• 1971 L42A1 Enfield Sniper Rifle

    1971 L42A1 Enfield Sniper Rifle
    (Originally a 1944 No.4 Mk1(T) mfg by BSA Shirley)

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Caliber: ....................... 7.62mm NATO (.308Win)
    Rifling & Twist: ............. 4 Groove, Enfield, 1 twist in 305 mm (12 in), Right Hand
    Barrel Length: .............. 27.5 in. (698.5mm)
    Overall Length: ............ 46.5 in. (1185mm)
    Weight: ....................... 10 lb. (4.53kg) (without scope)
    Weight: ....................... 12 lb. 5oz. (5.72kg) (with scope)
    Magazine Capacity: ...... 10 rounds
    Converted: ................... By R.S.A.F. Enfield from original .303 caliber No.4 Mk1(T) sniper rifle
    Approval date: ............. August 24th, 1970
    Scope: ......................... TEL. STRT. STG. L1A1 O.S. 2429 G.A. (converted from No.32 Mk.3 Scope)
    Qty Mfg: ...................... Approximately 1,100-1,200 converted from 1970-1992

    Source: ....................... The British Sniper by Ian Skennerton (1983) - ISBN: 0949749036

    Canadian Market Value Estimate: $

    1971 L42A1 Enfield Sniper Rifle
    This item has been reviewed by members of the Milsurps Advisory Panel.This item has been judged by members of the Milsurps Advisory Panel, to be authentic by original manufacturer, with all correct markings and components.
    (109 picture virtual tour)

    Note: Pics of rifle provided courtesy of MILSURPS.COM member ~Angel~.

    "The Last Lee-Enfield" by Daniel Cotterill

    It is a tribute to the design and utility of the Lee-Enfield bolt-action that it was still in service with the British Army more than 100 years after it was first adopted. The first British service Lee was the Lee-Metford adopted in December 1888, while the last was the L42A1 sniper rifle, which was only declared obsolete in April 1992. In between came the famous No. 1 Mk III Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield and its mass production-oriented successor, the No.4 rifle that served during and after World War II.

    The L42A1 is a 7.62x51 mm NATO sniper rifle developed from the World War II-vintage .303 British No.4(T). The No.4(T) was Britain's main sniper rifle of World War II and consisted of a carefully selected No.4 service rifle mated with a No. 32 telescopic sight that had originally been designed to go on the Bren light machine gun.

    When the 7.62x51 mm round became the NATO standard, Britain adopted a version of the Belgian FN Fusil Automatique Legere (FAL), known as the Self Loading Rifle (SLR), as its standard issue individual rifle. While the SLR was to prove an excellent battle implement, its level of accuracy fell a long way short of that necessary for a sniper rifle. The .303 No.4(T) rifle soldiered on in this role until the early 1970s despite that fact that its ammunition had been officially "obsolete" for over 10 years.

    The British had originally planned to convert a large part of their existing stocks of No.4 rifles to 7.62 mm for issue to rear-echelon troops, and both Sterling and Enfield manufactured kits for this purpose. For various reasons, including poor accuracy and reduced personnel numbers, the conversion process of the No.4 rifle to L8 specification was not fully pursued, but some work was done on an L8T sniper rifle version. These L8T prototypes, externally identical to the .303 No.4(T) except for the magazine, were tested extensively in 1965 but did not succeed and were never issued.

    The disappointing results achieved with the L8T were at odds with the excellent shooting being done by rifle club members at Bisley and other target ranges around the world at that time with converted No.4 7.62 mm rifles. In target rifle form, the No.4 action was mated with a heavy-profile, commercially manufactured barrel mounted in a shortened fore-end as the heavier barrel did not require support. These innovations were not lost on the designers at Enfield who soon incorporated similar features into a prototype rifle called the XL42E1.

    The XL42E1 was extensively tested in competition with offerings from various rifle and scope manufacturers, and was found to offer the best combination of reliability and accuracy. The fact that it could be manufactured by converting the stockpile of existing No.4(T) rifles may have had some bearing on the decision. With a few minor specification changes, the XL42E1 was christened the L42A1, and production commenced in 1970. The specification of the trial rifles and the eventual production rifles was almost exactly the same-so much so that at least a few XL42E1s were later found on issue as regular sniper rifles.

    The conversion of the No.4(T) to L42A1 specification is not as simple as it may first appear. New parts included the barrel, magazine, extractor and top handguard, while modifications were required to the foresight block, action body, rear sight slide and fore-end. The telescopic sight also required recalibration to suit the trajectory of the 7.62 mm round, and these were refurbished as part of the recalibration process with their designation changing from "Telescope No.32 Mk III" to "Telescope, Straight, Sighting, L1A1." The original designation can be seen barred out on the refurbished scopes. The iron rear sight was also altered to suit the new ammunition. An "M" is sometimes found on the rear sight and the range drum of the telescopic sight, which denotes metric conversion.

    The barrel was a hammer-forged (click here) unit and has the "snakeskin" appearance peculiar to barrels made using that process. It was 27.5'' long and made from high-quality EN19AT steel. Early barrels feature the traditional, sharp edged Enfield rifling while later production could be found with more rounded off chordal rifling reminiscent of the original Metford system. This later type was cheaper and easier to manufacture when using the hammer-forging process.

    The magazine was a completely new unit to cater to the 7.62 mm rimless round. The L42A1 used the Enfield pattern magazine with the ejector built onto the left rear magazine lip. This arrangement made the receiver mounted screw ejector redundant, and this was usually left out. The receiver was slightly modified in the magazine well to ensure the correct fit of the magazine and reliable feeding of cartridges.

    All L42A1s had undergone a rigorous reproofing procedure to ensure their safe operation with the newer and more powerful 7.62 mm round. The proof mark "19T" in company with crossed flags can be found on the bolt handle, bolt head and receiver of all genuine L42A1s. It indicates that those components withstood a proof pressure of 19 tons per square inch.

    The L42A1's fore-end was shortened, partly to save weight and partly because the heavier barrel does not require support. Some L42A1s appear to have been fitted with their original No. 4 (T) fore-ends suitably modified while others were fitted with new ones. A modified handguard from the No.8 .22 training rifle was used along with either a new or original butt and the same cheek rest as the No.4(T).

    All L42A1s were based on existing No.4(T) rifles, some of which had seen a good deal of service. The front scope mounting pad screws of one rifle I examined have been restaked three times, indicating lots of hard service. Most of the original No. 4 (T) marks remain visible on the L42A1, even the obscure ones that tell the difference between an original and a fake.

    The "T" stamping on the left of the receiver is sometimes missing on an L42A1 depending on how deeply the action was buffed prior to refinishing. Because the L42A1 is a conversion of the No.4(T), all are based on No.4 Mk I and Mk I* rifles. Any rifle purporting to be an L42A1 that is based on a Mk II receiver with its hung trigger should be treated with the gravest suspicion.

    Each rifle and scope combination formed part of the Complete Equipment Schedule (CES) and, in common with the No.4(T), once the rifle and scope were paired they remained an item for the rest of their service life. The rifle's serial number was stamped on the scope mounting bracket while the scope's number was stamped on the small of the butt. The rifle and scope traveled in a large wooden chest with the scope further protected in a metal container. Included in the chest as part of the CES was a Scout Regiment telescope for observation and all the other equipment necessary to operate the rifle, such as cleaning gear, sling, user handbook and so on. There was also provision to store an "Individual Weapon Sight" (IWS) bracket. This terminology is confusing as the IWS is really a night sight.

    An accurate production figure for the L42A1 proved to be an elusive target for a long time. Published texts contain estimates that "thousands" were built, but are unable to give specific numbers because, while the rifles were still front-line-issue British Army arms;, these figures were classified. Thanks to the assistance of researchers at the Australian War Memorial and the U.K. M.o.D. Pattern Room (before that marvelous resource fell victim to bureaucratic cost cutting) a more accurate estimates is now possible.

    The British Army's Operational Requirements Branch stated a need for 840 rifles in September 1970, and included in that figure was an allocation to the Royal Marines. According to staff at the U.K. M.o.D. Pattern Room-who had access to contemporary Enfield files-this requirement was later increased to 892 rifles and progress documents dated February 2, 1972, record that 898 rifles had been assembled. The picture becomes a little blurred after that as delivery documents indicate that 967 rifles had been dispatched by November 7, 1973. There is also evidence that a further 40 rifles were delivered in 1975, 24 in 1976 and 18 in 1979. This amounts to a total of 1,049.

    However, a batch of rifles is known to have been produced in 1980, though no information is currently available as to its size. Given the small size of other later orders it is reasonably safe to assume that it, too, was a small batch and, coupled with the 30 or so XL42Els produced, would have put total production somewhere between 1,100 and 1,200 rifles.

    A batch of 637 rifles was sold to Navy Arms in the United States after the rifles were declared obsolete in 1992. According to a letter from the late Val J. Forgett, president and CEO of Navy Arms Co., Inc., to the Australian War Memorial dated October 10, 1994, most of those rifles were sold in their chests at $995 each, but all were missing the remainder of the CES. A surplus sale of that volume combined with the small number of rifles available privately in the United Kingdom suggests that a production figure of between 1,100 and 1,200 is a relatively safe number.

    In the late 1970s, a dozen L42A1s along with the CES were imported into Australia for Army trials. Two of those rifles "lost" their telescopic sights, and there were 10 complete rifles in storage at Randwick Barracks in the early 1990s. At some point soon after the rifles arrived in Australia, the Scout Regiment telescopes were removed from the chests, possibly for use by Army snipers who were then still equipped with No. 1 Mk III High Mount .303 sniper rifles prior to the eventual issue of the Parker-Hale rifle in 1982.

    Shooting an L42A1 is an impressive experience. Forget any prejudices you may have about inaccurate or inconsistent Lee-Enfield rifles-the L42A1 is as accurate as just about anything else for practical purposes. It is a very handy rifle at long range, too, and by long range I mean out to 900 yds., which is the longest range at which I have had the opportunity to fire one. There are accounts of accurate shooting out to 1,000 yards with an L42A1. Firing a competitive score against a modern Palma Match target rifle is a realistic proposition. An L42A1 is a carefully assembled, well-balanced rifle with a crisp trigger pull and an excellent (if low powered) telescopic sight. It represents the pinnacle of development for the renowned and enduring Lee-Enfield series of bolt-action rifles.

    The L42A1 served with the British Army for nearly 25 years, and it reportedly gave excellent service wherever it was used. Deployments included such well-known destinations as the Falklands and Northern Ireland. Peter Laidler, a noted armorer and writer on the subject, has speculated about how many urban terrorists have fallen to the combination of an L42A1 and the Starlight night scope without ever knowing what hit them.

    During the Falklands War between the British and Argentina in 1984 over the Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic, a particularly savage action was fought between the British 2nd battalion, Parachute Regiment, and the Argentines at Goose Green. It was arguably the longest and toughest battle of that brief but bloody war.

    The British Paras numbered 600 and were up against 1,400 Argentine soldiers. They were fighting over open ground in daylight against prepared positions, were low on ammunition and lacked adequate fire support. The British won the fight but lost 17 of their soldiers against some 200 Argentine dead. Their L42A1 equipped snipers are known to have made a significant contribution to that grim toll.

    The L42A1 was less fashionable but more consistent and reliable in the field that many of its contemporaries. During the trial process prior to its adoption it reportedly "shot them all into a cocked hat."

    Whatever else may be said of the L42A1, it was certainly a worthy rifle to be the last of the long line of Lee-Enfield bolt-actions that had served British and Commonwealth forces with such distinction for more than a century.

    Collector's Comments and Feedback:

    1. The L42A1 displayed in the picture virtual tour is "all matching" and "all correct". It comes with the correct transit chest and all accessories, including the L1A1 scope can, complete rifle cleaning kit, lens cleaning brush and container, chamber cleaning stick, IWS Mount for night scope, Scout Regiment Observer's Telescope and nylon web rifle sling. The only item missing from the kit is the Starlight night scope, which was issued separately. The pic below (courtesy of willyp) identifies and shows the layout of the L42A1's various accessories and how they should be properly stored in the transit chest. ...... (Feedback by "Badger")

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    2. Yes thanks for the info but please check your facts about the Falklands conflict and the battle of Goose Green. The war was 1982 not 1984. Although the Brits were outnumbered numerically, the number of combat personnel involved in each side was about the same. There were a lot of Argie non combatants who took no part in the battle.

    The number of Argentenian casualties was about 55 not 200. Never the less it was a great victory for the Paras. Sorry to sound stuffy but I have done a lot of research on this interesting war. Although the L42 was used I don't think it played any significant role at Goose Green. Though it was interestingly enough used in an anti ship role in South Georgia!
    ...... (Feedback by CGN member "55recce")

    3. Here are a set of pics showing the PVS-1 night scope mounted on my L42A1. Note the picture of the batteries that came with it and specifically the date on them. It's 1993 and they still work. I had to throw a couple out that were dated back in the 70's. I hope I can find replacements in the future. Also Notice that they are 7.0v instead of 6.5v. While the batteries shown in the picture are marked 7 volts, a 6.5 volt battery is identical. This is because each individual cell in the battery produces 2.12 volts. These particular batteries are 3 cell units, therefore 3 x 2.12 = 6.36, if the units in question were four cell units they would be '8 volt' (actually 8.48 volt). The 7 volt nomenclature is unlikely to be correct, although a six volt battery fresh off the production line will show 7.xx volts. More important for anyone who owns such a device is the amp hour rating of the battery, as this will have a greater effect on the run time of the device. Please note that it's highly illegal to throw them in the garbage or dispose of them anywhere but a hazardous waste facility. ...... (Feedback and pics provided courtesy of "Ricoim")

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    4. The IWS weapon sight was a 3.75x magnification first generation British weapon sight, based on a triple staged intensifier tube with Automatic brightness control, in fact it is the same tube that was used in the later versions of the US PVS-2 system. It was designed to be mounted on the L42a1 rifle, Carl Gustav rocket launcher, L1a1 rifle, and M16 rifle and the L7 GMPG.

    It was powered by two 6.75 volt mercury batteries providing about 70-100 hours of power for the unit. It is superior to the PVS-2 type system in that it has an internally adjustable reticle (graticule) that lies in the front focal plane of the weapon each click is ˝ Mil of adjustment (1mil =~3.4 MOA). In contrast the PVS-2 had a fixed reticle and could only be used with externally adjustable mounts designed for specific weapons such as the M16 or M14. The effective range for the unit is 300m under starlight conditions, improving to 500m in higher ambient light conditions (moonlight) which is similar to ranges for the PVS-2 unit of the same vintage. During the Vietnam war PVS-2 equipped XM-21 sniper rifles regularly scored kills out to 300-500m. The sight comes equipped with a front lens cap that incorporates a neutral density filter to be used during daylight to zero the unit, it can be set to three settings.

    The reticle of the unit:

    Points a and b on the reticule correspond to 200m and 500m respectively for 7.62mm weapons. The cross above point a is used to boresight the Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon. Points b,c,d,e,f correspond to 100, 200, 300, 400, 500m when using the Carl Gustav Lines G,H,I correspond to leads of 7.5 mils, 15 mils, and 30 mils respectively. These were typically employed when using the Carl Gustav, but could also be employed as windage holds with the 7.62mm rifles.

    Zeroing the Unit:

    Place unit in stable rest and sight the rifle at 200m using iron sights. While viewing the target through the eyepiece adjust the filter and focusing knob to obtain a clear image. Adjust the reticle screws so that point a on the reticle corresponds to the target. If possible verify the zero by firing a group. Adjust if necessary.
    ...... (Feedback by "harlikwin")

    IWS Reticle

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    5. I had some time on my hands today, so I dragged out ~Angel~'s two L42A1's from her collection. One is the very early 1971 conversion featured here in this MKL entry, while the other is a very late in the genre 1979 conversion (no photo montage as yet). It's interesting to see the changes in the markings and other conversion items over that 8 year time span.

    Here's the pics and you can see they marked the "19T" and "crossed flags" clearly on the early 1971, exactly as Cotterill's article stated. However, note how they got a little "loose" at the end of the run some 8 years later, so although I think his article is generally accurate, his definitive statements about the "19T" and "crossed flags" aren't necessarily gospel and valid across the entire span of these rifles during their conversions. Note: That conclusion is just my personal opinion.
    ...... (Feedback by "Badger")

    1971 L42A1 Enfield Sniper Rifle (featured here)

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    1979 L42A1 Enfield Sniper Rifle (not the one featured here)

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    6. I saw this post by Alan Roberts over on Jouster's forums and I thought Enfield L42 collectors would find it interesting. ...... (Feedback by "Badger")

    L42 Scope / Case..

    Posted By: Alan Roberts
    Date: Sat 12 Apr 2008 2:24 pm

    I had cause to ask Peter Laidler about the mysterious plastic type case for the Scout Regiment scope (how does he know all this stuff ?) and this is his reply……………..

    "Here’s a few things that owners of L42’s ought to know about. The first is that during the later days of its life, the leather ‘CASE, sighting telescope’ was in short supply and was being replaced by a kakhi/deep bronze green plastic version with a part number of V5/1240-99-966-0837. This little scope case was about the same size as the luxurious leather version of 11 ˝” long x 3” diameter. The cap fitted over the case in much the same way as it did on the leather original. It came with a long ľ” wide nylon strap.

    At the same time as this case came into the system, the whole telescope and case assembly/unit changed designation and became the ‘TELESCOPE, Straight, cased, L1A1’ with a part number of V5/1240/99/962/2031 and this number is/should be marked near the bottom of the case. Look, don’t ask why it all changed from Telescope Scout Regiment ……….., I just don’t know and don’t even TRY to understand the Army Ordnance system. But this will explain just WHY the list of contents in the top of the L42 chest sometimes reads TELESCOPE, Straight case instead of TELESCOPE, Scout Regt!

    Recently there has been a bit of dispute as to whether these plastic cases are actually original or not. Worry not. They are original. Now, if you have one in your No4T kit, then while it’s ‘original’ it’s not as original as the leather one. But for an L42, it’s ‘original’.

    Now, back to L42’s. The later conversions dated 1980 and 81 especially with the small step where the barrel emerges from under the fore-end, and with a clean machined finish indicating chordal rifling, should be aware that unlike the earlier 70’s conversions, these were linished clean of any markings prior to conversion EXCEPT THE SERIAL NUMBER, according to the specifications. These particular rifles are extremely rare beasts so if you do own one, don’t be too surprised if yours doesn’t have the small ‘S’ or the ‘TR’ etc. One well used example used as a demonstrator at Warminster has clearly been linished clean but just a faint trace of the little ‘S’ is visible that seems to bear this out. Don't forger, a slight step where the barrel protrudes out of the fore-end WITHOUT the hamer forged snakeskin finish is a chordal rifled post 1979-ish barrel"

    PIC courtesy of "Jeff Fenge"
    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    7. Are there people out there who love things still in wrappers? Here is a photo montage of two un-issued 1973 L42A1 scope tins "Telescope Straight Sighting, Cased L1A1". It shows one still sealed in it's packaging and one opened but still with packaging, showing contents included new carry sling. ....... (Feedback by "Valleysniper") Valleysniper's Web Site (click here)

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    8. Guns and Ammo Video Review on the L42A1 ...... (Feedback by "Badger")

    This article was originally published in forum thread: 1971 L42A1 Enfield Sniper Rifle started by Badger View original post
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. broadarrow303's Avatar
      Hi all from NZ

      My L42A1 dated 74 on the action and stamped CR1470 ED 74 and FB358 (batch number) on the barrel has Chordal Rifling. All numbers and stamps for the rifle and scope match which would indicate that chordal rifled barrels were fitted to at least some of the pre 1980 batch L42's. Another collector in Christchurch has an Enfield converted No4 sporter with very similar stamps on its chordal barrel - CR 1470 ED72 FB 351. It would be very helpful if L42A1 and Envoy owners checked out the stamps on their barrels and posted the order number, date, metal batch number and action date on this forum so that we could all get a clearer picture of when and how many of the later batch L42's had chordal barrels fitted.

      Happy to post some pictures of my L42A1 if you want.

      Warning: This is a relatively older thread
      This discussion is older than 360 days. Some information contained in it may no longer be current.
    1. Badger's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by broadarrow303 View Post
      Happy to post some pictures of my L42A1 if you want.

      Hi Graeme ..

      We'd love to see pics of your 1974 L42A1 ...

    1. broadarrow303's Avatar
      Pics ..........

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    1. MrBurns's Avatar
      Hi Graeme, just joined and saw your pics and article- nice job on both! I've got an L42A1 that I'm trying to learn more about, and may try to sell in the near future. I've got sn 21795 on the scope as well as the stock (sn 28853 is struck through just above it, perhaps by the armorer when this was converted?) on the left side of the receiver is stamped L42A1D71. Interesting note: just barely visible on the left side of the band above trigger/guard is M473 (maybe M475) 1943 (maybe 1945, like i said, its faint and 34250. There's also a TR stamped just below that. I was a little worried the bolt wasn't original because it didn't match either number stamped on the wood stock, until I took a peek at this attatchment band and saw that it matched the bolt sn 34250. Haven't taken the forestock off yet to check any barrel markings because I don't know how to do it. Any tips you can forward as to its removal, and I'll try my hand at taking it off. I've been shooting this for years now, and am thinking I might try to sell/swap it for an M1C to replace the one I had stolen years ago. In any case, any information you or anyone else has as to what all the markings mean and what it might be worth would be appreciated. Cheers, Greg
    1. broadarrow303's Avatar
      Hi Greg.

      Sorry for taking so long to reply to your questions. I saw your response on a side bar of Milsurps just a few days ago.

      Your L42A1 was converted from a No4 MkI (T). Check out my article on Milsurps called 'From No4 MkI (T) to L42 A1' Milsurps - From No4 Mk I (T) to L42 AI - Part 1 (by Graeme 'broadarrow303' Barber)

      to find out more about the BSA Shirley produced No4's that were selected for conversion in to snipers rifles by Holland and Holland. I think you will find that the rifle you have was produced at BSA Shirley in 1944. The M47C stamp that might look like M473 or 5 is the war time Code for this factory. Also all No 4 rifles manufactured at BSA in 1944 were in the 30xxx range prefixed by one of the following letters of the alphabet- A,C,F,H,L,M,N,P,Q,R

      Have a closer look at the left side of the butt socket, action or scope mount leg to see if you can see it. As the actions were often machined and refinished and fitted with new furniture some of the No4 (T) marks may be faint.

      With one scope number being replaced with the one that matches you scope this may have been done by an armourer or by someone wanting to return your rifle to sniper configuration. If the number fonts are the same and or the scope number for the first scope is on the leg of the mount this would indicate a stronger chance of the former rather than the latter.

    1. Roger Payne's Avatar
      Hi Graeme,
      I have also seen 1944 BSA rifles with no letter prefix, & with the following letters in addition to the ones you list above: E,G,K. Further, production in the 'R' prefix range seems to have been right at New Year 1944/45, as I have owned/seen some examples that were 44 dated, & some that were 45 dated.

      Only a minor point, but worth mentioning.


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