Australian Experimental Jungle Carbines at James D Julia

In 1943, experimentation began in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia into developing a shortened and lightened version of the Lee Enfield rifle. In Australia, the work was done on the No1 Mk3* rifle, as the Lithgow Arsenal had never switched over to production of the No4 rifle.

We have three experimental prototype carbines from Lithgow to look at today. The first is simply a shortened SMLE, with no serious effort given to reducing weight. This rifle is visually very similar to the commercial SMLE “Jungle Carbines” marketed by a number of companies, although the real one here has several features missing form the commercial copies – most notably a simple rear aperture sight.

The other two are examples of the two types of rifle that were ultimately considered for formal adoption (and a large order for one was actually placed, before being cancelled at the end of WW2). These are designated the No6 Mk1 (with a rear aperture sight) and the No6 Mk1/1 (with a rear tangent sight). Approximately 100 of each were made, half with brass buttplates and half with rubber recoil pads. In this form, slightly more than a pound was removed from the standard SMLE, and the reduced length did make for a handier rifle. The Australian need for this type of carbine was removed with the end of the war, although in Great Britain the No5 Mk1 carbine – the same in practical terms as these Australian examples – would be taken into formal service for several years.

6 Comments

  1. The simplified apperature sight seams the most practical of the lot. The best option for them at that point in time might have been “buying” a few hundred thousand US M1Carbines for jungle terrain. Build a section around the Bren LMG, one or two designated riflemen with SMLEs, and the balance armed with carbines. Including Grenadiers, the carbine could cycle without modification with the grenade throwing ammunition.

  2. I wouldn’t to get that shortened SMLE. Nifty carbine, with that simple rear aperture sight. Lithgow made some of the best SMLEs, with above average fit and finish.

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