The Lee-Enfield No. 4 MK 1/2

By David Tong

Lee-Enfield No. 4 MK 1/2
Lee-Enfield No. 4 MK 1/2. Photo by David Tong.

After WWII, the Royal Ordnance Factory Fazakerley was the sole facility used by the British to rehabilitate rifles tired by five years of arduous service. The example I am reviewing is a representative of what the armorers there performed. Originally a standard No. 4 rifle, its original designation was No. 4 Mk I and this, plus its serial number, was stamped into the left rear receiver bridge just below the rear sight. This serial number differs from the one it was given during its rebuild.

Items that were replaced included the complete bolt, so the receiver was renumbered with the new number of the bolt. The original model and serial were crudely electric pencil lined out and a new one was placed further forward on the left receiver wall. Another new serial number was stamped onto the bottom of the fore end.

The new designation is the title of this article. It represents a minor technological upgrade of the No. 4. All Lee-Enfield rifles through the end of WW II had their triggers pivoting from the trigger guard / bottom iron. While this might not seem to be a big deal, in humid or rainy climates it was. When wood gets soaked, it can expand and this can change the trigger pull. This was most noticeable during the Burma and SE Asian campaigns.

The "1/2" designation involved the installation of a small steel block onto the otherwise stock No. 4 receiver, which the trigger was then hinged on via a cross-pin. (See the article Lee-Enfield No. 4 MK 2.) This metal block was not completely fitted when installed. It was precisely drilled after installation to ensure the perfect alignment of the trigger and sear engagement, thereby providing the best possible trigger pull. This isolated the effect of moisture by changing the direct engagement and disengagement of the trigger on the cocking piece and sear of the bolt.

Other repairs included new wooden blocks at the butt stock heel, around the lateral rear cross-screw and escutcheon near the butt stock socket, on the right side of the trigger guard and near the left receiver ring. These may be simply cemented into place, or attached with oak dowel pins plus cement in larger pieces, such as that of the butt heel.

Curiously, there appears to be a nearly mint five-groove barrel in my sample rifle. It shows no obvious throat erosion or pitting from corrosive priming or lack of care.

No. 4 rifles wore three main types of rear sights. The first was similar to what the later MK 2s wore, a finely machined ladder type aperture with a click adjustable knurled knob for fine elevation adjustment. The second type was used on the MK 1*, a very simple, L-shaped, two position aperture (similar to that of the early M16 rifles) with one aperture set for 200 yards and a higher one with a smaller aperture set for 500 yards.

This example of the MK 1/2 again wears an adjustable Mk II ladder, but with simple stamped construction and engraved range markings from 200-1,300 yards. Elevation is performed by a small spring-loaded detent tab that is much faster to use than the fine-thread Vernier click-adjustable screw of the original sighting system used on the first No. 4s, as well as the final No. 4 MK 2. A downside is that it is quite easy to inadvertently nudge the range setting.

No No.4 rifles had rear sight incorporated windage adjustment. This was performed by moving the front sight (available in five heights) laterally in its dovetail after zeroing with the issue Mk VII cartridges. This is not an unusual arrangement. Mauser 98s, Russian Mosin-Nagants and Japanese Arisakas used a similar method to adjust windage.

The trigger pull is decent, probably about 4.5 pounds with the usual two stage pull common to military service rifles of the period. The first stage also draws the striker back roughly 1/16 inch to full cock.

The exterior of the action is military rough with a "blackened oil" surface covered with a baked-on black enamel topcoat. The interior machining is quite smooth and maintains the slick bolt-throw for which these rifles are known. The only bolt actions I am personally familiar with that are smoother are the US Krag-Jorgensen (also a rear-locking design), the Italian Mannlicher-Carcano and the Austrian Mannlicher-Schoenauer.

The idea behind this forward-through-repair process was one of postwar economy. Britain was utterly drained after the war and there was no money available for new small arms until the late 1950s. After the end of the war, roughly from 1948-1954, the Royal Ordnance Factory Fazakerley carried out extensive depot-level repairs on small arms and even they suffered from labor disputes and strikes. It is said that the goal was to provide a rifle with approximately 80% of its service life restored.

The armory generally ensured that small parts, such as the hand-guard bands, sling swivels, rear sight and other parts were of Fazakerley manufacture. This was indicated by small upper-case "F" stampings. This particular rifle was originally made at Fazakerley.

It was missing its complete rear swivel assembly, its front swivel and its sling. Who knows what a prior owner was thinking, removing the only decent way to carry a piece that weighs nearly nine pounds. It certainly did not leave Fazakerley that way! These I replaced at slight expense from overseas vendors.

A few shots to confirm point of impact were taken at 100 yards with factory Remington Express 180 grain Core-Lokt round-nosed, soft-point ammunition. Then it was off to the hunting field for the all but invisible Oregon black tail deer the first week of October. Conditions were cloudy with periods of rain and temperatures in the mid-50s.

I noticed some reluctance to feed the round-nosed ammunition smoothly. I have heard that the magazine's feed lip tabs can be gently bent to correct this, but I haven't done so. I simply switched to the more common spitzer bullet design, which worked without issue.

Alas, several trips to the Coast Range proved fruitless, as these deer are known to bed down shortly after dawn, after feeding and watering. The terrain in the Coast Range is mixed, with thick woods, clear-cut stands of removed timber, rolling hills and quite steep mountains that would make recovering a deer a tough job.

As this rifle came to me in "military distressed" cosmetic condition, I didn't worry about the rainy weather encountered on our hunting trips. I figured a rifle that had survived World War II would no doubt handle a couple of days in the rain and this proved to be correct.

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Copyright 2016 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.