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 SMLEs 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 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, its 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.