Short, Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE)


Lee-Enfield No1 MkIII (SMLE) cut-a-way. Images courtesy of John Sukey

The proper names and locations of some of the SMLE's main parts.Image courtesy of Richard Loweth

This cut-away of an Australian Lithgow No1 MkIII* illustrates the rifle's trigger, sear, sear bent, recoil lugs (brass plate above trigger/behind magazine only one of two is seen) and magazine loaded with training rounds. The brass recoil lugs are found only on Lithgow made rifles, English made SMLE's fitted the wood fore-end directly to the receiver with no metal plates.

The rifle's manufacturer, date of assembly and its Mark can be found on the right side of the buttsocket (located under the closed bolt handle). Illustrated is the buttsocket marking of an Enfield made Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield MkIII manufactured in 1909

A "peddled scheme" rifle can be recognized by its marking located at the left rear of the receiver body. Or by the lack of a Small Arms Factory stamping on the buttsocket. Listed above left to right “Standard Small Arms”, “National Rifle Factory” and a buttsocket that does not have a factory name listed below the Crown and cipher, indicating it is a peddled scheme rifle.

Magazine Cut-off

Magazine Cut-off

The magazine cut-off was a device that separated the cartridges loaded in the magazine from the bolt/receiver, preventing the bolt from picking up a cartridge and feeding it into the chamber when the bolt was cycled closed.

There is lots of speculation about the purpose of the magazine cut-off, whether it was a safety device, a single loading device and so on. Below, in italics, is an excerpt from the British Musketry Reg’s of one time detailing the purpose of the magazine cut-off.

Musketry Regulations Section 53 Para's 264 and 265 264. Troops armed with rifles fitted with safety catches will invariably set the catch to safety before movement. The use of the cut-off is to be confined in their case to occasions when they are not actually engaged with the enemy, when it may be employed for the purpose either of charging the magazine without inserting a cartridge in the chamber, or to unload the rifle while retaining cartridges in the magazine. It is never to be used to enable the rifle to be used as a single loader, and is not to supersede the use of the safety catch. 265. In the case of rifles which have no safety catches, the cut-off will be pressed in and the rifle unloaded on all occasions.

The other most quoted purpose of the magazine cut-off was to separate the 10 rounds loaded in the magazine for reserve or emergency use. Basically converting the rifle to a single loader until an order was given to open the cut-off for rapid fire, such as when a unit may be surprised by a cavalry charge etc. This purpose is based on the old school tradition of volley firing where troops were seldom allowed to fire-at-will. Fire discipline was rigidly controlled by a senior NCO or Officer at almost all times.

Windage Adjustment Knob

Caution should be exercised if one of these sights is encountered, as one of the official modifications was to pin the sight so that it could not be adjusted. If the knob is forced, this small pin will break. Not a good thing. Photo courtesy of Richard Loweth Pictured below are images of the long range volley sights that were present on SMLE's until their official deletion in 1915/1916. The intent of these sight were to allow British platoons or company's to engage the enemy at a great distance up to 2800-2900 yards. This was not intended to be used as a precise aiming tool. It's effect was to concentrate the fire of a whole platoon or company on a single area, much like machine gun fire does today. Actually, it was the invention of the machine gun that rendered the volley sight system obsolete and it is why they were removed. Though SMLE's can still be found with the sights still intact. Images courtesy of Lewis Maynard

Front Dial Sight

Rear Volley Sight Iris>

Knowledge Library Entry - 1903 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) Mk1 Rifle (Mfg by LSA - London Small Arms)

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

Knowledge Library Entry - 1917 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) No.1 MkIII* (Mfg by BSA - Birmingham Small Arms)

Knowledge Library Entry - Shortened No. 1 Mk III* Rifle

Knowledge Library Entry - “Khyber Pass” Lee-Enfield No.I Mk.III* Rifle

Knowledge Library Entry - 1912 No.1 MkIII Enfield Rifle (Battle Damaged)

Knowledge Library Entry - 1916 ShtLE (Short Lee-Enfield) No.1 MkIII* Sniper Rifle c/w Winchester A5 (5 Power) Offset Scope

Warpath Vintage