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British Sniper Rifles & Equipment 1914-1992

With the outbreak of each world conflict, the British Commonwealth has found itself effectively "behind the times" on technology, techniques and scalable logistics of the changing need for precision rifle fire - whether "first class shot" (designated) "marksman" or "sniper".  In the Blog subjects I try to go beyond the detail and information in the various published books and provide photos and descriptions of equipment examples that I have encountered or owned.  On this journey I've also added some examples into the ArtioZen collection - along with original or replica parts, where the extra examples of these form inventory for the online store.  I'm also on a learning / exploration path to experience examples nearer the beginning of the 20th century - stay tuned!

I've been fortunate enough to work with fellow collectors and acquire examples of the 20th century rifle scopes - please find a short overview and description in this video:

I've also been privileged to be a guest speaker and present my research and craft at living history group meetings and events and have a developing series of slideshow formats - here are some of the facets within this:

As the First World War bogged into a long term trench stand off - the sniper role was informally formed by the British and their allies to counter the more advanced German technologies and tactics.  This was decentralized and contracts of many formal and informal specifications were given to all variations of the British Gun industry provider and technology.  Out of which emerged a majority population of BSA and Enfield converted scoped rifles, with Periscopic Prism and Aldis domestic sights and some imported Winchester models making the volumes.  The tactics and techniques being lead by "landed" officers who transferred their hunting practices to the trenches, WWI sniping was to be a psychologic boost to the home side while be demoralizing to the enemy,  The use of stalks, hides and loopholes was doctrine and remained in the sniper pamphlets up to 1940.  The post war period saw the scrapping of the stocks of "odd" scoped SMLEs (thousands of rifles) - few service intact and most are made from salvaged bits and pieces.  The principle scope rifle of the British forces from WW1 to mid WW2 was the Pattern 14 / No 3 Rifle - based on the Winchester manufacturer disposition and with Aldis / BSA made scopes.  During my research I have enjoyed the account "Sniping in France" by Major H. Hesketh-Pritchard - ill try to secure the ability to copy this account with credits to my blog posts when possible).

At the onset of WW2 snipers and sniping equipment was attached to the Intelligence Officer of a typical Rifle Battalion with an expected number of 4 active snipers total.  This lead there to be around 300 No3wT rifle equipment sets extant at the onset of WW2 - a majority of which fought to defend France with the BEF and form the rear edge of the organized retreat with great losses all through to Dunkirk.  The No3wT would continue to fight into the 1940s - and is exemplified in North Africa and Italy.  The 1940's army reforms moved the sniper role down to the Company Command level and a Rifle Company could typically have 4 to 8 active snipers working in teams of 2 to 4 - drawn from the First Class Marksman of the Platoons (with a secondary / back-up selected for training / attrition).  The first sniping classes were centralized in the new school of Infantry formed in Ireland.  

Sniper Instructors of the School of Infantry demonstrate a variety of self / field made camouflage techniques @1942.

The No4T was initially developed using the cheek riser from the No3wT and the discarded No32 scope from the BREN LMG project - a custom cast and machined bracket was conceived along with simple mounting pads for the rifle action.  The first No4T contract was executed by Enfield Lock armoury and many were built from No4 Trials rifles from the 1930's.  This lead to 1500 No4Ts being pushed into circulation around the time of Operation Dynamo and the invasions of Italy (the most often seen model in theatre photos).  Holland and Holland was then contracted to deliver complete rifle and scope kits from provided rifles, rough machined castings and supplies of scopes and tins.  At its peak the Hollands contracts yielded 5 converted rifles per day - war work made it a 7 day week!  By wars end over 20,000 No4Ts had swelled the armoury stocks and supplied the battle fronts.  Hollands continued to convert remaining rifles to T standard through to mid 1946 on piece work until the cancelation of the contract.  This period saw many completed T rifles put to stock as "scopeless" spare rifles in a storage chest.  Some of these were 1942 Savage provided rifles that were finally bought from the Hollands store rooms using the LIFO stock system (this shows the mass production inertia of the effort!).

"Snipers" from the 1st Canadian Parachute Company train at the School of Infantry in 1942 with their Long Branch produced No4T rifles.

 The only other official Commonwealth producer of No4T conversions was Long Branch for the Canadian armed forces - their supply of scopes and numbering system being very eclectic - blocks of rifle numbers from the production line, REL struggling to supply CNo32 scopes and Lyman Alaskan purchased scopes being substituted - wartime records indicated 400 or so rifle sets produced - post war private analysis has now established this number as a round 780.

No4T Sniper Rifle (and other models) Parts and Accessories - Store Links

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