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Old January 15, 2009, 02:56 PM   #1
OscarTurner
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Lee Enfield SMLE Mk III BSA 1918

I have a Lee Enfield SMLE Mk III* BSA 1916. To my knowledge it has not been fired since it was in active duty. I am interested in using it as a deer hunting rifle and at the range. I have seen a lot of info on the .303 British being used for hunting so my questions are more about the rifle than the cartridge. The .303 sounds quite capable.

1-Is this model of gun too old, too valuable, or too fragile to be used for hunting/shooting? I know no-one can answer about the specific specimen I have without looking it over first, but is the gun in general a solid enough gun to pursue as a restoration platform?

2-What are the things I need to inspect, clean and lubricate before determining if it is worthy of firing? I'll be taking it to a gunsmith to check it out before I fire it, but is something that I should look at first that might tell me to save my money and buy a hunting rifle insead? From what I understand Lee Enfields are pretty solid and dependable, but 1916 worries me a bit.

3-Are there any resources for Lee Enfield owners that I should be aware of that may not pop up immediately on a Google search? I have found lots of historical and anecdotal info on the Lee Enfield as a military and also hunting rifle. I have not found an oracle of information on bringing one back up to snuff for the field and range.

TIA

Last edited by OscarTurner; January 15, 2009 at 08:55 PM. Reason: date correction
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Old January 15, 2009, 03:23 PM   #2
Tikirocker
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G'day Oscar.

I'm a mod of Enfield forums at Surplusrifle so allow me to shed some light.

1 - Absolutely yes ... No1's were used by the Australian forces right up into the Korean war. The No1 action is absolutely sound enough to do anything you want with it given the head space checks out and you have it stocked up and tuned correctly. Condition as with any rifle is the key.

1918 was a busy period for WW1 Enfield production ( BSA made just over 1 million rifles in 1918 ) so it won't be a low production year so you won't have to feel like you are using a safe Queen. They are still steeped with history however and are to be valued and looked after certainly - none of this however should prevent you from deploying yourself and it in the activity of hunting or target shooting. They are extremely hardy and parts can be replaced quite easily.

No1 rifles have been used to shoot 1000 yard Fullbore competition since before WW1 right up to this very day in Service rifle matches. These rifles ( and this action ) have also taken more of the worlds game than just about anything else out there as well as all of Africa's big 5.

2 - 1918 will be just fine ... get the gun smith to check head space most importantly. Everything else is standard for any other rifle, crown, throat, bore etc etc. I strongly recommend you visit the Enfield forum in my signature to get a much deeper understanding of the rifle and what they are capable of. You should be looking at a rifle that has matching serial numbers on bolt and receiver ( minimum ) ... Enfield rifles were always serial number matched at factory and are considered more valuable with matching numbers also.

3 - Ahhh yes ... I have restored a few and so have dozens of guys at the Enfield forums - like I said ... hit the link in my sig and you will get everything you need.

Bottom line ... if you do your part and make sure the rifle is clean and without damage to important working parts it will shoot better than you can.

Look forward to seeing you at the Enfield forum, post up pics and introduce yourself.

Best, Tiki.

P.S Here is an example of what the .303 cal can do ... with a No5 Mk1 Enfield in the Aussie outback.

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Last edited by Tikirocker; January 15, 2009 at 03:54 PM.
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Old January 15, 2009, 03:52 PM   #3
OscarTurner
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Thanks Tiki, That is exactly where I need to be looking. Nice pic too, I think the 303 should handle anything that wanders around my backyard.

I registered surplusrifleforum and I'm snooping around over there now.
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Old January 16, 2009, 01:42 AM   #4
Rick61
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I was plinking away at a discarded washing machine door this morning with mine (1918).... at 400 yards
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Old January 16, 2009, 07:49 PM   #5
James K
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Do you want to restore it or hunt with it? If you want to hunt with it, forget "restoration." That way you won't worry if it gets banged up in the field.

There are drawbacks to the old Smellie, but it is a rugged rifle and good for about anything you might encounter, at least in North America.

Now, with that being said, beware of the "milsurp trap." This is where one buys a cheap military surplus rifle and decides to "sporterize" it. After the new stock, bolt job, safety, reblue, drill and tap, etc., etc., one has more money in the old warrior than a new sporter would cost. And the gun is still worth little more than it was originally, and maybe a lot less.

(From Keenan's dictionary: Sporterizing - Converting a $1200 rifle to a $250 rifle and spending $800 to do so.)

Jim
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Old January 17, 2009, 12:18 PM   #6
Tom2
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I would have no qualms about using an SMLE type rifle for hunting, just that it does not quite fit the American idea of what a sporting rifle is like, and probably most of us are indifferent to using them for such things. But it has had quite a long usage throughout The Empire with good success for such things as large game. A pure military rifle may not be the ideal configuration for hunting but if you wanted to sporterise one, I would choose one of the common No. 4 rifles for that task. There are plenty of cheap surplus No. 4 rifles in the US that are of no great collector interest and may need alot of help to be made into shooters, but if you find one with a very good bore and matching bolt, perhaps not too expensive. Aftermarket sporter stocks readily available. If you want to know how it works on North American game, maybe read up on how the Canadians use the cartridge and rifle. I think I have seen modified or replacement magazines that fit closer to the stock for hunting.
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Old January 17, 2009, 01:53 PM   #7
Tikirocker
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Australians have been hunting with the .303 for nearly 100 years in these parts, they have also been the farmers rifle for as long and make superb hunting sticks - the South Africans and Kiwi's will tell you the same.

Oscar has since found the Surplus rifle forums and won't be sporterizing his lovely SMLE ... we saved another one.

Tiki.
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Old January 20, 2009, 01:19 PM   #8
CowTowner
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A sporterized No. 4 Mk 1 was the first rifle I ever owned. I still own it and still hunt with it on occasion. As a matter of fact, I load my own 150 grain soft points for hunting with it. Accurate and reliable is what these guns are.
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