Something Different – Restoring a WWII Vintage Lee-Enfield Rifle

I’m starting a new restoration project this week, and a first for Virginia Toolworks – a firearm. This Lee-Enfield No. 1 MK III rifle chambered in .303 British was made in England in 1940, right smack in the middle of the Battle of Britain!  It quite literally was a rifle that helped save Great Britain from the Nazi onslaught, and then saw service throughout the war.  Pretty cool!

Enfield Receiver

Lee-Enfield No. 1 MK III (c. 1940)

Enfield Model MarkThe Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the British Army’s standard rifle from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957.  This one is in excellent condition overall, complete with matching serial numbers. If you look closely at the photos, you can see the barrel was painted olive drab. This was a common practice with WWII era Enfields that were used in humid climates such as Africa and the Pacific.

The only apology is the unfortunate attempt on someone’s part to “sporterize” it by removing the upper hand guard and cutting off the lower forearm. This was a common, albeit ill-conceived practice after decommissioning to make Enfields look more like hunting rifles.  Tens of thousands, if not more, of these rifles were converted in this manner, a practice that is not unheard of even today.  In fact, there are companies now making modern style synthetic stocks for these old rifles.  Enfields are among the most beautiful military rifles of the 20th century, and given its lineage and condition, this one deserves to be properly restored.

Enfield Armory Marks

The “40” stamp indicates the barrel is original

Enfield rifles have a somewhat distinct look in that the barrel is shrouded in wood from the receiver to the end of the barrel.  Since the wood on this one has been sawed off, I will need to replace the damaged and missing pieces and source another nose cap, which is also long gone. Since millions of these guns were made, wood of the correct model shouldn’t be too hard to find.  The nose cap is the most unfortunate missing part because they were stamped with the gun’s serial number, so it will always be that one mismatched part.

I am by no means a gunsmith, but I do know my way around weapons at little. Fortunately, there is very little rust, no visible rust damage that I can find, and the action and bore appears to only need a good cleaning.  The one part in the photo above that shows rust is a retention clip for the rear hand guard.  This is an easy fix.  I’m looking forward to putting this rifle back into its original condition, or at least as close as it can get.  Now, if I can just find some ammunition for it…

Enfield Cutoff

Bubba’d cutoff (ugh!) – Olive drab paint was applied in tropical climates to inhibit rust. It will stay!

About Bryant
Bryant is a business management and organizational development executive with over 20 years’ experience focused on financial and operational efficiencies, talent development and optimization, improved employee engagement, and cultural alignment of teams within the organization. He has diverse experience in successful financial and strategic planning, brand management, leadership analysis and talent development, as well as designing and executing improvements to teams’ cultural efficacy and organizational alignment. Bryant has experience in both International Public S&P 500 Corporate and Non-Profit Sectors, and also runs his own entrepreneurial business venture, a consulting company specializing in helping small businesses and organizations improve operational efficiency, leadership development, and employee engagement . Bryant holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelors in Fine Arts (BFA).

2 Responses to Something Different – Restoring a WWII Vintage Lee-Enfield Rifle

  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember training with decommissioned “DP” Lee-Enfields and Bren guns at Army Cadets in the UK circa 1991.

    I never fired one though, as by that time the Cadet GP (a single shot version of the SA-80) was used.

    I’ll be following this with interest



  2. Best of luck. We have two SMELs 1941 Lithgows. Cracking rifles.


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