If you know military rifles, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t you probably couldn’t care less about this post.
The SMLE was a development of the early Magazine Lee Enfield, which in it’s turn was a development of the Lee Medford rifle. The SMLE No 1 Mk III was introduced into British Commonwealth service in 1907. It’s still used by the Indian Police to this day. Over 100 years of service with no major changes. The .303 cartridge it uses is even older, developed from a .303 black powder cartridge used in the 1800s by the British. Some gun writers have opined that the .303 was underpowered in comparison to rounds used by various other countries. There are millions of German, Japanese, Korean, and various other nations’ soldiers who would beg to different. Well, they would if they hadn’t been killed by the round.
The SMLE features a bolt action so smooth that it should be illegal. It was so fast that the when the Germans came up against British infantry companies armed with the SMLE they thought they were up against machine guns.
After WWI, the British sought to improve on the design. The result was a follow on product that was lighter, stronger, and easier to manufacture because it required fewer machining operations to build. Same cartridge, same sweet as butter action. The same, only different as we say. This was known as the No4 MkI.
This was the replacement for the No1 MkIII, but World War II intervened and both were used throughout the war. Various manufacturers, including Savage Arms in the USA, made the No4 MkI during the war.
After the war, some minor changes were made and the No4 MkII was born.
The example pictured is a No1 MkIII made in 1943 by Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) in 1943 as a “dispersal” rifle. Dispersal rifles were assembled from parts made in small shops scattered around the country to thwart efforts by the Germans to destroy the manufacturing ability of the British. Mine was rearsenalled after WWII and put into storage. It’s in as new condition except for a few dings in the furniture.
Probably the best bolt action military rifle ever made. Certainly, the longest lived. Definitely my favorite MilSurp. Even more than my Schmidt Rubin K31, which is another beautiful piece of engineering.