Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

There are few guns that capture the imagination like those from World War II. I got into shooting because of my interest in these classic weapons and my love of history. Finding these guns at shows or local stores became a sort of sport to me and I loved the idea of getting my hands on what I felt was living history. In this article I will be taking a look at a unique rifle of American manufacture destined for British service: the Savage No. 4 Mk1.

Instead of boring you with a historical commentary that you could easily find in the dustier section of a library or the internet, I’ll give you quick summary of this gun and what its context. My particular example was made at Savage in 1943. It has simplified features as compared to earlier Enfield models. The nature of wartime manufacturing necessitated a reduction in machine operations and many features were either stripped down or made differently to speed up production time.

The gun was actually produced by Stevens, a division of Savage arms, in Massachusetts to fill the British demand for a fighting rifle. During the early parts of the war, Hitler’s seemingly invincible forces were spanking virtually everyone in Europe and the British suffered as their manufacturing plants and industrial areas were bombed to rubble.

The British had little choice when it came to where they got their guns and American machinery began to make the quintessential weapon of the Empire in great number. The Lend-Lease Act passed in 1941 and American help was on the way.  Note the “US Property” stamped on the receiver indicating its origin as the Lend-Lease Agreement with the United States, along with No.4 Mk I.

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

The gun itself is somewhat standard for the time period, but it had a number of features that made it, at least on paper, superior to other bolt actions of the era. For one, the rifle boasted a ten-round detachable box magazine. It was meant to be loaded by stripper clip and it was not issued with a spare. It was typically only removed for cleaning and maintenance, but the fact it held double the on-board rounds of a Nazi K98k made it a serious force on the battlefield.

Another feature that made the Savage Enfield an excellent rifle was that, unlike the American Springfield 1903/1903 A3 and German 98 Mauser, it was a cock-on-closing design with rear locking lugs. The Enfield action is a bit of a weird design when compared directly to the systems we know today, as virtually all modern bolt actions are derived from the Mauser action, including the Remington 700 and Winchester Model 70.

The entire mechanism is completely different from what most people know a bolt action to be and it represents a unique line of thinking that has sadly died off. I believe that this is because there is really no way to improve upon or further simplify the Enfield action and, because it was complex, it was ruled to be impractical.

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

That said, there’s almost nothing out there like the Enfield action. Except other Enfields. The action is capable of being operated with incredible speed and smoothness and even a mediocre rifleman can deliver aimed fire at distance with almost the same speed and accuracy as an M1 Garand.

So slick and reliable is the Enfield action that the Mad Minute, fifteen shots on a target at 300 yards, is fully possible. The speed at which the Enfield action can be used is legendary, with some shooters being capable of emptying the 10-round magazine in less than ten seconds while aiming.

When it comes to accuracy, the Savage Enfield benefitted from American ideas of precision. My example features a two-groove barrel that was easy to keep clean while being very precise. I’ve fired a number of Enfields that were made as long ago as the late 1800’s that were preserved in near-new condition and none were as accurate as this example. Depending on what manual you read, the British service rifle was supposed to be able to put between ten and twenty rounds into a 6” square at 100 yards (or 6×4” @100yds, or a 48” square at 300 yards).

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

That seems like poor accuracy by American standards, but the British had a different idea of what a fighting rifle should do in combat. They were generally not as concerned with individual accuracy as the Americans, and this is evidenced by the fact that the individual American soldier was trusted to adjust his sights to his own zero, where the British typically had their sights set at the factory for a given load.

There were several heights of front sight that could be installed on the No. 4 Mk 1* that were designed to give the rifle a 300-yard zero. My rifle has a flip-up sight that is set for 300 and 600. Any other adjustments had to be made on the fly.

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

My rifle was fired with two kinds of ammunition at ranges of 100 yards, 300 yards, and 600 yards. I fired both Prvi Partizan 174 soft points and Hornady 150gr SP Interlock through the gun and chronographed them over my Oehler 35P.

The Prvi load was very accurate and generated ten-shot groups averaging 3.5” at 100 yards. Velocity averaged 2455fps at eight feet from the muzzle. The impact was about 17” high of point of aim at 100 yards. This load was dead-on at 300 yards and was capable of ringing my 10” steel plate every time by holding directly center. At 600 yards, it dropped low of point of aim by about a foot, which is close enough for government work.

The Hornady load displayed slightly better accuracy at 3” for ten shots at 100 yards. The average velocity was 2695fps and recoiled more sharply than the 174gr load. At 100 yards this load also shot high, this time about 15-16”. At 300 yards it was shooting high as well, but only by about 5”. I had to hold slightly under my plate to make it ring. At 600 yards it shot just about right on, which was strange to me, as I was expecting it to still be high.

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

I attempted some Mad Minute drills, but wasn’t able to work up to the speed. As a CMP competitor and regular at the Camp Perry National Matches, I thought I’d be able to meet the speed and accuracy requirements, but sadly I fell short.

CMP matches require ten rounds in 80 seconds at 200 yards with a mandatory reload (five and five for a bolt gun, two and eight for the M1), so my engrained pacing was off for trying 15 rounds with two reloads at 300 yards. With practice I’m sure I could make it. I think.

Vintage Gun Review: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*

The Savage Enfield rifle is an interesting and important part of WWII history. It’s likely that more American-made Enfields served in the war than those produced by the British.

Obtaining one today that’s in good condition can be difficult, but it not impossible. Prices range from about $600-1,200 depending on accessories, overall condition, and, honestly, who you buy it from. My example has a number of original and matching parts, a bayonet, and other items that place it in the higher tier for cost, but serviceable examples exist in as good a shape as mine without all the goodies.

Specs: Savage Enfield No.4 MK1*
Barrel Length: 25”
Overall Length: 44.5”
Caliber: .303 British
Weight: 9lbs
Capacity: 10 rounds
Price: $600 to $1200

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability: * * * * *
It wasn’t made by the French.

Accuracy: * * * * *
This is no target rifle, but it will see use at the 2019 National Matches after I install a dedicated 200-yard front sight. My example may not win a gold, but it will certainly give those damn Mausers a run for their money again.

Ergonomics: * * * *
The sights are a bit hard to use and could be a little finer, but this is a fighting gun and it’s rugged as all hell and has the hardened features to match.

Aesthetics: * * * *
Some consider it utilitarian, robust, hardworking, and overwhelmingly British. Much like Tilda Swinton. But, like Tilda, this rifle has taken many roles that a more fragile model couldn’t and it’s well remembered because of it.

Customize This: Just don’t
Don’t even think about altering one, Bubba. It’s forgivable to file a front sight or install a new replacement part, but a special circle of Hell awaits those who still butcher military surplus rifles in 2018.

Overall: * * * * *
This is a part of history, plain and simple. The Savage Enfield No.4 Mk1* is a classic and represents the finest of bolt action rifles.

Lee-Enfield

comments

  1. avatar Nanashi says:

    You forgot to mention what a hell it is to get ammo for this under the price listing. The options for 303 are surplus with questionable powder integrity, Wolf with wrong sized bullets and expensive stuff. PPU is the cheapest at 65-70 cents a round before shipping.

    1. avatar Draven says:

      The Wolf Gold isn’t made by Privi Partisan anymore?

      1. avatar Nanashi says:

        The stuff I could find is this bi-metal case (first I’ve ever heard of such a thing) which reviews say has this problem. There was Wolf Gold in 303 made by PPU?

        1. avatar Draven says:

          Yep, Wolf Gold at least when introduced, was made by Privi. in 54R, 303, and 8mm mauser

    2. avatar New Continental Army says:

      I’ve found PPU for much better deals then that.

  2. avatar yolo says:

    the virgin enfield vs the chad garand, would love to own one of these. life gets so boring shooting only glocks and ARs. more reviews like this please.

  3. avatar neiowa says:

    Awesome rifle and that one is a beauty. You could post some kind of warning to a guy before a search to see what a “Tilda Swinton” is. What freaking trainwreck, you know it’s not possible to unring a bell?

  4. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    I’ve seen some video of people shooting the “mad minute”. As I recall it involved using the thumb and forefinger to move the bolt and the middle finger to pull the trigger. I’ve tried that technique and it does work pretty well. I’m not sure if that was actually taught or its just something that somebody on the net invented.

    I’ve got about 100 rounds of the old Remington 180 gr CoreLokt soft point hunting rounds that I bought 20 years ago. I paid a buck a round for that ammunition back in the day. I also have 250 rounds of surplus Canadian Mk VII ball dated 1944. I bought that in bandoleers with stripper clips out of an open military can back in the 90s. Don’t remember what I paid. The Canadian rounds shot pretty well the last time I had my Enfields out to the range – probably five years ago. They’ve been stored under good conditions and I’m sure that they’d still go bang. I’m pretty sure that the surplus ammo is corrosive. Back when these rifles were a little easier to come by you heard bad things about the third world ammunition – probably more due to poor storage than bad primers or powder.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Through my .303 LEs I use HXP, PMC, and reloads. In my .223 conversions I use reloads exclusively.

      The converted guns were done about 20+ years ago. The first was built on one that had a rusted out barrel and the second was bought from the person who had it built and it is an assemblage of spare parts used to create a rifle. The first gun is on it’s third barrel and second, despite the worn barrel keeps shooting well enough to continue using.

      Mad minute is a part of our SMLE Centenary (+ about 14 now) match. I can get away 27+ with a No4 or SMLE, but the modern M10B reproduction in .308 struggles to get away 20, and often less.

  5. avatar Felix says:

    I tried my own version of the mad minute, shooting at a 8×11 sheet of paper from 100 feet, which I figure is sort of maybe-not-quite a human target at 200 yards (48×66, twice as wide, more or less) and got 20 shots off in 66 seconds, and 16 were on the paper. So with a little practice, I could qualify as cook (10 hits in a minute) in the Britsh Army.

    The Lee-Enfields make it easier for two reasons. Cock on closing means a lot less jerk on opening the bold, and when closing the bolt, the sudden resistance of the cocking spring cushions slamming the bolt home, so there’s two points where the sights don’t jump around as much. The other factor is that the proper way to hold the bolt handle is thumb and forefinger, and your pinky or its neighbor falls right into place to pull the trigger — you never let go of the bolt handle.

    But boy o boy I wish I could get some better ammo. The surplus I’ve tried sometimes has short hangfires, and that’s spooky during a mad minute.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      That pinky fire technique was invented in Gallipoli, as I mentioned below. Normally, or originally anyway, it was 15 hits on a 12″ target @ 300 yards, so there was plenty of time to reposition your hand. The Huns were pretty well shredded whenever they ran into the BEF.

      1. avatar Toni says:

        yep there were a number of times when the enemy ran up against a bunch of aussies using the lee enfield and they thought they were facing a machine gun rather than half a dozen to a dozen men with bold action rifles.

        Of all the lee enfields ever made the most accurate ones came out of the factory in Lithgo australia, in fact the barrels for the early bren guns made there had to be sent back to be bored out somewhat due to them not spraying enough.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Not sure about the Aussies, but the British army was an all professional army up until January of 1916, and they took marksmanship very seriously. But then I suppose it was the Aussies who invented the pinky-fire technique since it was mostly the ANZACs at Gallipoli.

  6. avatar New Continental Army says:

    I’ve got a 1943 British Enfield. It’s hands down my favorite bolt action by far. I occasionally hunt with it, snagged a boar with it once.

  7. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    “Don’t even think about altering one, Bubba. It’s forgivable to file a front sight or install a new replacement part, but a special circle of Hell awaits those who still butcher military surplus rifles in 2018.”

    Amen.

  8. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

    “Reliability: It wasn’t made by the French”.

    That, my friend, was a stupid-assed comment and clearly shows that you know absolutely nothing about milsurps.

    1. avatar Mike says:

      A British joke, you would not understand, just “don’t mention the war” Love my Enfields, incredible prices now.

      1. avatar Alan says:

        Concerning WW1 small arms, the following has been noted. THe Americans, with their Springfields, had the best Target Rifle, though in point of fact, more U.S. soldiers carried the U.S. Enfield Rifle than the Springfield. The Germans, with their ’98 Mauser, had the best Hunting Rifle.The British, with their Lee Enfield rifles, whether British or U.S. made, had the best Service Rifle or Combat Rifle.

        That said, and regarding criticism of the rifle the Brits used in WW1 and WW2 concerning it’s cock on closing, as memory serves at one time conversions to cock on open were available. Seems that they are long gone, and I do not know how well they sold when available. By the way, being left eye dominant, in the limited instances where I had the opportunity to fire the British service rifle, I had no particular problem working the bolt in rapid fire, the rifle remaining shouldered while I fired. I have little doubt that my rate of fire would have much impressed British Army Riflemen, but I left no unfired ammunition in the rapid fire stages.

  9. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Awesome find. I had a Long Branch model from 1950 for about 20 years. Bought it for $100, sold it for $360. Wouldn’t mind picking up another.

    That ‘mad minute’ in WWI was 15 rounds on a 12″ target at 300 yards. At least until they finally resorted to conscription in 1916. I read about a sergeant who in 1914 set the record with 38 hits. At Gallipoli where no mans land was shorter than 3rd to home, they developed a technique where they used their pinky finger to pull the trigger so they never had to take their hand off the bolt. Not very accurate but they were able to get 70+ rounds per minute off.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The sergeant’s name was Alfred Snoxall, his rank was Sgt. Instructor. His accomplishment was putting 38 rounds onto the target in one minute, loading from charging clips.

      To get a feel for how rapidly he was cycling the bolt, here’s a video of a Norwegian competitor cycling a bolt at a rate that would be just a tad faster than what Snoxall did:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfY899uNOk0

      If I’m estimating his rate correctly, that Norwegian shooter might be able to do 40 rounds in a minute.

      The Norwegian’s rifle is the Sauer STR-200 (Scandinavian Target Rifle) chambered in 6.5×55. Like the Enfield, it too is cock-on-close. The bolt lugs are set up so they lock into the rear of the barrel itself – they don’t stick out past the side of the bolt the way Mauser bolt lugs do. The lock time on these actions/lockwork is fast – I think it’s in the vicinity of a 3 to 3.5 ms. lock time.

      Sadly, it’s rather difficult and rare to find here in the US.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        The way he flicks that bolt I’d have guessed .22 mag.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          It goes to show what a well-designed bolt gun with a good shootist driving it can do.

      2. avatar Aaron Braaksma says:

        Wow!!

      3. avatar Alan says:

        Looks like the gentleman’s rifle took box magazines in the bottom of the action, which I expect was a faster loading method than stripper clips in the top. Still quite impressive in any case.

      4. avatar Alan says:

        Back when I was active in High Power Competition, shooting National Match Course type matches, I most often used Model 70 Winchester Standard Target Rifles, mine were all post 1964 models in calibers .308 Winchester or 30-06, which were stripper clip loaded. I never had any problems shooting rapid fire strings at 200 and 300 yards with the above mentioned rifles. Oh by the way, being left eye dominant, I fired left handed.

  10. avatar kahlil says:

    This is THE one gun that I wish I had never gotten rid of. Bought it while in college, used it for hunting and plinking. Back when I returned to the US I traded it as ammo was getting harder to find in my area and I needed some extra cash. Wish I had the foresight to have kept it. Income has increased and I’ve found the ammo more frequently than in the past. Loved the wood and it just felt right as a rifle.

  11. avatar Gregolas says:

    Wish I’d never sold my Mk III. I agree that anyone who “civilianizes” a battle rifle is a clod of the First Order. Preserve our history !

  12. avatar skiff says:

    “We caught them and we shot them under rule 3-0-3”. Breaker Morant, 1980. It’s a great movie.

  13. avatar Bill says:

    The No. 4 Mk. 1* rifles were not unique to Savage. The Canadian arsenal known as Long Branch, near Toronto, also made them. Identical to the Savages, just marked Long Branch, instead.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      The Long Branch factory was built in 1940 by the Canadian gov. There was an arsenal there already. They also built the Sten sub-machine gun there. Not sure, but Savage may have been the only civilian company to make the Lee-Enfield.

  14. avatar Duane says:

    Having grown up I n the era of mail order firearms, where used surplus rifles went for cheap.

    Military bolt actions are just that. Slow to fire, slow to reload when compared to good semi-autos we have to day.

    At one time or another I have shot played with a lot of them.

    The idea that they can complete with a good semi auto for the rate of fire is reticules.

    At one time I had eight 03 and 03-A3s in the house.

    Give me a good semi/full auto military rifle any day.

    Fun to play with fun for the historic value and a heck of a lot better then no firearm.

    But that is about all

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      So you think that a bolt gun can’t compete (and win) against a semi-auto?

      Well, here’s bolt guns doing exactly that:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cnAwRJc7Sw

      The above is not a unique result. If you buy Hatcher’s “Book of the Garand,” therein you can see the results of the US Army’s tests of 1903 shooters vs. Garand shooters. At 300+ yards, the 1903 puts more hits on target in less time than the Garand. The greater the distance, the more the 1903 pulled away from the Garand.

  15. avatar Charles Sherrill says:

    There’s a good bit of 1980s German surplus ammo on the market. Other countries surplus are plentiful if you know where to look. I’ve shot two deer with mine, just as it is, no scope. They’re very accurate.

  16. avatar Alan says:

    Re the difficulties, supposed or real obtaining ammunition, reloading seems the answer. While component prices have gone through the roof, reloading remains a less costly option, I would expect much less costly.

  17. avatar Duane says:

    Why did you pick 300 yards plus because.
    Up close and personnel they don’t even come close.

    Put 5 targets at 50 yards and see who places rounds on the 5 first.

    Who is most likely to kill you the guys at 300 yards plus or the guys under a 100 yards.

  18. avatar Mike says:

    Lovely slick bolt. I wish modern bolt guns could be this smooth

  19. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    The Author is wrong about a lot of things. The Savage Variation was the absolute worst of the Enfields. To speed up production the British made a colossal mistake by allowing Savage to do away with the excellent plunger style bolt release. They substituted a notch cut out in the receiver. When the bolt is rammed forward suddenly and with a lot of force the right lug on the bolt can flip upward catching on the receiver rail and chipping it off making the gun trash.

    Also Savage substituted a cheap ass stamped sheet metal sight that will break just looking at it. I know I have replaced many over the years but have yet to replace the two position flip up sight or the excellent forged micro meter sight that one encounters on most of the British made guns. To complicate matters the factories often exchanged parts as well and the whole complicated story is best understood by reading the excellent collector grade books on the subject.

    And there is the constant arguments over two groove barrels v/s 4 and 5 and 6 groove barrels. The real truth is that when they went to the cheap ass two groove barrel it did indeed pass the accuracy test when the barrel was new but as the barrel eroded from many rounds being fired the accuracy fell off at a far faster rate than barrels that had more than two grooves. This was proven in both U.S. and British testing.

    The Author is also dead wrong about the British having lower standards of accuracy than we did. In fact it was the opposite. The British Military came under severe criticism in regards to their WWI rifles the MK III guns because of their very poor accuracy as compared to the German 98 rifles. The result was a redesign which resulted in the WWII No. 4 rifle which had excellent accuracy that equaled the German 98 K WWII guns. The No. 4 rifle had a mostly floated barrel and a larger diameter barrel all of which increased accuracy substantially. I might also add the several deep cut outs in the inside of the forearm not only helped to float the barrel but cool it as well. The Germans used a stepped and a hand bedded barrel for better accuracy but it took a lot longer to make compared to the British design of a heavier barrel that was floated and cooled.

    While I am add it I might mention that the myth of the wandering zero of the No.5 Jungle Carbine seems to me to be a myth as well as my actual testing of at least a 12 of these carbines over the last 50 years showed no wandering zero in any of them. I rather think this myth got started because of its severe recoil which most recruits simply could not tolerate under sustained fire or target practice.

    What is often overlooked is that the British made sporting rifles out of Enfield rifles as well and they were used for hunting all over the world in the .303 caliber and used to kill even elephants in very large numbers. The problem was it was rear locking and the action was not a robust enough one to adapt over to really powerful calibers and the 98 Mauser reigned supreme in the hunting fields because of this.

  20. avatar glenn sammon says:

    the designer of the lee system was James Paris Lee and was an American. I liked the fact that these had 10 shot mags instead of 5. and my favorite version of it was a conversion to 308 win and shortened and was known as the “Enfield Enforcer” and used as a sniper rifle. and in WW1 Remington made the earlier version. the brits seem to like to get rid of guns after each war so when one breaks out they scramble to other countries for guns.

  21. avatar Alan says:

    10 shots at 200 yards rapid fire in 80 seconds, with a reload, strikes me as generous to the proverbial fault. I’ve been out of High Power Rifle Shooting, National Match Course type competition for some years now, but when I was shooting, the 200 yard rapid fire stage allowed 50 seconds with the Garand, and 60 seconds with a bolt action rifle. Later on this became 60 seconds with either. Might the reference to 80 seconds be a typo?

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