Lee-Enfield Rifle

The Lee-Enfield repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire. Although bolt action, the Lee-Enfield locking mechanism made it the fastest bolt action rifle in the world. The trained soldier could fire 30 aimed rounds at a target 200 meters in one minute (known as "the mad minute"). Officially adopted in 1895, this .303-caliber rifle was in service until 1957. The Lee-Enfield rifle was derived from the earlier Lee-Metford, a mechanically similar black powder rifle, which combined James Paris Lee’s rear-locking bolt system with a barrel featuring rifling designed by William Ellis Metford.

Featuring a ten-round box magazine, the Lee-Enfield was loaded manually from the top, either one round at a time, or by means of five-round clips. While the magazine itself is detachable, it is not intended to be reloaded when detached from the rifle, and it should only be removed for cleaning and repair. Starting off as the Lee-Enfield Mark I, this rifle passed some improvements during the following pre-WW1 years, finalizing in the 1907 as the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mark III (SMLE Mk.III); “Short” means the length of the rifle. Total production of all Lee-Enfields is estimated at over 17 million rifles, making it one of the most numerous military bolt-action rifles ever produced.

Although development and introduction into service of this rifle was accompanied with constant complaints of some "theorists", the Lee-Enfield Mark III was a really good rifle, quite accurate, reliable and suitable for rapid and accurate firing. British soldiers were rigorously trained for both individual and volley fire marksmanship, and were routinely capable of firing 30 aimed shots per minute, which was quite a rate of fire for any non-automatic rifle. The rotating bolt has two lugs that lock into the receiver walls at the rear part of the bolt, thus saving some part of the bolt length and bolt pull, when comparing to the forward lugs locking. This shorter bolt pull, along with charging handle, located at the rear part of the bolt and bent down, lent itself to quick reloading.

 

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  1. [...] was an effective and precise weapon. The British troops were issued with the .303 caliber Lee-Enfield M1907, with a bolt designed for rapid fire. The French used at the beginning the 8mm-caliber Lebel M1886 [...]