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By Michael White

On an unseasonably crisp Southern California morning I cycled a cartridge into a World War I era Lee-Enfield Mark III* and squeezed the trigger. The rifle cracked, the brass buttplate punched hard into my shoulder and, for the first time in more than half a century, the 97-year-old battle rifle sent a bullet spinning downrange. The 1917 Mark III* had been my father’s before it was mine. After his death it went into the closet, locked away, until that morning a few weeks ago . . .

Firing it with my son Caleb was a celebration of two things. One was my return to recreational shooting after a decades-long absence. The other was the memory of the shooting excursions that bound me to my father, a man I still regard as the best I’ve ever known.

Recreational shooting was easy in the corner of Western Kentucky where I grew up. An outing required little planning – just pick up a rifle and walk into the woods or, if you wanted more seclusion, drive a few miles deeper into the country.  

Things are quite different for my children and me today. We live in Southern California, where work brought me 25 years ago. You can still buy, own and shoot guns there, but it is becoming more difficult. And there is a real chance it may become virtually impossible within a few years.

In that respect, I couldn’t have picked a worse time to get back into the sport of shooting. Yet, in another sense, the timing couldn’t be better. By teaching my children, I’m not simply renewing a family tradition, but encouraging a new generation to use firearms responsibly and preserve the right to keep them.

I’m not exactly sure why dad, a paratrooper during World War II, bought a British rifle. He had great praise for the M1 Garand and even more affection for the 1903 Springfield. But he had trained with Australian soldiers during the war and my guess is he that felt a pang of nostalgia when he saw the rifle with its iconic blunt snout and shiny buttplate in the sports department of the local Sears & Robuck.

We took the rifle and a box of cartridges to a spot on the bank of the Barren River where my father set up some cardboard targets and began firing. I was about 9 years old at the time, far too small for a Lee-Enfield, but I didn’t mind. I was happy enough just to be there.

On Christmas Day that same year, I found single-shot .22 with my name on it next to our tree. The next day we were in the woods where I learned the fundamentals of safety and of shooting posture. Then I aimed at the trunk of a large oak and fired my first shot with a real rifle.

I later graduated to a Stevens 87D semi-automatic. In retrospect, I had extraordinary freedom to use it. To my father the rules of gun care and safety bordered on the sacred and I obeyed them religiously. Because of that, I earned his trust and the rifle was mine to use just about anytime I wanted. But the best days were when we were together, walking through the woods, shooting our .22s.

The truth is, we talked more than we shot. Maybe because we were alone, or perhaps because we were carrying firearms, he often talked about the war. I later discovered that he told me things he apparently never spoke of to anyone else — not my mother, not his brothers. He described both the exhilaration and fear of parachuting behind Japanese lines into New Guinea’s Markham Valley in 1943. He also told me how alone he felt after his platoon was decimated and his best friend killed in the battle to recapture Corregidor.

I never had a chance to fire the Enfield. By the time I grew large enough to shoulder the rifle, dad was working Saturdays to earn overtime pay. When I was 15 he was diagnosed with cancer. He survived his first battle with the disease but lost the second one a few years later. I kept the rifle, but never bothered to use it.

Why? Well, I ask myself that, too. One reason is that shooting is an expensive hobby and money was short as I worked my way through college, married and began raising a family. But the deeper reason was that my father wasn’t around to share the experience with me.

My mind changed three years ago when I was asked to chaperone a Boy Scout outing to help my youngest son earn his rifle merit badge. The lone instructor needed help and I found myself in the role my father had once played with me, coaching my son and his friends in rifle fundamentals. Afterwards, I realized how much I had loved shooting, and regretted the fact that I hadn’t passed that love on to my children. I took one of my old .22s from the closet, cleaned it and fixed what needed to be fixed. A couple of weeks later, we were on the firing line at Burro Canyon Shooting Park in the San Gabriel Mountains. Later, I bought a GLOCK 19 and we frequented indoor ranges closer to home.

The Enfield came out later. Frankly, I was worried about shooting a high-powered rifle that had been dormant for 52 years, but I felt an obligation. So I gave it a thorough cleaning and inspection. The action was still smooth and tight. The chamber was clean and the lands sharp and free of pitting. The wood was sound, but grimy, so I lightly scrubbed it with 000 steel wool and gave it a new coat of tung oil. Then, in early May, my son Caleb and I headed for Angeles Shooting Ranges north of Los Angeles. I set up a target 25 yards away and placed the forestock on a bench rest, forced my nervousness aside and fired. The 150-grain bullet pierced the left side of the inch-square bullseye. The sight alignment wasn’t bad for a rifle that had been idle for so long. Then Caleb fired, looked over at me, and grinned.

Just this morning I fired the Enfield again, this time into a hillside in Utah where I’m visiting my daughters. Like my sons, they wanted to shoot their grandfather’s rifle and they did well. Sara, shooting offhand at about 25 yards, put her first shot through the center of the bullseye. Laura’s shots danced around the target just a few inches away.

Some will say that what I’m doing is wrong, that I should teach my children to fear guns. To those folks, I would say that resurrecting the Enfield was a wise decision. The rifle hasn’t merely given me something to do with my children, it has connected them to the grandfather they never knew. When they fire it, they feel the same wood that he felt; they squeeze the same trigger that he squeezed; they smell the same scent of oil, steel and spent powder that he smelled. In this way, the rifle gives them a tangible link to a man they had only known before through photographs and stories.

So we’ll continuing shooting the rifle, though sparingly because of its age. Someday, one of my children will own it and, if wood and steel endure, they will shoot it with their children. And my father’s rifle will link yet another generation to a heritage that otherwise might have been lost.

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    • Hi Michael and Paul,
      Firstly thank you Michael for an excellent recount of the heart warming story of your dad; at 62 years it bought a tear to my eye in remembrance. The fighting in New Guinea along the Kokoda Track / Trail was the first time the Japanese were defeated in battle during WW2. The parachuting operation referred to was from DC3; as one veteran described to me 20 years ago is the presence of a then current airborne warrior, “We did the ground training in the morning and the operational jump in the afternoon.” The look on the young warrior’s face was priceless, having previously boasted of his 120+ “jumps”; gazumped by the older man with one jump to his credit.
      Paul your video style is like talking with a good friend. I first fired the SMLE Mk1 No3 in 1965 as an Army cadet. The secret to the SMLE’s fast cycling action; is the bolt is behind the trigger. As a cadet we all had to qualify in ‘rapid fire’; 15 or more rounds in one minute at a target 200 or 300 yards away. The thumb and fore finger curl around the bolt knob and the trigger is pulled with the index finger: try that without gloves, it does work very effectively. We trained first with dummy rounds and stripper clips to achieve the coordinated smoothness of the cycling action; try this, it is very effective training. The action design with the metal band, to which the butt is bolted, means that the SMLE never hand the ‘action bedding’ concerns of other rifles. The sight graduated to 2000 yards was for ‘regimental shooting’; about 2000+ men firing 15 rounds at a distant foe: it is the equivalent of 22 miniguns firing for the same time. The Russians with the Mosin Nagant used the same ‘regimental fire’ concept.
      Thank you all, Greg Summers, an Aussie mate

      • Minor quibble: when the Japanese attacked Wake Island as part of the opening of the Pacific war, they were sent packing and had to come back a week later with the A team. They did win, it was never in doubt, but they did lose initially.

      • Greg,

        Thank you for comment. My father had a great deal of respect for Australian troops. Personally, I don’t think they get the credit here in the U.S. that they deserve for stopping the Japanese advances in New Guinea, both on the Kokoda Trail and at Milne Bay. Both were crucial victories.

        Michael White

  1. There is something about the old bolt actions. Not old design, but physically old.

    First rifle I fired was a Krag Jørgensen from 1917. Sadly it was converted into a .22 single shot, together with a 189X Mauser.

  2. Great article. As a fellow Enfield owner myself, I must say it is my favorite bolt action rifle. Modern or old.

    • There is just something about that cock on closing bolt action that is so smooth and rapid that makes it my favorite. I like the two stage triggers too, but most all military bolt actions have those. Watch the Enfield trash the Springfield here:
      Ofc, it cannot field the firepower of the Garand in the rest of the vid, but no bolt action can match the follow up speed of a semi auto. That’s comparing trucks and race cars, and saying that the car is better cause it’s faster. Or stating the truck is much better because it can haul a much heavier load. It kinda depends on whether you are moving, or on the racetrack, doesn’t it?
      I guess I somewhat agree with the old saying; The Springfield is a target rifle, the Mauser is a hunting rifle, but the Enfield is a battle rifle…. At least among bolt actions.

  3. Always thought the Enfield was ugly. But I’m wishing I had bought one when our former LGS had them in racks outside of the counter for a couple of bills or so. ( I’m REALLY wishing I had bought one of those hundred-dollar Mosins now).

    • “Always thought the Enfield was ugly”
      I still do! But, to each their own, so I can’t knock them. I’ll take a good Mauser anytime.

    • Mosins aren’t that much over $100 today. They haven’t skyrocketed in price like most of the other military surplus guns, probably because they made twenty million of the dang things.

      • Yeah, for a shot out POS Turkish crap at C&R wholesale. Meanwhile, in reality, I gave a good friend my Finnish capture M-N for the chump change sum of $400 to be with his collection- (I had several offers north of $600)…

        • “Shot out POS Turkish crap”? I bought a 1943 matching-numbers Izzy in beautiful shape earlier this year for only $130. There are still plenty of good Mosins on the market. Heck, you can sort through whole racks of them at Cabela’s or Big 5 for $150 apiece (sometimes less on sale), with the cosmoline already cleaned off of them.

          If someone wants to lament missing out on something, I’d shed more tears over the long-gone “SKS with a spam can of ammo for $99” deals of yesteryear, not hundred-dollar Mosins.

    • “Endearingly ugly” is one of the requirements for British battle weapons of that era. Have you hugged your .455 Webley top-break revolver lately?

  4. I wouldn’t worry about shooting her sparingly at all. That Enfield will last far longer than your kids and their kids will last…

    • Agreed, unless you’re hand loading hot rounds or doing an awful lot of shooting, shooting out a battle rifle like an Enfield is going to take a lot of time and money. If it’s always shot sparingly, properly cleaned and lubricated and stored in a good environment it might be passed on in functional condition to your 10th generation of grand children without problem. With enough lube the shelf life is indefinite but certainly into the hundreds of years. As to service life, if a rifle like this is fed on only normal pressure ammunition, it might make it 100,000 rounds before it’s kaput and even then with a new barrel, pin and spring set it would likely run like new, there is little to break and what there is takes little abuse in firing. They basically last forever.

      Along those same lines, when Mausers were $109 and surplus ammo for them cheaper than .22 is now I saw some of those shot so much and treated so badly that if it were possible to break one it would have happened. They (WWI era battle rifles) weren’t made like a sporting rifle, the rifling is much deeper, the barrel is a touch softer and the rest is as robust as it gets. I’d say shoot to your hearts content and don’t worry about the rifle, it can take that and much more.

  5. Several years ago, I did some appraisal work, in return for which I was given an Ishapore-built SMLE. It’s virtually identical to its British counterpart, but chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge…best of both worlds, and a pleasure to shoot!

  6. Love the Enfield – Kicks like a mule compared to the 1903 or M1A – continue the journey of your fathers and shared joy of shooting with the kids and their kids. Great read!

    • I have to disagree, entirely, with the “kicks like a mule” compare to the M1 Garand.

      The Lee Enfield is VERY heavy and that weight mitigates felt recoil tremendously.

      The recoil on the Enfield is much less noticeable than a Mosin, or a K98, or a Springfield. Of those rifles, the Springfield is the one I’d say “kicks like a mule” if that phrase even is accurate to begin with.

      Any 00 buck out of a shotgun kicks more than any bolt action rifle.

      It’s all relative.

    • Maybe kicks like a *dead* mule? The 303 is a cartridge noted for it’s balance of power and shoot-ability.

    • I have fired a friend’s Lee-Enfield Canadian Mark IV made in 1944 which was chambered in .303 British; and the recoil was not that noticeable. The Lee Enfield is a good rifle, although the rounds were difficult to chamber. I think the magazine was not quite right.

      • Maybe just the problem of feeding full size rimmed rounds from a box magazine. If you ever find any surplus ammo in the original stripper clips you’ll notice that the rims are staggered something like this: _-_-_ . I found that keeping that pattern, even when I loaded single rounds into the magazine, really helped

      • Dave Lewis is right about the rims. If you load them wrong, with a round’s rim behind the round below it, it cannot be stripped off; memory says you have to remove the magazine floor plate or something similar. If you insert a stripper clip, make sure you get it oriented right, with each round’s rim ahead of the round below it.

        The Mosin-Nagants also use rimmed ammo, but they fixed the problem with a separator in the magazine which keeps the top round free of the round below it. It’s the only real flaw I see in the Lee-Enfield’s design, and I do not understand why they didn’t copy the Russian trick.

    • The only L.E. rifle I have experience with was an SMLE still in .303 and I did notice it to kick more than my GEW98 Mauser in 8mm. However I suspected that was due to the S part of the above, short length and lighter weight. Then again, I don’t consider either to have much recoil, at least not in single shots. I’ve spent the day on a crate of ammo with that 8mm and there is a turning point where it starts to hurt in ways that are hardly sensible, like the back of my head and the ribs below and behind my elbow, and of course the shoulder it’s fired from. How much of this is recoil and how much is the support structure (ie my muscles and joints) giving way to fatigue is hard to tell.

  7. This a wonderful story. My family’s connection to firearms was lost between my Grandfather and me as my Father took no interest in guns by the time of my recollection. My Grandfather was an avid hunter and enthusiastic gun owner.

    To my farmer Grandfather, I must have seemed like a very delicate urban thing on my frequent visits as a child. Possibly because he thought my Mother would disapprove, my Grandfather never took it upon himself to show me how to use or care for a firearm. That is a great loss to both of us as we had so little in common otherwise. I surely would have been interested. I knew my Grandfather loved me and I do miss him now that he’s gone.

    Fast forward and now I’m 45 years old with a SIGNIFICANT gun hobby. My boys have been shooting with me as least dozens of times. And, when I’m gone, they will associate the best times they spent with me with the firearms that we shared.

    My Grandfather was, typically, a man of few words. He would be 104 years old if he were alive today. Like many other men of his generation he let his actions speak for him. But, I’m sure he would have shared my enthusiasm and pleasure at seeing my youngest boy shoot his first high-powered rifle last year. His very fist shot was 2 inches directly to the right of the bulls eye at a measured 100 yards…

  8. Great story and a great gun. I have two Enfields that I currently shoot; one is a Savage-built No4-Mk 1/2 FTR out of the Stevens factory in Chicopee Falls MA, and the other is a Remington-Eddystone Pattern 14, still carrying the long-range volley sights. My very first Enfield, however, sits in pieces in my gun cabinet; it is a No 1 Mk III* made by Birmingham Small Arms and stamped 1916. I bought it for $35 from my Snap-On dealer years ago as a chopped-up sporter; the barrel was horrid, but at that price I figured I could part it out. Sure enough, the gun key-holed MkVII rounds completely at 50 yards; I pulled the barrel and set the action aside for the future.
    This article has gotten me thinking about the old girl; I really need to find all the bits to put her back in wartime trim again. It will make a great addition as the brother of one of my Brits and the ancestor of the other…

  9. Very nicely written! The Enfield is the favorite among my milsurp rifles…and it has a strange beauty shining through it’s ugliness. I’ve also noticed .303 ammo popping up in places like Academy so keeping it fed is easier than it was a few years ago (I had to order it online or drive 30 miles to Cabela’s).

    • I’ve also noticed .303 ammo popping up When was that 1991? If only there was surplus ammo still available.

      • Here in PA I find milsurp .303brit a lot at gunshows. You just have to be careful, Indian and Pakistani production ammo is very corrosive and you should carefully check each rd. If it looks iffy don’t chance it, if you know an experienced reloader they can pull the bullets for reuse and dump the rest.

  10. ” . . .To my father the rules of gun care and safety bordered on the sacred and I obeyed them religiously. Because of that, I earned his trust and the rifle was mine to use just about anytime I wanted. . .”

    Exactly my experience. I think there’s something about Appalachian culture mixed into this. Although neither of us articulated them in this way, to me they were simply The Rules which, once given by my father, were simply to be understood and respected. Life was hard in the rural areas my father grew up in, and relations between friends and even family members were fast only so long as respect and trust were mutually maintained. Again this was never stated in so many words, but it was simply a given. As I look back I realize that The Rules were only given to me, along with my first rifle, because my father felt I was old enough to understand. Today I’m still shocked and disappointed to read about kids doing stupid things with guns which get someone shot or killed. I won’t cast aspersions of other people’s child-rearing practices but I can also never forget the look on my father’s face as he taught me to use a weapon. If only . . .

    • I’d have to agree about the Appalachian culture. I received my first rifle when I was only 8 years old and even by then already had the ‘rules’ well enough engrained that though the rifle and ammunition were stored in my closet most of the time no one was ever shot and no mischief took place. By 10 or 11 my friends and I would bicycle my .22 rifle to the nearest hill and shoot, again, no injuries and no mischief. By 13 or so most boys had a .22 and about that time the market began to flood with dirt cheap SKS rifles and ammo and soon most of us had those too. If you can picture a culture in which most of the boys 13-15 had shotguns or rifles and half of those military rifles but no one was ever shot or threatened you start to get an idea of Appalachian rural and village life.

      When my generation learned to drive, our rifles migrated to trunks and rifle racks in pickup trucks and it was rare if 4 of us drove that 2 didn’t have a rifle with them. That includes at school and pretty much everywhere else. In fact, impromptu shooting ‘matches’ at a near by dump after school were a favorite fair weather pastime. Still no one ever got shot and nobody robbed anything. Then again, we could fist fight around and through vehicles that stored loaded guns and no one thought to shoot anyone. Mad as either of you might be, the fight was mostly over when someone begged off and there was just no need or sense in shooting anyone over it.

      Then again, back then ‘drugs’ consisted entirely of pot and everything else was some distant unicorn that apparently occupied only major cities. That was the late 80’s and early 90’s for the rest of the country, but it was very much more like the early 60’s for us in our backwater. Now ‘drugs’ here means Oxys or heroin, burglary is a thing, and I suppose the whole county would go on lockdown if they found out half the male population of one of the schools had rifles with them. A lot can change in a generation.

  11. IMHO the Lee-Enfield was the best bolt action battle rifle that will ever be employed in combat. I’ve got a Long Branch made in 1950 – paid $100 for it 20 years ago. I’ve read a bit about what the ‘all volunteer’ British soldiers could do with them. They were expected to hit a 12″ target at 300 yards 15 times per minute, but one soldier I read about in 1914 set the record at 38 hits in one minute. Can you imagine walking across no man’s land into that? The Huns would think they were up against scores of machine guns and when they finally overran the BEF and discovered they only had 2 they couldn’t believe it.

    Keep that rifle clean and dry and don’t let it set another 50 years to break it out again.

    • The record-maker’s name was Sgt. Instructor Snoxall and he bested a record of 36 rounds on target set only a few years earlier.

  12. I’m blessed to have grown up with a dad and grandpa who were gun owners and hunters. Those are still some of my most vivid and best memories as a child. Great story on the Enfield. I passed on one in my home town when on vacation and I now kick myself a bit. I’ll get one someday.

  13. Great gun. Great fun. Great history. You didn’t mention the type of ammo used, but be careful about corrosive ammo from the period. If it is make absolutely sure you clean the gun IMMEDIATELY after your range session. Best to use some modern .303 ammo like Hornady loads.

    • Just a quick follow up…as you know the SMLE has a two piece stock. The butt portion came in 3 sizes. A short, regular and long. I was lucky to find an orphaned short butt stock at a local gunshow. Picked it up for 10 bucks. Makes length of pull a shade over 12 inches. Perfect for youth or women of smaller frame.

      Measure what you have now, from mid butt plate to the part inserted in metal receiver. Then go on the lookout at gunshows.

    • A follow up to a follow up….you should pick up a bayonet for the SMLE. 2 types were made, a blade and a spike. I prefer the spike. They can be found for less than 20 bucks. When you put it on the rifle you get a feel for the most brutal aspects of war in mid-20th century.

  14. I love mine, all nine of them.
    About 15 years ago 3000 were found in a warehouse in Ireland still wrapped up fresh from the factory, they sold for $189. They shoot great. Prices of all Enfields have gone up considerably.
    Wish a company would produce a rifle chambered in 303 British.

  15. This p320 contest needs to be over. /sarc. (kind of). There are too many great articles, this one included. I have read like 10 article where I just want them win already.

  16. Thank you for sharing this Michael. My kids are young now and I look forward to sharing a similar story someday. There is a rich heritage in firearms and I intend to do my part in passing that on to the next generation.

  17. The Mauser is a hunting rifle.

    The Springfield is a target rifle.

    The Lee-Enfield is a battle rifle.

    Enough said!

    • I’d say the Mosin-Nagant is the survival rifle, then. Built for and by illiterate conscripts but even more rugged and idiot proof than the other three.

    • Doesn’t make sense.

      The Springfield is a Mauser, only difference is it is chambered in 30-06. I am presuming you meant the Springfield 1903.

      IMO, there is no “best” bolt action. They are all good in their own way.

      • I’d be inclined to agree, from that selection you can do no wrong. I’m partial to my K98 wartime conversion GEW98 Mauser, but that’s because I have one. I’d probably feel the same way about the SMLE if I had time to get well acquainted with one. I’m not a Mosin fan though, so crude, but still, I’d never feel poorly armed with one.

      • Close, but not accurate.

        The Springfield used a number of Mauser features, but it had several features unique to the 1903 (and later, the 03A3).

        In actual practice, the sights on the 03 were superior to those on the Mauser, and the sights on the O3A3 better yet.

        The popular perception of the 03A3 was that it was a cheaper 03, and therefore inferior, but the reverse is true: the 03A3’s two-groove barrels were more accurate than the four-groove 03 barrels, and the rear peep was better at longer ranges than the earlier 03 sight.

        In my experience shooting both rifles in stock form, the 03 and especially the 03A3 shoot tighter groups than the Mausers, especially the later Mauser production rifles.

        • Thank you DG, and in fact I did think that the A3s were cheaper production 03s. I also guess I’m lucky that my ‘K98’ is a 1917 production GEW98, that surely counts as an ‘old’ 98 Mauser.

        • I should have been clearer:

          The 03A3 was, in fact, cheaper (and faster) to produce.

          The accuracy, however, didn’t suffer a jot, unlike other efforts to make “a cheaper rifle.” The two-groove barreled ’03A3’s are perhaps some of the most accurate, mass-produced battle rifles sent into a war.

          One of the major areas where the cost of the O3A3 was reduced was the trigger bow and magazine (aka “bottom metal”). The 03 had a wonderful piece of milled steel for a one-piece trigger guard/magazine setup, very much like the Mauser 98.

          The 03A3 went to a piece of stamped sheet steel – much, much, much cheaper to mass produce and much faster as well. This, of course, didn’t affect accuracy a bit.

          Somewhere, I have a copy of the test data by Remington putting the fears of a two-groove barrel to rest. The Remington two-groove barrels were a bit less than 0.25 MOA more accurate with ball ammo, as I recall. They were also obviously much faster to produce. IMO, they’re also much faster to clean, too.

  18. Michael:

    Excellent article! Well written, emotional yet factual. Did you recently post about this rifle over on Calguns? I recently acquired my first two Enfields, a Fazakerly 1943 No 4 MKI and a mixmaster No 5 MK I Carbine. They are great rifles, very refined and accurate as well as fun to shoot. Thank you for your story, it was moving.

    • Capybara,

      I haven’t put anything on Calguns about this. I enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences with the Enfield, so I’ll have to take a look.

      Michael White

  19. Good story.

    Now, editiors of TTAG…. not that I’m complaining, but how many more of these entries do we have coming?

  20. I mark this one a winner for the Sig – well written and a great story! My first gun was a WWII S&W Victory Model .38spl I bought from a family friend for $200. It was converted from .38 S&W by British company Cogswell & Harrison and was engraved. My second gun was an Enfield Mk 4 that I ordered through my neighbor who had an FFL. He bought 3 and gave me the best one. I paid $120 for it in 1991. I took them both to college in northern WA state and kept them at the college armory (!). We would go shooting in the mountains and had a blast, although I had a hard time finding cheap ammo, so we shot the Enfield a lot less than the .38. I just loved that Enfield and should have never sold it. However I did sell it in order to buy a Schmidt-Rubin K31, another great rifle. Reading this article makes we want my old Enfield back.

  21. I have an enfield that was converted to a sportster … anyone know where I could find an original wood stock or even a good reproduction?

  22. Lovely story, combines three great threads in one compelling story: Passing down traditions, the Lee-Enfield Rifle, and shooting.
    The Lee-Enfield rifle was the best bolt rifle ever produced, IMHO. The competitors at the time could not match the capacity, sights, accuracy, certainly rate of fire, and portability. It is a mighty heavy rifle, though, but the calibre was great. Plus, my great-grandfather carried one, and his father before him, and his father in the Royal Artillery.

  23. Dan, anytime you want an Enfield outing, drop a line. I’ve got everything from a 1917 Lithgow #3-Mk1 to a last year #4-Mk2, and a membership to a private range above Fontana.

  24. From what I understand, the model 1917 Lee Enfield is actually an American rifle of British design. Just as America was entering WWI, there were not enough M1903 Springfields and Springfield Armory was incapable of ramping up production quickly enough. Remington and Winchester had just recently finished filling a huge contract to build Enfields in .303 for Great Britain. The solution to the problem of fulfilling America’s need for battle rifles was to change the Remington and Winchester Enfield assembly lines to manufacture Enfields re-chambered in 30-06. By the end of WWI, three quarters of the American Expeditionary Force was armed with the American made model 1917 Lee Enfield, not the M1903 Springfield.

    • Yup.

      The 1917 Enfield in ’06 was a ferociously over-built rifle. The receiver is a massive chunk of steel. The bolt is massive as well.

      Today, custom gunsmiths make some wonderful African/dangerous game guns off a 1917 Enfield action. They’re butt-ugly as they start out, with those massive ears on the rear of the action, and the dog-leg bolt handle. A bit of milling and forging later, hey, they start to look pretty nice. A bit more polishing and shaping and they look like most nice(er) bolt guns, only with a bit more heft to them.

      A bit more work and the 1917 Enfield is one of the slickest-racking bolt actions out there. The bolt slips back and forth like a glass rod over silk.

  25. Whats not to like about a Smelly?!?! I own 5 and have only slowed down on shooting because the ammo is expensive and I want to hang on to all the new production rds I have. My hunting rifle is a WWII production made by Savage under LendLease, over the years I gathered up others, one severely butchered “sporterized” mark III and the rest in full furniture.

    Glad you broke your father’s rifle out, try not to let her lay so long in future. And be very careful with milsurp ammo for it. Lots out there is in good condition and reloadable, but Indian and Pakistani .303 Brit is VERY corrosive, gots to bath her well after firing any of them.

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