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Archive for the ‘.303’ Category

Lee Speed

Now here is a sexy number. The Lee Speed. This one will get my vote as the most racy military carbine ever.

Lee Speed carbine

The assistant manager at Enfield c. 1890 was Joseph Speed. The Lee Metford firing a black powder .303 cartridge from a magazine was being adopted as the new British service rifle to replace the Martini Henry single shot breech loading rifle.

Mr. Speed refined and improved the Lee Metford and is credited with the magazine cut off enabling the rifle to be used as a single shot breech loader while keeping the rounds in the magazine in reserve. Carbine magazines were usually smaller and held 5 or sometimes 6 rounds although I have never seen a 6 round magazine.

I use an original Lee Enfield sport rifle (not sporterized but factory built as a hunting rifle) with a magazine cut off on the range preferring to fire singly loaded rounds and shooting slowly and deliberately at targets. When in the field I keep the magazine open for quick follow up shots.

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This British cavalry unit fighting during the Anglo Boer War  is depicted armed with .303 Lee Enfield carbines. This weapon was specifically adapted to cavalry use. In the spirit of the musketoon it is simply a much shorter version of the standard Mk1 (long) infantry rifle. The bolt handle was flattened and bent slightly forward. It also had a sight protector on the muzzle that the standard rifle did not have but which in modified form became standard on the Mk3 SMLE rifles of both World Wars. SMLE stands for short magazine lee enfield. Although the SMLE was shorter than the Anglo Boer War Lee Enfields the short in SMLE refers to the 10 round short magazine and not the length of the rifle. The carbine was issued with an even shorter 5 round magazine as seen in the pictures.

 

Lee Enfield .303 carbine

Lee Enfield .303 carbine

 

Although I have not encountered a museum copy or found any evidence for Anglo Boer Was use therof , there did exist what is known as the Nieu Zeeland pattern carbine. The Royal Irish Constabulary was at some stage issued with a similar Nieu Zeeland pattern carbine.

I own a rifle that looks like a Nieu Zeeland pattern. Closer examination reveals that it was actually made into a carbine from a standard long Anglo Boer War vintage rifle after the  War by the Union of South Africa government arsenal. It was maybe modified for use as a cadet dril rifle because the bolt was welded solid and the barrel drilled with holes at intervals. The proper Nieu Zeeland pattern looks very similar but retained the bayonet lug under the barrel on the stock. It was also issued with a 5 rnd magazine.

 

Boer War rifle converted into Nieu Zeeland style carbine

Boer War rifle converted into Nieu Zeeland style carbine

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