Obscure Object Of Desire: 1954 Irish Contract Lee-Enfield

I know what you’re thinking: Lee-Enfields are about as obscure as Ford Escorts. The Brits made 17 million of them. Between 1895 and 1957 soldiers equipped with the gun fought for Crown and Queen in all corners of the Empire. With a ten-round magazine and the fastest manually-operated turnbolt ever made, the Lee-Enfield gave its Commonwealth soldiers a substantial advantage in firepower over their Mauser-equipped foes.

Despite being out of production since 1956, you’ll still see them at gun shows and pawn shops in various (often poor) conditions.  Most of them, by now, look as though the ‘Pals’ of Kitchener’s New Armies dragged them through the mud of Passchendaele in 1917 and never cleaned them.

Several models of Lee-Enfield were manufactured over the years. The final version was the elegant No. 4 Mk. 2. It was slightly lighter than its predecessors, because it lacks their three-pound steel muzzle cap/bayonet mount.  In addition, the No. 4 Mk. 2 is also slightly more accurate due to a slight redesign of the trigger mechanism.

About 40,000 No. 4 Mk. 2’s were manufactured to order for the Irish Republic, but the order was never delivered for political reasons. In 1956, the last British Lee-Enfield rolled off the assembly line. The machinery was sold to India, where the 7.62x51mm ‘Ishapore’ Lee-Enfields were later manufactured.

What makes this particular Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.2 an ‘obscure’ object of desire: it’s in abso-fracking-lutely 100% condition, unfired, and as clean and bright as the day it was born in the Fazakerly arsenal in Liverpool in 1954. The beechwood furniture is smooth, bright and unblemished, and the steel is either a deep smooth black or in the white and impeccably preserved.  You will not work a smoother rifle bolt in your life.

A supply of these came State-side in the mid-1990s. Priced at around $400, they didn’t stick around long.  A 100% example with matching serial numbers books for around $1,000 today.



  1. avatar Ryan Finn says:

    What a beautiful rifle.

  2. avatar sdog says:

    immaculate condition, very nice

  3. avatar Mike Lief says:

    I bought my unissued, mint-condition Enfield in ’93. It had been dipped in cosmoline, wrapped, dipped again and prepared for storage back in the ’50s.

    I unwrapped it and used two weekends of a SoCal heatwave, with temps in excess of 105, to sweat the cosmoline out of the wood and the action, going through roll after roll of paper towels.

    When the heatwave broke, I had a gorgeous rifle, with matching bayonet, scabbard and sling. She’s about the sweetest rifle I’ve ever fired, and one I’ll never part with, even if I rarely shoot her (.303 is bloody pricey!).

  4. Although I idolized my late father as an unabashed car guy, he was also a dedicated hunter. Your photo reminded me of one of his favorite rifles.

  5. avatar otalps says:

    Tiocfaidh ar la, even if by Brit hands. Beautiful rifle.

  6. avatar Magoo says:

    That’s a beauty. Love the natural, unstained beech, looks fabulous.

  7. avatar ScottyV says:

    Now if England would just get the hell out of Ireland, all would be grand!

    1. avatar Mike the Limey says:

      If the Irish just stopped doing Gaddafi’s bidding & blowing up women & children then we might.
      Maybe all those of Spanish descent ought to leave Ireland too.

      1. avatar frosty says:

        mike the limey is spot on, you need to grow up, most brit dont want to be in ireland, but you need us for financial reasons, if it was not for us, you would have the social and economic standing of albania

        1. avatar Unrepentant Fenian B'Stard says:

          And your mother wears army boots. Grow up yourself.

      2. avatar Unrepentant Fenian B'Stard says:

        Reminds me of one of my favourite Fawlty Towers lines:
        You started it!
        No we didn’t!
        Yes you did – you invaded Poland!

  8. avatar Ken says:

    “A supply of these came State-side in the mid-1990s. Priced at around $400, they didn’t stick around long. They are excellent guns for A 100% example with matching serial numbers books for around $1,000 today.”

    Wow! I got mine back then for that price. I had no idea they had gone up that much. I had been thinking about unloading it since it was just taking up room in the safe. I guess I’ll hold on to it. It is a damn fine piece of machinery.

    1. avatar The Bob says:

      $1,000 today? Maybe I should “flip” mine! Just got it on GunBroker; Mfr’d. 12/54, appears unfired, still has some lube on/in it (not cosmo). Seller said, “Just shoot it”, as it was bought for that many years ago but never was used, but its so darn good-looking and close-to-perfect I hate to start the wear process after 60 years of preservation (sitting in a closet). I’m thinking “classic car treatment”, i.e.- Run it gently every few months or annually and keep it clean and protected. Yeah, that’ll work… for now.

  9. avatar Jim Farmer says:

    I understand the venerable, historic, and versatile .303 British was the quintessential
    rifle used by generations of meat hunters in Canada, South Africa, Australia, India,
    and other Commonweath nations. In Canada alone lots of moose and caribou were
    taken with the .303 British. In fact, beginning in 1898 the Winchester Model 1895
    or “95” lever action box magazine rifle, designed by John M. Browning, was also
    chambered in .303 British. My own original 1930 Winchester Cataloge depicts
    this. The British and Canadian Martini-Enfield single shot “falling block” rifle was
    also chambered in .303 British. Anything on the North American continent can
    be taken with this historic (1887-88: loaded with Cordite in 1892) military caliber.
    Same for the .300 Savage and .30-40 Krag. Bullet placement, not caliber, makes
    the difference. If the shooter places their shot with a reasonable caliber loaded with
    the proper bullet, there exists no need for a magnum.

  10. avatar Bob H says:

    Wideners has the ammunition cheap too.
    You will have to copy paste the link and include all of the digits. Apparently the blog software doesn’t recognize the special characters as part of the link.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Not special enough, obviously.

  11. avatar Ed Canares says:

    I bet the reason the order wasn’t delivered was because around that time, the IRA began a series of cross border raids into Ulster from the Republic. The raids were amateurish and unsuccessful but threw a big scare into the Brits. Targeted at lightly manned British army and RUC arsenals in the hopes of seizing weapons, they only produced handfuls of casualties on both sides and showed up how unprepared either side was for a fight. There is no evidence that the Republican government was complacent, but I’m sure the British felt shipping enough new rifles to equip 4 Infantry Divisions to a possibly hostile Nation was a bad idea in that atmosphere. The only movie I know about that shows this period is an old early ’60s one called “The Night Fighters” starring Richard Harris. The Irish army units that marched off to take part in the UN Congo mission had No.4s on their shoulders(finally replacing the SMLEs that had been their primary rifle since 1922) but, like the Indian troops they shared that mission with, they soon exchanged them for FALs.

  12. avatar Noelh says:

    We really need to lay this myth once and for all. It was started by some author in America. There was no political reason for the non delivery of those Lee Enfields. There was no trouble betweeen the UK and the Republic at the time. In fact the Irish rounded up most of the IRA they could get their hands on and interned them without trial when they started trouble with the British. The real reason they were never delivered was probably the fact that they were obsolete and the Irish were looking at the FN-FAL. In fact there is some doubt they were ever intended for Ireland at all. There are some genuine Irish rifles, surplus stock sold to Canada in the eighties. They are the genuine article and the rarest. Most rifles were dumped into the sea.

    1. avatar Old Fenian Bastard says:

      In fact the “Irish contract” No4s WERE delivered to the Republic of Ireland, silly theories about “political troubles” aside. They served as the standard rifle of the (active duty) Defence Force for only a short while before being replaced by FN FALs, but served in the (reserve forces) FCÁ until the early 1990s.

      There were many brand-new rifles because the 50,000 rifles of the “Irish contract” were far more than needed for the active and reserve forces of Ireland in the 1950s through to present. Ireland remembered what had happened in 1940 — when Britain was threatening to invade to prevent a German invasion — and there were not enough rifles to equip more than a fraction of the Irish forces. As a result, they bought enough rifles to equip the existing Defence Forces and allow for an expansion in the size of the DF as would be necessary in an emergency.

      While the Irish have dumped some rifles in the sea in the past — when the massively enlarged forces were drawn-down after the Civil War in 1922, and when the WW II “Emergency” ended in 1945 — the rifles dumped were almost entirely worn-out and/or non-standard ones. Still serviceable SMLE MkIIIs were sold to Interarms in the 1950s and made their way to the US civilian market. In the 1990s most of the No4 Mk2s were sold to Century Arms and turned up for sale in the US and Canada.

      1. avatar Frank McTigue says:

        The Irish Contract Lee Enfield No2 MK4 were delivered to Ireland in the 1950’s as were Bren MK 4. Most were put in storage still wrapped in grease as the 7.62mm was replacing the .303 in the late 50ies and the Irish Army were looking at the FN FAL – I know because in 1987 myself and a few lads in the FCA (now Reserve Defence Force) spent a day de greasing (lots of hot water) both Enfield No2 MK4 and Bren MK4. The Bren’s went to the FCA and the Enfields went to the PDF Army Snipers and I still remember the yellow Beach Wood finished stock of the Enfield as the older ones had a Walnut stock.

        When the FCA were issued the FN FAL after 1988 we were told that most of the “Good” 303’s were sold to Century Arms and others in Canada as the .303 was not a legal cartridge at the time (not until 2004?) in Ireland, the old Lee Enfield’s (some Mk 3’s were in .22) were dumped at sea. Some that were exported to Canada had not been fired and were still wrapped in grease, we were told the Irish Government got £40 for each of them – what a shame. I see some Mk 4 No 1 & No 2 for sale on Irish Websites for €500 – €700.

        Still my favourite rifle!

  13. avatar JM says:

    I got one just like it. Made in Faz under Irish contract. I got it for $250 at an old time hardware store a few years back in Virginia. I had never heard of the Irish contract rifles. I just like old rifles and this one was a beauty. Never fired and still in cosmolene. Unfortunately the guy’s son went off playing with the bayonet and he couldn’t find it LOL. When I found out it was a collectable I decided to keep it pristine and unfired until one day when I just had to try it out. The rifle is so accurate it boggles my mind.

    1. avatar The Bob says:

      I hear ya! Just got one (beautiful, blonde ‘virgin’), that’s gone from its first owner, an Englishman in India, to an American in California who recently moved to Tennessee and sold it on GunBroker to me in Virginia. Lots of miles but no use. Still has some light preservative/oil on the metal and in the barrel with a light coating of dust. Will be hard to ever fire the “virgin beauty”, even though the original (late) owner told me to “have at it” b/c his late friend bought it to shoot but was not really a gun guy or hunter and never did.

      Hard call…

  14. avatar TheTooner says:

    Error: “…In 1956, the last British Lee-Enfield rolled off the assembly line. The machinery was sold to India, …”

    The tooling from Royal Ordnance Factory Fazackerly, where the No.4Mk2s were made, was sold to Pakistan where Pakistan Ordnance Factory used it to make No.4Mk2s for their forces. India’s Rifle Factory Ishapore made the No.1 Mk. III, including some in 7.62x51mm NATO, and refurbished No.4s of various marks that they acquired by purchasing surplus or by capturing them from Pakistan, but No.4s weren’t actually manufactured in India.

  15. avatar Anon in CT says:

    The Canadian Rangers are in the process of looking for new rifles to replace the No.4 Mk 1, which they adopted in 1947. Since the Rangers are allowed, even encouraged, to use their issue weapon to put meat on the table, the .303 is pretty much the perfect round.


  16. avatar Jeff ODonnell says:

    Bought this in 95 for 350.00 and found number on bayonet was different. Never fired or chambered a round. Mag serial matches rifle and seems beautiful action,better than duty Remington 700 PSS.

  17. avatar John says:

    I lucked up onto one of these! Without touching the sights, I fired 10 rounds of Sierra’s accuracy load. All ten rounds were 10’s, with 6 X’s !! These truly are incredible rifles. I was so wrong to judge them on looks alone instead of just shooting one!!! All numbers match including the bayonet. The cartridge is a soft shooter and will kill deer with ease. Many, many Germans and japs fell to this round!!

  18. avatar J Perrone says:

    I purchased one of those in 1990’s; but I recall only paying $125 or so. It came with a bayonet, was covered in a thick waxy preservative and then thick paper. I cleaned it up but never fired it. Sold it a few years later. I guess I should have held on to it!!!!

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