SMLE Rifles

The Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle, or SMLE, is a wartime rifle that has a rich military history and has been through many adaptations. Called the workhorse of the British Empire, this weapon is both relatively common and a collectors' item, which makes it an excellent choice for gun owners.

History of the SMLE

The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield was released in 1895. The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I was released in 1904, as a lighter and shorter gun, somewhere between the long rifle and a carbine. In 1907 the iconic Mk III was built, with accessories such as a fixed bayonet and rear sights. Later on, the Rifle No.5 Mk 5 was developed for jungle warfare, its nickname being the "jungle carbine". The rifle was constantly being adapted for use in different situations; consequently, many versions are available.

The SMLE's Distinguishing Characteristics

The bolt-action SMLE was adopted by the British government to replace the single shot Martini-Henry, as it had an eight shot capacity which was capable of firing accurately and quickly, although later models had a 10 round magazine. It was also much lighter and shorter than other comparable models, and had an extra-long bayonet to compensate for the shorter barrel length. The SMLE was tougher, lighter and able to withstand more abuse than other rifles of the time.

SMLE Collectors

SMLE collectors gravitate towards a Lee Enfield rifle for many reasons. Besides the history, the characteristics that made it such an enduring military weapon continue to hold true for modern rifles. As a sniper rifle or a general workhorse, this weapon remains as popular today among military surplus collectors as it was when it was standard issue.

Modern SMLE Collectors

When looking to purchase a SMLE, it's best to inspect all the parts - particularly the bore. Beware any examples that appear to have been painted or improved; this could be disguising internal issues. Check that all the parts match, including serial numbers. A production date from before 1918 will ensure that you are getting a gun with great history behind it.