British 1942 Prototype Simplified…Enfield?

This rifle sold for $5,750 at Rock Island on December 1, 2018.

In 1942, the British government instituted a development program to design a new simplified rifle to replace the No4 MkI Lee Enfield. The CSAD (Central Small Arms Department) came up with a design using a quite simple receiver machined form a small steel billet. It was a rifle wholly distinct form the Enfield, although both were chambered for the .303 British cartridge. The simplified rifle used a front-locking bolt, a simplified cocking piece, and had a magazine holding just 6 rounds. The sights were a simple 300/600 yard rear aperture, and a crude spike bayonet could be fitted either forward for use or rearward for storage.
The project never got as far as serial production, or even field trials as far as I can tell, and only a handful of prototypes were made.

45 Comments

  1. It may have been prototyped in 1942, but I suspect that it was most likely an “emergency” design that dated to 1940, when invasion was considered a viable threat.

    Note that the flipover-type rear sight also appeared on one production variant of the No. 4 rifle. It was not liked by the troops, and was soon superseded by a more orthodox adjustable rear peepsight.

    The reason for the “peeps” is obvious; they could be made with appropriate drill bits, and then polished a bit- a notch rear sight would require milling.

    It’s interesting to note that the bolt is more-or-less a straight Mauser type, complete with non-rotating extractor. This may or may not indicate controlled-feed; Ruger Model 77 rifles, for instance, have a similar extractor but are considered “push-feed” types.

    The overall resemblance to the later rifle No.5 aka “Jungle Carbine” is noteworthy. I would expect this “lightweight” rifle to equal the 5 in recoil. Far from a skeletonized stock, a rubber butt-pad might be in order.

    cheers

    eon

      • While Enfield moved to improve the quality of the No. 4 Mk.I manually operated turn-bolt service rifle, the Design Department also developed prototypes of substitute standard “Simplified rifles.” As aforementioned, the rifle crisis led to purchase of U.S. WWI-era rifles in .30-06 caliber for the HG, and all .303” caliber rifles thus freed up went to the reconstitution and expansion of the regular army. Engineers created even more radically simplified alternatives to the service rifle. If the BESAL promised a cheaper LMG than the Bren, one that could be built in dispersed workshops or factories that had never previously produced small arms, so too the substitute standard rifle. While details are scanty and limited to a few prototypes, the simplified rifle appeared in a couple differing versions. The long serving if also outdated, rimmed .303/7.7mm service cartridge had to be retained simply because the midst of wartime was hardly the opportune moment to consider a change to a rimless cartridge. It had been tentatively slated for replacement before WWI, but the outbreak of war had removed such plans from consideration. The first simplified rifle version resembled nothing so much as the French MAS Mle. 1936 7.5mm bolt action service rifle, which France had belatedly adopted just before WWII broke out, and was therefore unavailable in any great numbers for the French army equipped with no less than seven different models, requiring logistic circumlocutions akin to those of the UK. The action of the prototype British rifle started from a greatly simplified Rifle No. 3—the U.S.-made Pattern 14 then being moved from Home Guard to regular army use—with a simpler turned down bolt handle and its modified Mauser action as the basis. It had a slab-sided, angular receiver and fixed five-round magazine loaded through the top of the open action with standard chargers. A sheet metal trigger used a simple trigger-block push button safety to prevent the trigger from being pulled. The trigger guard, like the trigger itself, was a simple metal stamping. So too stamped metal fabrication composed the sides and floor plate of the rudimentary magazine. The rear sights consisted of a flip-over L-shaped piece of metal with double apertures. One, for most infantry engagements, was set at 300 yards. The long-range sight went to 600 yards. The rear sight unit also formed the slot for the charger or stripper clip to fill the magazine through the open action. Where the French MAS 36 service rifle employed a spike “knitting needle” bayonet housed in a tube under the barrel, and Soviet practice called for keeping an archaic spiked socket bayonet almost always fixed to the muzzle of the long-serving if ponderous 1891/30 Mosin-Nagant rifle, the simplified rifle used a short socket bayonet fixed to the muzzle, either reversed and facing backwards, or turned around and extended. The three-piece wood stock furniture could include an SMLE rear stock, with a two-piece front stock and upper hand guard secured around the mostly exposed barrel by a simple band with the front sling swivel. Another variant employed a bent piece of metal as the stock, with a pair of wood blocks screwed to either side. This allowed for a crude stock comb for cheek-weld by the firer, and a grip for the firing hand. The hollow space between the blocks was sealed from the rear by a metal plate, secured by a simple spring latch within the bent metal stock. The pull-through and other cleaning equipment could thus be stashed within, just as the No.1 SMLE had a port in the butt plate for the tool kit to service the weapon. The latter metal skeleton stock bears strong similarities with that of the initial Sten gun model, and also some proposed stocks to convert aerial Lewis guns into infantry weapons. The principal purpose appeared to be to conserve wood, which was in short supply, and to allow smaller pieces than normally required at that time to build stock furniture. Again like the Besal, and while details remain sketchy, and a fuller treatment of these projects has yet to be researched, such substitute standard simplified rifles appear to have been shelved in 1942. By that time, while Churchill and other UK officials remained concerned about the collapse of the USSR, reeling from sustained defeats of yet another iteration of the Red Army after the destruction of much of the first the previous year. Having escaped the September 1940 operational deadline for Seelöwe, and seen Hitler turn his gaze to the USSR for Barbarossa in June 1941, fears remained that Soviet defeat would surely result afterwards in German invasion. Nonetheless, by then production levels of weapons of all kinds, the Lend Lease agreements, and U.S. entry into the war after 9 Dec. 1941 led to the cancellation of further planning.

    • “it was most likely an “emergency” design that dated to 1940, when invasion was considered a viable threat.”
      How it would compare price-wise to STEN Mk III?

      • It’s not so much the price comparison you have to look at as the tactical role.

        British doctrine of the time was based on the infantryman’s rifle providing the squad base of fire, not so much due to rate of fire as range capability. As the Red Army found out, a unit armed entirely with SMGs is highly effective in the assault at ranges under 150 meters, but for defensive situations range capability over 200 meters is a good thing to have.

        Even the Wehrmacht only issued MP38/40s on a one or two per ten-man squad basis, contrary to Hollywood. And they regarded the GPMG as the section’s primary killing tool, with everybody else there to support it by covering the MG team’s flanks and rear- not to mention helping hump the belted/drum-cased ammunition.

        Note that even the Luftwaffe’s Fallschirmjäger sections were armed mainly with the Kar98k bolt-action, until the FG42 and the MKb42 family showed up. And even then, the FG42 usually replaced the previously-issued ZB26 LMG, or supplemented it at one per section replacing one Kar98, and the MKb42/MP43/StG44 were never available in the numbers the paras would have liked.

        I would suspect that the mix in an LDV/Home Guard ten-man section using these rifles would have been seven riflemen, the two-man LMG team (Besal, perhaps?), and the only machine carbine being in the hands of the NCO. The two MG gunners would probably have revolvers, simply due to weight factors.

        Note that with six-round magazines, this cuts the section rifle firepower by 40% vs. the SMLE or No. 4, but still 25% greater than a Wehrmacht section with Kar 98ks.

        Just watch out for that MG34 team.

        cheers

        eon

  2. Matt Moss’ article has the details, featuring our two rifles PR.6013 and PR.6014, produced to design drawings DD(E)3096:

    http://www.historicalfirearms.info/post/151629437091/simplified-rifles-born-of-the-desperate-times

    Also appears in Tony Edwards’ presentation for HBSA on the No.4 & No.5 rifles – this pattern appears as ‘Type 1’, Type 2 being a version with skeletonised butt-stock.

    https://www.slideshare.net/tcattermole/british-army-lee-enfield-no4-and-no5-rifles

    Some more info from IWM;

    https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30032186

  3. This is probably first Enfield rifle I like based on looks and design rationale. As Ian mentioned, those small wood fills are superfluous and gun would look well without them. It kind of resembles MAS36 rifle.

    • I agree. Hindsight is always 20/20… But just imagine if this had been available in October 1939 instead of the No. 4. I think that is where the French were going with the “last bolt gun” MAS36, adopted just after the German K98k (1935, even as radical intermediate-cartridge prototypes were out by German designers), and well before the 1941/42 version of the venerable 1891/30 vintovka and the 1943 introduction of Model 1944 Mosin carbines with permanently attached bayonets!

      • I have seen on range recently the last “vintovka” (short version) you mentioned, made in Hungary in 1956. The fellow who brought it in was practising for friendly match with other guys equipped mostly with Enfields (as he told us).

        To my surprise, it was well made and he scored at 100 yards pretty good with it, with plain mechanical sights. But boy, that bark from it was heard!

    • Although the heritage of the Pattern 14/ U.S. Model 1917 results in a cock-on-closing bolt action and front mounted locking lugs. The MAS36 of course has rear mounted locking lugs, apparently to shorten the throw of the manually-operated bolt and to improve reliability in muddy conditions, and uses the admirably robust cock-on-opening action of the Japanese T38 Arisaka. Of course the “last bolt gun” attribute also ignores the T99 adoption by the IJA and IJN since it merely re-used the earlier 1905 bolt design.

      • “Of course the “last bolt gun” attribute also ignores the T99 adoption by the IJA and IJN since it merely re-used the earlier 1905 bolt design.”
        Wait, what about the MADSEN Lightweight Military Rifle? According to
        http://modernfirearms.net/en/military-rifles/bolt-action-rifles/denmark-bolt-action-rifles/madsen-m1947-eng/
        [it] is often called ‘the last military bolt action rifle’, as it was designed and manufactured when bolt-action rifles finally became obsolete as standard military rifles.

        • What about it? Who bought it? Not even Denmark. The Colombian navy. And soon after, the surplus was sold in the United States, where it was purchased by some police departments. That’s about it. If one consults the English-language firearms history literature, the French MAS 36 is almost universally so described.

          • “What about it? Who bought it? Not even Denmark. The Colombian navy.”
            So answer one question: was it officially adopted or was it not? If first I consider this rifle to be last military bolt-action rifle and your “English-language firearms history literature” claiming MAS 36 to be one to be no more than hoax makers. If second I might accept that MAS 36 hold that title, nonetheless I do not roose ignoring existing entities if they do not fit given hypothesis.

          • I agree, Daweo. The pseudo-expertise of much English-language gun literature is precisely the “hoax” or erroneous info source I am criticizing here.

            You are technically correct about the Danish syndikat Madsen .30-06 rifle being a) a totally new design, albeit with attributes from others (what rifle doesn’t?), and b) technically adopted insofar as the Colombian Navy apparently purchased some–the makers did inscribe them with la marina de Colombia markings–and even if they are so utterly pristine that they could simply never have been issued in a nation lying squarely in the tropics and with a rather humid Caribbean and Pacific coastline, they were at least built. Non-starter in a world awash with WWII-vintage small arms, of course.

      • IMO and partly based on my experience, there is a virtue in rear bolt locking. Not just because it (according to some opinions) may add to inherent accuracy, but for another simple reason: it makes chamber cleaning and inspection lot easier.

    • Or a tent stake! Or maybe a rear-area extemporized sausage spit or field-expedient candle-holder! Ha!

      At least it could be entirely un-attached and tossed away…

      • Perhaps a PROPER knife bayonet should have been crafted, so that soldiers could have utility knives that doubled as bayonets when needed (killing two birds with one stone, so to speak). There is a good reason why the earlier American rod bayonet was a failure. I really don’t trust folding bayonets too much when they’re used for any attack that isn’t a direct jab to the victim’s vital organs.

        • I am not sure if this is reserved to Slavic nations (at least this case proves otherwise), but the fact is that their bayonets were attached (in CSL military after 1950) permanently to their rifles. There are stories I heard when soldiers used bayonets during feuds. In pre-war army bayonet was part of out-of-base attire.

          • During my service we had bayonets, together with rifles stored in stands located near the serving sentry’s desk, secured with cable and lock pulled thru trigger guards. Often the weapons were behind sliding gate/ enclosure.

          • Regarding Soviet Union and Mosin rifles: it is normally always attached as removing it would influence place where bullets actually will go. Thus if you want to use it without rather than with bayonet you need to adjust sights.

          • Difference in point of impact at rifles with or without bayonet is intriguing. We were shooting vz.58 assault carbines always with bayonet fixed. It makes sense since greater weight up front should make muzzle more stable.

          • “intriguing”
            While I do not have definitive answer why it is that way, please also notice that looong bayonet for Mosin rifle, is not very hand to be carried detached from rifle. Anyway Russian wikipedia query: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%92%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BA%D0%B0_%D0%9C%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0#%D0%A8%D1%82%D1%8B%D0%BA says:
            If you take rifle adjusted for firing with bayonet and will remove bayonet, average point of impact at range=100 m will wander 6…8 cm to left and 8…10 cm to bottom.

          • One kinda funny, kinda ironic theory goes, that it is a great show of “trust” the russian government had into its conscripts, because by fixing the bayonets to rifles soldiers could not “lose them”, like sold them for booze or similar stuff.

        • Daweo;

          The “simplified” No. 4 with the two-position flipover rear sight had similar issues. In fact, the manual for it stated that the rifleman was to fix or remove the spike bayonet to adjust for ranges below or between the 300 and 600 yard settings of the “L” flip sight.

          No, the troops didn’t like that “feature”, either.

          cheers

          eon

        • One of my ancestors served in the 1st Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. They were of course armed with the standard .58 rifle muskets with the epee’-pattern bayonets.

          He wrote a letter home, published in the Pomeroy OH newspaper, saying that enlistees should absolutely provide themselves with three knives;

          1. A sturdy, sharp fixed-blade sheath knife with a six inch or longer blade. This would be the knife used for camp chores like cutting firewood, etc. Otherwise, you would need a hatchet, which is heavier and more cumbersome to tote along with everything else.

          2. A pocketknife, preferably of the multiple-blade type, including that new innovation, a can opener. Yes, canned goods were used in the war; note that sardines were common, but sardine cans of the day did not have the now-familiar “key” for opening.

          3. A folding or nesting knife-fork-spoon combination. Army cutlery was not always provided; there was as yet no equivalent of the “mess kit” so familiar to us from later conflicts.

          He further stated that the epee’ bayonet, no matter how wicked it looked on the business end of a Springfield or Enfield, was utterly useless around the camp except for three roles;

          1. A roasting spit (which tended to draw the temper)

          2. A candle holder, with the point stuck in a log and the candle upright in the muzzle fitting

          and

          3. An ersatz tent peg.

          Considering that “bayonet charges” rarely resulted in anything but a firefight, and fewer men died from bayonet wounds during the war than died from drowning (engineers putting bridges across rivers particularly) or being struck by lightning (no, really; telegraph line crews were especially vulnerable to the latter), both armies could probably have saved themselves a lot of time, effort and steel by not even bothering to issue epee’-type bayonets to begin with. A knife-type with an eight inch or so blade would have made much better sense.

          And that way, the infantryman wouldn’t have been burdened with a very necessary sheath knife in addition to the epee’ bayonet.

          cheers

          eon

    • Not much use for weapon retention, as that requires a sharp edge to dissuade the other fellow from using the spike as a handle to get control of the weapon.

      A U.S.M.C. issue M1921 Thompson mounted with an M1917 U.S. Enfield bayonet does a rather better job of it in house-clearing. Eighteen inches of very sharp steel tends to be much more difficult to grab hold of, without getting badly cut at the very least.

      cheers

      eon

  4. I wonder if they were perhaps thinking of a new lighter, handier, and cheaper rifle that would be useful for amphibious invasion troops. By 1942 the invasion of Europe and Japan were considered inevitable.

    • @Hoodoo: Recall that Churchill and his crew managed to convince the U.S. into Operation Torch, Sicily, and Italy. He further planned operations into the Balkans. U.S. generals typically thought in terms of the invasion of France. Joe Stalin, of course, was constantly harping on the western Allies-of-convenience to open the Second Front straightaway. By 1942, after the Canadian disaster at Dieppe, the UK was still dragging its feet–to mix metaphors–and urging Stalin to consider the bombing campaign of Germany, the provision of Lend Lease aid, and the operations against Rommel to constitute the long-awaited “Second Front.” Soviet soldat Ivan would open a can of U.S. tishonka/span and snark: “I’ve opened the second front.”

      I hardly think the UK was envisioning an invasion of the Japanese home islands in 1942… Indeed, the U.S. Betio/Tarawa battle in Operation Galvanic arose in November 1943, followed by “island hopping” in earnest… The UK was slugging it out in Burma, with India under threat.

      Imagine, however, if a co-ordinated allied industry could have provided this rifle design to allied nations instead of, say, the SMLE of 1907, the M1917 and P14, the M1903A3, etc. etc. Such concerns apparently had to wait until Nato after WWII, although the Pedersen rifle may have initially floated the idea of inter-operability between U.S. and UK service rifles?

  5. If they needed a simpler, faster-to-produce .303 rifle, why not just put the P14 back into production? It was optimized for modern manufacturing and had an aperture sight. What’s not to love?

    • That’s basically what you see here… Recall that the P14 was made by U.S. industry, and the different contractors did not have interchangeable parts across factories.

  6. The No.4 Mk. I* introduced still more hasty manufacture methods, including omission of the elaborate long range sight (flipped up in the view on the right), substituting a simple flip over L-shaped metal aperture with a ‘300’ battle sight for 300 yards with the rudimentary spike bayonet affixed, 400 yards without the bayonet, and a ‘600’ aperture for use at long ranges, without the bayonet. British soldiers were instructed to hold low, aiming at approximately thigh-level at 200 and 500 yards to achieve a disabling torso hit at those ranges. Still another version of the sight used a simplified sliding adjustment. Versions produced in Canada and by Savage-Stevens in the United States often had two-groove rifled barrels in another expedient production shortcut.

  7. This rifle might have had a theoretical magazine capacity of six, however, in practice I am sure it would have been loaded from standard five round chargers, and therefore would have had five in the magazine. Soldiers were issued with rounds in chargers, not loose ammunition.

    It is a shame that a ten round box magazine could not have been incorporated into the design, as that was one of the advantages of the Lee-Enfield system.

    I quite like the simple two position sight. I rather doubt that many soldiers ever had the need or ability to use more complicated adjustable sights. There is a lot of merit to keeping things as simple as possible when training millions of conscripts.

    I think this rifle might have been quite suitable for Home Guard and non-front line units, but I doubt the infantry would have swapped a Lee-Enfield for it.

  8. If you have ever fit all the wood to an Enfield–it is a pain. Lots of filing to get everything to fit. Not just the butt stock socket (which still appears to be there), not the other wood. It is anything but a drop in fit, and that was with new-old-stock military surplus wood.

    Not having a worker spend time fiddling with the stock would have been good. As a comparison, on the M1, the wood just either slips or pops on or the trigger guard tension adjusts as needed.

    • The advantage of rear locking lugs is speed. The disadvantage of rear locking lugs (as the Swiss found), is that the receiver actually stretches with use and your armorer has to install longer and longer bolt heads. (I posit that the intrepid InRange duo has had problems with their Lee-Enfields for just that reason — they need replacement heads.) If this rifle’s designers specified forward locking lugs for the ease of manufacturing a one-piece bolt, and incidentally to preserve receiver length, well good for them. (I wonder about headspace problems on well-used MAS 36s …) I still think cock on close the best idea for a bolt-action service rifle.

  9. Ian, you mention it being lightweight. Did you/anyone actually weight it and have a figure on how much lighter it is than a no4?

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