Original British Lee-Metford MkII Dated 1894 Converted to .22 S.M.L.E. Mk III - Serial No. 937
Original Item: One Only. This is one rare bird ! Perhaps starting life as an 1894 dated Lee Metford .303 caliber rifle, then being converted to .22 caliber in an extremely early S.M.L.E. configuration. It may well have passed through being modified to an 1895 Long Lee Enfield as well. The action is dated with many alteration dates evident between 1894 and 1913. It is also marked with serial # 937.
This markings on this rifle help trace the history of the various refits it has gone through.
On the top right of the stock cup it is marked:
B.S.A. & M.Co
First, the royal cypher Crown over V.R., for Victoria Regina. Well, this Queen, longest lived of all British monarchs, had an influence far beyond the British Isles and the British Empire during the Nineteenth Century. Victorian morals dominated the cultured classes of Great Britain and the new United States, and even now, in the Twenty-First Century, nostalgic organizations such as the Victorian Riflemen thrive in the former Colonies.
Second, “B.S.A & M.Co” indicates that the first incarnation of this piece was produced at “Birmingham Small Arms & Metal Company,” and “1894” was the year of manufacture. Lastly, for its first incarnation, “II.” tells us that it was manufactured as a “Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Metford Mark II”. In other words, this piece originated as a Lee-Metford MkII rifle. How can one measure how much history this rifle has seen? Think Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa.
Third, the lower left of the butt socket is very clearly stamped:
which indicates it was modified at Royal Small Arms Factory Sparkbrook in 1906 to the “Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield, Converted Mark II”. Think of the very first S.M.L.E. Mk I with its exotic rear sight, rear sight protectors, and lumpy nose cap. The British, ever thrifty, began to convert long Lee-Metfords and long Lee-Enfields to S.M.L.E.s soon after sealing the pattern. All the converted rifles were called the Mark II.
Fourth and lastly, the lower right side of the butt cup is marked:
This indicates that the rifles last incarnation was a “.22 Short Rifle Mk III,” and this transformation was carried out at the London Small Arms Company Ltd. in 1913. Think of British Tommies training to be the most accurate riflemen of any European army in the impending Great War, which began over 100 years ago now. Many of those remarkable riflemen were dead by the end of the year. This “little .22” is now 123 years old, and is in very, very nice condition for its age. Christian has said he hopes to be in comparable condition at that age.
Among the rarest of the rare, this rifle is the first .22 caliber trainer based on the Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield, or S.M.L.E. for short. Before this there were a Mk I, Mk I*, and Mk II, but all were direct conversions of Lee-Metfords or long Lee-Enfields, and did not resemble the S.M.L.E. The “Mk III” designation for this rifle is not related to the .303 caliber S.M.L.E. Mk III; it refers only to this rifle’s place in the sequence of .22 short training rifles. The model was approved on 9 August 1912, and was built on Converted Mk II and II* SMLE rifles.
The .22 Mk III rifles have some unique features. The nose cap, for instance, in side view resembles the S.M.L.E. 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 a the S.M.L.E. Mk I. The lower hand guard is of the S.M.L.E. Mk I design, but the rear sight leaf is the S.M.L.E. Mk III leaf, with windage adjustment. The butt swivel is the S.M.L.E. Mk I pattern. The front and rear volley sights are present; obviously, even though the designated ranges did not relate to the .22 caliber cartridge, they were still very useful for training in manipulation.
An empty magazine shell is installed, and in this case a large opening is cut in the bottom to allow the fired cartridge cases to drop free. The bolt head is marked “22 No 2”. The nose cap unfortunately is missing its correct stacking swivel and transverse screw. There is also a butt stock marking disc with FE 8.14 stamped on it. Additionally, this rifle retains the original lightened butt stock, which as three large longitudinal holes drilled under the butt plate.
The .22 Short Rifle Mk III had a short production life, from 1912 through 1914. A new .22 trainer was introduced in 1915, the “.22 RF Pattern 1914 Short Rifle No. 1”.
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