The Lee–Enfield is a bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle that was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century. It was the British Army's standard rifle from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957. A redesign of the Lee–Metford (adopted by the British Army in 1888), the Lee–Enfield superseded the earlier Martini–Henry, Martini–Enfield, and Lee–Metford rifles. It featured a ten-round box magazine which was loaded with the .303 British cartridge manually from the top, either one round at a time or by means of five-round chargers.
The Lee–Enfield was the standard issue weapon to rifle companies of the British Army and other Commonwealth nations in both the First and Second World Wars (these Commonwealth nations included Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and South Africa, among others). Although officially replaced in the UK with the L1A1 SLR in 1957, it remained in widespread British service until the early/mid-1960s and the 7.62 mm L42 sniper variant remained in service until the 1990s. As a standard-issue infantry rifle, it is still found in service in the armed forces of some Commonwealth nations, notably with the Bangladesh Police, which makes it the second longest-serving military bolt-action rifle still in official service, after the Mosin–Nagant. The Canadian Forces' Rangers Arctic reserve unit still used Enfield No.4 rifles as of 2012, with plans announced to replace the weapons sometime in 2014 or 2015. Total production of all Lee–Enfields is estimated at over 17 million rifles.
The Lee–Enfield takes its name from the designer of the rifle's bolt system—James Paris Lee—and the factory in which it was designed—the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Southern Africa and India the rifle became known simply as the "three-oh-three" or the "three-naught-three".
References / notes
- Lee-Enfield. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Accessed 20 April, 2017.
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