The Info List - Lee–Metford

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The Lee–Metford
rifle (a.k.a. Magazine Lee–Metford, abbreviated MLM) was a bolt action British army
British army
service rifle, combining James Paris Lee's rear-locking bolt system and detachable magazine with an innovative seven groove rifled barrel designed by William Ellis Metford. It replaced the Martini–Henry
rifle in 1888, following nine years of development and trials, but remained in service for only a short time until replaced by the similar Lee–Enfield.


1 Design 2 Replacement 3 Charlton Automatic Rifle 4 Users 5 See also 6 References 7 External links


Schematic. Image #9 and #10

Lee's bolt action mechanism was a great improvement over other designs of the day. The rear-mounted lugs placed the operating handle much closer to the rifleman, over the trigger. This made it much quicker to operate than other, forward-mounted lug designs which forced the rifleman to move his hand forward to operate the bolt; also, the bolt's distance of travel was identical with the length of the cartridge, and its rotation was only 60 degrees compared to the 90 degree rotation of some French and Mauser-style actions. In addition Lee introduced a superior detachable box magazine to replace the integral magazines in use with most repeaters, and this magazine offered greater capacity than the competing Mannlicher design. Metford's polygonal rifling was adopted to reduce fouling from powder residue building up in the barrel, and also made it easier to clean. In spite of its many advantageous features, the Lee–Metford
was something of an anachronism, due to its use of a black powder–loaded cartridge. By the time of the rifle's introduction, rifle design had moved on to using small-calibre smokeless powder cartridges, which allowed bullets to be propelled at much higher velocities without as much smoke or residue. The .303 ammunition designed for the rifle was in fact originally intended to be loaded with a new propellant (cordite). However, as a result of protracted development, production of cordite was delayed, forcing the British to use black powder instead. By the time cordite cartridges were available, it was found that they were wholly unsuited for use with the shallow Metford rifling, which would wear out and render barrels unusable after approximately 6,000 rounds.[1] Regardless of the shortfalls brought about by the use of black powder, the Lee–Metford
went through several revisions during its short service life, with the principal changes being to the magazine (from eight-round single stack to ten-round staggered), sights, and safety. Starting in 1895, the Lee–Metford
started to be phased out in favor of the Lee–Enfield, a virtually identical design adapted for use with smokeless powder. Changes included deeper square-cut rifling (designated Enfield pattern), and sights adjusted for the flatter trajectory enabled by the smokeless propellant. Replacement[edit] Replacement of the Lee–Metford
rifles took several years to achieve, and they were still in service in some units during the Second Boer War in 1899. Troops with the Lee–Metford
and even the Lee–Enfield had a disadvantage to the Mauser Model 1895-equipped Boer troops, when long range accuracy was a concern. Poor sighting-in and quality control at the factory level resulted in British rifles being woefully inaccurate at ranges greater than 400 yards (370 m); upon correction they were essentially equal to the Mauser action in terms of accuracy, and superior in most other attributes. Even so, the British considered a whole new rifle, the Pattern 1913 Enfield, based upon a modified Mauser design, but its development was cut short by the First World War and the eminently adaptable Lee–Enfield
served for another half century. In British service the Lee–Metford
was also upgraded to the standards of later rifle patterns (e.g. to charger loading and Short Rifle, the SMLE pattern), though the barrel was almost always switched to one with Enfield pattern rifling. The Lee–Metford
was produced commercially and used by civilian target shooters until the outbreak of World War I, as it was considered to be inherently more accurate than the Enfield pattern of rifling. In this context, barrels and boltheads could be replaced as frequently as the owner wished, or could afford. It remained a reserve arm in many parts of the British Empire into WWII, even being issued to the New Zealand Home Guard and the Australian Volunteer Defence Corps until more modern rifles could be obtained. The Lee–Metford
is still in ceremonial use with the Atholl Highlanders. Charlton Automatic Rifle[edit] Main article: Charlton Automatic Rifle

Charlton Automatic Rifle.

Small numbers of Lee–Metford
rifles were built as, or converted to, experimental semi-automatic loading systems, such as the British Howell and South African Reider and the best-known of which was the Charlton Automatic Rifle, designed by a New Zealander, Philip Charlton in 1941 to act as a substitute for the Bren and Lewis gun
Lewis gun
light machine guns which were in chronically short supply at the time.[2][3] During the Second World War, the majority of New Zealand's land forces were deployed in North Africa. When Japan entered the war in 1941, New Zealand found itself lacking the light machine guns that would be required for local defence should Japan choose to invade, and so the New Zealand Government funded the development of self-loading conversions for the Lee–Metford
rifle.[4] The end result was the Charlton Automatic Rifle
Charlton Automatic Rifle
(based on the obsolete MLE),[5] which was issued to Home Guard units in NZ from 1942. Over 1,500 conversions were made, including a handful by the Australian firm Electrolux
using Lithgow SMLE Mk III* rifles.[6] The two Charlton designs differed markedly in external appearance (amongst other things, the New Zealand Charlton had a forward pistol grip and bipod, whilst the Australian one did not), but shared the same operating mechanism.[7] Most of the Charlton Automatic Rifles were destroyed in a fire after the Second World War,[8] but a few examples survive in museums and private collections. Users[edit]

 British Empire  Tibet

See also[edit]

British military rifles Lee Model 1895 M1885 Remington-Lee


^ Skennerton 2007, p. 90. ^ Skennerton (2001), p.33 ^ Skennerton (2007), p.203 ^ Special
Service Lee Enfields: Commando and Auto Models by Ian Skennerton. Published by Ian D Skennerton, PO Box 80, Labrador 4215, Australia, 2001. ISBN 0-949749-37-0. Paperback, 48 pp, 50 plus b & w drawings and photos, 210 x 274 mm ^ Skennerton (2001), p.37 ^ Skennerton (2007), pp.37–38 ^ Skennerton (2007), p.505 ^ Skennerton (2007), p.205

Skennerton, Ian: Small Arms Identification Series No. 7: .303 Magazine Lee-Metford
and Magazine Lee-Enfield. Arms & Militaria Press, Gold Coast QLD (Australia), 1997. ISBN 0-949749-25-7.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lee-Metford

v t e

British Empire
British Empire
Small Arms & Ordnance of the Victorian era
Victorian era

Side arms

Infantry swords 1897 Infantry sword Beaumont–Adams revolver Enfield revolver Webley .455" Revolver Mk I - IV

Muskets and Rifles

Brown Bess
Brown Bess
musket Baker rifle Brunswick rifle Pattern 1851 Minié rifle Pattern 1853 Enfield
Pattern 1853 Enfield
rifle-musket Snider-Enfield
rifle Martini-Henry rifle Lee-Metford
rifle Magazine Lee-Enfield
(MLE) rifle


Field Artillery

SBML 9 pounder 13 cwt RBL 9 pounder RBL 12 pounder RBL 20 pounder RML 9 pounder 8 cwt RML 13 pounder 8 cwt RML 16 pounder 12 cwt BL 12 pounder 7 cwt BL 12 pounder 6 cwt QF 12 pounder 8 cwt BL 15 pounder QF 1 pounder pom-pom

Mountain artillery

RML 7 pounder Mountain Gun RML 2.5 inch Mountain Gun

Howitzers, medium, and heavy artillery

RML 6.3-inch howitzer RML 6.6-inch howitzer BL 5-inch howitzer BL 5.4-inch howitzer

Siege & garrison artillery

SBBL 32 pounder SBML 24 pounder SBML 8 inch 65 cwt RBL 40 pounder RBL 7 inch RML 25 pounder 18 cwt RML 40 pounder gun RML 64 pounder 64 cwt gun RML 64 pounder 58 cwt RML 64 pounder 71 cwt gun RML 80 pounder RML 6.6 inch gun RML 8 inch howitzer BL 5 inch gun Mk I - V BL 6 inch 30 cwt howitzer BL 9.45-inch howitzer

Coastal artillery

QF 3 pounder Nordenfelt QF 4.7 inch BL 6 inch Mk III, IV, VI BL 6 inch Mk V RBL 7 inch RML 7 inch RML 8 inch BL 8 inch Mk VII RML 9 inch BL 9.2 inch Mk IV & VI BL 10 inch Mk I BL 12 inch Mk I, VI, VII RML 12.5 inch RML 16 inch RML 17.72 inch


13 inch 36 cwt mortar 10 inch 18 cwt mortar 8 inch 9 cwt mortar

War rockets

Congreve 6-pounder Congreve 12-pounder Congreve 24-pounder Boxer Hales 9-pounder Hales 24-pounder

Machine guns

Nordenfelt gun 0.45" Gatling gun Gar