best rifle ? .303 or 7.62 Enfield

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by semper, Dec 10, 2005.

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  1. hello just got my FAC approved :)

    now pondering about .303 or 7.62 Lee Enfield , i would like to try and keep my other 7.62 and 5.56 catagories free for other rilfes

    so could anybody tell me what to watch out for ? or is there a better .303 out there to buy ?
    i would imagine being a British round , .303 Enfield is the most common type, what should i look for, when buying such rifles and the expected prices ?

  2. I have heard that the 7.62 Nato round can have some trouble being extracted by the Lee Enfield as the 7.62 isn't a rimmed cartridge (snigger all you like over the word 'rimmed')
    I believe that you can get the .303 rechambered to take the 7.62 x 54 russian rimmed cartridge which aleviates this problem.

    Anyone got any practical experience of this? I'm trying to persuade Mrs Saunders that I need a new rifle for Christmas..
  3. For me a Lee Enfield should remain in .303.

    If you are seriously entering centre fire precision rifle then an Enfield although capable isn't the best on the market for the job.

    Enjoy your Number 3, 4 or 5 they are bloody good fun, and British, leave it untampered with and get a .303

    Ammo is still readily available, or you can reload your own.
  4. The SMLE is a classic rifle and I don't see what can be gained by having it rechambered. It may be prudent to start making your own ammo though so you can have control over the accuracy of the round, unless you can still get blue spot ammo.

    I've not fired the 7.62 version so I can't comment on that but the SMLE is a superb weapon to fire.
  5. personaly i would go for an enfield in 7.62nato (.308 winchester) theres a ton of cheapy surplus ammo around, .303 ball is getting harder to find, plus if you want to get into reloading you have a lot more choice of componants (progies, cases ect) in 7.62 than what you can get in .303,

    in what you are looking for it depends if you want the rifle for compeditive or practical shooting, where you will want to 'customise' it with extra bells and whistles like scope mounts, or are after a 'collectable' thats in as much original form as possible.

    there are modern made Indian ishapore enfiends around in both .303 or 7.62 that area good start, plus theres a firm in aussie called Australian International Arms, sold through tristar making No4 and No5 (jungle carbine) enfields of very high quality in 7.62 nato that take a modern M14 magazine, and 7.62 combloc (AK) that take a AK mag, they make them in stainless options too.

    give this bloke here a call, he has a few enfields in stock at the mo, hes getting a plug caus' hes a mate of mine.

    if you want the rifle suppressed (ie-silencer) please give me a PM for details and a quote.

  6. only if the conversions been done by a muppet, the 7.62 version needs a new bolt head plus an extractor of a different profile.
  7. I stand (or more accurately, sit) corrected. I wont be getting mine converted by anyone with Jim Hensons hand up their arrse..
  8. I collect & shoot Lee Enfields - I have about 60 rifles at the moment. I also have an RFD and sell a few rifles onto fellow club members and enthusiasts - I therefore meet a lot of people who want advice on their "first" Enfield. It really boils down to what "grabs" you: Enfields have been around for over a hundred years, and there are about twenty main model variations ranging from relics of the Boer war to fairly modern 7.62mm target rifles.

    Most people get an Enfield because of the profound historical connections to we Brits (more so if you are a servicemen), but they are still relevant to serious shooters. The NRA and most clubs (especially the Lee Enfield Rifle Association, or LERA) still run most of the old Service competitions, with classes for each era of rifle - e.g. Classic for SMLEs, Veteran for WW2 No4/5s, Service target for L39A1/Envoy/Enforcer/DCCRA, etc. They are all still very, very capable rifles - either in .303 or 7.62mm (or .22LR, of course) - e.g. I have a 104 year old rifle which easily gets 5s and Vs at 1000/1200 yds, and the 7.62mm target versions are only a little way off the mark compared to modern £2k+ rifles.

    In specific answer to your questions:

    First some general points: all Enfield prices are starting to rise quickly, because of intense demand from US, where "Curio & Relic" collecting has soared as other modern types get banned. Spare barrels and other parts are increasingly scarce and expensive in UK, as the MoD sold everything overseas or for scrap (as you may know, UK govt hates shooters....). Most very fine rifles are also overseas - so many rifles back here are either worn or have been rebuilt. Caveat Emptor - be sure you are buying from someone who knows about Enfields (most of the few remaining UK gunsmiths do not have much dealings with Enfields these days). .303 versions are commonly available in all models, except No5s, which are becoming scarce. 7.62mm models are starting to rocket in price as the yanks snap up ".308s" which they can easily find ammo for.

    The main "factory" 7.62mm rifles are:

    L39A1 - military target rifle. Very accurate and relativey cheap. Also very suitable for those who like scopes.
    Sterling - contract conversion of a No4. Collectible, and quite good.
    Charnwood - private conversion similar to Sterling. Becoming collectible.
    Envoy - civilian target rifle. Essentially same as L39. Once "the" target rifle at Bisley, now superceded by modern rifles. Values climbing rapidly due to yank collectors.
    Enforcer - Police sniper rifle. An L39 with a Parker Hale butt and a Pecar scope. In great demand from collectors.
    L42A1 - military sniper rifle. Used until the 1990s, now fairly rare and expensive.
    2A1 - an Indian military conversion of the No1 MkIII*. Cheap, plentiful, accurate.
    DCCRA - Canadian military target conversion of No4.

    All of the above have modified extractors and magazines which function perfectly with 7.62mm ammunition.

    Rifle price of course depends upon model, condition, originality, etc. As a rough guide, budget about:

    £200 for a 2A1
    £300 for a very good No4 mk1 or mk2,
    £350 to £450 for a very good No1,
    £450 to £550 for a very good No5,
    £350 to £700 for a mint L39A1 or good Envoy,
    £750 to £800 for an Enforcer with scope,
    £1750 for a No4 (T) with mis-matched scope,
    ££2700 to £3000 for a 4(T) or L42A1 matching "in the box".

    Why not bimble along to a LERA shoot and have a look at what people have? (
  9. A word of warning about 7.62 SMLE conversions, the Lee bolt was not the strongest of actions and the higher pressures of the 7.62 can cause problems. I understand that the MOD converted mostly late SMLE's to 7.62 after the introduction of the SLR but found the same problem.
    Certainly, the more elderly SMLE's are unsuitable.
    My advice would be to stick to .303, it's what the gun was designed for.
  10. With all due respect, Hansvonhealing, stories about Enfield action weakness are myth, mostly originating from uninformed articles in US gun publications. Like most urban myths, there is no detectable evidence to substantiate it - and in fact the statistical evidence (c.12 million Enfields made of all types) shows that all types of Enfield actions are far stronger than their supposed design limits.

    The No4 action is very strong: there are no known issues with it firing 144gn 7.62mm NATO ball at all. When target shooters moved to 155 gn bullets, and started ramping the loads up to maintain supersonic velocities at 1000 yds, the NRA took fright and required Enfield no4-actioned rifles to be proofed to 20 tonnes (up from 19T). No4 actions pass this proof with no problems. I have an Envoy with a documented 11,000 rnds of 155gn 7.62mm through it: the rifle still has good headspace on its original "0" bolthead - ie there has been no appreciable receiver stretch.

    The No1 action is less substantial, and some are now over 100 years old. No1 receivers do eventually wear out, although this is usually only detectable with correct gauges. When a No1 receiver fails, the only indication is usually bolt binding as the receiver warps, and sometimes a visible crack in the region of the ejector screw. Catastrophic failure (ie bits flying off and/or shooter injury) is just about unknown - I personally do not know of a single documented example. A Canadian university destruction tested an SMLE receiver - already weakened with drilled holes - by blocking the barrel and using super-high pressure rounds. After managing to shoot off the bits of barrel that were plugged (snow, mud, then iron spikes!), the receiver eventually just bent and trapped the bolt - no catastrophic failure occurred.

    A strong and persistent myth is that the Indian 2A1 version of the No1 is made of "high strength steel" to "cope with the 7.62mm round". There is actually no documented evidence of this production variation; on the contrary, examination of the receivers shows that they frequently have older, British or Indian inspection marks, which proves that they are simply the same .303 receivers as used on the concurrent .303 No1 production.

    Another story originates from Australia, where military experiments were carried out in converting .303 Lithgow No1s to 7.62mm. These experiments were stopped "because the conversion was not suitable". This has been mythologised into a fact that the No1s "were not strong enough". In fact there is no published data about these tests, so it is simply not known, for example, if (a) the rifles were simply destruction-tested with proof rounds, (b) they worked ok, but the expected service life of the receiver wasn't economic for the military, or (c) it was the 1960s and they had just agreed to adopt the FAL rifle instead. It should be noted that in Australia many No1s were converted to fire magnum and other "wild-cat" hunting rounds - and there is still no folk history of "problems".

    What most modern civilian shooters also overlook is that Enfields are military rifles, and they were outstandingly successful in every theatre of war - desert, arctic, jungle, rain-swept northern Europe. On much of this military service, Enfields - particularly No1s in the WW1 trenches - were fired using wet, oily or muddy ammunition. Firing ammunition in this state greatly increases the back-pressure on the bolt, as the cartridge case does not grip the chamber walls on firing (this is the principle used in proof testing weapons with oiled ammunition). Despite this abuse, there is still no known problem with the rifle actions (unlike with some Mauser actions, it should be stressed!).
  11. Iv'e fired the 303 No4 as a cadet :wink: yes that shows my era :!: then I used a L42A1 as a Police Marksmen, a very accurate rifle, Plod proof but outdated and we swopped to Remingtons.

    :oops: I had a AD with a L42 on a training day, single rounds at a time, I had fired around 8 shots, when I closed the bolt on the next round it fired, needless to say that came as a bit of a shock, yes finger was off the trigger :!:
  12. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    That can be worn sear or just not tightening up the king screw as it happened to me on a No1 MkV. No need for rebuild just better prep for firing routine needed!
  13. Thanks for an informative post. I have recently purchased a bit of a 'hybrid' 7.62 Enfield.

    It has , what I believe is an L39 or Envoy ambi stock, beech coloured, 2 10 round mags (one matching numbers)with the kicker lips, and it has a 24" hammer forged barrel, (chopped by 3 inches?)an Armalon muzzle brake, an enlarged Armalon bolt knob, and an Armalon picatinny/weaver rail.

    Its in excellent condition, good bore, and very accurate with Green spot ammo. 48 out of 50 being achievable with a wee bit of patience and effort. It feeds and ejects well, although South african fodder can be a bit hard to extract sometimes. As for extraction, I find that if you keep the extractor blade clean, and tighten it up every few dozen rounds, it won't let you down. I recently polished the sear, and now it trips 2nd stage at a comfortable 2.75-3lbs

    My local dealer, Tim @ GT Shooting, says the Action is definitely that of an L42A1, but I am not so sure. The serial is ED0495, and is proofed to 20T.

    I would like to get a cheek rest like the L42 or No.4, but these would not fit the ambi stock, as it is a different camber (sharper)

    Do you know a manufacturer or gunsmith who could supply/and or fit such a thing?
    I've got a strap-on cheek rest, but this is prone to movement no matter how tightly I fit it, and needs constant re-adjustment. It makes good cheek weld/eye alignment not exactly easy either.

    I paid £300 for it. Inc Simmons 4-12x50 Aetec scope, 3 mags and a RWS wide sling at the Phoenix fair this year. Bargain? I think so!
  14. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    I think that India still makes .303 ammo, when I was there I saw many of their troops with Lee Enfields tho' they may not have been British. It took all my efforts not to grab one just so I could work the bolt back and forth :twisted:

    I tell you I would love to visit the Pashtoun people, if any of you are serving in Afganistan, they have hand craft weapons, I've watched a film on some of their weapons makers, with scenes of a 'hand made' rifle based on Lee Enfield. Not sure how much I'd trust it, but you have to admire the skill.