The Vault

Bren Magazines and the Charlton Rifle

We see it a lot – folks wanting to convert their Enfield rifle to use 30-round Bren gun magazines. And it’s often a bit difficult to convince them of the complexity of doing so, because they will often point to a photo of a Charlton with what appears to be a Bren mag. Well, the Charltons didn’t use Bren mags, but instead a proprietary mag based on the Bren but with significantly different geometry at the top.

We are fortunate that Gundoc in New Zealand kindly sent us photos of TWO of the (very, very few) existing original Charlton magazines produced in Australia.One is still in its original configuration as made in the factory (which didn’t quite fit the guns) and a second has been fitted to actually run in a New Zealand Charlton:

Bren and Charlton magazine comparison

From left to right,standard Bren magazine, unfinished Charlton magazine made in Australia, and completed Charlton magazine

As I mentioned in the recent post on the Charlton Automatic Rifle, the magazines were subcontracted to an Australia firm that already made Bren magazines. A new stamping die was made so the magazines would fit the significantly shorter Enfield receiver magazine well (note how the bolt hold-open feature of the Bren follower and body has been removed). Converting a Bren magazine into this configuration would definitely be a non-trivial exercise.

The Australian magazines arrived slightly out of spec to fit the Charlton guns, though, and had to be modified. You can see above where the unfinished magazines was ground down where the case shoulder of the top cartridge would be located. The back surface of the magazine also had to be ground down, although that is not visible in the above photo. Whether the magazines arrived from Australia with short rear catches an no front catches, I am not sure.

Charlton Automatic Rifle 30-round magazine details

Charlton Automatic Rifle 30-round magazine details

Thanks for the photos, Gundoc! Aside from the magazines actually in the handful of Charltons in museum collections, this is probably the only surviving example of its kind.

Also, before someone mentions it, some of the Enfield semiauto conversions probably used extended 20-round trench magazines made for WWI use. Since those were made for standard Enfield receivers, they will fit the converted guns without any problem. We have seen a Howell equipped this way, although we don’t know if that was its original configuration or if the mag was added by a private owner.

 

5 comments to Bren Magazines and the Charlton Rifle

  • Keith

    Thanks Ian and Thanks Gundoc.

    If Gundoc is whom I think he is (Doc AV?), I was never less than totally impressed by his knowledge and friendliness when communicating and sharing it over at Practical Machinist forum.

  • Aha! I’ve wondered about that myself in the past. Even went and bought a Bren mag one day to try it, but after noodling a bit on it just couldn’t see how to make it work. It all makes sense now. Good post!

  • Rod

    DocAV is not me (he is in Australia, I am in New Zealand). I have been a gunsmith for the past 43 years and a collector since I was 9 (56 years ago!) The middle magazine is a ‘homemade’ conversion (unfinished) from a Bren mag and was for a Charlton replica. You can see where it has been cut and gas welded in the front feed lip area. The contract magazine is as delivered (except for the file fitting marks) and complete with front and rear lugs. Unlike all Bren mags, the Charlton contract magazines have no markings at all. I met a WW2 Armourer many years ago who had the job of acceptance testing the Charltons for the Army. He said that extended full-auto use would loosen up the friction brake and they would speed up until the bolt head fractured at the back of the stroke. The NZ Home Guard handbook states that they are to be used as a semi-auto only, and only fired full-auto in ‘dire emergency’!

  • Mike

    “Dire Emergency” kinda captures the whole reasoning behind the Charlton. 1942 New Zealand faced such a situation when the Japanese seemed unstoppable and advancing at a rapid pace down the Pacific.

    A historical fact which always seems to be forgotten so easily in modern New Zealand and it’s ” no one would ever want to harm us” so we don’t really need an air force or navy an the UN will protect us anyway, stance?!??

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