Original British 1892 Lee-Metford Mark II .22 caliber Conversion Short Rifle
Original Item: One of the great things about collecting British small arms, at least up through the middle of the last century, is that a vast amount of information was stamped into the metal and wood, making it possible to follow the history of an individual piece. The .22 Short Rifle Mk III is a conversion of a conversion, and each step of the conversions is marked on the gun. This example has the following history stamped into the receiver:
First, the reigning monarch at the time was Victoria, and the uppermost item stamped into the butt socket is her cypher, consisting of a distinctive crown over the initials V.R. for Victoria Regina.
Second, ENFIELD/1892/II stamped below the royal cypher indicates that the rifle was originally manufactured at the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield in 1892 as a Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Metford Mark II. Note that when the Lee-Metford was introduced, no one considered that there might be future modifications of the Lee system with a name different than Lee-Metford. Consequently, there is no Lee-Metford designator on the butt socket, only the mark number, II. As soon as the Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Metford became the Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Enfield, the butt socket designation added LE, and later when it became the short Lee-Enfield, the butt socket displayed SHT LE.
Third, the lower left of the butt socket shows SPARKBROOK/1905/SHT. L.E./COND II. The first conversion was from the Lee-Metford to the Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield, Converted Mark II. This conversion was carried out at RSAF Sparkbrook in 1905.
Fourth, the lower right side of the receiver is marked SHT 22/III/B.S.A.CO, indicating the conversion to the .22 Short Rifle Mk III was performed by the Birmingham Small Arms Co:
Thus this rifle was a Lee-Metford Mk II from 1892 until 1905; it was an SMLE Converted Mk II until probably 1913; and then it was a .22 Short Rifle Mk III until now. 1892 2013. 121 years.
Parts of two roundels are still visible on the right side of the butt.
Among the rarest of the rare, this rifle is the first .22 caliber trainer based on the SMLE. The Mk III designation for this rifle is not related to the .303 caliber SMLE Mk III; it refers only to this rifle’s place in the sequence of .22 training rifles. This model was approved on 9 August 1912, and was built on Converted Mk II and II* SMLE rifles. The conversions to .22 that we have seen are dated 1913. All Mk II and II* SMLEs had been converted from long Lee-Metfords or long Lee Enfields. The absolute earliest we have seen are Lee-Metfords dated 1892
The .22 Mk III rifles have some unique features. The nose cap, for instance, in side view resembles the SMLE Mk I, but on viewing it from the front it is seen that the protective sight ears do not curve in as they do on the SMLE Mk I. The lower hand guard is of the SMLE Mk I design, but the rear sight leaf is the SMLE Mk III leaf, with windage adjustment. The butt swivel is the SMLE Mk I pattern. The front and rear volley sights are present. An empty magazine shell is installed and is marked 22 on the right-hand side. The bolt head is marked 22 No 2. The serial number of this piece is P29201.
The .22 Short Rifle Mk III had a short production life, from 1912 through 1914. A new .22 trainer was introduced in 1915, called the .22 RF Pattern 1914 Short Rifle No. 1
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