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Old School: No. 4 Mk. 2 Enfield Rifle

The No. 4 Mk. 2 Enfield

There’s an old joke that states, “If you spot troops, but you cannot identify them, fire a round in their general direction. If you receive massive volumes of machinegun fire in return, they’re German. If there’s a pause for a few minutes and you’re pummeled into the next world with artillery and air support, they’re American. If you receive high volumes of incredibly accurate rifle fire in return, they’re British.” That high volume of incredibly accurate British rifle fire originally came from the Enfield.

The first bolt-action Enfields came into service in the later 1800s and saw their first action in British colonial wars. After a difficult series of conflicts with the Boers in South Africa, the Enfield was almost replaced through no fault of its own, as sources looked to place the blame for what was felt should’ve been a much shorter conflict. However, Kitchener’s “Old Contemptibles” and their No. 1 Mk. III SMLEs, dangling out on the extreme left of the Allied line in 1914, showered the tightly packed troops of the German First Army with such a high volume of accurate rifle fire at long ranges that, anecdotally, the Germans supposedly wondered if British troops were all issued with automatic weapons. 1914 secured the Enfield in British service for the next few decades and sealed its place in military and firearms history.

Sling design was unchanged since the SMLE and continued in service with
the L1A1.

The last batch of British-made Enfields intended for general issue began production in the late 1940s and lasted until the mid 1950s. By 1955, the FN FAL in its many guises was coming into service throughout the West. The last of the breed, the No. 4 Mk. 2, evolved from the No. 1 Mk. III SMLE (often lovingly referred to as the “Smelly”) of World War I fame. These rifles are often referred to as “Irish Contract” rifles, but in reality, they were made for a number of end users, not just Ireland. Most of these entered the U.S. in the 1990s, the salad days of surplus, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when international tensions were at low tide for almost a decade until the events of Sept. 11 reformatted the world once again. If you’re as old as I am, you remember the heady days of buying Enfields for $50, and adding $10 for a handpicked sample, because why not?

Buttstock oiler ensured the Enfield’s bore would conform to Queen’s Regulations and be “clean, bright, and lightly oiled” like
the troops who carried it.

The Mk. 2 was a refinement of wartime No. 4. Instead of an L-type flip sight, with which most No. 4s were equipped during the war, the Mk. 2 had a much more precise micrometer installed. The large diameter battle sight was, however, retained and used for most practical purposes. The bolt mechanism remained basically unchanged from the wartime rifles. The trigger was slightly repositioned, and in many people’s opinion, the Mk. 2 trigger represents a noticeable improvement.

Note stripper clip guide, left-side safety and firing pin tail. Rear sight is folded to its battle sight position, providing a large aperture for rapid engagement.

Cosmetically, the exterior of the Mk. 2 is similar, if a little less pleasing to the eye for most people as birch was the predominant wood used in the Mk. 2. Compared to some of the exceptionally handsome Long Branch No. 4s produced in Canada during World War II with beautiful walnut stocks, the Mk. 2 can appear a little “industrial” in comparison. The lovely “paint over finish” was retained from many of the wartime guns, and indeed, the practice continued with many British small arms.

Essentially, the differences between the No. 4 and the very first No. 1s used in Africa against hostile tribes and the Boers are actually quite small. The core of the rifle, as far as the design goes, changed fundamentally little. The heart was the cock on closing bolt action. If you’ve never fired an Enfield, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise the first time you do. The first thing you’ll likely notice is the speed of the bolt — it’s noticeably faster for people to operate than the Mauser action, which cocks on opening. This rather unique arrangement is what made the Enfield such a potentially rapid firing rifle in the right hands.

Precision micrometer rear sight is a work of art and calibrated for MkVII ball ammo.

The origin of the “Mad Minute” begins with Enfield. Well-trained British soldiers, who were paid bonuses based upon their musketry scores, were provided with practice ammunition almost at will before WWI. Volunteer soldiers being the competitive Type A personalities they normally are, this led to competitions for speed and accuracy. This is where the Enfield excels.
It wasn’t unusual for a well-practiced soldier, especially among the “Old Contemptibles,” to be able to load and fire 30 rounds per minute. The record approached 60 rounds per minute.

Ten-round magazine wasn’t intended to be detached for reloading, rather five-round strippers were employed to rapidly top it off.

Additionally, the .303 was accurate and powerful. Although it began life as a black powder cartridge, by the 20th century, cordite loads (angry spaghetti) were used and maintained throughout WWII. The .303 loaded a 174-grain bullet as standard ball that maintained considerable accuracy and lethality out to the 600- to 700-yard mark from the No. 4. Although the .303 fades a bit after that point, especially in comparison to the 7.92×57 Mauser, the speed of the Enfield action, its ease of reloading, higher magazine capacity, and better battle sights make for a better battle rifle than the K98. (Cue the Teutonic screaming.)

Muzzle was equipped with two lugs for attachment of a blade or spike bayonet.

If you’re interested in military small arms, you need at least one Enfield in the stable. The prices vary according to what condition the rifle is in, the model (rarity), condition, and your luck. Unfortunately, the most commonly encountered Enfield of any type in the average gun store is the ubiquitous “Bubba,” which usually removed half the wood and the sight protectors to make the previous owner’s burden lighter after too many trips to the chocolate fountain at the local buffet. The good news is that parts are easily acquired, and you can restore them rather easily, if not as inexpensively as once possible. For an average complete No. 4, expect to pay $350 up; for a No. 4 Mk. 2 (as pictured here) $500 up; and if you find a No. 4 Mk. 2 in the mummy wrap, start at about $1,000 and cut that value in half if you take it out of the wrap and shoot it.

Expect to see more about the Enfield series in the future. The variants and models provide the collector and shooter with many choices and unusual and rare variants.

No. 4 Mk. 2 Enfield
Caliber: .303 British (7.7x56R)
Barrel Length: 25.2 inches
Overall length: 44.5 inches
Weight: 8 pound, 11 ounces
Action: Bolt action
Capacity: 10-round detachable magazine
Rate of fire: normal 15 rpm, rare occasions 30+

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