The Rifle, .303 Pattern 1914 (or P14) was a British service rifle of the First World War period. A bolt action weapon with an integral 5-round magazine, it was principally contract manufactured by companies in the United States. It served as a sniper rifle and as second line and reserve issue until being declared obsolete in 1947. The Pattern 1914 Enfield was the successor to the Pattern 1913 Enfield experimental rifle and the predecessor of the U.S. Rifle M1917 Enfield.
During the Boer War the British were faced with accurate long-range fire from Mauser rifles, model 1893 and 1895, in 7×57mm caliber. This smaller, high-velocity round prompted the War Department to develop their own "magnum" round, the .276 Enfield, in 1910. An advanced new rifle using a modified Mauser M98-pattern action was built to fire it, the Pattern 1913 Enfield (P13); effective mass production was still some way off when World War I started, to say nothing of the logistical nightmare of introducing a new rifle cartridge in wartime, so nothing came of it.
The primary contractor (Vickers) was unable to produce more than a handful of rifles, so the P14 became a de facto afterthought. The Short, Magazine Lee–Enfield therefore remained the standard British rifle during World War I and beyond.
The need for additional small arms combined with a shortage of spare industrial capacity led the British government to contract with United States commercial arms manufacturers, Winchester, Remington and Eddystone (a subsidiary of Remington set up principally to manufacture the P14) to produce the P14 for the British before the US entered the war in 1917. Problems were encountered with specifications, quality and shortage of machine tools and skilled workers, with the result that the first rifles were not accepted by British inspectors until February 1916. Shortly afterwards a modification was made to enlarge the bolt lugs and the rifle became the Mark I*. However, each factory produced slightly differing parts, leading to interchangeability issues; Winchester was particularly troublesome in this regard, going so far as to refuse for months to change to the new Mark I* standard. Therefore, the official designation of the rifle was dependent upon its manufacturer: e.g., the Pattern 1914 Mk I W and Pattern 1914 Mk I* W is a Mk I or Mk I* of Winchester manufacture, R would be Remington, or E for Eddystone.
The P14's principal combat use during World War I was as a sniper rifle, since it was found to be more accurate than the Short, Magazine Lee–Enfield, either in standard issue form or with modified "fine-adjustment" aperture rearsights designated Pattern 1914 Mk I W (F) and Pattern 1914 Mk I* W (F) or, from April 1918, Aldis Pattern 1918 telescopic sights designated Pattern 1914 Mk I* W (T) (modified and telescopic sights were mainly used on Winchester-manufactured rifles, the Winchesters being thought to be of superior quality). Eventually Winchester would manufacture 235,293 rifles, Remington 400,000 and Eddystone 600,000, totaling 1,235,293 rifles.
When the U.S. entered World War I, the P14 was modified and standardized by the U.S. Ordnance Department and went into production at the same factories as had produced the P14, production of that rifle having ceased, as the Model of 1917. Sometimes called the M1917 Enfield, it was chambered for the standard US .30-06 Springfield cartridge and enjoyed some success as a complement for the Springfield M1903 rifles which were America's official standard issue, soon far surpassing the Springfield in total production and breadth of issue.
In 1926 the Pattern 1914 Enfield was re-designated by the British military as the No3Mk1.
Prior to and during World War II, the Pattern 1914 Enfield was used, after undergoing modification ("Weedon Repair Standard", formally the Mk2 standard) in Britain mainly as a rearguard rifle. The modification consisted of armourers at the Weedon Royal Ordnance Depot or various other commercial companies inspecting the rifles, removing the volley sights and performing any necessary repair prior to issue. Post Dunkirk and with the great loss of arms that the British forces endured in 1940 the No3Mk1 stock suddenly became a valued resource. The rifle was also used again as a sniper rifle, the configuration being different from the World War I incarnation. Additionally, the US also sent some M1917 Enfield rifles to the UK under Lend-Lease, though the different .30-06 Springfield chambering limited use and necessitated clearly marking the rifles with a 2 inch wide red band around the stock. The Australian Army also used some quantities of the sniper variant of the P14 during World War II. Once sufficient numbers were built up of the Short Magazine Lee–Enfields and No4’s the No3Mk1 were either relegated primarily to equip the World War II British Home Guard or used as sniper rifles.
The P14/No3Mk1 was declared obsolete in British service in 1947.
Surplus P14s were sold throughout the Commonwealth, especially Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, where they proved popular for full-bore target shooting, and being sporterised for game shooting.
Adapting the design to fire the standard .303 British round led to the Rifle, .303 Pattern 1914 (P14), a design fed from a five-round internal box magazine. With its prominent sight protection ears on the receiver, "dog-leg" bolt handle and "pot-belly" magazine, it was distinctive in appearance. The action was essentially a Mauser design with some Lee–Enfield features and optimised for rapid fire, with the action cocking on closing, a feature highly valued by the British Army with its emphasis on riflemen highly trained for rapid fire, but less valued in other armies, such as the US or Germany, where cock-on-opening designs such as the M1903 Springfield and Gewehr 98 were preferred. Cock-on-opening actions became more difficult to operate when heated by rapid fire as the effort to open the bolt had to overcome the striker spring to cock the action as well as unsticking the fired case from the chamber. The P14 was an advanced design for the time, and was said to be the most advanced service rifle of World War I.
The Pattern 1914 Enfield had a large, strong bolt action, and the bolt travel is long, as it was designed for the dimensionally large and powerful .276 Enfield cartridge. The bolt action had a Model 98 Mauser type claw extractor and two forward lugs; there was also a rear safety lug formed by the base of the bolt handle sitting in a recess in the receiver. Much faster and smoother to operate than a Model 98 Mauser, the bolt was well-supported throughout its travel and the camming action on opening and closing the bolt facilitated ease and speed of operation. The unusual 'dog-leg' shaped bolt handle is low profile and places the bolt knob just rearwards of the trigger close to the firer's hand, again facilitating rapid cycling and fire. Like the Lee–Enfield, the safety falls under the firer's thumb and can be operated silently.
Due to the original Pattern 1913 Enfield action being designed around the high-powered .276 Enfield experimental cartridge with a larger diameter case than the .303 British, the internal box magazine capacity for the smaller diameter .303 British was six rounds, although the employed stripper clips held only five cartridges. The Pattern 1914 Enfield like the Mauser Gewehr 98 had no magazine cut-off mechanism, which when engaged permits the feeding and extraction of single cartridges only while keeping the cartridges in the magazine in reserve.
The rifle was designed with a iron sight line consisting of rear receiver aperture battle sight calibrated for .303 British Mk VII ball ammunition at 300 yd (274 m) with an additional ladder aperture sight that could be flipped up and was calibrated for 200–1,000 yd (183–914 m) in 100 yd (91 m) increments and 1,000–1,650 yd (914–1,509 m) in 50 yd (46 m) increments. The ladder aperture sight moves vertically on a slide, and hence was not able to correct for wind drift. The rear sight element was protected by sturdy "ears" and proved to be faster and more accurate than the typical mid-barrel sight offered by Mauser, Enfield or the Buffington battle sight of the 1903 Springfield. The front sighting element consisted of a wing guards protected front post, and was adjusted laterally and locked into position during assembly at the arsenal. The Pattern 1914 Enfield rear sight element was situated on an elongated receiver bridge, which added weight to the action, as well as lengthening the bolt. There were also volley-fire sights similar to those on the Short Magazine Lee–Enfield fitted to the left side of the weapon for use up to 2,600 yd (2,377 m), though these were of little use and were usually deleted when the weapon was refurbished. The advanced aperture sights with their long sight radius contributed to a well-deserved reputation for accuracy, and WW1 snipers considered it to be more accurate than the standard Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk III infantry rifle.
Compared to the Lee–Enfield the Pattern 1914 Enfield was more accurate, more durable; however, it was heavier – the Lee—Enfield Mk III weighed 8 lb 10 oz (3.91 kg) empty – and had only half the magazine capacity, giving it a significantly lower effective rate of fire. The pre World War professional British Army emphasized besides marksmanship also on rapid-fire training, resulting in the annual Mad minute qualification shoot for their riflemen. In contrast to the Boer War experience which had led to the P13/P14 project, World War I conditions favored volume of fire, at which the Short Magazine Lee–Enfield excelled.
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