on lightweight rifles.  These rifles were designed with 22” barrels and a one piece stock.  There also appears to have been some produced as trial rifles that replicated the British No5 specifications.  Few of these trial rifles were ever constructed.

   Australian trials used the MkIII* as the basis of a lightened rifle.  In 1944 two trial rifles were produced one with an 18.2” barrel and one with a 20.2” barrel.  These trial rifles were designated the No6 MkI, MkI/I.  The MkI had a ramp type rear site mounted on the barrel while the MkI/I had an ladder type flip up aperture rear site mounted on the rear of the receiver.  Several hundred were manufactured for these trials.

Snipers, WW1 and WW2

      Marksman were employed by armies as far back as there has been armies, only the tools they used changed.  The Germans were the first to equip their marksmen/snipers with a telescopic sight.  The British followed suit with scopes made by several different companies were mounted either offset or directly above the rifles bore.  Some of these were mounted on MkIII and MkIII* rifles but it was found that the tighter tolerances of the Ross and P14 rifles made for better sniper weapons.  Many of the P14's were modified for sniping with the addition of vernier fine adjustable rear site, P14MkI*W(F).  Or in 1918 with P14’s and 1918 telescopic sight combination P14MkI*(T) and P14MkI*(T)A using the Aldis telescopic scope.  It should also be noted that the Winchester P14 was used for these conversions as they demonstrated and inherent accuracy over the Remmington RE and ERA production rifles.  The Ross on the other had a poor reputation in the trenches, but Canadian Snipers liked the rifle and used it till it was replaced by the Enfield, even then some snipers continued to use the Ross for sniping.  The Australians started producing heavy barreled SMLE’s in the mid 1930’s, as marksman or target rifles.  These rifles were recalled in 1944 and were fitted with an Australian made telescopic sights on medium or short bracket mounts. 

   With the No4 rifle there was a higher level of standardization with regards to sniping accessories.  The No32 telescope, originally developed for the Bren machine gun, was mounted on No4 rifles as early as 1940.  It was only officially approved in 1942.  Many or these No4 MkI(T) rifles were converted by Holland and Holland, however prior to 1942 the conversions were done mostly on earlier trials rifles at the Enfield plant.  A No4 T rifle was selected for its accuracy from a test firing at the plant, it was then fitted with a high comb cheek rest, screwed on, and scope mount pads that were screwed and soldiered on the receiver.  The rifle came in a carrying chest with a leather sling, a No. 32 scope, a scope carrying case.  Rifles and scopes were serial numbered together the British rifles had the scope serial number stamped into the top of the butt near the socket while Canadian conversions had the rifle serial number engraved onto the scope.  Rifles from all manufacturers were set up as sniper rifles.   In Canada the Long Branch factory produced No4 Mk I*(T) sniping rifles with C No. 32 scopes on R.E.L. (Research Enterprises Ltd.) mounts and C No. 67 scopes using Griffin & Howe mounts.  Also civilian manufacture Lyman Alaskan scopes using R.E.L. mounts. 

Subcaliber .22 Rifles

   For the most part the early sub caliber rifles were made from converting regular rifles into training rifles.  There were Long (Lng .22) and Short (Sht .22) this designation referred to the length of the barrel.  Most of the conversions involved replacing the .303 barrel with a new .22 cal barrel but some barrels were bored out and sleeved.   Later .22 cal rifles were made based on the No4 receiver, these were the C No7 MkI, No7 MkI, No8 MkI, and No9 MkI.  The C No7 MkI was manufactured in Canada, this rifle was not a conversion but actually built as a .22 cal trainer.  The magazine was fitted with a loading ramp and the rifle was a single shot.  The British No7 MkI was made by converting No4 rifles by sleeving the old barrel or by replacing the barrel.  The magazine for these rifles was fitted with a small 5 round .22 magazine welded inside so the rifle would work as a repeater.  The next .22 cal rifle was the No8 MkI, this rifle was designed more as a target rifle.  It did not have the full wood like the previous rifles and there is no magazine, a fully adjustable trigger was also fitted.  A final batch of .22 trainers was made and designated the No9 MkI, these were again conversions of the No4 rifles and included some Mk1/2 and Mk2 rifles with the trigger hung from the receiver.  These rifles had full wood, and the magazine consisted of a standard .303 mag with the spring and follower removed.

Enfield 7.62x51mm

2A, 2A1, from No1 MkIII rifles done by Ishapore, these rifles were specifically designed and manufactured to use the 7.62x51mm round.  The earlier No1 MkIII* receivers were deemed unsafe for conversion, so a different grade of steel and better heat treating was used for these receivers. 

L8A1, L8A2, L8A3, L8A4, L8A5, from No4 Mk1/2, Mk1/3, Mk2, MkI, and MkI* respectively, done in the UK.  These are converted No4 rifles, the No4 action is considerably stronger than the No1 action. 

DCRA.  Produced in Canada as a target rifle using Longbranch No4 MkI* using new barrel, extractor, target site, and magazine.  A second club batch was produced by converting existing rifles using various receivers with new barrels, some were fitted with target sites. 

L39A1, Envoy.  Made in Britain these are primarily target rifles fitted with short forestock and target sites.

Enforcer, was an Envoy but fitted with an optical sight (scope) for police snipers. 

L42A1, Like the Enforcer this is a sniper rifle but for the military also fitted with optical sites.

Late Production / Conversion Rifles

After WW2 there were a lot of bolt action rifles packed away by governments in military arsenals. As these militaries were adopting semi auto or self loading rifles the bolt action rifles were deemed surplus and sold off to other countries, either to the government or to insurgents that were bent on overthrowing the government. Many rifles were also sold off to companies that would then sporterize these rifles and sell them off as inexpensive hunting rifles. Or in many cases left it up to the individual to sporterize the rifle, as is the case of many Bubba made sporters. The various private factories such as BSA.Co, and Longbranch (changing hands and renamed Canadian Arsenals, and finally Essential Agencies Ltd) and a few others, manufactured rifles for the civilian market as well using left over stocks of parts and new manufacture parts as well.

Canadian EAL, produced as a survival rifle for the Canadian Airforce, (RCAF) there was also a civilian sporting version.  It appears that many of the civilian sporter rifles were sold to the military and used by the RCAF and later the Canadian Rangers, continuing to this current day.  These rifles have a recoil pad (anti-flinch) and high comb on the butstock, and a shorter barrel.  I own one of the civilian sporting versions and more details can be found on my other pages.

Navy Arms, Santa Fee, Gibbs Rifle Company, conversions were made on just about every type of Enfield, these conversions include the tanker carbines and many larger caliber or shorter carbine like rifles.

Australian No10 in 7.62x51mm and 7.62x39mm...  These rifles are currently being manufactured in Australia.  They are using a beefed up copy of the No4 receiver and chambered in popular milsurp caliber's.  They also use AK and M14 magazines.  They are very interesting but fairly expensive, near the price range of new manufacture name brand rifle.
M10 Laurence Ordinance (Australia)
M10 Tristar Sporting Arms (USA)


Final Trials

    Just as a final point of interest RSAF Enfield had one last trial rifle, the EM-2.  The intent was to develop a new self loading rifle (SLR) that was chambered to fire a rimless .280 round (7x43mm) However it was not to be.  When NATO, at the Americans insistence, adopted the 7.62x51mm (.308) round, a shortened and improved 30-06.  The EM2 was not redesigned, and the FN SLR was adopted, oddly enough the prototype of the FN was also chambered for .280 British round.  The Americans after a series of trials adopted the M14 rifle over the FN, which was shortly there after replaced by the M16 family of rifles chambered in 5.56x45mm.  the M14's were not well suited to jungle warfare in Vietnam.  M14's equipted with scopes are being issued again to squad marksmen in places like Iraq where the longer range and hitting power of the 7.62x51 can be employed. 


FN L1A1 SLR, with Optical Sight