L39A1: British Service Target Rifle Before the L42A1

The story of the conversion of the Lee Enfield to 7.62mm NATO would not be complete without the L39A1. This is essentially the civilian competition version of what would become the L42A1. It was actually in British service as a target rifle – not intended for combat. It followed the L8 (the first British military attempts at a 7.62mm precision version of the Enfield) and the L42A1. It was basically a copy of the conversions done by civilian competition shooters in the British NRA.

Sights were made by several different companies, as the rifles were not issued with sights – they were obtained by the unit they went to, whatever particular model that unit preferred. This example has Parker Hale diopter sights. The L39A1 also used a .303 caliber magazine, as they were intended for slow-fire, single loaded competition but the magazine was used as a loading tray. The .303 magazine will not reliably hold 7.62mm cartridges, but 7.62mm conversion magazines can be put in the L39A1 and will then work just fine. They also sometimes are fitted with .303 extractors. The stock here has a semi-pistol grip a bit less substantial than the L8 .22 rifle, although most had standard No4 stocks.

The original sights were removed, and remarked as L39A1. They were made in 1969, 1970, and 1972, with a single serial number range used for the L39A1, the pretrial trials examples of the L39, and the “7.62 Conv” rifles. A total of 1,213 L39A1 rifles were made, with the other types accounting for about 28 additional rifles.


  1. Another reason to fit a 303 extractor was to convert the rifle to 307 Winchester in countries and times where the 308 was regulated as military cartridge.

  2. Further to my last, Padre David Cooper was the 2 Para chaplain for Op CORPORATE, the retaking of the Falklands. He was a very competent target shooter, and is reputed to have coached the battalions sniper sections in the South Atlantic. As a busy noncombatant, he would not have had much time for the nuances of combat shooting, but would have been adept at wind reading and motivating the soldiers pulling the triggers. https://www.express.co.uk/news/history/1519716/Falklands-War-padre-wounds-weapons-souls-1982

    • Good to see you here Terry ! I’m still doing my deep dive into SMLE / 7.62 x 51 conversion accuracy !


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