Nooo! My SMLE is a duff...

#41
@stoatman what an excellent thread. I’ve never shot an SMLE and am never likely to own a functioning one but I’ve found this fascinating (yeah I should probably get out more :) ). The rifles seem far more precisely engineered than I’d have thought desirable in something issued to soldiers! For instance @4(T) mentioned the impact a bit of trapped grit could have on accuracy.

How did this play out when the rifle was in service? Were the troops familiar with its finicky nature as far as bedding in was concerned, did they know that a quarter turn of a screw could make a difference?
Or was it a matter of pot luck whether you got one that shot straight and grouped well?
 
#42
@stoatman what an excellent thread. I’ve never shot an SMLE and am never likely to own a functioning one but I’ve found this fascinating (yeah I should probably get out more :) ). The rifles seem far more precisely engineered than I’d have thought desirable in something issued to soldiers! For instance @4(T) mentioned the impact a bit of trapped grit could have on accuracy.

How did this play out when the rifle was in service? Were the troops familiar with its finicky nature as far as bedding in was concerned, did they know that a quarter turn of a screw could make a difference?
Or was it a matter of pot luck whether you got one that shot straight and grouped well?
In my view, they were trying to do too much with the bedding. It's enough of a challenge to get a light barrel to shoot straight as it is, but also what they wanted was fixing the bayonet not to affect point of impact. Which they achieved with that complicated setup, and with Mk.VI ammo. And then, irony of ironies, less than a decade later they changed the ammo, which caused the POI to displace massively upwards with the bayo on. And even more ironic, a Long Lee with Mk.VII ammo is not affected by fixing the bayo, whereas with Mk.VI caused it to shoot low. Such are the vagueries of barrel vibratione etc.

In service, the MR 1909 tolerates rifles up to a "figure of merit" of 1 foot at 500 yds. "Figure of Merit" is the British term for "mean radius". You shoot a group, compute the mean POI, then measure the distance of each shot from the mean POI. If the mean of these shots is under 1', you're good to go. In one of the many WW2 pamphlets I've got, they mention tolerating rifles in wartime up to 8" groups at 100 yds, having seemingly done away with the labour-intensive FoM calculation.

Add in to the fact that a 12" grouper (at 100 yds) was considered adequate to progress through the rifle qualification courses, an 8" grouper was considered average and a 4" grouper good (which is basically someone good enough that who for whom the rifle's inherent accuracy becomes the limiting factor, since they had to shoot the equivalent of about 4" to be accepted into service), you can see why in practice they wouldn't be too woried since most soldiers were unlikely to be able to shoot to the accuracy of the rifle anyway. There's one test reported late or post-war where they said that the soldiers they took off for an experiment were more on the 12" grouper side...

I also suspect that the system is rather less finicky with the slower, heavier Mk.VI for which it was designed rather than Mk.VII. I suspect it worked well enough for government use in both cases, to the point where it wasn't worth changing it until they'd decided on a new rifle (and remembering that inter-war government production of SMLE's was pretty small).

I'd love to hear 4(T)'s view on this.
 
#43
@stoatman what an excellent thread. I’ve never shot an SMLE and am never likely to own a functioning one but I’ve found this fascinating (yeah I should probably get out more :) ). The rifles seem far more precisely engineered than I’d have thought desirable in something issued to soldiers! For instance @4(T) mentioned the impact a bit of trapped grit could have on accuracy.

How did this play out when the rifle was in service? Were the troops familiar with its finicky nature as far as bedding in was concerned, did they know that a quarter turn of a screw could make a difference?
Or was it a matter of pot luck whether you got one that shot straight and grouped well?


Accuracy problems really only affect rifles that have been rebuilt or rebarrelled. Rifles that are 100% original tend to be problem-free.

The forend fitting of a No1 is quite finicky. When I fit a new (unused) forend, it takes me up to 50x trial fittings and adjustments to get it spot on. A trial fitting starts with just the forend fit, but then has to incorporate the bands, handguards and nosecap. Enfields are very "organic", and adjustment to one part needs to be checked with all the others.

Back in the day, however, these things were somehow assembled in their millions. That was an era of master craftsmen, and they were particularly skilled in the art of fitting wood to metal. When I cut the recoil surfaces of a new forend, I have to fiddle around with talc witness marks, files and craft chisels in order to match the wood to the metal recoil faces. I expect that, back in 1914, some old bloke just took a 1" chisel, gave it a whack with a mallet, and cut the faces perfectly - each time, thousands of times.

I once had a 1914 No1 MkIII that had come from a school in relic condition (it had been a DP rifle with their cadets for 90 years. The only "DP" part was that the end of the firing pin had been snipped off!). The rifle was 100% all matching and original. The forend was fitted so perfectly (very tight between the recoil faces and the butt socket) that it took a couple of hours to persuade it to part from the barrelled action. That was probably a better wood/metal fit than a high end sporting gun, and yet that rifle would have been just one of hundreds of thousands churned out that year.

Its also worth bearing in mind that, in service life, if the rifles were neglected to the extent that they became packed with mud, the chances were that they'd be heading back to depot for a rebuild as part of the regular salvage sweeps.


A picture that is fairly disturbing, when you realise what it means:

 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#44
@stoatman what an excellent thread. I’ve never shot an SMLE and am never likely to own a functioning one but I’ve found this fascinating (yeah I should probably get out more :) ). The rifles seem far more precisely engineered than I’d have thought desirable in something issued to soldiers! For instance @4(T) mentioned the impact a bit of trapped grit could have on accuracy.

How did this play out when the rifle was in service? Were the troops familiar with its finicky nature as far as bedding in was concerned, did they know that a quarter turn of a screw could make a difference?
Or was it a matter of pot luck whether you got one that shot straight and grouped well?
I'd echo Stoatmans comments that after the BEF was expended we simply didn't have the troops that could shoot as well coming through the system. When you read Hesketh Prichard and MacBride you get to understand at how much the war had moved on from individual marksmanship with rifles onto combined weapons tactics. If you want to read how a rifle platoon was organised, fought and used its weapons then I can recommend Stuart Minors Novels. Fiction they may be but they are more realistic the Bravo Two Zero!
 

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
#45
These boys knew how to make each shot count
ps its a pity my old man is a bit shaky now, he would have worked on hundreds of those Enfields during his time in Southern Command
when I see him I will ask him if her recalls any useful hints and tips, he was a toolmaker by profession
819.JPG
820.JPG
 
#46
For those of us who believe that 120mm is the only worthwhile caliber could one of you give us a quick TP in naming of the parts so that I can have a go at understanding this fascinating thread.
 
#49
Stoatman, what's the latest on your SMLE? Just been out with mine shooting at 200 yards. My SMLE does not like the boat tail pointy bullets, it prefers the flat based round nose ones. It doesn't matter which make of boat tails I've put through it just shoots crap.

When I was out a little while ago I took some 174grn BT (pointy) rounds and some 174grn FB round nose rounds. Below is both targets, the first target on the left is the round nosed FB bullets and the second target the BT pointy rounds. Both shot over open sights.

Might be worthy giving some round nosed bullets a try before messing with the rifle.
Target 1.jpeg Target 2.jpeg
 
#50
If you use the sling you should easily get a 2" group at 50 metres. I would use a target with four black 1" squares, one at each corner, then move position slightly to fire 5 rounds at each. Then recheck.
 
#51
Stoatman, what's the latest on your SMLE? Just been out with mine shooting at 200 yards. My SMLE does not like the boat tail pointy bullets, it prefers the flat based round nose ones. It doesn't matter which make of boat tails I've put through it just shoots crap.

When I was out a little while ago I took some 174grn BT (pointy) rounds and some 174grn FB round nose rounds. Below is both targets, the first target on the left is the round nosed FB bullets and the second target the BT pointy rounds. Both shot over open sights.

Might be worthy giving some round nosed bullets a try before messing with the rifle.
View attachment 327461 View attachment 327463
Cinching down the barrel band screw improved it to this:

1521749131374.png


Good enough to be getting on with for pointy factory ammo.

I've ordered a bullet mould so I'll be playing with cast in it, cos it's got a barrel that slugs under .312". This sized to .314" should go nicely:

1521749224479.png


I'm not going to touch the rifle itself.
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#52
Accuracy problems really only affect rifles that have been rebuilt or rebarrelled. Rifles that are 100% original tend to be problem-free.

The forend fitting of a No1 is quite finicky. When I fit a new (unused) forend, it takes me up to 50x trial fittings and adjustments to get it spot on. A trial fitting starts with just the forend fit, but then has to incorporate the bands, handguards and nosecap. Enfields are very "organic", and adjustment to one part needs to be checked with all the others.

Back in the day, however, these things were somehow assembled in their millions. That was an era of master craftsmen, and they were particularly skilled in the art of fitting wood to metal. When I cut the recoil surfaces of a new forend, I have to fiddle around with talc witness marks, files and craft chisels in order to match the wood to the metal recoil faces. I expect that, back in 1914, some old bloke just took a 1" chisel, gave it a whack with a mallet, and cut the faces perfectly - each time, thousands of times.

I once had a 1914 No1 MkIII that had come from a school in relic condition (it had been a DP rifle with their cadets for 90 years. The only "DP" part was that the end of the firing pin had been snipped off!). The rifle was 100% all matching and original. The forend was fitted so perfectly (very tight between the recoil faces and the butt socket) that it took a couple of hours to persuade it to part from the barrelled action. That was probably a better wood/metal fit than a high end sporting gun, and yet that rifle would have been just one of hundreds of thousands churned out that year.

Its also worth bearing in mind that, in service life, if the rifles were neglected to the extent that they became packed with mud, the chances were that they'd be heading back to depot for a rebuild as part of the regular salvage sweeps.


A picture that is fairly disturbing, when you realise what it means:

More likely lamp black rather than talc back in the day. And it would be easy to develp the knack of cutting and fitting if that's what you did all day. It's entirely possible that the wooden fore end was machined using a shaper or other form of mill. Though a look inside a forcap and an uncovered foreend would provide a better idea.
 
#53
Cinching down the barrel band screw improved it to this:

View attachment 327470

Good enough to be getting on with for pointy factory ammo.

I've ordered a bullet mould so I'll be playing with cast in it, cos it's got a barrel that slugs under .312". This sized to .314" should go nicely:

View attachment 327473

I'm not going to touch the rifle itself.
My old SMLE slugged at .310, it seems to like .312 bullets as long as they aren't BT,s. I just can't get it to shoot them and lord knows I've tried just about every bullet out there with combinations of different powders and primers.
 
#54
Interesting, my Swedish Mauser seems to share the apparent dislike of all types/weights of BT bullets.
 
#55
More likely lamp black rather than talc back in the day. And it would be easy to develp the knack of cutting and fitting if that's what you did all day. It's entirely possible that the wooden fore end was machined using a shaper or other form of mill. Though a look inside a forcap and an uncovered foreend would provide a better idea.
Gunstocks were made from the 1860s on variations of the Blanchard Lathe which was capable of reproducing the curved elements of a stock..

Thomas Blanchard (inventor) - Wikipedia

Blanchard built on the work of Marc Brunel (Isembard's father..) who designed automated tools for manufacturing rope blocks and pulleys for the Pompey Dock yard, which was the first attempt at making "self actuating" machine tools. This technology passed over to the US at the time of the Civil war when they had a shortage of skilled craftsmen,,

Portsmouth Block Mills - Wikipedia

Blanchards tools, along with boring and rifling machines designed by a certain Mr Pratt and Mr Whitney came back across to UK and were used to equip the new state rifle manufactuary at Enfield..

Gun manufacturing machine tools were made in UK from then on, principally by the firm of Greenwood and Batley in Leeds who exported machine tools around the world.. Why do you think the 7.62x54R has the same bore as a .303?
 
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