So, let us pretend we are 1940s British ordnance officers, and we need more automatic rifles. What are we to do? There is so much war material that needs to be produced, and we have a limited amount of manufacturing capacity. But wait, we already have lots of Enfield rifles – they’re not automatic, but they are rifles! We can just slap on a gas piston to work the bolt…yep…automatically! Ok, and a pistol grip to make the gun reasonably handy. And a special extended magazine to make it more useful. And a shield doohickey to keep the shooter’s hand from getting roasted by gas from the piston. And a face guard to keep the shooter from inadvertently having their teeth knocked out by the bolt.
Okay, so the Howell Automatic Rifle wasn’t exactly the most successful British firearm ever developed. But it is an interesting glimpse into the desperation of the Royal military early in World War II. Similar concepts were also experimented with by the Australians (Charlton) and South Africans (Reider). Ultimately, all were supplanted by the Bren.
See all the photos (including several good detailed closeups of the magazine) at the Howell Automatic Rifle page in the Vault.