Sante Fe "Deluxe Carbine" - circa 1959
Updated: Mar 8
Secured in July 2018 from a popular online auction site, a rare and original example of the "high end" commercial sportster builds derived from the cheap glut of surplus Enfields in the 1950s. Documented by Skennerton - only one authentic / original example was available to him to observe. I believe this one to be preserved "as sold" and lightly used by its previous owner(s). I have safety checked and test fired this rifle and found it to be very precise, although with a fast and light single stage trigger. It features a smoothed and blued receiver and barrel (charger bridge and rear sight ears have been machined off, the barrel shortened). The bolt group is all standard parts but has been polished and chromed. The walnut forearm has been cut, shaped and smoothed, along with the butt stock, which is now finished with a Pachmyr butt pad. Sante Fe contracted to Japan to produce a sleek 5 round magazine and a suitable scope bracket to mate to the original "T" mounting pads. I wondered if (this is the) original wood and may still show the Holland and Holland application of the rifle serial number in pencil inside the forearm and stamped on the socket lip of the buttstock? - but no luck or preservation there. The Butt stock is derived from a No1Mk3 item, as per the brass unit disk inlet, which has been plugged with a disk of wood, the No4 fore wood is unmarked inside or out.
To correct the trigger pull, I stripped the trigger guard off (which has the trigger hanging from it on a No4 Mk1). On the upper part of the trigger, above the pivot point are two bulges in its profile, these rub against the seer when the trigger is pulled and create the first and second trigger pressures. The lowest bump controls the first pull off pressure, which I adjusted while I had the assembly off for cleaning. I also removed the front hand guard to install the trigger assembly to check the fit up and pull off. While I had the wood off I observed that the butt stock was secured with a No1 rifle style butt bolt, which protrudes with a square cross -section into the rear of the fore-end. In this case the No4 fore end would not accept the protruding butt bolt end, so it seems that Santa-Fe, after all the excellent external finish of bluing, machining, simply ground a relief channel in the back of the draws and through the back strap - this will have to be repaired no matter if it is preserved, further converted or restored. When the front end was off, I could observe the original serial number on both the lower barrel and receiver that are covered by the wood when assembled. Sante-Fe did renumber the left wrist, I can choose to renumber the bolt and wrist back to the original number or continue the Sante-Fe number on the new bolt.
I wanted to replace the bolt and built a suitable example from NOS components that were representative of the type and mark used by BSA in 1944 - right down to the M47C wartime factory code for BSA Shirley. The photo below shows the Sante Fe polish and chrome on the original bolt assembly, next to the one I built. Note the small amount of bolt head over-turn evident - a feature of the "T" Sniper and other target rifles. This means that when the bolt is locked, the thrust shoulders on the bolt head and bolt body are very nearly in full contact to transfer the firing force of the round to the locking lugs. While I was assembling the cocking piece, I took the time to lap the seer contact face to 600 grit and 110 degrees to give a slick trigger pull off.
With the scope adjuster caps now unlocked, this rifle has the potential to be a very light, accurate and fun vintage hunting rifle. I may fit a standard 10 round magazine to this action also, so then I can try it at target competition practice session and perform magazine changes of 5 and 5 rounds (CMP guidelines).
I have been working with various real (No32 Mk3) telescopic sights and reproduction examples (so far just the No32mk1) for different projects. I wanted to test all my "real" No4T brackets and scopes with replacement and reproduction examples to compare evident collimation via shooting test groups. Within these tests I established that the Sante Fe / Japanese contract bracket held a collimated scope 12 MOA Right and 20 MOA Depressed (Low). This was by far the worst and furthest from "zero" bracket, scope and rifle combination tested. I could add a replacement bracket to the Sante Fe which is only 3 MOA Right and 6 MOA Elevated - We will see how the budgets go!
I had an opportunity to take a rifle Hunting in October 2019 - naturally I selected the Sante Fe and used the Japanese contract bracket with a reproduction No32 Mk1 scope. I had a tuning session at a range before the hunt to set zeros and got the scope "on" at 100 yards and producing 3 MOA groups on the rifle - good enough for its first field trip. It handled well in the field - aside from the increase in felt recoil due to its lowered weight over a standard No4T. Its length of pull is considerable shorter than I desire and may need a butt sleeve / pad to remedy rather than cut into the stock or the Pachmyr pad. While hunting I observed on the 200 to 300 yard shots that the reproduction scope was causing high hits so doctored the scope settings down by "50 or 100" yards on the drum. At the end of the field session I was able to set up an impromptu target shoot with 2 round groups on the same target Point of Aim with the scope set at "100, 200 and 300 yards". When home I could crop and edit the photo of the target in special software to determine the actual elevation MOA achieved by the turret settings - then compare to the standard range data for the Mk7 rounds (I was using Federal 180 grain Power Shock hunting rounds in the field tests).
The target calculator indated that the "100" yard shot pair were 1.9 MOA above the POA, the "200" yard pair were 5.9 MOA above POA and the "300" yard pair were 10.8 MOA above the POA.
From the Parker Hale handbook: Mk7 British 303 elevation over range data is given a rise from zero (100 yards) to 200 yards as 2 MOA, and again from 200 to 300 yards as an additional 3 MOA.
The reproduction No32Mk1 is clearly giving a 4MOA (in place of 2 MOA) from 100 to 200 and another 5 MOA increase from 200 to 300 (a actual total of 9 MOA above 100 / zero vs an expected 5 MOA).
This supported my field expedient of dropping the range drum "50 to 100" yards back on the turret over the actual range required (all below 300 yards).
So for my next field / hunting outing an alternative scope (I also desire a focus / image improvement over the repro No32mk1) and I feel like my original /replacement / repro bracket and scope study should be expanded to include shooting for actual range / elevation fidelity also.
Ready for the 2021 hunting and CMP season, it now has a Taiwanese scope bracket which has been matched to the rifle to achieve a 100 yard zero and a Numrich No32 mK2 reproduction scope - which has proven to be the best choice for tuning and usability out of all repro offerings to date. I also took the chance to buy and add a surplus but genuine No4T butt stock with markings and cheek piece and add the rubber recoil pad for comfort and to increase the length of pull.
Here is the device patiently waiting in the field for dusk and the deer. Its not a bad companion and does better than most of the other firearms the field has seen.