Updated: May 22
Sections / Subjects
The first Lee Metford Magazines
Short Lee Enfield to SMLE (No1)
Parker Hiscock .22 Repeater
No4 and No5 Lee Enfield
Fitting magazine for feed and function
North American No4 Derivatives
L8 to L42 Nato 7.62 x 51mm Versions
Ishapore 2A / 2A1 Nato 7.62 x 51mm Versions
Sante Fe aftermarket
The First Lee Metford Magazines
The Lee of Lee Enfield derives from Paris Lee who developed the detachable box magazine concept in the mid 1880's and licensed its use to select gun (rifle) manufacturers in the West. The British 303 cartridge was an advanced design when devised in the 1880's, initially a black powder load with lead projectile, which were updated and developed within the tapered bottle shaped rimmed cartridge - it was the shape of the cartridge case that dictated the shape and sizes of the magazine. The magazine "can" (body) held the front lip and the rear spine - both of each were shaped and required to enable positive latching and easy removal of the magazine. Each magazine is hand fitted by armorers to the fit the latch mechanism of each action - this remained a design and armourer practice throughout the service of all 303 rifle types. It is interesting to note that all versions of Lee Enfield had a dedicated single magazine to each rifle (often but not always serialized to the match the bolt and receiver). Its first guise in British armaments was on the Lee Metford family of rifles and carbines, which evolved in a few years to be the Charger Loading Lee Enfield, then the Short Lee Enfield and then finally the legendary SMLE (Short, Magazine, Lee Enfield).
MLM - SMLE magazines are typified by the reinforcing / guide grooves in the long sides being complete in section through the whole wall (evident on all the examples above). The spine of these magazines also saw development and versioning, as well as markings over its various forms and century of use. The first featured a single locking rib (wedge).The first detachable magazine was envisioned for cleaning and maintenance, but the military leadership feared that soldiers would lose the magazines so they were fitted to the rifle with an action and magazine loop connected by a link of chain - so they hung free when removed, but were still connected. This was present on Magazine Lee Medford and Magazine Lee Enfield models from the start with Mk1 303 ammunition with a lead bullet pushed by compressed black powder, then the smokeless mk2 rounds.
The first Lee Metford magazine was a single stack design holding 8 rounds, this slimmer format along with its squared lower front form and the retaining loop presents a distinctive and rare progenitor.
The second series of Lee Metford magazines (above) were developed to hold 10 rounds in a double stack. The trigger guard and lower fore-end were also altered to accommodate this.
The MLM CC (Cavalry Carbine) was a shortened variation of the MLM Mk2 which also featured other specialized parts to cater for the needs of riding and shooting from horseback (typically lower protrusions for entanglement in clothes and gear). The magazine though was the same format as the MLM mk2 - but shorted to a 6 round capacity. This example shows the magazine to trigger guard retention loop.
Short Lee Enfield to SMLE (No1)
With the move to Lee Enfield and the Charger Loading versions (CLE, CCLE) the magazine was updated to have a hinged right front feed lip, which was to twisted forwards out of the way when removing the follower to support cleaning. This hinged front lip necessitated an indent in the inner wall of the trigger guard magazine housing so that the hinge and rivet could pass. This indent was retained on all subsequent Short Lee Enfield and SMLE designs as the Series 1,2 and 3 based magazines were made "obsolescent" and would be recycled as spare parts and found in any model thereafter. These hinged models are therefore safe in trigger guards for SHtLE and SMLE, but will get stuck in 10 round compatible MLE and Long Lee parts. and assemblies.
The second version (above) of was made deeper at the front edge (noticeably straighter in form), this was marked "2" on the spine and eliminated the practice of a chain link to hold the magazine to the action and so the magazine chain loop was eliminated, but the loop on the trigger guard remained and was still used for securing the thong / ties of the canvas action cover when issued / needed. This was used on marks and models using mk3, 4 and 5 dumdum ammunition and the Short Lee Enfield rifles through to 1910.
The Hague convention required the use of FMJ in modern warfare and so the mk6 303 ammunition gave way to the new Spitzer projectile in the mk7 version of the ammunition, its slight projectile flank angles gave it better aerodynamics / ballistics but the original magazine lips were not substantial enough to retain and guide it.
This series 3 magazines (above) were modified from series 2 to hold the mk7 ammunition and be compatible with the remaining mk6 ammunition stocks. They had the left lip removed and spring steel tag riveted on in its place. The hinged right lip was retained, these were used with the mk7 rounds and on Short Lee Enfields until 1912 and then were made obsolescent. The rear spine features a double locking wedge and a rib spring used to tension the front of the magazine upwards off the trigger guard. Series 1 and Series 2 magazines can be found that have been officially converted to the Series 3 format.
Here is a series 1 magazine that was updated to series 3 format, with the removal of the action link loop and the new follower.
The fourth series of magazines (above) was developed as simplified design for use with the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) from 1912 onwards, it had all lips and features built into one housing form and remained unchanged in this form through to the middle of WW2 where the magazine and rifle design were superseded after being used on production rifles through to 1942 and Trials rifles culminating in the No1 mk5. SMLE magazines are typified by the reinforcing / guide grooves in the long sides being complete in section through the whole wall (evident on all the examples above).
Parker Hiscock .22 Repeater
With war in Europe looming the British government wanted to formalize the .22 cadet / recruit training option to provide consistent and low cost of supplies and standardized equipment to the service SHtLE in British 303. The result was the .22 SHtLE trainer and the models that were developed or simply renamed after. At this point of conception 2 of the influential small arms designers of the day developed the Parker Hiscock .22 repeater magazine which was adopted in 1912. The magazine was designed with a small machine mechanism that slid into a standard magazine shell (with some alterations) - it being held in via a pin in a new keyhole opening in the magazine side. This one is based off a No2 SMLE shell (see above). The mechanism featured a 5 round .22 long magazine held near the front lip which was loaded from the side through a .22 long shaped slot. The magazine was built into a platform that would be lowered out of the way by the rifle bolt. The start of the loading stroke (from an open bolt) actuates a captive sub bolt on the back of the new follower / platform. Its job was to push a round from the integral .22 magazine into the rifles chamber. This was complete by mid stroke of the rifle bolt and then the platform was pushed down out of the way by a built in ramp. The device was a little complicated and shows signs of lots of hand fabrication for fit and function. This one works splendidly but may didn't and still do not. The later .22 SMLE trainers simply used an empty 303 magazine shell to catch extracted spent brass after single hand loading the chamber.
No4 Rifle and No5 Carbines.
The No4 Rifle trials featured a new magazine design which was similar but more simplified for manufacture in form. It used just one rear spine wedge for the magazine lock and the reinforcing ribs in the sides were finished with spear point run outs before they reached the bottom of the can.
Comparing real and repro SMLE No1 and No4 magazines.
Magazine fitting for feed function and lock.
The magazine rear top spline wedge is adjusted for height (material off) to provide a good lock on the rifle magazine catch lug, this presents the rear feed lips high enough for the bolt to catch the rim of the next round and the front of the magazine high enough for the bullet tip to guide onto the feed ramp of the receiver. The magazine front lip shape is critical and is adjusted for height and curvature to allow correct feeding off both sides of the double stacked ammunition.
Still back at the can, the sides are ribbed for strength and to provide 2 contact points for the rounds inside to ride as they enter and elevate. The base of the can is angled which really shows how much taper the stacks of 10 rimmed cartridges develop. The base is typically solid except for a drain hole at its deepest point.
Inside the can lives the follower and spring, which are riveted together. The follower is a curious shape - dictated by its many functions - it has an arch between two flats to define the two stacks of ammunition, lowest on the right. Its has a rear lip that prevents the first round loaded slipping too far to the rear and jamming into the follower to can gap,. Each successive round has its rim in front of the round below it (when loading). The follower also has notches in various places that allow it to work with the can ribs during operation and during follower assembly: the spring is wiggled in first then the follower tilted to enter rear first and pushed down to compress the spring until the follower front edge can enter behind the rear of the can lips, a little wiggling to get the follower in and level to allow it to rise into place on the spring trapped by the lips and ready to load.
Of the reproductions:
I have found both the No1 and no4 magazine reproductions by Sarco to be satisfactory considering the requirement to fit every magazine no matter what, to the actual rifle / receiver that it is to be used on. Now (May 2022) they seem to be out of stock. There is enough material in the spine and lips to allow for adjustment and shaping. The finish that they come with is acceptable and the stamping are clean and as fully formed as the original. I would for the right rifle: bead blast, phosphate and apply a Suncorite alternative to achieve the "FTR" look.
On the No1 examples the location of the drain hole can do with some work - typically to make it centered and symmetrical.
the No4 examples also have "F" and a broad arrow mark on the spine, which are typical and are as good as originals in my fitting, using and selling experience.
I recently sampled the Numrich No1 and No4 rifle reproduction magazines. The No1 examples seem passable - functional testing is ongoing. The no4 example, although more expensive than the No1 is the same device - just with the lover half of the ribs ground off - not fully ground off though, so the samples I have to try will need this completing first.
North America Lend / Lease contract manufacturing features:
Longbranch made the standard No4 magazine body design in a unique process that folded the bottom surface over in 3 sections - leaving an open seam. Another unique feature are two raised dimples either side of the rear rib. Both of these features immediately tell you that the magazine was made at Longbranch.
The NATO 7.62 x 51mm magazine development for the L8 / L42 program
The L8 project was simple - redevelop the No4 rifle to the new NATO 7.62 x 51mm round and keep the capacity to 10 rounds- pre the DCRA and other successful producers of No4 target shooting rifles. The MoD found that this was no satisfactory or simple task and the L8 tests failed the simple conversion - leaving the effectively produced magazine design on the shelves and in stock...to be capitalized on the L42 Sniper Project in the early 1970s (converting servicable No4 Mk1 T rifles with a new heavy barrel and and other revised components. The standard magazine well inscribed by the trigger guard needed a little extra clearance to work with the revised magazine - but standard parts from the No4 were retained.
Of note on this magazine are the Enfield marks (E over D) project contract number and dates, as well as the additional front ramp / lip welded into the box and the rear left lip has a hardened steel tab welded in to replace the ejector screw with the NATO round (screw omitted leaving a threaded hole on L39 and L42 and other derivatives built from existing 303 actions). The L39 was a purpose built target rifle using all but the scope bracket, pads and scope from the L42. For this purpose it was envisioned as a single hand load rifle and so retained the 303 magazine to provide a loading platform. In use (by teams and regiments and then private hands) the L8 / L42 magazine was switched into these rifles for magazine loading / rapid events.
The Ishapore 2A / 2A1 in NATO 7.62 x 51mm.
India wanted to keep a modern army as its part of NATO, but like other countries the ability to develop and deliver an automatic firearm like the FN FAL was proving difficult and delayed - so to fill the gap for time and numbers they kept to what they knew best and redeveloped the Lee Enfield No1mk3 rifle to the new caliber and simplified some features for manufacture. Other than a new metal specification for the action, the rifle needed a new magazine for the new ammunition- the Indians varied at this point from all other Lee Enfield users and developers and took advantage of the more compact rimless round and produced the new magazine in a 12 round capacity.
Sante Fe 5 Round Magazine
Sante Fe was a large remanufacturer of sporting rifles (from military surplus) on the West coast during the late 50's who had a reputation for quality and finish. They contracted with a maker in Japan to make 5 round magazines to help their sporters look a little sleeker, these were marked for Sante Fe and Made in Japan and are modeled on the No1 SMLE magazine design features and are in a rich blued steel finish.