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Old October 19, 2011, 08:52 AM   #1
Tikirocker
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BSA & M Co Lee Speed ... *Pics a'plenty*

Just got the old girl home yesterday and have only stripped and cleaned the barreled action at this stage. This Lee Speed looks to be very much based on the MLM MkII* judging from the various parts and configuration. The rifle has a service numbered tang with an R letter prefix indicating it was a Military Reserve club target rifle. The right side wrist is typically marked BSA & M co Lee Speed Patents. Dating this rifle, I would guess from 1895 on ...

The barrel is 1'26 dated, Lithgow stamped on top of nocks, 5 Lithgow inspection stamps reside on the right side of the barrel and the foresight is stamped with the small Lithgow A within a star. The Lithgow SAF made replacement barrels for Long Lee-Enfields into the 1920's and it is said that it was from this barrel design that the heavy barrel for the No1 MkIII SMLE was inspired. The latter is the profile of the Long Lee barrel shortened by 5 inches.

The dial sight plate ( marked 1600-2800 yards ) is marked III and also is stamped with the small Lithgow A within star. Barrel is in excellent condition for its age, a bright and shiny bore very likely a testament to life as a target rifle.

The butt stock carries a roundel not observed in any works by Skennerton, being a Commercial mark, this is perhaps not unusual. The roundel reads Birmingham Small Arms & Metal Co - with the letters LIMTd within the circle for Limited or Ltd. The broad arrow mark is present on the bolt safety - the fore-end has provision for the clearing rod - no longer present - but the nose cap is a Mk1* that does not have provision for the clearing rod hole. Very likely this was swapped out when the rifle was re-barreled or during its time as a reserve arm.

The volley sights have been removed in a manner consistent with military conversion and I believe this was likely done during its time as a reserve arm also. The magazine retains the chain link and is the 10 round type. The dust cover and magazine cut off are both present, though the piling swivel has been removed, provision for one still remains.

My assessment of this Commercial BSA Lee Speed is that it started out life as a MLM MkII* ( BSA Called it a Long Mk1* ) equivalent, known in the BSA Commercial Catologues as a British Government Pattern and sold as Military Pattern Match Rifles. The rifle saw life as a Military Reserve Club target rifle and underwent a conversion of the volley sights during this time, as it is also without a back sight. The space remains for what would have likely been a BSA No 9 or Mues aperture sight, since removed - I will be procuring one to put the rifle back to last known original fit and finish.

The bayonet shown is a 5/1900 dated MOLE P1888 MkII - the MkII is a less common P1888 variant with Mole being one of the rarest makers. The bayonet did not come with the rifle but was already in my collection waiting for a rifle to fit it to.

Pics below ... Tiki.











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Old October 19, 2011, 08:53 AM   #2
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Old October 19, 2011, 08:55 AM   #3
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Old October 19, 2011, 08:56 AM   #4
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Old October 19, 2011, 03:11 PM   #5
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Would rifles owned by a reserve rifle club have the broad arrow? I think that rifle was originally bought by a private individual (and has the commercial London view mark) for target shooting, then, possibly during the WWI emergency, was turned over to or taken by the British government for training/service use, at which time the Broad Arrow and military proof marks were added, along with the long range sight. All pure guesswork, of course.

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Old October 19, 2011, 09:14 PM   #6
Tikirocker
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James,

Did you read what I wrote properly? You are saying the rifle was taken in by the British Government when I have made it clear the rifle was in Australia and has Lithgow markings of conversion.

I explained above that this rifle was a Commercial sale and purchase and that during the lean years of WW1 in Australia, it was drafted as a Military Reserve Arm by the Australian Forces - hence the Service number on the tang. A Reserve arm would indeed be given the Broad Arrow - you are confusing a rifle used by the Army Reserve with a Reserve Arm of the Army. the Army serviced Reserve rifles no differently than the first line rifles of the day.

This is exactly when it underwent the conversion of the Volley sights because by that time they were obsolete in the service ... the Army did not ADD them ... they removed them; hence the Lithgow star on the dial sight plate. The broad arrow was then placed on the safety during this time as a Reserve Arm and kept within the Club system of the day.

The provenance of such rifles beats a well trodden path in Australia - there is no need for guess work. The Australian Military in those days was very closely associated with target shooting clubs.

Here is a picture from my collection showing a soldier who was a member of the 1922 Australian Commonwealth Match Team - shooting a rifle very like mine.




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Old October 20, 2011, 07:34 PM   #7
James K
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I don't think I ever saw a Lee-Speed target rifle with long range sights (volley sights). I wouldn't have thought them accurate enough for target shooters, but then I guess things are different in Australia.

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Old October 20, 2011, 09:30 PM   #8
Tikirocker
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James,

The rifle when sold from the Commercial BSA catalogues was called a Long Mark I* - it was exactly the same in all respects as the BSA Military equivalent of the MLM MkI* at that time - the MLM MkI* was fitted with volley sights. Volley sights were never intended for accurate target style shooting, they were used for inaccurate long range volley fire in the field of battle.

The Volley sights were merely an alternate method of ranging fire in battle but were not employed for standard aimed fire, for that you used the standard backsight. When BSA was selling these rifles, this rifle Mk and model was the current configuration of the day and so the rifles were nevertheless sold exactly the same configuration as their Military counterparts.

Originally my rifle came with a BSA barrel that had the back sight attached to the barrel, these were sweated on. Due to heavy use as a target rifle, the barrel was shot out and then replaced with a Lithgow produced barrel, at which time the rear sight was foregone, in favour of aperture sights.

It was during the rifles time as a Military Reserve arm that the original Volley Sights that came with the rifle would have been converted and removed, because these were considered obsolete by the Australian Military at that time and the service would ensure that there was uniformity in the standards of all weapons under their charge.

There you have it ... it was always called a Military Pattern Match Rifle by BSA, known as British Government Pattern Long Mark I*. It was an MLM MkI* sold as a Match Rifle. Here is a pic of my rifle as it would have been set up with aperture sight back in the day.



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Last edited by Tikirocker; October 20, 2011 at 09:38 PM.
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