08-03-2009 08:52 AM
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Photos of a Fulton regulated LE No 4 Mk 1 (No. 18663) fore-end:
Originally Posted by Badger
Some form of synthetic material is evenly spread in between the rear end of the fore-end and the action, the rear lugs have been replaced with hardwood blocks and a thick steel plate is inserted under the front trigger guard screw.
Comments on No 1 pictures
Not wanting to rain on anyone's parade or nitpick the content of this article, but now that Peter Laidler has posted a questioning comment on the SMLE, perhaps some additional comments are in order. Specifically about what was original to Fulton regulation on this rifle and what was not and some of the assumptions made in this article. Other than the action itself, I do not think any part of the No 1 rifle reflects Fulton regulation secrets or techniques.
Let me start by saying that I have had a chance to examine and disassemble several No 1 rifles, some regulated by Fulton, with known providences from the 1930's to the 1950's. It is difficult to precisely date specific Fulton regulation techniques, as the rifles had long service life and typically were re-barreled and tuned-up every few years. England had rather restrictive regulations and so rifles were rebuilt as needed, rather than buying a new one. In so doing the final state of the rifles often does not reflect the state that when sold into trade. Nonetheless it is possible to precisely date some techniques as being not prior to a specific date. Any action reinforces are post 1934 when the NRA rulers were changed to allow metal reinforces not exceeding 2 ounces to be made to the rifles. Heavy barrels were not allowed on competition SMLEs in the UK prior to 1950. As such this rifle in its present from is not pre war, but most definitely later.
The action itself is from an early Fulton rifle as is the serial number, The Fulton stamp is an early one, certainly pre WW II. It is a retailing stamp, meaning it was through their shop. Later stamps say "Fulton regulated". The receiver reinforce you show was first used by Futon after 1934, though the exact date when introduced I do not know (I have seen conflicting data on this, some indicating it dates from post WWII while others say it dates from around 1935). This rifle seems to have had a lot of work not typical of Fulton standards. The workmanship on Fulton guns is fairly nice. Fulton charges were not cheap and they did not send out sloppy looking work. The wood finish was complete, they did not have raw wood showing. I do not know exact wood finish they used over the full period from 1910 to 1968 but I know that early guns had an oil finish and later guns seem to have had some sort of varnish finish.
Fulton receiver reinforces like shown on that action were welded (or possibly brazed). I have never seen a glued reinforce, though I have only seen three of these rifles with such work. The purpose, as noted, was to give a better bedding surface for the action body/forend.
The holes in the rear of the action body appear to be for a type of bedding called “India bedding”. The wood was affixed to the action body by two screws, to retain the alignment of the forend and action body more consistently. The wear due to recoil and the effect of changing moisture made maintaining the draws rather difficult. The India bedding was supposed to fix this. The screws went through the wood and pushed up against the action body rear recoil lugs. This procedure was briefly popular in the 1935 time frame, when the India team won the Kolporea cup for the first and last time. A later variant of India bedding had the screws coming in from the magazine well, thus pulling the forend up against the action body buttstock section. I do not think that was a standard Fulton technique, though they might have tried it at some point pre war.
The forend, of Beech wood, does not have any of the expected signs of Fulton regulation. First and foremost, every Fulton SMLE I have seen used walnut, not beech, right through the 1950's dated rifles. Second, if set up for a standard barrel at some point, one would expect to see holes in the forend for the upper band metal reinforce. I do not see evidence of them ever having been installed. Third, the alignment screws one should expect to see in the action body area for post war Fulton regulated rifles are missing. Based on all these facts the forend does not appear to be part of the original rifle, but a replacement. Based on the sloppy wood work done to the rear of the forend, it looks like it was fixed at some point by a non-Fulton stock worker.
All the Fulton guns I have seen were set up with the PH No 5A sight. The Fulton regulation included the sight set up, as the sight was so set up as to be plumb, such that the rifle would not have any deviation from true as the sights were advanced up to 1000 yards. That does not mean they were truly plumb, as I think they accounted for the left hand twist in their sight set up (tested on a reduced target). The brass piece set up for the TZ side plate is not Fulton work; English rules required the safety to be operational. That brass piece shown allows an older LE side plate to be used with the SMLE.
Regarding the upper handguard, English heavy barrel guns used a new rear handguard; they did not splice the upper handguard. I have only seen three of the English heavy barrels, all with BSA barrels. One was an Alfred Parker, the second a Parker-Hale and the third an Alex Martin set up rifle. I have been told, (but have never seen) that early heavy barrels English target rifles were made with spliced upper hand guards, made from the front handguard of an SMLE and the rear handguard of a Number 4. The work required to do this was excessive, so almost immediately new hand guards were made, which went from the rear band back to an added handguard retaining ring derived from the No 4 part.
So what is it? The following modifications seem to be Australian/New Zealand style of work from the mid 1950s:
1) Cut on side of wood for Central sight plate.
2) Rubber nose ring, that is an Australian development form the late 1950’s. Fulton did relieve the front nose cap, but did not use a rubber washer.
3) Lithgow barrel. I have not seen that or heard of these barrels being imported into England for use, as the BSA heavy barrels were very popular and well made.
4) The front sight “block” appears to be one of the units that had removable front posts. They seem to have been popular in Australia in the 1950's.
5) The bedding blocks in the barrel groove (that is what that block is near the filled in portion of the sight protector on the forend) were an Australian modification to “nodal” damp the barrel. Sweet discusses this in some depth in the 3rd and 4th edition of his book.
6) Adaptation of the older LE side plate to be used on SMLE, quite common in the land down.
The heavy barrel of Australian manufacture and techniques proper to a 1950s Australian technique makes me doubt the current set up has much if anything to do with Fultons. I do not recall ever even seeing a heavy weight Fulton SMLE, though I have seem heavy barrel AJ Parker, Parker Hale and Alex Martin heavy barrel rifles. Fulton, I think always used standard weight barrels. Robin Fulton (third Generation) took the Queens medal with a regular weight SMLE in 1958, and took second with a SMLE in 1959. The last year which a picture shows the winner of the Queens medal being chaired off of Bisley with a SMLE was in 1962. The shooter's name escapes me at present but I recall he used a Fulton regulated standard weight SMLE, it can be seen by the Fulton barrel clamp on the rifle, which was particular to their post 1934 regulation technique.
The heavy barrel SMLE had some peculiarities which made it less popular in England than in Australia. First the standard weight barrel had been in use since 1920, and the English smiths knew how to regulate it to compensate for the Mk VII cartridge quite well at 800 through 1000 yards, where the finals were determined at Bisley. Second Bisley is known for rain at the worst time (Queens Finals), and the heavy barrel SMLE rifles had a lot more vertical deviation when wet than the standard weight barrels. The standard weight barrels would show a 4~5 minute vertical group shift when the ammunition was wet, the heavy barrels showed closer to a 10 to 12 minute group shifts. Perhaps Peter Laidler has some insight on why that might be.
It does look like some individuals effort, but I would not characterize that as a “Bubba”. Yes it is crude, but it might be someone’s project gun, an effort to try out various regulation and adjustment schemes. Some years ago Bill Wylde posted pictures of the Canadian regular weight 7.62 No 4 rifles from the 1966~1968 time frame. One of them had a known pedigree as having been used in the 1967 Palma and for mid range use after that. The bedding was rather messy to say the least. Many shooters from that era tinkered with their rifles; I would guess this is one such sample and that the various cork tuning bits and wooden pads are from those efforts. A very interesting piece and informative piece, but not one that really reflects any Fulton secrets (other than the action work) as asserted in the title.
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