Item:
ON13276

Original British WWI Lee-Metford MkII dated 1895 Converted to S.M.L.E. in 1905 and .22 Trainer in 1913 - Serial 117

Item Description

Original Item: One Only. This is one rare bird! This rifle started life as an 1892 dated Lee Metford MkII .303 caliber rifle, then was converted into an extremely early S.M.L.E. configuration, and later to a .22 Training rifle.. It may well have passed through being modified to an 1895 Long Lee Enfield as well, though the markings do not indicate this. The action is also marked with serial 717 over several struck through serial numbers, which is also present on the end of the nose cap. There are also the various dates of conversions, and where they were performed. These 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:

V.R.
B.S.A. Co
1895.
II

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.

B.S.A. Co. indicates that the first incarnation of this piece was produced by the storied Birmingham Small Arms Company and 1895 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:

ENFIELD
1905
SHT L.E.
CON'D II.

which indicates it was modified at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock in 1905 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:

SHT. 22
III
L.S.A. Co.
1913

This indicates that the rifles last incarnation was a “.22 Short Rifle Mk III,” and this transformation was carried out at London Small Arms Co. Ltd. a small and rather rare contractor to see on one of these rifles. It also has a date, which is something we rarely see for the .22 conversion. This rifle was converted for training use prior to WWI.

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 130 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 EARLIEST S.M.L.E. Mk I design, incorporating steel wings screwed directly into the wood, 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.

The magazine is present, but is empty inside, which allows the extracted cartridges to be collected The bolt head is marked “.22 No 2”. There is also a butt stock marking disc with 4. F / T 6 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”.

Specifications-

Year of Manufacture: 1895. Converted 1905 and later 1913
Caliber:  .22 cal
Cartridge Type: Rimfire Cartridge
Overall Length: 25 Inches

Overall Length: 44 Inches
Action type: Bolt-Action
Feed System: Single Shot

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    New Jersey


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