The Lee-Enfield rifle was the rifle that shaped British military history.
Based on an earlier 19th-century model known as the Lee Metford (officially the Magazine Rifle Mark I) invented by Scottish-born American inventor James P. Lee, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield re-designed the gun to address its shortcomings. The gun was re-launched in 1895.
These early models were known as ‘Long Lees’, in reference to the barrel length, and further redesigns followed. In 1904 the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) Mark I was issued, evolving into the SMLE Mark III, the standard weapon of World War One. Further variants were produced including the Rifle No.4 Mark I for World War Two and the No.5 or ‘Jungle Carbine’.
The Lee-Enfield’s several permutations and its history as the longest-serving modern rifle mean there’s plenty of scope for a varied collection of weapons. Of greatest interest to collectors are those examples that are completely original with matching serial numbers. Unusual features or patterns can also add value as well as unit markings to a well-known regiment or a proven association to a soldier or public figure.
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