Lee-Enfield Rifles

Tips, myths, and common problems of a British classic.

by RK Campbell

Among the longest serving military rifles of all time is the British Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. Originally known in some circles as the MLE (Magazine Lee-Enfield), sometimes called “Long Lee” or “Emily”, this changed to the less pleasant “Smelly” when the Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield was released. The rifle came into widespread service in the 1890s and the SMLE was used during World War One and Two as well as the Korean War. Many others entered service in 1903 and was improved as the SMLE MKIII in 1907. This rifle and the later No. 4 served the British Army well into the 1960s.

Lee-Enfields remain in worldwide use, notably as an important part of the Indian Home Guard. The rifle has also been used by the Commonwealth nations including New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Among the most unsung of paramilitary organizations are the Canadian Rangers. The Rangers have served in times of peril and emergencies such as floods and conduct search and rescue missions in arctic conditions as well as demanding long range patrols. Their standard rifle has been the Lee-Enfield since their formation. The rifle is still serving but scheduled to be replaced by the C-19, Tikka’s Arctic ten-shot .308 bolt action. The SMLE is also in use by friend and foe alike in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The primary impediment to continued use of the Lee-Enfield seems to be…

Read more in the February 2018 issue.

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