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  1. #1
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    Bitsa or Sleeper

    This recent auction purchase arrived with me "As described" being in unissued condition but with no visible serial number, anywhere. The left hand side of the action shows it as a 1915 Sht LE III and although there are Broad Arrow markings on a lot of the various pieces the barrel is obviously South African. There are BNP proof marks on the barrel but nowhere else and the witness marks would seen to indicate that it did not start life attached to this action. The whole rifle is covered in now dried very hard grease the thing that baffles me is there does not appear to be a single serial number either erased or new anywhere on the rifle. The left hand side of the butt socket appears to show a date of '27 with various inspectors marks that also appear on other metal parts across the rifle. Apart from proof testing it appears to be unfired with only storage marks on the woodwork, the pictures were taken as I stripped the rifle down, whatever it turns out to be it is still a very nice SMLE that is complete and in "As New" condition. My hunch is that it was assembled from NOS parts but a long time ago given the condition of the grease, but I wonder who painted the "3" on the butt, probably a rack number but why??
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    Contributing Member Singer B's Avatar
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    Beautiful rifle. The cocking piece was replaced as it is not correct for a 1915 rifle so I'm going with a "bitsa" but a very nice one!

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    A lot of WW1 Smle were rebuilt immediately after the war, one way or another. My '17 was rebuilt in 1920, being only 3 years old. A 1915 should have the slimmer, almost potbelly, stock most likely with volley sight evidence and definitely a magazine cut off cut. The cut off was omitted during WW1, but returned after the war.

    It looks like you have the same forestock that I do.

  7. #4
    Contributing Member smle addict's Avatar
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    I see copious DOW marks, along with the SA and U/arrow marks. All indicating South African ownership. I know here in the states, back in the early 1990's, a batch of beautiful (like yours) SMLE III's that had been rebuilt in South Africa were imported. Lithgowicon SMLE's were going for $99, and these SA Mk III's were going for $279. I couldnt afford one, but I had the chance to put hands on one. Obviously, I couldn't pull it apart at the gun shop, but I distinctly remember the DOW marks and SA mark on the barrel knox form. This may be one of those South African batched rifles.

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    Yes, it is a lovely rifle, but I suspect a post service non-military assembly. I'm not convinced the body has never had a serial on it - there are traces of largely obliterated markings on the LHS of the receiver ring, just above the (recent) CIP proof mark, so it's possible a serial on the other side of the ring could have been 'lost' prior to a refinish. The rifle also has a JC/N22 No4 butt fitted. I gather No4 butts were acceptable for repurposing on SMLE's late on.............but what military armourer worth his salt would not have notched out the safety recess? And in the era when this would have occurred I very much doubt they would have bothered to modify the butt to take a stock disc. And then there are those bruises on the Knox. A number of the parts exactly as per this rifle were available in quantity some years ago via Charnwood Ordnance. Most were bought up by Terry Abrams when Charnwood packed up - these include the NOS unnumbered bolt bodies, the RSA 1950's NOS barrels, & the late production walnut Enfield woodwork. That doesn't mean that those parts were used specifically on this rifle, but it makes it a possibility.

    It's a lovely looking rifle, but I'd have to get that butt sorted! Will the safety fully engage?
    Last edited by Roger Payne; 08-18-2022 at 12:54 PM.

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  10. #6
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    Hi Roger, yes the safety does engage and it does not foul the butt which is surprising so it will be staying at the moment. I agree with the Charnwood Ordnance theory for the source of the spares but I guess we shall never know who put them all together, once I have cleaned off all of the dried on grease I will pass it on, someone is going to get a very nice range rifle.

  11. #7
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    I would guess "bitsa", as well.

    Nasty marks from the wrong tool on the Knox form.

    It is what it is. Given the spiraling supply vs. demand disparity, it is a case of "get what you can" for a "starter" and keep looking.

    Is what you want is a "practical" rifle? If so, as long as the bore, bedding, headspace and bolt / safety are all to spec, and the woodwork is not too shrunken / distorted / shabby, it does not matter one whit.

    Next challenge, a goodly supply of Mk7 equivalent ball for which the rifle was set up. Non corrosive / erosive preferred.

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    Well they certainly put some horsepower into timing the barrel as evidenced by the bruising on both sides of the knox form edges you can clearly see the radius'ed edge flattened out.

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  14. #9
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    Some goods ones though!
    “There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.”

    Edward Bernays, 1928

    Much changes, much remains the same.

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    Also bears a striking similarity to the bitsas made up from South African spares and flogged by Victoria Trading Company in Vermont in the early 1990's.

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