No5 Jungle carbine Wandering zero.


hansvonhealing said:
It has been suggested that the "lightening cuts" made to the receiver body and the barrel could have caused the problem - anyone got an opinion on this?
The strength of Enfield actions is also another issue subject to utter drivel, rumour and urban myth - and to be frank, some of the commentators in the collecting world haven't bothered to apply any common sense or observation.

Firstly, lets deal with the No5. The two most obvious and well-known probable causes of variable accuracy in a No5 are (1) bad stocking-up (abovementioned), which can happen to any rifle, (2) the conical flashider up front not being concentric to the bore (it’s a heat-shrink fit, was done by a big hydraulic press. This is why many civvie-made No5 repros are buggered from the start).

When SASC did conduct some tests on the No5, they could reach no finite conclusion, but instead came up with a couple of vague theories. The point to be understood here is that SASC in 1947 were clearly not a research establishment equipped with the scientific tools needed to carry out proper materials or stress analysis – they were simply a military body whose usual methodology was to fire thousands of rounds out of a weapon and report which component broke first.

Urban myth states that “the lightening cuts in the receiver weaken it too much”. This was one of the SASC’s theories, but of course was never tested in any meaningful way. An easy counterpoint to this theory is that (a) there are two small scoops out of the receiver wall and butt socket – the receiver remains a substantial No4 structure and is hardly likely to be affected; (b) if you compare the No5 receiver with the preceding models of No1/ Long Lee/ Lee Metford, you can see that it is massively reinforced by comparison – and none of those weapons suffer strange receiver distortions.

Another SASC theory which has come to light recently is “if you fire thousands of rounds through the rifle until the barrel becomes red hot; so hot that the heat spreads back into the receiver, then this causes receiver distortion due to the lightening cuts”. This shows the sort of rowlocks that was being promulgated: i.e. the field reports of “wandering zero” clearly had nothing to do with weapons being rapid-fired until glowing red hot, and the SASC clearly did not have the technical capability to make such an analysis.

Secondly – Enfield receiver strength.

As mentioned above, it is common wisdom that the rear-locking system – which stresses the whole receiver upon firing – is significantly weaker than the Mauser/front-locking system. From an engineering standpoint this is obviously most likely true, but from a standpoint of “x says you shouldn’t fire .308 out of this rifle because its not strong enough, blah, blah, etc”, its another case of ill-informed myth.

Consider this:

(1) c.12 million Enfields of all models were made, including some thousands which were converted to 7.62mm NATO.
(2) Every weapon originating in UK or later sold on the civilian market has been through Proof – during which +30% pressure (approx) rounds are fired through the weapon.
(3) Millions of those Enfields were also fired during wet service conditions (ie the poor bustards in the trenches, etc); wet ammunition is similar to oiled proof rounds which negate the chamber-gripping ability of the brass cartridge case, and instead throw much of the recoil forces back onto the bolt face instead.
(4) Hundreds of thousands of Enfields are now over 100 years old and have been through 2 or 3 wars, several barrels, and all sorts of gimp owners. Despite this, they remain within headspace on their original bolts, and shoot perfectly well.

Despite the above, there is not ONE single verifiable account of an Enfield catastrophically failing (ie “blowing up” and causing shooter injury) when used with normal ammunition. (Yes, people have blown them up by using pistol powder in wildcat rounds, but that’s just Darwinian selection at work.) Sheer statistics should show that – if 12 million rifles haven’t produced any sort of history of problems – then the rifles are clearly much stronger than popular myth has it.

Some No1s do eventually fail (probably some of the 4 million made during WW1 didn’t get proper heat treatment). When they do fail, the receiver simply cracks and distorts until the bolt binds and they become unusable. Personally, I’ve never heard of any No4/5 action failing, even the ones being used for heavier 155gn 7.62mm ammo (I have an Envoy that is still tight on its “0” bolthead despite being shot-out with 155gn use), or the hotter .308 loads that some daft spams use.

There was one interesting website – maybe someone knows where it is – where a Canadian (?) college used a badly-abused (receiver full of drill holes for scope mounts, etc) SMLE for a destruction test. I’ve lost the link, but they basically tried ramming mud into the barrel, without effect. They then progressed to driving spikes into the muzzle (parts of the barrel then blew off, but the rifle kept working), before finally killing it by using a spiked muzzle and pistol-powder load. The SMLE finally died in the sort of “soft” failure I described above. RIP SMLE, but a remarkable testament to its unsuspected strength.


A similar test was done by frank De Haas on the arisaka and PO Ackley prooved that the enfield action was good to use with proof loads for normal development work. He was a nutter! You get the same drivel regarding Eddystone receivers over Rem and Winchester in the P14 debates. I dont have a problem with any of them and they are all safe to use. proof testing you ammo and action is the icing on the cake! Most of the Mauser is better bull comes from the target shooters and Yanks as their O3 Springfield is the best ever isnt it!


ugly said:
Most of the Mauser is better bull comes from the target shooters and Yanks as their O3 Springfield is the best ever isnt it!
Too true..... and how ironic, since the 1903 is the only rifle of a major nation that did indeed have a serious & potentially lethal manufacturing fault that requires careful attention to serial numbers..... LOL

I'm pretty much in agreement with you on this as you will have seen from my previous comments but is there any truth in a rumour that MOD withdrew a lot of No.4s in Cadet units prior to Cadet GP being issued because of an accident involving a cadet?
Ah this is what I read:
Keith M. Alexander
Kensington, Maryland
(from AR, DB Miscellany, Nov88, p65)
The following warning came to us from the United Kingdom Liason Office,
Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatenny
Arsenal, N.J.

"1. In July 1987 a UK MOD ban was placed on the firing of ball rounds
from .303 (cal.) No. 4 rifles in UK service as a result of two
explosions which occurred in the chamber area of the weapons and
resulted in burst barrels.
"2. UK MOD investigations found that the barrel explosions were as a
result of severe 'craze cracking' of the two barrels which were of
indeterminate age and life.
"3. UK MOD have initiated a study into why some barrels suffer craze
cracking and others do not, but results of this are not expected to be
complete for some time, and even then might not be conclusive.
"4. Because, in peace-time, .303 No. 4 rifles are only used in Cadet
units, it has been decided that it is not cost-effective to carry out
detailed examinations of all barrels, particularly as the cadets are
being issued with the new L98A1 Cadet GP Rifle. The firing ban will
therefore remain in force.
"5. Users of the No. 4 rifle worldwide, whether civilian or military,
are strongly advised to have the weapons closely examined for signs of
craze cracking and condemned accordingly. Thereafter, it is recommended
that any barrels which have passed such inspection should be examined
regularly for such signs and condemned if necessary."
Owners of the .303 No. 4 rifles should certainly heed the advice in the
UK safety notice to have them "closely examined" before firing them
again. The examination should be conducted, preferably, with the aid of
a good optical bore-scope, by an experienced gunsmith who is familiar
with the signs of erosion in gun barrels. If there are any signs of
roughness from erosion in the barrel immediately ahead of the chamber,
or any other visible defects in the barrel or chamber walls, then the
barrel should be regarded as suspect and the rifle *should not be fired*
until it has been properly fitted with a new barrel.
[BEN: The above notice was the first anyone had heard of this "erosion &
craze cracking" problem in Enfield barrels. Naturally, the shooting
public reacted in a calm, rational manner to this news... and
*panicked* as usual. Based on *two* isolated incidents, concerning the
heavily used (and abused) No. 4s in Cadet service in England, this
"ban" was issued, and rumors flew thick and fast in its wake. Theories
ranging from "bullets stick in pitted barrels" to "poor steel in
Enfield barrels" appeared, and hung around to haunt us all. The truth?
Simple enough. Cordite burns HOT. It eats barrel throats as bad as
hot, hi-velocity rounds like .220 Swift. And Cadet rifles used for
target practice get shot and shot and shot and shot until they flat
wear out, and then get shot some more. Why? Well, Britain in her
great(?) wisdom made a policy a few years back of NOT "surplussing" any
*new* Enfields to its Cadet schools and civilian shooters. Something to
do with their "gun control" fanaticism. Instead, they stored away,
destroyed, or sold overseas the No4s which remained in their inventory.
This left Cadet schools (and civilian shooters) with whatever they
already had - and they've "nursed" these same poor old rifles along for
close to 50 years now. Sad, huh?
The No. 4s in question probably hadn't been FTR'd (Factory Through
Repair) since the late 1940s, if then. The barrels in question were
*worn out*, yes (having had, in conservative estimate, about 250,000
rounds of MkVII ball ammo through each of them), and certainly overdue
for scrapping and replacement. And the "craze cracking" problem is
quite real, IN BARRELS WITH SEVERE THROAT EROSION. Be they Enfields or
any other make and model of rifle. Further shooting, especially with
more HOT-burning Cordite (service) ammo, is just asking for trouble. If
your Enfield is one of the $40 "bargain-basement" ones, with a worn-out
barrel - or if you shoot mostly surplus ammo - you need to have it
*frequently* checked for crazing and cracking in the throat area. On
the other hand, if your "shooting Enfield" is like mine (near-mint
barrel) and you shoot mostly reloads or commercial sporting
ammunition... well, it wouldn't hurt (for peace of mind) to have it
checked - once - but don't get in a panic over it or "retire" your .303
to the wall or closet, just because a couple of beat-to-shit UK Cadet
rifles blew their barrels. Remember, the No. 4 came out in 1939, was
issued in the millions throughout World War II, fought hard (and was
obviously shot a lot) in every theatre of the war, then retained for
service in assorted nations and carried and used through innumerable
smaller wars and battles, as well as seeing heavy use in hunting fields
worldwide - and yet, no "craze cracking blowup" reports until 1988.
Makes me shudder to speculate what sort of hideous overall condition
those "Cadet" rifles must have been in... Oy!
Any truth in it?

I've certainly seen heavily pitted and (internal) surface cracked barrels in No.4s
I borescoped my own after a concentrated de-coppering exercise and was horrified. It looked like a broken up tarmac road. I didn't dare fire it until I had it re-barrelled. I've seen others that are worse that people still persisit in shooting.

I'll try to remember the borescope for the shoot.


I certainly came up against problems with cadet shooting recently. Unless the weapons have an annual inspection the little darlings cant fire them. now all well and good but there are too few gunsmiths around to do this and the days of the roving retired REME armourer seem long gone. I think the TA used to look after our annuals as a cadet but that was 30 years ago and probably went with battle dress. I was told that my sons cadet unit struggled to get them on the No8 let alone target rifles which they had but hadnt been inspected!
I bought a No8 for him in the end and we use it ourselves!


The "craze cracking" thing is shrouded in mystery. Yes, this strange incident was reported, and it forms the basis for a lot of Enfield scare stories in USA. However, no details have ever come to light about when or where or what actually happened, and whether any catastrophic failure occured, or whether it was some incident of deliberate or accidental damage that then got over-inflated.

The fact that two incidents happened in the same cadet unit is deeply suspicious - I think anyone who has ever been in cadets or dealt with them would supect that this was more likely a case of "lets put this in the barrel and fire a blank to see what happens"... etc.

I don't place much credit in the stories about "the rifles had shot 250,000 rounds each". I full well remember my own cadet unit No4s: they were in excellent condition, and were maintained by a travelling armourer. My school had an active cadet force, and yet full-bore shooting was a comparatively rare event. There were about 100+ rifles in the armoury, so less than one in ten rifles ever made it to a particular range day. I just can't see such huge ammo totals per rifle being racked up, even in 20 or 30 years.

When you consider - as mentioned above - that millions of Enfields have been in use, many of them are utterly shot out, and yet - still no-one else has ever heard of a catastrophic failure. All of the Enfield engineers and old sweat armourers I know have never heard of "craze cracking" - after all, every Enfield bore is wartime rough, except those which later got ball-burnished by AJ Parker and other gunsmiths. Look at an average Long Lee: they are so shot out after a century of use that they are practically smoothbore. They certainly haven't "craze cracked" and blown up...

Another very puzzling fact about this alleged incident is - how come the barrel failed, instead of the very much weaker bolt/ bolthead? It just doesn't make any sense. In my own experience, rifle barrels can be very badly damaged, and yet come nowhere close to failure. I had one No1 MkIII that had been used as a school DP rifle for 85 years: the barrel had never been cleaned, was filled with mud, and had deeply corroded. It was so badly rusted, that large sections of the rifling had crumbled altogether, and in front of the chamber was a very large hole about an inch long and god knows how deep. Out of curiosity (an airborne bravado), I loaded it up and fired about 300 rounds of old click/bang cordite through it. Amazingly, the rifle still managed four inch groups, using the bit of rifling left at the muzzle. Clearly the rifle was in poor state, so I had it proofed - again out of curiosity. It passed with no problem. i'd wager that that rifle was if far worse state than any cadet No4, and yet.....
No tech info, but in Muscat Command by Lt Col Peter Thwaites there are several photos of the No 5 Rifle on operation service with the Sultan of Oman's Muscat Regiment.
No adverse comments on performance also Ranulph Fiennes comments in his, 'Where Soldiers Fear to Tread', that they used the No 5 Rifle until the Belgian made FN replace it.


A couple of observations to chuck on to this pile...

1. Strength of actions. I have never heard of a Lee action ever giving up, but I do remember discussions in the 60's about wet and dry shooting with Enfields. The theory was that shooting with wet ammo places more pressure on the breech which will distort in a different way to a dry shot. The advice was that you shoud either shoot "all wet" or "all dry" but not start dry and go wet as it were. I discovered this one after asking why an old sweat had all his .303 in a jamjar of water (it was raining).

2. Craze Cracking. I smell a rat here! I suspect this may have been a jolly plot to force MoD into buying a new cadet rifle... By the late 60's we had almost run out of RG .303 and were buying stuff from HXP etc to keep the cadets going. The L39s were never produced in sufficient quantity for the cadets so I suspect the system needed a prod. (Got it wrong though - the new cadet rifle was a disaster)


hansvonhealing said:
Of course, you could go 'airsoft'...! click 'Custom Guns', then Lee-enfield NO 4
£470 for an airsoft No4?!

Cripes, you could get club membership (c.£40), FAC (£25?), approved cabinet (£100), a REAL No4 (from about £150) and about 600 rounds of ammo for that - and do proper shooting.......

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