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Thread: Enigmatic markings on a Metford Mk1* Volunteer/Lee Speed

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  1. #11
    Really Senior Member englishman_ca's Avatar
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    Good pics. They tell me a lot. Now this is all off the top of my head without referring to notes or my library so I might be out a bit or have some near misses.

    The front sight is mounted onto the replacement barrel, yes? It belongs to the replacement? It appears to be a solid ramp, so not a converted Lewes.

    The base not having any calibration on its side is strange. I can't comment because I have seen so few commercial rifles. None of them were unmarked like this one without any yardage shown. I would have expected it to have 200/300 on the left hand side.
    But being a commercial arm, it was not made to a sealed pattern, so comparing it to features on martial rifles is a minefield. with commercial, all bets are off.

    The rear sight base still has its Lewes sighting ramps. The leaf I believe sighted for 1600 yards is the original Lewes leaf calibrated for the black powder cartridge with a replacement leaf cap. The leaf cap and leaf slider with the low cut V is correct, not a hand file modification, in as much that I have seen exactly the same V notches on other commercial Mk.I* rifles.

    I ask about the volley arm pivot because if the rifle originally had provision for a safety catch as some early Mk.I rifles did, when the catch was removed from production, the void was filled with a little turned spacer that was a press fit into the machined inlet and presented a flat end shaft on which to mount the volley arm. Later production did not have the inlets machined so no need for such a blanking spacer. The body was changed in production to have a threaded hole for a screw in volley pivot. So a slot in the shaft end tells me that this body is late Mk.I or Mk.I* style.

    The cocking piece has provision for the safety, so yes, it is Mk.I style.

    The fore end also is cut for a Mk.I with safety. There is a scallop in the wood behind the rear volley arm to allow the safety lever to be hooked by the finger and flicked on. The fore stock is likely a replacement taken from from an earlier rifle. Any inspector stamps or military markings in the barrel channel? It is a nice matching walnut to that of the butt stock and hand guard, maybe they came from another rifle together as a set?

    I ask about markings on the butt tang looking for factory mark or inspector stamp. Just wondering if the butt plate is commercial or military.

    The trigger guard not having inspector mark on the underside of the bow suggests commercial, so could be well original to the receiver. I thought it to be a replacement but have since changed my mind. I was looking at the right side just above the mag release at the wood line. If you look at the RIA example, there is a small hole drilled, just peeking out from under the wood. This is early production, the function of the hole is bit of an unknown. It is a legacy from earlier prototypes perhaps. It disappeared from production by 1891. Without the hole would be the one I would expect to see with this receiver as now it has been determined that the receiver is not early production.

    So what does all this mean? I haven't a clue. But I can say that the rifle is assembled from parts from different rifles commercial and martial.
    There are others who have more experience with these. I am good with military marked rifles, but the commercial versions or volunteer pattern rifles are new territory for me.

    My OCD will keep me looking at the pics for a while. I'll let you know if I find anything else.Somebody might be able piece the clues together.
    Last edited by englishman_ca; 05-31-2020 at 05:23 PM. Reason: speling and gramma

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  4. #12
    Member Madzi's Avatar
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    Excellent - thanks Englishman_ca! I had also previously been inclined to think that the foreend and the butt were from the same rifle - does seem to be the same wood grain. Going back to one of Rob's previous posts, I'm wondering if there wasn't a botched burn job on the original rifle after capture, or similar extreme damage (or carving) to the woodwork, but the base rifle was left intact, so was a recipient of wood from the out-of-service North Staffs rifle. along with the barrel bands etc? Had the wood off the rifle quite recently, and didn't note any marks in the channel.

    Both the front and rear sights came off the original barrel and went onto the new one, so defo originals there - or certainly for a good few decades prior to the 1970s. The lack of range markings - for the moment with you thinking that it was normal for the commercials as well, I'm going to run with this being one of the rushed jobs that BSA did to meet the deadline for the Britishicon South Africa Company order, so cut corners on the range markings. Definitely hasn't got the hole near the mag well on my one that you described on the RIA one.



    I managed to get a torch at the right angle on those previously unintelligible markings on the lug plate - they are military - a very faint WD acceptance up top, and a crown 57 above an E. Hope you can see it in the attached photo. Pretty sure that would have been from the replacement furniture - would that have been an individual inspector's mark?

    One other thing that I've remembered from the original barrel - and I need to find out if it is still in Sarony's workshop to see if I can get a photograph - I'm certain there was a prominant V stamped on the nocks form. (No doubt Volunteer pattern)
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    Last edited by Madzi; 06-01-2020 at 04:40 PM. Reason: Punctuation

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  6. #13
    Really Senior Member englishman_ca's Avatar
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    Each factory inspector had their own unique crowned witness stamp for military contracts. A factory designator and an inspector number. No record of names against numbers exists that I know of. If there was it would be interesting to read.

    The V marking on the old barrel to which you refer will probably be a mark of a V in a circle on right hand side of of the barrel reinforce and an E in a circle on the left hand side?
    Found only on commercial barrels, the meaning of these two markings is still up for debate. I know of collectors who have been actively researching these marks for years and each have come to a dead end.

    The rifle is a bitzer, possibly only the receiver is left of the original rifle. Typical of a rifle that has been well maintained and repaired to keep it in serviceable condition.

    I would take one like this over a 'factory original' (no such thing for a used and maintained service rifle). It has a story to tell.

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