Introduction to the Deactivated Lee-Enfield Rifle
The Lee-Enfield / Lee Enfield Rifle, also known as the SMLE, is a widely used bolt-action rifle that has been adopted and used by over 46 nations worldwide, with various alterations over the years. It’s popularity and extensive use were influenced by the British and Commonwealth forces. It was the standard rifle of the British army between 1895 and 1957, having been used in WW1 and WW2.
History of the Lee-Enfield Rifle
The Lee-Enfield rifle was developed out of a need for improvements on the previous Lee-Metford (Magazine Rifle Mk. I) and was considered to be a vastly improved version of the German Mauser designs previously adopted by the British Army in 1888. The Lee-Metford used a bolt with rear locking lugs and fired British .303 black powder cartridges. With the switch to cordite, there was increased heat and pressure, which caused the barrel’s rifling to wear away quickly.
A new design was needed. The Royal Small Arms Factory located in Enfield developed a more wear-resistant square-shaped rifling system. It was called the Enfield barrel. Combining it with Lee-Metford bolt-action and adding a 10-round detachable magazine brought about the production of the first Lee-Enfield rifles in 1895.
Caption: Soldier using Lee-Enfield in WW1, source https://www.thoughtco.com/lee-enfield-rifle-2361243
- 1895 – 1926: First Lee-Enfield magazine-fed rifle produced.
- 1899 – The Lee-Enfield rifle was improved for better accuracy and to include charger loading
- 1904 –1926 – The Short Magazine Lee–Enfield Mk I produced
- 1904 – 1927 – The Short Magazine Lee–Enfield Mk II produced
- 1907 – Refinement undertaken, bringing about the Short Lee-Enfield Mk. III. It had simplified rear sights, a modified chamber, and a much-improved charger.
- 1922–1924 – Trial Short Magazine Lee–Enfield Mk V produced (20,000 rifles). They were made to address production issues during wartime and had a cut-down magazine and new aperture sighting system.
- 1930 – Rifle No. 1 Mk VI, 1,025 trial rifles, produced featuring a floating” barrel
- 1941- Rifle No. 4 Mk I mass production.
- 1942–present – Rifle No. 4 Mk I produced.
- 1944–1947 – Rifle No 5 Mk produced
- 1949–present Rifle No. 4 Mk 2 produced
- 1964–current Rifle 7.62 mm 2A produced
- 1965–present Rifle 7.62 mm 2A1 produced
Over the years, the Lee-Enfield has undergone multiple refinements and its derivatives continue to be used in various countries around the world.
What Is Special About the Lee-Enfield Rifle
The Lee-Enfield is one of the most widely sought-after collectable rifles due to its popularity in modern military history. It is a key piece of militaria which not only was used in both World Wars, but is still in use today in countries around the world, including India and Afghanistan.
Not only is the Lee-Enfield a reliable, refined weapon, it was considered the best .303 rifle of the time for making an assured long-range hit. It is still popularly used in ceremonies and also by reserve forces.
Our research at Alpha Militaria has highlighted that deactivated Lee-Enfield rifles are one of the most searched for deactivated guns on the web. In 2019, our research has found the following top-ranking searches for deactivated guns:
- Heckler & Koch MP5
- Bren Light Machine Gun
- Lewis Gun
Alternatives to the Lee-Enfield Rifle
There are many iterations of this popular rifle – from the original Magazine fed Lee-Enfield rifle to the latest revision Rifle No. 4, Mk. 2. If you are thinking of other WW1 rifles, you could consider the French Lebel and Berthier 8mm, the Italian Mannlicher–Carcano M1891 6.5mm, the Russian Mosin–Nagant M1891 7.62 or American Springfield 1903 .30–06. For WW2 rifles, you could consider the American M1 Garand, the Soviet Union PPSh-41or the British Bren Gun (light machine gun).
How much does a deactivated Lee-Enfield Rifle cost?
From our experience, Lee-Enfield Rifles generally range in price from around £450 – £800 depending on the model and condition.
Where can I buy a deactivated Lee-Enfield Rifle?
We sell a range of deactivated guns here at Alpha Militaria, including the popular Lee-Enfield Rifle and many of the alternatives listed on this page. Contact us for more information or if the Rifle you are interested in is not listed.