Memories of the .303 Lee Enfield

Cervus elaphus

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I shot my first deer, a big red spiker, in 1959 with a fully wooded .303, aperture sights and a military solid round. Hit in the brisket it travelled 50 metres before dropping. This was at about the 20 mile peg on the desert road north of Waiouru. There were plenty of deer within a few metres of the road and a friend coming back south from Taupo at night hit a big stag crossing the road. The stag was killed but so was the light sports car.
The next deer I came across was opposite the Navy wireless station Irirangi, up the hill near the power pylons. I was stalking along the bush edge when I saw a pair of ears in a depression in the tussock 20 metres or so ahead of me. As I crept closer, the ears turned into a hare which bolted away. I stood up, and as I did so, a huge antlered stag also stood up just behind the depression, didn't wait to say hello and went down the slope into the bush like a freight train before I could lift my rifle. I swear that stag was as big as a Hereford bull and the wide wide sweep of his antlers are still burned into my mind's eye today. I wondered, on that day and others, if the .303 would have stopped him, I'll never know.
On that same property I shot other deer but nothing like that big one up by the pylons. This area was home to many big stags and their antlers were black, testimony to the mineral-rich volcanic soil. I struck the same feature among stags around the bases of the volcanoes Mt Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe where I hunted. Soon after that I invested in a new BSA Majestic 30-06 (sans muzzle-brake) and I shared this rifle for 20 years with other .303 rifles that came and went. The BSA featherweight model was beautifully made and kicked like a mule. My friend at Oaro in the South Island used a P14 model and exited a lot of deer goats and pigs, it was a heavy rifle, but very accurate.
About 1986 I bought for a ridiculous price a brand new Airforce issue N0.4 fully wooded unfired Lee Enfield, still packed in grease and oil paper, with bayonet, but then again I resold it for a ridiculous price, how much would that rifle be worth today?.
My last .303 I gave to my BIL when I left home for Australia, it was a typically cut down sporter with both 10 and 5 shot mags, open sights – he occasionally allows me to hold it for nostalgia reasons.
With today's ammunition choices, this calibre will still do the job on deer big and small. In the 1950's NZ Government deer cullers used this rifle as can be found in Barry Crump's excellent book “A Good Keen Man”. I met Crumpy in a Wellington pub back in the early 60's and we had a bit of a yarn about rifles.
Salute to the Lee-Enfield .303, like other classics, may it live forever.
 
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Von Gruff

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My uncle was a contempory of the good keen man era and at over 80 now has a great store of stories arround that time and the rifles they used.
I like the 303 and have built a number of lee speed styled rifles on the MLE platform and have one in my safe for the simple reason that I think every anzac should have one in their keeping. Still a cartridge and rifle combination that is as capable today as it was 120 years ago.
 

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My big memory of a no4 mk2 was in the combined cadet force at boarding school....we had a retired RSM from the royal Scots who ran the CCF and who was only about 5ft 6 inches tall but scared the crap out of us....but if you were in the shooting team you got put in the easy jobs..as in his words youse are my boysh..( he was an ex shnipurrr..as he pronounced it.. :E Big Grin: ...me and another on ccf days were in the armoury handing out and taking the rifles back in...so not a lot to do and no marching around etc...but we had to attend one cadet camp in our time in the ccf ...which were a choice in Easter holidays of 5 days at an army base in Edinburgh or 7 days in summer holidays in the highlands at a place called cultybraggen...not sure if spelt correct.....as Easter holidays only 3 weeks I chose the 7 days in summer holidays as we got 8 weeks...the camp I believe had been used as a camp for German POWs in 2nd ww...and hadn't changed from what I could see...this was 1976...tin nissen huts with a wood stove and bunk beds down the sides...only good thing was in the naafi canteen they felt sorry for us as our school was only one there where it was compulsory to be in the ccf at school...all others were volunteers :E Shrug: :E Big Grin: ...now we had one day at the ranges with.the 303s...we were driven.there in army trucks driven by regular soldiers who loved playing the big I am and treating us like muppets...well after we had been shooting the 2 regulars asked our rsm if they could have a go..he said yes...I was only person then who had ear muffs as shot lots of clays back home in holidays...well one of the soldiers without asking walked up and ripped them from my neck...well I think they had 5 rounds each on a 1 ft by 1 ft square white metal plate at 100 yards....neither managed to hit it let alone knock it over...next thing I know is RSM Jack saying...ok Taylor show them.how it's done...I was like what the fk..:eek:...as both soldiers turned around to stare at me...so I walked up with my 1 round I had been generously given by.the RSM and grabbed my.ear defenfers back...lay down and tried not to think of the 30 odd fellow school mates staring at me or the 2 soldiers doing same....took aim and fired and had big grin and sigh of relief as the plate went tumbling....as I got up the RSM said to the 2 soldiers see lads thsts how it's done with a big proud grin on his face ..all I can say is the 2 soldiers weren't exactly looking at me endearingly...and luckily I never bumped into.them.back at camp...:E Big Grin:..apologies for it being bit long winded....:D Beers:
 

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The Enfields of various marks are truly great rifles and in a classic caliber (ok, maybe not the No.5 Mk1 "Jungle Carbine" - it is a screaming ugly little bitch of a thing to shoot).

In many ways, it has always seemed to have meant far more to the British Empire than the 30-06 has to Americans. Over the years, I have owned several No. 1 Mk 4 SMLE rifles of WWI vintage and regret they have all moved on in unworthy trades. I do still have an elegant Lee Speed that regrettably is fired all too rarely.

Thanks for reminding us of those Keen Men and days.
 

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The Enfields of various marks are truly great rifles and in a classic caliber (ok, maybe not the No.5 Mk1 "Jungle Carbine" - it is a screaming ugly little bitch of a thing to shoot).

In many ways, it has always seemed to have meant far more to the British Empire than the 30-06 has to Americans. Over the years, I have owned several No. 1 Mk 4 SMLE rifles of WWI vintage and regret they have all moved on in unworthy trades. I do still have an elegant Lee Speed that regrettably is fired all too rarely.

Thanks for reminding us of those Keen Men and days.

Always thought the jungle carbine looked neat and wanted one...but every person says they kick the crap out of you and aren't that accurate...so one of those things to just admire and not have, so as not to ruin ones illusions :E Big Grin:
 

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Always thought the jungle carbine looked neat and wanted one...but every person says they kick the crap out of you and aren't that accurate...so one of those things to just admire and not have, so as not to ruin ones illusions :E Big Grin:
I had a pristine one for a very short while. Good looking for sure, but just mean calculating vicious little bitches each and every one.

The hard rubber pad, that is 20% smaller than the butt itself of the little monster, couldn't have been designed better to focus recoil energy.
 

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I have a No5 complete with the hockey puck recoil pad. I reload 180gr Sierra RN. It's not that bad to shoot with the butt firmly in the pocket. It's no worse than a Win94 with no recoil pad shooting 170gr.

I bought the rifle because I needed a 303 Enfield. I was looking for a No4 when this showed up. There is something about its design and longevity that keeps that rifle making regular trips to the range and the bush.

I just read that India has retired the Lee Enfield.


CT
 
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I bought a No.5 MKI Jungle Carbine from a gunsmith where I lived in central Nevada for $75 in the late 90's. The buttstock had been replaced by one from a No.4. It was accurate enough for my purposes and yes, it did kick. I carried it as my first patrol rifle. It sits in my safe now. I had replaced the wood with a Ramline stock. I still have the wood stock that came with it. Eventually, I'll put it back.
 

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The Enfields of various marks are truly great rifles and in a classic caliber (ok, maybe not the No.5 Mk1 "Jungle Carbine" - it is a screaming ugly little bitch of a thing to shoot).

In many ways, it has always seemed to have meant far more to the British Empire than the 30-06 has to Americans. Over the years, I have owned several No. 1 Mk 4 SMLE rifles of WWI vintage and regret they have all moved on in unworthy trades. I do still have an elegant Lee Speed that regrettably is fired all too rarely.

Thanks for reminding us of those Keen Men and days.
@Red Leg The but plate on the jungle carbine was designed by some mean arses RSM that wanted revenge on the humble soldiers. I would have to be the worst designed ever.
I have had to many Lee Enfield to count in calibers from 25, 303 and 444 Marlin.
All have been superb hunting rifles and easy to work on to get shooting less than inch groups at 100 yards.

Fortunately my father was an armourer prior to the introduction of the FN l1A1. I learnt from him all the little tricks for tuning the old SMLE. He also spent 3 years in Korea with one and always spoke fondly of them. In on battle the rifles were running that hot the wood around the barrels had charred. The solved the heat issue but dropping the rifles into a creek to cool them and kept on shooting. Try doing that with your beloved Remington or Winchester.
I still have a sporterised No1 SMLE that sees use occasionally and my son has his super accurate No4 SMLE in 25/303 Epps Newton improved.
Long live the old SMLE.
Bob
 

Bob Nelson 35Whelen

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Always thought the jungle carbine looked neat and wanted one...but every person says they kick the crap out of you and aren't that accurate...so one of those things to just admire and not have, so as not to ruin ones illusions :E Big Grin:
@spike.t
20210222_070403.jpg

With a design like that you can understand why it was such a bitch to shoot. Narrow hard rubber attached to a flat steel plate. Even tho the old 303 wasn't what you would call a kicker that but soon changed you opinion.
Bob
 

Cervus elaphus

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My uncle was a contempory of the good keen man era and at over 80 now has a great store of stories arround that time and the rifles they used.
I like the 303 and have built a number of lee speed styled rifles on the MLE platform and have one in my safe for the simple reason that I think every anzac should have one in their keeping. Still a cartridge and rifle combination that is as capable today as it was 120 years ago.
Those were the days Garry we refer to as the good 'ol days and damn it they were good, deer were plentiful, access was easy, rifles were cheap, Forest Service instead of DOC, pubs closed at 6 (that wasn't so good). In the central North Island, we got to meet good keen men like Rex Forrester, Howie Morrison and Gerry Merito around the pubs, especially the one at Waiouru, or Rotorua, Ohakune (I used to hunt pigs behind Raetihi), even Te Teko over by Whakatane where I went out on a Sambar hunt at Mt Edgecumbe. The dogs put up a big female which passed me no more than 20metres away but I didn't shoot because she had a calf. They're a big animal. Some years later, my guide on that hunt was attacked by a big sambar stag, he held his rifle up in front and the stag picked him and the rifle up and tossed him. The dogs saved his life. Those were good days Garry, it's a lot different now. cheers
 

Cervus elaphus

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My big memory of a no4 mk2 was in the combined cadet force at boarding school....we had a retired RSM from the royal Scots who ran the CCF and who was only about 5ft 6 inches tall but scared the crap out of us....but if you were in the shooting team you got put in the easy jobs..as in his words youse are my boysh..( he was an ex shnipurrr..as he pronounced it.. :E Big Grin: ...me and another on ccf days were in the armoury handing out and taking the rifles back in...so not a lot to do and no marching around etc...but we had to attend one cadet camp in our time in the ccf ...which were a choice in Easter holidays of 5 days at an army base in Edinburgh or 7 days in summer holidays in the highlands at a place called cultybraggen...not sure if spelt correct.....as Easter holidays only 3 weeks I chose the 7 days in summer holidays as we got 8 weeks...the camp I believe had been used as a camp for German POWs in 2nd ww...and hadn't changed from what I could see...this was 1976...tin nissen huts with a wood stove and bunk beds down the sides...only good thing was in the naafi canteen they felt sorry for us as our school was only one there where it was compulsory to be in the ccf at school...all others were volunteers :E Shrug: :E Big Grin: ...now we had one day at the ranges with.the 303s...we were driven.there in army trucks driven by regular soldiers who loved playing the big I am and treating us like muppets...well after we had been shooting the 2 regulars asked our rsm if they could have a go..he said yes...I was only person then who had ear muffs as shot lots of clays back home in holidays...well one of the soldiers without asking walked up and ripped them from my neck...well I think they had 5 rounds each on a 1 ft by 1 ft square white metal plate at 100 yards....neither managed to hit it let alone knock it over...next thing I know is RSM Jack saying...ok Taylor show them.how it's done...I was like what the fk..:eek:...as both soldiers turned around to stare at me...so I walked up with my 1 round I had been generously given by.the RSM and grabbed my.ear defenfers back...lay down and tried not to think of the 30 odd fellow school mates staring at me or the 2 soldiers doing same....took aim and fired and had big grin and sigh of relief as the plate went tumbling....as I got up the RSM said to the 2 soldiers see lads thsts how it's done with a big proud grin on his face ..all I can say is the 2 soldiers weren't exactly looking at me endearingly...and luckily I never bumped into.them.back at camp...:E Big Grin:..apologies for it being bit long winded....:D Beers:
Cadet secondary school in New Zealand they converted fully wooded .303's to single shot .22 rifles and we had a range inside the school grounds where every Wednesday we got to shoot. (Had to wear those horrible serge trou and jackets. I think I got hooked then). cheers
 

Cervus elaphus

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The Enfields of various marks are truly great rifles and in a classic caliber (ok, maybe not the No.5 Mk1 "Jungle Carbine" - it is a screaming ugly little bitch of a thing to shoot).

In many ways, it has always seemed to have meant far more to the British Empire than the 30-06 has to Americans. Over the years, I have owned several No. 1 Mk 4 SMLE rifles of WWI vintage and regret they have all moved on in unworthy trades. I do still have an elegant Lee Speed that regrettably is fired all too rarely.

Thanks for reminding us of those Keen Men and days.
Ah the jungle carbine "Collectible but not Useable" there were plenty around for sale but I don't recall anyone buying one, mind you the military .303 LE had a brass plate instead of a recoil pad but we still fired them and fired them well. Also around in the fifties were the surplus German Wehrmacht rifles (9mm iirc) with the Mauser action, but WW2 was still raw in a lot of vets minds so they didn't sell very well. cheers
 

Cervus elaphus

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I have a No5 complete with the hockey puck recoil pad. I reload 180gr Sierra RN. It's not that bad to shoot with the butt firmly in the pocket. It's no worse than a Win94 with no recoil pad shooting 170gr.

I bought the rifle because I needed a 303 Enfield. I was looking for a No4 when this showed up. There is something about its design and longevity that keeps that rifle making regular trips to the range and the bush.

I just read that India has retired the Lee Enfield.


CT
Hi Charles, India must be just about also to retire BSA, but the Morris Oxford will live on forever.
 
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Red Leg

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Ah the jungle carbine "Collectible but not Useable" there were plenty around for sale but I don't recall anyone buying one, mind you the military .303 LE had a brass plate instead of a recoil pad but we still fired them and fired them well. Also around in the fifties were the surplus German Wehrmacht rifles (9mm iirc) with the Mauser action, but WW2 was still raw in a lot of vets minds so they didn't sell very well. cheers
The Number 5 was a post war military issue and used extensively in the Malayan Insurgency from 1948-60 and it left the factory for military issue with that ingeniously punishing hard rubber recoil pad that was smaller than the butt.
 

Cervus elaphus

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@Red Leg The but plate on the jungle carbine was designed by some mean arses RSM that wanted revenge on the humble soldiers. I would have to be the worst designed ever.
I have had to many Lee Enfield to count in calibers from 25, 303 and 444 Marlin.
All have been superb hunting rifles and easy to work on to get shooting less than inch groups at 100 yards.

Fortunately my father was an armourer prior to the introduction of the FN l1A1. I learnt from him all the little tricks for tuning the old SMLE. He also spent 3 years in Korea with one and always spoke fondly of them. In on battle the rifles were running that hot the wood around the barrels had charred. The solved the heat issue but dropping the rifles into a creek to cool them and kept on shooting. Try doing that with your beloved Remington or Winchester.
I still have a sporterised No1 SMLE that sees use occasionally and my son has his super accurate No4 SMLE in 25/303 Epps Newton improved.
Long live the old SMLE.
Bob
@Red Leg The but plate on the jungle carbine was designed by some mean arses RSM that wanted revenge on the humble soldiers. I would have to be the worst designed ever.
I have had to many Lee Enfield to count in calibers from 25, 303 and 444 Marlin.
All have been superb hunting rifles and easy to work on to get shooting less than inch groups at 100 yards.

Fortunately my father was an armourer prior to the introduction of the FN l1A1. I learnt from him all the little tricks for tuning the old SMLE. He also spent 3 years in Korea with one and always spoke fondly of them. In on battle the rifles were running that hot the wood around the barrels had charred. The solved the heat issue but dropping the rifles into a creek to cool them and kept on shooting. Try doing that with your beloved Remington or Winchester.
I still have a sporterised No1 SMLE that sees use occasionally and my son has his super accurate No4 SMLE in 25/303 Epps Newton improved.
Long live the old SMLE.
Bob
Yep the Enfield was/is very adaptable, with sabot ammunition, different barrels. The P14 was converted to 30-06 by the Americans during WW2 (for a while). They are rugged and I've dropped a few, one
@Red Leg The but plate on the jungle carbine was designed by some mean arses RSM that wanted revenge on the humble soldiers. I would have to be the worst designed ever.
I have had to many Lee Enfield to count in calibers from 25, 303 and 444 Marlin.
All have been superb hunting rifles and easy to work on to get shooting less than inch groups at 100 yards.

Fortunately my father was an armourer prior to the introduction of the FN l1A1. I learnt from him all the little tricks for tuning the old SMLE. He also spent 3 years in Korea with one and always spoke fondly of them. In on battle the rifles were running that hot the wood around the barrels had charred. The solved the heat issue but dropping the rifles into a creek to cool them and kept on shooting. Try doing that with your beloved Remington or Winchester.
I still have a sporterised No1 SMLE that sees use occasionally and my son has his super accurate No4 SMLE in 25/303 Epps Newton improved.
Long live the old SMLE.
Bob
Yeah they're a rugged rifle - I've dropped a few, one
down a shingle slide into a river and had to dive to get it back, gave it a dry off and back in business.
 

Cervus elaphus

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The Number 5 was a post war military issue and used extensively in the Malayan Insurgency from 1948-60 and it left the factory for military issue with that ingeniously punishing hard rubber recoil pad that was smaller than the butt.
I was involved in the insurgency but my guns were 5.25". My brother was a 2BN dog handler up in northern Malaya and carried a L1A1 or Belgium FN.
 

Cervus elaphus

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My uncle was a contempory of the good keen man era and at over 80 now has a great store of stories arround that time and the rifles they used.
I like the 303 and have built a number of lee speed styled rifles on the MLE platform and have one in my safe for the simple reason that I think every anzac should have one in their keeping. Still a cartridge and rifle combination that is as capable today as it was 120 years ago.
I've just caught up on your .303 post from 2019 and the wildcats, how did you get on with the extra pressure of those big bores as the .303 bolt is only single lug ?. Lovely customization btw. I only ever carried a 5 shot mag, sleek and didn't snag on branches or clothes. Only carried 5 rounds, if I couldn't drop an animal with 5 I should have stayed home and watched the footy instead. cheers
 

Von Gruff

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I've just caught up on your .303 post from 2019 and the wildcats, how did you get on with the extra pressure of those big bores as the .303 bolt is only single lug ?. Lovely customization btw. I only ever carried a 5 shot mag, sleek and didn't snag on branches or clothes. Only carried 5 rounds, if I couldn't drop an animal with 5 I should have stayed home and watched the footy instead. cheers
Never had any trouble with them and the 375/303 was a common conversion as there was also a factory offering in the 375x2 1/2 flanged nitro that BSA chambered the Lee Speed for. The 400 I built on a marginally shortened 405 Win case is doing duty up in cantebury on the odd deer. I had a cast bullet mould made for it with a 320gn bullet. I have a 190gn mould for my 303 and it is one I would have no hesitation in using on the largest deer with my babbit enriched alloy. Tough alloy but not hard so it will deform on impact but not come apart or I could make a two part bullet as I did for the 7x57 with soft nose and hard shank that I ran at over 2400fps and get excellent accuracy which killed as well as any off the c&c bullet you can buy.
 

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