View Full Version : It's a 303, but what is it?

August 10, 2002, 09:50 AM
My father-in-law has a 303 British rifle that he bought from "a buddy" 20 years ago. He has no idea of the origin or manufacurer, and the markings on it are cryptic to me. It resembles the Canadian-made EAL, but is different enough that I doubt it is an EAL.

Attached are links to photos, and if anyone has a clue what this is I would greatly appreciate it! :) Thanks in advance!

Full view of rifle:

Right-side close-up:

Left-side close-up:

Left-side close-up:

Rear sight:

Top Barrell markings:

Side Barrell markings:

August 10, 2002, 12:04 PM
To me it looks like a Lee Enfield No. 1 MK. III* that has been sporterized.

Mike Irwin
August 10, 2002, 03:34 PM
Unless I miss my guess, it's not a No. 1 Mk III*, as the cocking piece is completely wrong. By the time the Mk III* was adopted, the cocking piece had been changed to the flat ribbed piece with an enclosed screw.

I'm thinking that this one is a No 1 Mk II or No. 1 Mk III of early vintage, before the cocking piece was changed.

August 10, 2002, 06:21 PM
Thanks for the input from both. Mike, your input matches the feedback from Enfied Research Associates (that I just got today.)

It is a great rifle, and I enjoy it thoroughly. Now that I have found out more about Enfields from researching this one I am considering a hobby collecting them.

Thanks again! :D :D

Mike Irwin
August 10, 2002, 08:30 PM

What exactly did ERA say?

I was originally going to say it was a No 1, Mk I (the REAL SMLE), but then I realized it had the charger bridge.

It does also look like some one took the sight protector ears off of it, unfortunatly.

If a No. I, Mk III, you can probably figure that it was made before 1930 or so, would be my guess. That's when I think the cocking piece was changed.

August 10, 2002, 08:52 PM
Here is the e-mail from ERM:

I believe what you have is a sporterized Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk III manufactured by BSA Co. Thousands of these rifles were imported and sporterized in the '50s and '60s--in fact, the first Lee-Enfield I ever owned was virtually identical to your rifle. I bought it in 1960 for $19.95. I had my choice of a full military version for $14.95 or the deluxe sporterized version for five bucks more.

Leads me to guess this rifle isn't worth much from a collecting standpoint, but that is just as well with me, I enjoy shooting it!

So far I am fascinated with the history of these rifles and plan to do a lot more reading. Anything you would recommend on the topic? (Since I am begging free advice!) Also there is a gun-show in Houston next weekend, so I may do a little poking around and see if I can find a few others.


Thanks again!

Mike Irwin
August 10, 2002, 11:16 PM
Pretty neat.

OK, BSA production would put it likely before 1925, or maybe even earlier. I recall reading something about BSA, in the austere 1920s, shutting down the production lines because everyone felt that there would never be another war.

The administrators at BSA, however, were a little more realistic in what the world was all about, and instead of scrapping the machinery to make rilfes, as the Gov't recommended, simply put it in mothballs.

Smart move on their part when it became painfully evident in the 1930s that there was going to be another war, and that Britain was going to need rifles.

Other than that, though, I really don't know much about the Lee-Enfield rifles other than simple basics.

There are a number of good, informative books floating around on the Lees, which you should be able to find at any decent gun show.

I've been looking at getting a WW II surplus No 1 Mk III or Mk III* for some years. I love the muzzle configuration on them, but I've never pulled the trigger, so to speak.

Johnny Guest
August 13, 2002, 06:35 PM
Very well made, very strong, pretty handy, pretty accurate, presuming the barrel is still good. A lot of that vintage rifle was shot a LOT with cordite ammo and corrosive primers. If cleaned properly and promptly, the barrels last quite well. If not, well - - -:(

I have a hard time with tht type sights, but for those who are sill able to focus on 'em, the arms can shoot quite well. Military surplus .303 ammo has started coming into this country again, and these rifles can be shot at a reasonable price again. Don't overlook the South African ammo - - marked 7.7 X ??R. Don't worry about what is corrosive and what is not--Consider ALL foreign military ammo to be such, and clean the barrel with water first, and then normally.

I personally prefer the SMLE rifles with aperture sights - - The No 4 and No. 5 types - - but thsi has to do with my eyes.

Thousands of people began shooting center fire with the reasonably-priced rifles, both military and sporters. Please be sure to pay up for a box of sporting soft point cartridges if you plan to hunt game with it. Fortunately, the Remington 180 Core Lokt load shoots to much the same point of aim as the Mk VII military ball ammo.

Hope you enjoy the Enfields as much as I have.

Johnny Guest

August 13, 2002, 07:18 PM

Thanks for the feedback. It really is a great rifle and is very accurate at 50yds (as big a clearing as we could find) despite being dirty and not well maintained for the last 20 years or so.

In fact, this rifle has set me on a quest to find good milsurp rifles to add to my ever (albeit slowly) expanding collection. For someone on a limited budget it seems like the best way to go.... Seems to me like unless I am going to get into serious competition shooting these rifles are more than up to the task. Guess that is a topic for another thread.... ;)


Mike Irwin
August 13, 2002, 07:53 PM
One big problem with a lot of the older .303 rifles is that over their service life the softer barrel steel in the chambers would be erroded pretty badly by the cordite propellent.

Cordite, because it contains a fair amount of nitroglycerine, burns with a very hot flame, which combined with the softer barrel steels of the last two centuries wasn't such a great combination.

When the British switched to Cordite in the 1890s, they found that the shallow-rifling Lee-Metford rifles were being eaten alive in only a few thousand rounds. The rifling for the first several inches of barrel would just cease to exist, and accuracy would just cease to exist in most cases.

August 16, 2002, 03:26 PM
I shoot Sellier & Bellot (S&B) .303 ammo in my No.4 Mk1 and it's good, solid ammo. Hits to point of aim with the issue sights (either the weight is the same on the bullet, or very close) from 60 yards to 950 yards (the farthest I shot it, was on some private property). From a sitting position, no sling, no scope, no bipod, and using 10X50's to spot, and with two ranging shots (we initally thought the target was 900 yards) my dad, and a friend of mine, and myself, were hitting at point of aim with every shot using the issue iron flip up ladder. Really awed my friend (was his first time shooting a centerfire rifle, and going from 60 yards to 600 and then 950 was a bit much, but he hit the target) and the target was about pickup-truck sized.

My dad's Mauser Gewehr 98 (1918, Danzig, but unfortunately sporterized) was also hitting the same target, though the Mauser sights made it a bit harder.

S&B .303 should run about $8 per 20 at a gunshop.

Johnny Guest
August 16, 2002, 03:45 PM
The South African stuff has been going at gun shows for $9 to $12 per box of 50 rounds. Yep, that wide a variance.

There's also some gen-you-wine British Mark VII ball, 32 rounds per box, at $8 to $10, per box. DEFINITELY wartime, definitely CORROSIVE. But it shoots quite well, and right to the sights, too. Now, this DOES INDEED have the hot-burning cordite Mike Irwin mentioned. I do shoot it, but I make sure not to shoot the barrel so hot I can't hold it with my bare hand.

It's been a couple of years since I've seen any quantity of the Winchester white box .303 ball around. I like the S&B ammo - - -Shoots well in my rifle.

Johnny Guest

August 19, 2002, 12:03 AM
Notice no magazine cutoff. That's one big change they did from the No1MkIII to the No1MkIII*. No windage-adjustable rear sight blade, or volley sights on the sporterized stock, either. As for the early-style cocking piece, it was common as the guns traveled through FTR (Factory Thorough Repair, like the American arsenal rebuild) to wind up with the wide cocking piece. Dispersal rifles built closer to WWII also wound up with a variety of parts. I've got a 1917 Enfield Lock No1MkIII* with the wide cocking piece.

The later EAL and Enforcer rifles were based upon the No4Mk1 action, with it's rear peep sight aft of the receiver bridge.

From the pictures, it wouldn't be too hard to restore the old girl back to full military configuration. The barrel is uncut, with the original sights. I just sent a friend with the same sporterized SMLE some nice wood furniture and a nosecap. I still have a spare brass buttplate that I'd be happy to send you if you choose to restore her back to the same condition that it was issued to Thomas Atkins...

This Australian Lithgow No1MkIII* SMLE came to me as a barreled action: