• 1907 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) MkI*** Rifle

    1907 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) Mk1*** Rifle
    (Mfg by RSAF Enfield)


    (Click PIC to Enlarge)


    Caliber: ....................... .303 in., Mk VII Ammo
    Rifling & Twist: .............. 5 Groove, Enfield, Left Hand Twist
    Barrel Length: ............... 25.2 in (640 mm)
    Overall Length: ............. 44.5 in (1130 mm)
    Weight: ........................ 8.6 lb. (3.9 kg) (unloaded)
    Magazine Capacity: ....... 10 rounds (magazine loaded)

    Source: ........................ The Lee-Enfield Story by Ian Skennerton (1993) - ISBN: 185367138X

    Canadian Market Value Estimate: $


    1907 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) Mk1*** Rifle

    (132 picture virtual tour)

    Observations: by John Thorne
    Note: Pictures provided courtesy of MILSURPS.COM member ~Angel~


    The Mk. I*** rifles are WW I (circa 1914-15) conversions of SMLE Mk. I and I* rifles, which were originally produced from 1903 until at least 1912. These dates are for government / military production, civilian SMLE Mk. I's were made even later. Practically all of the Mk. I series rifles that were still in Britain in 1914 were so converted. The I*** conversion itself was technically fairly minor, and involved modifications to the sights and ammunition feeding system. Early SMLE's were designed to use the round nosed Mk. II and Mk. VI .303-inch ammunition. The I*** changes updated these rifles for use with spitzer bulleted Mk. VII ammunition (which was itself introduced in 1910). The pointed bullet explains the feed changes, whilst the flatter trajectory of the new round was the reason for the sighting mods.

    After the first world war, most I*** rifles were rebuilt at least one more time. They were then sent out to the territorial units, the colonies, the Republic of Ireland, or were sold off. Some remained in stores and were reused as late as WWII. They often have a fascinating history, and since the Brits kept no records by which we can trace the history of a prticular piece, the markings and various rebuild parts are usually the only way we have to guess at what that history is.



    Collector's Comments and Feedback:

    1. Feedback to ~Angel~ provided by "John Thorne"

    First of all, thank you for the pictures of a very interesting rifle. This one is a lot more fun to look at than the run-of-the-mill ex-Irish Republic Mk. I*** that you commonly see in the US. Plus the huge number of pics gives me so much info to work with.

    Facts first, guesses to follow.

    Your rifle started life as an SMLE Mk. I* made at RSAF Enfield in 1907. The "X989" serial number fits perfectly into the "main sequence" of Mk. I* rifles made by Enfield in 1907 (there were other serial number sequences in use at Enfield at the same time, but that's another story). The fact that the serial number was never changed suggests that your rifle spent its entire working life in the UK.

    It was converted to Mk. I*** at RSAF Enfield in 1914. You can tell that by the inspection mark and date behind the safety.

    The wood is definitely not Australian. It's all English walnut. But it's also not original to the rifle (or most of it anyway).

    The butt stock is an unconverted SMLE Mk. I part, not a Mk. I* butt. The post rear swivel, steel butt plate and the wood inletting are definitive. This butt stock would not have been fitted to a Mk. I*, nor would it have been fitted at the time of conversion to I*** without being updated. It has to be a later addition. Certainly it has seen service in Australia, as the broad-arrow D mark shows, but that does not necessarily mean that the rest of the rifle was attached to it then. The rear sling swivel is not SMLE at all. It's from a Long Lee. Another later addition.

    The rear hand guard is also originally from an SMLE Mk. I, not a I*. Unlike the butt stock, though, it has been updated in the correct fashion for the I*** upgrade. It wasn't original to the rifle it its 1907 configuration, but it could have been added as part of the I*** mods in 1914. The front hand guard is perfect. And rare and valuable as well. It may well have been there since 1907, at any rate it is exactly right.

    The really interesting part is the fore end. It is not from any sort of SMLE Mk. I. It is an EXTREMELY rare piece that started out as a Long Lee fore end, and then was converted for use on one of the SMLE Mk. II series converted rifles. As with the butt stock, this would never have been put on the rifle in 1914, and it is a later addition. Lucky you that it's there, though, it's worth a small fortune all by itself. The nose cap is the correct Mk. I series. As you noted it is serialed to match the fore end. No doubt the two came together.

    The rear sight base is probably original to the conversion. It is an SMLE Mk. I* base that has been re-milled for Mk. VII sighting. The sight itself has also has the I*** conversions. As you will have noticed, the serial number is a few digits off the rifle itself. This is probably the work of WWI unit armourer who was re-sighting his unit's rifles.

    The safety is a Mk. III part with a I/I* banjo spring. Not original to the rifle, but quite what could have been fitted in 1914.

    The mag is a Lithgow converted type 3. Definitely a later addition, as Lithgow didn't even start converting mags until 1917 (Australia continued to use the Mk. VI round until that year).The original mag would have been a type 2, the '14 mag an Enfield converted type 3.

    The magazine cut-off is converted Long Lee of the type used on converted SMLE's and CLLE's. Certainly not original, possible but not likely part of the '14 mods. Original would have been an SMLE type 2, a 1914 replacement a type 4.

    The bolt is from a later Enfield SMLE Mk. III. The cocking piece is another rare bit - unconverted early SMLE Mk. I, and to be precise it's from a Mk. I made by BSA in late 1904. Can't see enough detail to tell whether the charge is a type 1 or 2, but the whole bolt is a built up and later addition. Not part of the 14 mods for sure.

    The dial sight is also unconverted Mk. I. It's an LES, not the LES2 which would have been fitted as part of the I*** conversion. It may have come with the fore end. Not many Mk. II series rifles ever got the sight upgrades (although some did).

    The rifle is "EY" marked on the receiver ring and knox form. This mark indicates that the rifle is not to be fired using ball ammunition, "except in an emergency". There are several reasons why that mark may be there. It may have been inspected and downgraded for safety reasons. Mk. I*** rifles were declared obsolete in 1926, and many perfectly serviceable pieces were downgraded for that reason only. Another possibility is that it was used as a grenade rifle during WWI. Grenade rifles of the first war were marked "EY" because of the additional stress that this caused. In any case, have the rifle checked before you fire it, this is definitely a warning sign.

    So much for what I'm sure about. Now for guesses.

    The "CS439" is probably a rack number.

    It's always difficult with I***'s - they are after all factory bitsers when you get down to it, plus like all early Enfields they saw years of service and went through who know how many rebuilds during their service lives. My best guess, though, is that what you have is a restored rifle. I can't see any way that this mix of parts could ever have been acquired when the rifle was in service, it just doesn't make sense. No armourer would have fitted an LES sight, that butt, or that cocking piece to this rifle. It's easy to see, though, how someone trying to restore a "sporterized" I*** could have assembled these bits together.

    I know that's not what you want to hear, but there is good news too. The restoration is not all that accurate in pedantic detail, but that's mainly because some really rare parts were used in place of the more common correct ones. The butt stock, fore end, cocking piece and dial sight dial sight that you have are all worth more than the correct I*** pieces would be. That fore end alone is worth nearly the price of a "normal" I***. Time for you to do some trading, perhaps? Well. maybe not. No one expects a Mk. I*** to be "all original" - after all they are by definition rebuilds. It's more important, perhaps, that it certainly looks right. All of the wood matches well in color and finish and the whole thing seems to have the right feel and finish. As I understand it you collect in the broad range of Enfields, and if what you want is a nice, solid example of an early SMLE, well that's what you have, and a very presentable one at that.
    .......... (Feedback to ~Angel~ provided by "John Thorne")



    2. The terminology for the new SMLE rifle introduced in 1907 was the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle MkIII. It followed the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle Mk1 which had been introduced in 1903. Both of these were new made rifles. In between them was the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield MkII Cond. This model was a conversion from earlier “Long Lee Enfields” to the current “Short rifle” pattern. There were also subsequent mods to the Mk1 (right up to early WW1) and MkIII (to MkIII*) as well as other conversions which I won’t go into, but suffice to say, Britain had a lot of rifles that were basically the same, but differed in a lot of ways. Because of this a decision was made to standardise the small arms and their nomenclature in 1926. It was decided that all rifles must comply with the latest pattern. It was to become the Rifle, No1 MkIII(*). There is several entries in the “List Of Changes to British war Material” that Ian Skennerton summarised on page 172 of “The Lee Enfield Story”. His notes read…

    The nomenclature of British service small arms and some other equipment was changed and updated on 31st May 1926 so as to simplify the ever-increasing number or marks and such variation in the war material. The List Of Changes announcements, A1536- A1690, run to many pages and an update is also provided in this LoC reference as to the items then classed as being obsolete, obsolescent, omitted from Vocabulary or with any changes in designation, along with the appropriate cross reference paragraphs in previous List of Changes entries.

    Such changes applicable to this study are;

    Rifle, Short, MLE MkIII to Rifle No1 MkIII
    Rifle, Short, MLE MkIII* to Rifle No1 MkIII*
    Rifle D.P., Short, MLE to Rifle No1 D.P.
    Rifle, E.Y. Short, MLE to Rifle No1 E.Y.
    Rifle, Short, .22 RF MkIV to Rifle No2 MkIV*
    Rifle, Magazine, .303-in Patt’ 14:
    MkI Ww/fine adjustment sight to Rifle No3 Mk1*(F)
    MkI* W (T) to Rifle No3 MkI* (T)
    Rifle, Short, .22in RF:
    Sight auxiliary, aperture, MkI to Sight auxiliary, MkI


    The following are listed as being obsolete:

    Rifles, Charger-Loading, MLE
    Rifles, MLE
    Rifles, MLM
    Rifles, Long .22-in RF MkII

    Those rifles omitted from Vocabulary but retained in store for possible future requirements were:

    Rifles, Short, MLE:-
    MarkI
    MarkI*
    MarkI***
    Converted MarkII
    Converted MarkII*
    Converted MarkIV

    You can see from the bottom group that all of these rifle models were NOT to be included in the new Vocabulary. The official book, the “List of Changes to British War Material” makes a point of saying so. They would have continued to be known as their original designations.

    I do feel that for an educational tool, the Milsurp Knowledge Library, potentially, has no equal in range or depth of material. I think it is up to us to try to keep it as factual as possible so as not to knowingly promote misunderstanding or misinformation. .....
    (Feedback by MILSURPS.COM Advisory Panel Member "Son")
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 1907 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) MkI*** Rifle started by Badger View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. 5thBatt's Avatar
      The rear handguard is correct for a Mk1* the early single clip type have the two rivets going across the the guard, the later double clip hand guard have the rivets in-line with the barrel.

      This photo shows a early Mk1 SMLE hand guard, the lefthand rivet can be seen, the rh rivet out of sight on otherside of the guard.




      The bolt looks to be from a earlier1904 EFD Mk1 SMLE.

      S/N from my 1904 Mk1 SMLE made by Enfield.
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