Lee Enfield 303 maintenance

Ackers-303

Active Member
Evening All,

Back in the summer purchased an old 1943 Longbranch No4 Mk1 thats in pretty decent condition, minimal use over the years as it was surplus to the war effort then the only owners were the Italian Navy after the war, apart from that its been greased up in storage until my purchase from Henry Kranks.

As this is such an old rifle, is there anything i should be specifically looking out for in terms of maintenance, and any components that have a tendency to fail? Still rock solid, but with all old things they need a bit more tlc.

Still shoots great, not the most comfy thing to shoot.

Cheers!

Tom
 

harrygrey382

Well-Known Member
Nice sounding classic rifle. I wouldn’t really call it that old though, it’s still modern era. I don’t think it needs any special treatment, it wouldn’t have got it being used in WWII and it’ll easily outlast a new Plastic Fantastic rifle built today.

just do the usual - if it gets really wet don’t put it away till it’s dry, patch the bore. Clean/oil the right internal parts. Extractor springs are a weak point but you’d know about it if it was broken and are cheap/easy to replace. Slosh a generous amount of linseed on the stock (inside and out) every now and again. I’m not an Enfield expert and only have one No4 though, maybe there’s more to it?

I’ve got a mate that still uses his grandad’s No1mkiii from WWI (lives in his work ute) regularly including rapid fire 10 shot strings at large mobs of pigs. It’s clearly never had much love (the GD brought back about 10 and when a barrel corroded out due to caustic primers he’d chuck it in a gulley and grab another) and he doesn’t even know how to field strip it but keeps on doing its job...
 

Muir

Well-Known Member
Evening All,

Back in the summer purchased an old 1943 Longbranch No4 Mk1 thats in pretty decent condition, minimal use over the years as it was surplus to the war effort then the only owners were the Italian Navy after the war, apart from that its been greased up in storage until my purchase from Henry Kranks.

As this is such an old rifle, is there anything i should be specifically looking out for in terms of maintenance, and any components that have a tendency to fail? Still rock solid, but with all old things they need a bit more tlc.

Still shoots great, not the most comfy thing to shoot.

Cheers!

Tom

A 303 rifle that laid unused for decades is probably in better shape than a 1970's sporting rifle. I have dozens of Lees dating to 1900 and I don't ever check them to see if they are crumbling due to age. ;) ~Muir
 

VIGILAIRE

Well-Known Member
Tom, with regard to old .303's a good bloke to contact is Simon Pemberton at Highwood Classic Arms. Fairly sure he sold some of those ex Italian Navy Lee Enfields a while back. He specialises in spares and repairs for them and other older rifles. Hope this helps.
 

Foxyboy43

Well-Known Member
Based on my experience I would suggest you do not use full factory loads - my smelly (from the same source) decided that the action should come closer to my nose by 2" via the stock the first time I used it - 5th round of PPU! Full refund and bought a .308!
 

Sjambok

Well-Known Member
Tom, with regard to old .303's a good bloke to contact is Simon Pemberton at Highwood Classic Arms. Fairly sure he sold some of those ex Italian Navy Lee Enfields a while back. He specialises in spares and repairs for them and other older rifles. Hope this helps.
Brilliant link. Thanks, bookmarked.
 

Ackers-303

Active Member
Thanks for the feedback! Ill give Simon an email as im after a replica no.32 scope to turn it into a 'faux' No.4T. currently got a gopping modern scope on it and just doesnt look right! It spoils the classic look that I love.

Might look into getting the woodwork restored, but quite like the old bashed up look!
 

harrygrey382

Well-Known Member
Based on my experience I would suggest you do not use full factory loads - my smelly (from the same source) decided that the action should come closer to my nose by 2" via the stock the first time I used it - 5th round of PPU! Full refund and bought a .308!
Yours obviously had a major problem - what happened - it slipped its bedding?

Either way - I don’t see the point in owning a rifle you can’t use the full pressure rounds it was designed for. Where do you draw the line - 90% of full pressure, 66%? If I thought a rifle wasn’t safe to use full pressure rounds I wouldn’t want to use it with reduced loads either. If you don’t have the knowledge and confidence to asses a rifle’s mechanical state you should get a gunsmith to look at it. Recommending how someone uses a second hand firearm based on your faulty one is a bit misleading IMO.
 

Foxyboy43

Well-Known Member
Yours obviously had a major problem - what happened - it slipped its bedding?

Either way - I don’t see the point in owning a rifle you can’t use the full pressure rounds it was designed for. Where do you draw the line - 90% of full pressure, 66%? If I thought a rifle wasn’t safe to use full pressure rounds I wouldn’t want to use it with reduced loads either. If you don’t have the knowledge and confidence to asses a rifle’s mechanical state you should get a gunsmith to look at it. Recommending how someone uses a second hand firearm based on your faulty one is a bit misleading IMO.
I think it was the gun had the major problem actually! It was a 1916 SMLE bought direct as mentioned in earlier post. At the fifth shot the action came back down the stock like an axe - only a little further and I could have been badly injured. The gun was returned to the dealer who said "it could be repaired and no-one would see it". To be honest I was crestfallen because I had specifically sought a 1916 dated rifle (my passion is the Somme) and this experience, perhaps understandably, put me right off.
On re-reading your slightly critical post and in my defence the rifle had been sold by a very reputable mainland dealer and had no "mechanical" faults - rather the wood which had no visible cracks or splits parted for reasons still unknown - including after examination by two reputable dealers. I had of course examined the rifle in detail including checking headspace before taking it to the range as I have done with every new purchase over the last 50+ years! For the benefit of all perhaps you would advise how you would have done this differently? The suggestion to not use full-power loads initially was well meant and for older guns I stand by it. It is of course a matter for the new owner to decide which way they go on this - literally on their own heads be it!
I also wonder whether anyone would have been entirely happy mounting the "repaired" rifle again?
 

Muir

Well-Known Member
Yours obviously had a major problem - what happened - it slipped its bedding?

Either way - I don’t see the point in owning a rifle you can’t use the full pressure rounds it was designed for. Where do you draw the line - 90% of full pressure, 66%? If I thought a rifle wasn’t safe to use full pressure rounds I wouldn’t want to use it with reduced loads either. If you don’t have the knowledge and confidence to asses a rifle’s mechanical state you should get a gunsmith to look at it. Recommending how someone uses a second hand firearm based on your faulty one is a bit misleading IMO.
Getting rid of a good rifle because an oil soaked stock split seems a bit silly. Not the rifles fault. It's the idiots who hosed them with oil and stood them in racks for decades. Here at least, butt stocks for a #4 are quite common. I have a few of them myself.~Muir
 

alberta boy

Well-Known Member
Evening All,

Back in the summer purchased an old 1943 Longbranch No4 Mk1 thats in pretty decent condition, minimal use over the years as it was surplus to the war effort then the only owners were the Italian Navy after the war, apart from that its been greased up in storage until my purchase from Henry Kranks.

As this is such an old rifle, is there anything i should be specifically looking out for in terms of maintenance, and any components that have a tendency to fail? Still rock solid, but with all old things they need a bit more tlc.

Still shoots great, not the most comfy thing to shoot.

Cheers!

Tom
Congrats on a great rifle , I have a thing for Long Branch No4's myself and own a few . The main concern with these , and any other older rifle to be more accurate , is stock shrinkage/warping . I've seen a number of split stocks that were brought about by shooting rifles that were no longer bedded properly because of this . Foxyboy43's rifle is a perfect example of this . Oil soaked or badly bedded stocks will split , it is up to you to check for these things before shooting them . Some might say , it's up to the dealer to ensure at the rifle is fit to fire , and it is , but it's your face that's behind the action when it goes off . Fortunately , there's a lot of good information out there on how to do this , Milsurps .com is probably one of the best sites out there for this . It isn't rocket science , it's something anyone can do for themselves . As to being uncomfortable to shoot , there are different length butt stocks available for No4's , everything from Bantam to Extra long , for the LB No4's at least . Check your length of pull against the rifles , either too short or too long can make any firearm uncomfortable to shoot . I shot in quite a few DCRA competitions over the years , we would shoot , literally , hundreds of rounds per day through No4's with no problems . That being said , it is a full bore battle rifle with a steel / gunmetal butt-plate . If you've mostly shot smaller caliber rifles with recoil pads , modern designed sporter stocks or moderators , they can take some getting used to .
You own , what I think anyway , one of the best bolt action battle rifles ever built , they will take punishment and abuse that would destroy most modern sporters , ask the Canadian Rangers . If it's in decent shape , and it probably is , it won't require any TLC , use it like it was designed to be used . Welcome to the club .

AB
 

Rhodesianjess

Well-Known Member
I wouldn't have a problem using standard loads in the rifle. I got an unissued no4 for my 14 th birthday,back home in Rhodesia. I shot Mk7 ammo out of it for years,no problems, also meant that sights were correct for the ammo.
Only caveat is some issued ones were cleaned non too scientifically,ie brasso on pull through to make the bore shiny for inspection!
 

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