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Thread: A question for the UK members with cadet knowledge between 1985 and 1990

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    Really Senior Member Frederick303's Avatar
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    A question for the UK members with cadet knowledge between 1985 and 1990

    I have a question for Capt Laidlericon and other UK members who might have been in, or familiar with, the Cadet forces in the period from 1985 to 1990. It is in regards to the removal of the No 4 rifles from the cadet forces in the UK. Prior to posting the specific questions, let me post the relevant prior writings on this topic, so that the questions can be seen in the proper light:

    SURPLUS "ENFIELD" WARNING
    (From The American Rifleman magazine, November 1988, p65)
    The following warning came to us from the United Kingdomicon Liason Office, Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatenny Arsenal, N.J.
    "1. In July 1987 a UK MOD ban was placed on the firing of ball rounds from .303 (cal.) No. 4 rifles in UK service as a result of two explosions which occurred in the chamber area of the weapons and resulted in burst barrels.
    "2. UK MOD investigations found that the barrel explosions were as a result of severe 'craze cracking' of the two barrels which were of indeterminate age and life.
    "3. UK MOD have initiated a study into why some barrels suffer craze cracking and others do not, but results of this are not expected to be complete for some time, and even then might not be conclusive.
    "4. Because, in peace-time, .303 No. 4 rifles are only used in Cadet units, it has been decided that it is not cost-effective to carry out detailed examinations of all barrels, particularly as the cadets are being issued with the new L98A1 Cadet GP Rifle. The firing ban will therefore remain in force.
    "5. Users of the No. 4 rifle worldwide, whether civilian or military, are strongly advised to have the weapons closely examined for signs of craze cracking and condemned accordingly. Thereafter, it is recommended that any barrels which have passed such inspection should be examined regularly for such signs and condemned if necessary."

    NRA magazine comments following:
    “Owners of the .303 No. 4 rifles should certainly heed the advice in the UK safety notice to have them "closely examined" before firing them again. The examination should be conducted, preferably, with the aid of a good optical bore-scope, by an experienced gunsmith who is familiar with the signs of erosion in gun barrels. If there are any signs of roughness from erosion in the barrel immediately ahead of the chamber, or any other visible defects in the barrel or chamber walls, then the barrel should be regarded as suspect and the rifle *should not be fired* until it has been properly fitted with a new barrel. “

    Now a few months later the NRA posted a letter from Edna Parker in this very topic, I seem to recall this letter being posted in the Enfield collectors digest as well. In this letter she said the cause of the problem was that the barrels had seen a great deal of use and were very worn, and that this was not an entirely unknown phenomena, her father Alfred J Parker having seen this on rifles in Cadet forces in the pre 1964 Era. I do not recall the specifics of her letter in any more detail then that, but they were a confirmation of the original posting.
    Now some years later when Major Kim Williams (NZicon Army Ordnance ) was alive I corresponded with him on this topic, back prior to having read Capt Laidlers comments on this topic. I seem to recall it was around 2002, my notes are not dated from that period so it could have been anytime between late 1998 and 2003. He said that the ban was not enforced on the Cadets until 1990, at least that was his recollection, though he indicated that might have been the first year he was aware of it, as he was at Bisley that year (1990). Now my correspondence was on the service life of the barrel and he indicated the 12,000 round barrel life of the No 4 was not an exaggeration, at least for service level accuracy, as long as cordite cartridges were used. He gave me some understanding as to why the cordite cartridges would give such good life for so long, indeed some of the winning rifles of the historic LERA matches in the UK during this period (2002~2004) had barrels that would be condemned according to strict ordnance measurements of said barrel. Having had a chance to look at some very worn barrels and shoot same at short range, the explanations seem to be consistent with what I have myself observed.

    Again, form the notes of this period all indications were the 1987 warning did in fact pertain to barrels that had craze cracking and had indeed had in excess of 12,000 rounds through them. The high round counts was the fundamental problem that lead to the failures.

    Now a few years ago Capt Laider put out comments that this was not the cause of the removal of the Cadet rifles or the issued warning, it was misuse of the rifles. Rather then put words into his mouth, here are his posts regarding these incidents:

    1)
    “It was one fired without the bolt head and the other was an RAF style DP that has a big hole bored down through the top of the rear handguard, the barrel and then right through the fore-end so you can actually see right through the rifle so to speak. This large diameter hole is an inch or so in front of the knox form and is a good clue that all would not be well should the rifle be fired.

    All was not well when it was fired.........................!”


    2)
    “The Board of Enquiry after the event found out what happened and it was this. The rifles that were 'live' were taken onto the firing point and a couple of other 'live - serviceable' rifles were at the back of the firing point together with a few DP rifles, used for what we call 'background activity' One of the rifles on the firing point wouldn't fire so the instructor stood behind the firer took it off him, cleared it and shouted to one of the Cadet NCO's at the rear.... 'bring me another rifle over.....' which he did.

    What neither of them did was to check that the 'new' rifle was serviceable....., and in this case, it wasn't because it had a xxxxing big hole through the barrel, top to bottom. BUT, the BOLT was serviceable, unlike the bolt in the rifle that had failed to fire. Already, you can see that this isn't a good mix. As we say, it's an accident just waiting to happen. And the first round it fired WAS an accident where the Cadet lost a couple of fingers. They are still in orbit around the sun!

    The Board of Enquiry established that prior to the actual shooting, half the group had sat around in a circle and started to clean the rifles and bolts while the other half had filled some Bren magazines and cleaned/oiled the bren guns. Then they changed over and the Bren filling half finished off cleaning and oiling the rifles and asembled them.

    Unfortunately, due to 'lack of adult supervision', a DP bolt with a welded up bolt face and therefore no striker protrusion was placed into a service rifle. This rifle wouldn't fire. But because of this, a DP rifle went onto the firing point with a serviceable bolt and fired.

    There's two threads to this story 1) think hard before you invade Russiaicon and 2) check your rifle before you shoot it.

    Anyway, humour aside, I think they saved the lads badly mangled fingers but they are badly disfigured.

    After that an urgent signal went out to rapidly convert the RAF spec DP rifles to the current L59 specification that are safe. I bet you wonder how I know this don't you......................?”

    His postings on the failure rifles was 1)It was fired with no bolt head, 2) the barrel had a hole drilled through it, in both cases it was not a case of worn barrels leading to the recall of these rifles out of the Cadet forces.

    Hence it seems we have two different narratives.



    Now as to my questions:

    1) What year were the rifles formerly pulled out of use by the cadets? Was it 1987, 1990 or later? I refer to the use of the .303 No 4 rifles for competitive use, not drill or the .22 variations.

    2) Was there ever any sort of problem with the barrel wear? I ask as there seems to be conflicting accounts of if the rifles were inspected yearly or not.

    3) If there was not any issue (i.e. rifles/barrels were replaced as needed), how did the warning, quoted directly above get out and why was it so specific as to the exact cause of the failure?

    4) Were there possibly other incidents related to barrel wear other then the 2 noted by Capt. Laidler above?

    5) Having looked at and shot some very worn barrels, some that were virtually smoothbore, I have noted that other then the throat the bores were very smooth, Cordite wear that is not exacerbated by rust seems to leave a fairly smooth bore/grooves. Has anyone seen rough wear like that described as “craze cracking”? If so is this phenomena caused by firing or lack of care (my notes with Maj. Kim Williams seem to imply that rounds alone would not degrade a barrel to the failure point in the absence of some maintenance failure.)

    Thanks to anyone who can explain these seeming divergent points of view, most particularly Capt. Laider. Not looking to challenge anyone but for the most detailed information possible.

    Thanks in advance.

    Frederick303

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    Advisory Panel Surpmil's Avatar
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    I think you've answered the questions in your post. It was a case of ignorance and inattention, sometimes referred to as (criminal) negligence.

    It seems to suit some agendas, particularly in the UKicon, to pretend that the No.4 is unsafe, especially in 7.62mm. Use was made of this collective copulation and the report thereon for that purpose. There was a thread about this a few years back which you can probably find if you search for it.
    "Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns." W. S. Gilbert.

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    Really Senior Member HOOKED ON HISTORY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surpmil View Post
    I think you've answered the questions in your post. It was a case of ignorance and inattention, sometimes referred to as (criminal) negligence.

    It seems to suit some agendas, particularly in the UKicon, to pretend that the No.4 is unsafe, especially in 7.62mm. Use was made of this collective copulation and the report thereon for that purpose. There was a thread about this a few years back which you can probably find if you search for it.

    More Bad Press For The Enfield Is this the link you are refering to?

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    Advisory Panel Surpmil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HOOKED ON HISTORY View Post
    More Bad Press For The Enfield Is this the link you are refering to?
    The very same. Thank you.
    "Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns." W. S. Gilbert.

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    Really Senior Member newcastle's Avatar
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    In 1985 we were still using No.4 in the north yorkshire cadets in guisborough. The barrels we practically smoothbore I recall, but were accurate enough to shoot at 100 yards.

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    Peter Laidler's Avatar
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    You can rest assured Newcastle that while your barrels might have LOOKED smooth, they were inspected and gauged annually by the REME Inspection team and certified, in writing, as being in perfectly serviceable condition. Even the DP's would have been inspected too! Even today, your No8's are still subject to the same rigorous criteria

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    My recollection is that by 1987, most if not all the No.4s we held were Mk.2s and virtually all in the PFnnnnn series. Rifles were certainly inspected annually by a touring REME team, in our case from Mill Hill (an event that we had to prepare for with intensive cleaning sessions) and I got the impression that any remaining Mk.1 and Mk.1*s were condemned for the slightest defect, presumably to purge them from the system. Certainly, the consequence was some messy evenings unpacking and de-greasing the replacements.
    (By the way, does anyone know the official title of that yellow fabric grease-proof preservative wrapping material that was used to pack rifles and parts?)

    So, by the time that this prohibition was issued, it is likely that only post-war manufactured No.4s were being used for firing ball by the cadets.
    In fact, by 1987, replacement by the L98A1 was expected "imminently" and ours were all changed out for Enfield 1987 manufactured L98s about 1990.
    For competition shooting the Parker Hale L81 was issued but that's another long and sorry tale.

    .303 ball issued to cadets in the 1970/80s was the last dregs of RG or Royal Laboratories Mk.7 from the 1950s. Radway Green manufactured a run of Mk 7Z in 1973 (which was notoriously innacurate) and we also received supplies of RG 61 Mk.7Z in 30 Rnd boxes still in sections of fabric Vickers belts where the RAOC had cut them up and re-packaged it (I've still got one of the cardboard boxes).

    We also received issues of Greek HXP ball dated 1975 and 1985 which was generally very good (however HXP .303 blank was sometimes extremely variable - you never knew if you would get a really good bang or a phut!)
    It may well be that the 1987 No.4 firing ban was the reason that all the HXP ball later appeared on the surplus market. We could only put so much through our two Brens that were not subject to the ban.

    I never heard at the time that the real reason for the reported accidents was bad drills rather than weapon failure but it does perhaps explain why our No.4 DP rifles were withdrawn and replaced by the much more extensively modified L59 version. At the time we were told that the upgrade was for security reasons.
    Last edited by RossM10; 04-18-2012 at 10:35 AM.

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    Really Senior Member Frederick303's Avatar
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    Thread Starter
    RossM10

    Thank you for your comments.

    Was the ban on firing No 4 Rifles enforced between 1987 and 1990?

    If you would, could you give your impressions of the L81A1. I have a slight interest in that arm. The more info the better.

    regards

    Frederick303

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    Was there ever actually a ban on UKicon cadets firing the No4? If so, is the reason actually documented and is it anything to do with the rifle itself? I ask, because in the UK nanny state of the 90s onwards, things get "banned" simply because the politically-correct elite don't like them, or because of institutional cowardice over "health and safety". E.g. it wouldn't surprise me that a shooting ban was in place because of a topical news story about (unrelated) gun crime/accident, or because someone thought kids shouldn't be exposed to nitro fumes....

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    You're right TBox. There was NO ban at all. If there was it will be recorded on ACI's The huge batches of RG and RL (that were issued along with HXP) weren't exactly the last dregs. That's a bit unfair to call it dregs! That and the belted .303 came from the HUGE Ordnance stocks at Bracht in Germanyicon and kept the Cadet forces going for many years.

    The yellow greased cloth impregnated paper stuff is called 'FABRICON'

    The vast amounts of blue nosed bulletted blank was also brought back from germany too

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