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British SMLE Rifle

Right side of Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk 3* Short Magazine rifle. Rifle has full-length dark wood stock with hooked semi-pistol grip. Metal triangular magazine loaded on underside of stock.

Title: Rifle, Short, Magazine, .303 Cal, No. 1 Mk 3*, Lee-Enfield, British, S/N 54871
Accession #: NHHC 1961-224-AU
Circa: 1917
Size: 44.5 x 2
Medium: Metal, Wood
Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command

The Lee-Enfield magazine rifles were the standard arm of British and Commonwealth forces throughout the first half of the 20th Century. The rifles were based on the bolt-action designs of James Paris Lee and utilized the rifling pattern designed at the Royal Small Arms Factory-Enfield, where the rifle was initially manufactured. The Short Magazine Rifle Lee-Enfield, or SMLE, was introduced in 1902 as an improved, and shorter, version of the earlier “Magazine Lee-Enfield” and “Magazine Lee-Metford” rifles.

Adopted in 1907, the Mk III variant of the Short Magazine Rifle saw service through both world wars and the Korean War. The rifle’s official designation was changed in 1926 to “Rifle, No. 1 Mk III” and then again in 1944 to “Rifle, No. 1 Mk 3”, but it was more popularly known as the “smelly” or “smiley” based on the SMLE initials. In 1915 the design was simplified by removing the magazine cutoff and the long range sights. These changes were denoted by an asterisk after the mark number and the rifle became the Mk III*, or “mark three star”. The rifle is bolt-action, firing the standard British .303 caliber cartridge with a pointed “Spitzer” bullet fed from a 10-round box magazine. This example was manufactured by the Birmingham Small Arms Company in 1917.

The rifle has a full-length wood stock with a separate butt with a distinctive “hooked” semi-pistol grip. The muzzle is covered by a cap with a bayonet mount and fixed front sight. An adjustable, leaf type rear sight is mounted to the top of the barrel forward of the receiver. A stacking swivel and front and rear sling swivels are mounted to front cap, forward band, and the heel of the buttstock, respectively. The brass butt plate has a trapdoor that covers a compartment for the cleaning kit. A bridge over the receiver provides a guideway for a charger clip when loading the magazine. The No. 1 magazine is stamped steel, triangular in profile and has two reinforcing ribs that run vertically. Although the magazine is removable, standard practice was to leave it in place and reload it with 5-round charger clips through the top of the receiver.

Left side of Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk 3* Short Magazine rifle. Rifle has full-length dark wood stock with hooked semi-pistol grip. Metal triangular magazine unloaded and sitting in next to rifle.
Published: Mon Apr 29 14:58:56 EDT 2024