• BREN Mk1 Carrying Handles (by Peter Laidler)

    The following article is published with the kind permission of Advisory Panel Member, Peter Laidler. Capt. Peter Laidler is the senior Armourer in the UK Military, now retired, but based as a Technical Officer at the UK Military Small Arms School. On behalf of MILSURPS.COM members, we'd like to publicly thank him for his support of this forum, as well the broader Lee Enfield collector community in general.

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    BREN Mk1 Carrying Handles

    By Peter Laidler

    This short article is to show those Bren owners just how we were taught to repair the early Bren carrying handles. As you know, the Mk1 wooden handle was much wider at the front end and protruded out from the left side a bit more than it really needed to. As a result, the front edges got well and truly battered. As apprentices, we were taught how to repair these with the use of wood patching and a bit of lathe work.

    Another method of repair I learned of recently was what I’m going to call ‘the Ishapore’ method. As you’re aware, the motto of the Indian REME must surely be ‘….waste not, want not’ because they don’t seem to waste anything…….and quite right too!

    Here it is, a complete handle assembly as removed from a Bren barrel. This is a Mk1 grip with the distinctly curved female form. To the purist, this grip was paired with a Mk1 barrel but Armourers didn’t bother too much about the niceties, a grip was a grip! What is interesting is the thought that this handle assembly contains 14 individual parts including two springs, two nuts a screw and two pins… phew!

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    But first, I’ve got a bit of a confession to make and it’s this. While we were taught to repair these small and what seem to be cheap replaceable parts from the Bren while we were apprentices, the truth is that out in the real world you’d just replace a broken part with a new one. That’s alright while there are new parts in the system but, as I found out on several occasions, there’s often not a spare part in the system so you just have to get on with it! As is the case with the Bren carrying handles. In our large small-arms workshops, these small broken but repairable parts would all be in a big plastic drum and when there was a bit of a lull, you’d set about a batch of 20 or 30………..

    The next point is that for the moment there are probably loads of these things as bits in the parts kits but that’s not always going to be the case. The next little point is that when, like me, you’re refurbishing a Bren (or anything else similar) as a dewat/deact or just as a desk ornament, there’s something satisfying to see something that has been repaired or restored by a master craftsman. But this time, it’s not a master craftsman, but YOU. It’s a bit like driving that 1968 VW Beetle or 1955 Alice-Chalmers tractor that you restored. Those are the words….YOU restored it.

    Right, here we go, a story in pictures. And don’t forget that after having done these things a million times as apprentices, you can utilize the principle elsewhere. Thanks to KevG from this forum and Adam from WWW for the use of their props.

    A pair of typical well battered and bruised Mk1 carrying handles that we’ll patch repair using two methods for the article. Note also the typical Armourers home-made forked screwdriver to unscrew the two slotted nuts hidden deep inside the carrying handle. If you only had a couple of grips to strip and assemble then you could simply use the forked screwdriver in the Mk1 combination tool BUT BE CAREFUL! The threads are one thousand TPI or thereabouts and if the nut tips or tightens, then remove at once, clean and re-check the thread and start again. Note also, the much smaller diameter Mk2 type grip plate. We’ll be using this soon …………… Are you ready?

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    Here is the handle part, separated from the stem and stripped to show the large and small diameter Mk1 and 2 grip plates and the carrying handle sleeve.

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    This handle is well battered at the large diameter so we’ll replace it by turning it off and leaving a small step. Turn it down to just below the level of the curvature for approx 1” or so, ready to fit……………. The new hardwood end that we’ve roughly machined to overall size plus a bit!

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    There, glued in place made off. There are no dimensions to work to apart from what we Armourers call in technical language ’….the bleedin’ obvious’.

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    Another dire carrying handle saved from the scrap bin with just a half hours work.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Here, in the photos below is what I’m going to call the ‘Ishapore’ method of repairing a needy Bren carrying handle. Notice that this example the handle has been turned down to the diameter of the smaller grip plate and made parallel. If you haven’t got a smaller diameter cupped grip plate, well I don’t suppose anyone would notice if you just turned up a flat plate to the new diameter. Cheap and cheerful………? Yes, but it works as well as anything
    (Click PIC to Enlarge)(Click PIC to Enlarge)

    As I said, there's probably a few spare carrying handles around but it won't always be like this. And there's something about repairing what you've got isn't there?

    Copyright ©2006 - 2009 by Peter Laidler and MILSURPS.COM

    Collector's Comments and Feedback:

    1. Capt. Peter Laidler is the senior Armourer in the UK Military, now retired, but based as a Technical Officer at the UK Military Small Arms School. In addition to being a trained and highly experienced military "Armourer", he has authored two excellent books about the No.4(T) sniper rifles and their No.32 scopes. They are titled "An Armourer's Perspective: .303 No.4(T) Sniper Rifle", which he co-authored with Ian Skennerton and his own dedicated work, "Telescope Sighting No.32".

    If you're really interested in some in-depth learning about the No.4(T) sniper rifles and the No.32 series of scopes, their history, evolution, repair and adjustments for shooting, I'd highly recommend those two books, which are pictured below.
    ....... (Feedback by "Badger")

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    Note: The opinions expressed herein or statements made in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Military Surplus Collectors Forums, or the ownership and moderation group of this site. MILSURPS.COM accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein. Also, please note that neither the author nor MILSURPS.COM recommends that any member of these forums, or a reader of this article, try this type of experimentation without the proper knowledge, equipment and training.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: BREN Mk1 Carrying Handles (by Peter Laidler) started by Badger View original post