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Thread: ShtLE No1 Mk1* gunmetal buttplate and other details

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    Member Lashenden's Avatar
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    ShtLE No1 Mk1* gunmetal buttplate and other details

    Questions from a newbie: I've just bought (not yet collected) a No1 mk1*from EFD in the UKicon. It's been quite well restored but there are some details which I understand from Skennertonicon and the 1907 1*** in the Milsurps knowledge library aren't correct for a 1*. I'm happy though, as I was aware of these issues before I made the purchase and for me it's a good compromise between total originality and practical shootability. I would like to bring the rifle closer to originality over time though.



    The rifle is a 1906 BSA 1*, but currently has the sheet steel buttplate and single screw swivel as per Mk1. I believe it should have a gunmetal buttplate with trap and an inletted two screw rear swivel. It also clearly has a Mk III safety (it has III engraved on it), and it probably has a few other later parts as well.

    But as the 1* was in production for just over one year in peacetime, and almost all the production was subsequently upgraded to 1***, presumably there just aren't many gunmetal buttplates in existence? No-one I know has ever seen one - do they exist outside museums? Does anyone have a photo of one so I can see what I should have? I'm taking the view that a sympathetic restoration should go 'forward' to parts that might plausibly have been replaced in service, rather than 'backwards' to parts from previous models, so I'm intending to fit a brass buttplate until (if ever) I can locate the right part.

    Similarly, I know the Mk 1 (or MLE) swivel currently fitted isn't correct. Is the correct swivel the same pattern as the MkIII, and inletted the in same way?

    Lastly, how do I tell the difference between a MkIII safety catch and banjo spring and those for a 1*?

    No photos avaiable 'til I pick it up in a couple of weeks, I'm afraid.
    Many thanks for sharing your expertise.

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    Really Senior Member RCS's Avatar
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    Mark 1 * rear swivel





    Photo of Mark 1 * rear swivel on a Enfield 1904 upgraded to Mark 1*** but still with the original Mark 1 buttstock

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    Thank you RCS. That's defintitely not a Mk III part - is it a deeper profile 'two screw' fitting? If it is, is the swivel itself the same as later SMLE's? A photo of taken from below would be very useful, as it looks like a part that could be fabricated, although it would have to be milled rather than cast.

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    Really Senior Member 5thBatt's Avatar
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    You cant just convert a Mk1 SMLE butt to a Mk1* butt, the steel butt plate is a different shape to the brass butt plate, best to swap for a MkIII butt & save ruining a Mk1 butt.

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    Member 303Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lashenden View Post
    It also clearly has a Mk III safety (it has III engraved on it),
    Hi Lashenden. I have a few brass butt-plated butts lying around (I'm in New Zealand so sending one to you may be a bit costly assuming one would the right one and anyway, they're not in great shape). You say 'gunmetal' butt-plate? Were some made from gunmetal then? I thought they were brass. Being the last outpost of the Britishicon Empire, there are a few Lee Enfield and their parts lying around - several in my cupboard (all Bubba'd I'm afraid - I would like one collector Lee Enfield though).

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    Member 303Guy's Avatar
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    Oh, I meant to say I think the III on the safety pertains to the safety itself, not the rifle.

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    Member Lashenden's Avatar
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    Thank you 303Guy! The gunmetal buttplate is one the changes identified by Ian Skennertonicon in the change from Mk1 to 1*. His list of 1* features is that the design is basically same as a Mk1 except the buttplate changes from steel without trap to gunmetal with trap, rear swivel changes from single screw to inlet two screw, a slightly deeper profile magazine is fitted, stamped '2', the firing pin keeper is redesigned from the earlier knurled button to a screw head with wide slot for use with a coin and fitted slightly more flush with the back face of the cocking piece. That's everything he mentions, but the list may be incomplete.

    As I cautiously suggested in my original post, the Mk1* was approved in late March '06, and was superceded by the MkIII in April '07, so they weren't manufactured for very long - I'm guessing no more than 150,000 were ever made. If most were subsequently upgraded to 1*** and fitted with brass buttplates around 1914, there just can't be many gunmetal buttplates left in existence 100 years later, and presumably gunmetal wasn't such a good idea anyway, or they wouldn't have gone over to brass - too expensive, perhaps, or too prone to damage in service? Anyway, I'm just channelling Skennerton here - I claim no expertise of my own in this matter.

    I think this rifle may well have come from NZicon anyway, as that seems to be the main source of pre-MkIII Enfields these days. I'm guessing only NZ and Austrailian rifles escaped the big conversion to Mk1***? I think you're right, it's just the safety catch itself (and possibly the associated bits and pieces) that's a MkIII part, but I don't know how to spot the correct item - is the profile the same as a III?

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    Advisory Panel Son's Avatar
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    Hello Lashenden. Good on you for going into the depths of the model to sort the fine details. You are in the right place to get the answers.
    A lot of what you seek is in the writings of Ian Skennertonicon, things like production figures of the Mk1* are on p396 of the Lee Enfield Story. This states there were 60,187 made at Enfield and 3,020 at Ishapore.
    The safety of the Mk1 is the same as the safety of the MkIII except the earlier one will have the maker's stamp visible on the outside. At that point there was only one model, so no need to mark it with the model.
    The rear swivel pictured by RCS above is the correct one for the Mk1. It had a square boss as opposed the round ball type boss on the earlier Long Lee production.

    In the search for everything correct, read the text here at this link to the Milsurps Knowledge Libraryicon entry. There is no such rifle as a No1 mk1. The documented proof is there.

    Milsurps Knowledge Library - 1903 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) Mk1 Rifle

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    Thanks for the clarification - so I'm now on a hunt for an unmarked or BSA-marked safety catch? Re. production figures, I'd read the table you mention in The Lee Enfield Story, so assumed the total 1* production must be Enfield and Ishapore plus BSA and LSA, for which no figures are available. Hence my first guess for 150,000 as a generous maximum total. Actually, it seems likely to be much less than that (if wikipaedia is accurate), as BSA had been promised 25% of SMLE production when they purchased Sparkbrook from the government, but didn't get the orders, prompting a financial crisis for the company in 1907. So maybe it's more like 75-100,000 total, depending on whether whether Enfield's 60,000 rifles were notionally 50% or 75% of the total production. These are all back of an envelope guesstimates, but nontheless 1*s seem to represent a very small slice of 16 million LEs!
    Any further thoughts on 1* rear swivels?

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    Really Senior Member RCS's Avatar
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    Lashenden, Buying some good books will help the restoration. There are other small changes that you could look into such as the following: the cut-off, there is a first variation if you are going to use one, safety catch has sharp edges later ones has the bevel edges, safety spring, early has the screw hole that is not countersunk. Also the proper magazine case, backsight group and barleycorn front would all help with the restoration. The rear handguard clip has only one spring too. It is very difficult to find most of these parts but other collectors might be the best chance in locating them

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