United Kingdom’s Lee-Enfield rifle had two major variations:  the MLE (Magazine Lee-Enfield) and the SMLE (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield).   Both variants were used in the first half of the 20th Century as the primary firearm(s) for the British Empire and Commonwealth.  The British Army adopted the Lee-Enfield as their standard rifle from 1895 thru 1957.  The MLE was used in service from 1895 – 1926 and the SMLE entered service in 1907 and variants are still being used today by reserve forces and police forces in several Commonwealth countries and is considered on of the top military rifles.

The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has a Lee-Enfield rifle on display.  The museum houses a number of weapons in their Arms and Ordnance Gallery and throughout the musuem as part of the various dioramas.

 

About the Lee-Enfield

A bolt-action, magazine-fed repeating rifle was designed by James Paris Lee, RSAF and Enfield.  The rifle was used in both World War I and World War II.  In 1957, despite the UK replacing it with the L1A1 SLR, the Lee-Enfield still remained widespread throughout British service until the early part of the 1960s.  The sniper variant of the Lee-Enfield (the 7.62mm L42) continued in service into the 1990s.  The Lee-Enfield remains a standard-issue rifle throughout some of the armed forces of the Commonwealth nations, making this rifle the longest-serving, bolt-action military rifle in history.  In all, over 17 million of these rifles were produced.

 

Design

The Lee-Enfield used the Lee-Metford as a design base, including for one, its rear-locking bolt system.  The Lee-Enfield also featured a larger magazine capacity.  Coupled with its fast-operating, bolt-action, a well-trained marksman could easily perform what became known as the ‘Mad minute’, which meant firing the rifle at a rate of 20 to 30 aimed rounds within a minute, a record that made it the fastest bolt-action military rifle of its day.  Some Germans in WWII reported they were attacked with machines guns, when in reality it was the Lee Enfield rifle.

Specifications

  • Service History:   MLE - 1895 to 1926
  •                              SMLE - 1907 to present day
  • Combat use:  Used in over a dozen wars and conflicts
  • Produced:   MLE - 1895 to 1907
  •                     SMLE - 1907 to present day
  • Barrel Length:   MLE – 30.2 inches
  •                           SMLE – 25.2 inches
  • Type and Action:  Bolt-action rifle
  • Maximum Range:  3,000 yards

 

Today, more than a century after the United Kingdom’s Lee-Enfield was introduced, this bolt-action rifle and its variants are still in military use throughout the world and are also a popular rifle choice among civilians for hunting, target practice and rifle shooting competitions.