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The BSA manufactured Lee-Enfield Rifle No.5 in .22in. RF calibre


Below is a Rotate & Zoom Image of the .22RF No.5 Trials Rifle described in the following text.

Click on image and slide cursor < > to rotate. Click again to enable/disable magnifier - or use icons

The Enfield Pattern Room holds in its collection three Experimental .22RF No.5 rifles by the Birmingham Small Arms Company., (B.S.A.) manufactured in 1945. The latter of the three closely approaches the specification of the subsequently manufactured batch of Trials rifles in every respect other than barrel length and minor woodwork cosmetics.

Shown above is the Rifle, .22", Experimental - Ref: RB389 - image courtesy of the Enfield Pattern Room

This first prototype was built externally exactly as a .303" No.5 ("Jungle Carbine") rifle. The small-bore barrel is 19 inches in length and is even fitted with the flash hider and bayonet bar of the service arm. The rear sight is the standard No.5 leaf calibrated to 800 yards.The furniture is standard and the fore-end is fitted with the later type of fore-end woowork end-grain protecting cap. The bolt is of a new short-body design later used on all experimental and trials .22RF No.5 rifles, and is further detailed on this page. This rifle appears to be the first to be fitted with a magazine insert which slides into a magazine way through a fixed plate replacing the sprung loading platform in the .303" magazine. This .303" magazine thus modified contains a spring-loaded single-loading platform for the .22RF round as described later. The rifle carries no markings.

The above rifle is another .22" RF experimental model of 1945, Ref: RB391 - image courtesy of the Enfield Pattern Room

This rifle is most probably the immediate follow-on design from RB389 and approaching the final specification. However, it still retains the flash hider and the barrel is 1.75" longer than RB389. The rifle carries the Serial No.1, sometimes allotted to the pattern rifles submitted to the Pattern Room. The fore-end is of the normal length and rounded at the front end-grain as its full-bore counterpart. The .303" No.5 recoil reducing rubber butt-pad has been dispensed with and is replaced by a standard brass plate with trap. The rear sight is the standard No.5 leaf type. The .303" magazine, modified as in RB339, holds an insert in the form of a specially made 5-round magazine for the .22RF cartridge; details of which are given further down this page.

 

Only very recently, in mid 2008, a privately owned example of one of the above rifles has surfaced here in the U.K. We are grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to photograph it. The rifle is particularly interesting in that it has been modified at some time since it was originally built, in 1945, as one of the very few experimental models (these were probably produced only in single figures).

This example carries the serial number as "No.6" on the left hand side of the butt-socket in the traditional B.S.A. manner, along with a lone "6" stamped on the bolt body, another on the outer face of the ejector mounting plate and, immediately above that, another on the side of the receiver. On the same side, the receiver is marked with the specific text used on the experimental .22RF rifles manufactured by B.S.A. during this period. Except that this rifle is engraved "No.5 RIFLE", the designation is in exactly the same form as that of the markings of their .22RF experimental long rifle, which is engraved "No.4 RIFLE" and is the predecessor of the conversion of the No.4 rifle which was to become the British Rifle No.7. The photographs of the markings on the No.5 rifle below show the greater part of the text quite well, but the later addition of mounting pads for the mounting bracket of a No.32 Mk.I sighting telescope have caused it to be partly obscured. The whole of the equivalent text can be seen on the "long rifle" via the link above to the page for the No.7 rifle.

 

The marks for the prototype No.4 'long' rifle can be seen, below, as

THE BIRMINGHAM SMALL ARMS CO. LTD.

ENGLAND

NO. 4 RIFLE........................................................
CARTRIDGE .22" LONG RIFLE....................
..

.. and the serial numbering "5" is applied to all components, with "No.5" stamped on the LHS of the butt socket,

.............................................whilst the marks for the prototype No.5 'carbine' are shown below as

THE BIRMINGHAM SMALL ARMS CO. LTD.

ENGLAND

NO. 5 RIFLE........................................................
CARTRIDGE .22" LONG RIFLE.......................

and the serial numbering "6" is applied to all components, with "No.6"stamped on the LHS of the butt socket; however, the numbers "14" have been subsequently stamped to the right-hand side of the original "No.6" mark using different characters and slanting slightly to the right. Although at some time the receiver side-plate has been drilled for the fitment of an accessory and the holes later plugged, one of these plugs coincides with where the "No." of "No. 5" was engraved; but comparison between the two rifles confirms that consecutively numbered rifles were produced, with serial number 5 being the No.4 long rifle and serial number 6 being the No.5 "Jungle Carbine". At what point in the latter rifle's life the mounting pads for the No.32 scope were fitted is unknown.

The fitting of a 'scope to the above rifle could have been undertaken at almost any time since 1946. It is almost impossible to tell when this has been done, but it seems unlikely to have occurred much later than the 1960s, if indeed as recently as that. Whether this modification took place whilst the rifle was still in B.S.A.'s hands is not impossible, but perhaps unlikely. It could have been a military adaptation at some later date, although there is no particular evidence to point to that, and the telescope is not numbered to the rifle in the traditional way. There is even the possibility that a more recent private owner has undertaken the 'scope fitment entirely, but, what seems more likely, is that the pads were put on the rifle fairly early in its life (they are original pads, and have certainly been fitted in the correct manner for a No.4T .303" rifle) and, after separation from an earlier 'scope, that unit has been replaced by the first unit that came to hand. If anyone out there has any knowledge of this rifle's history, we would be delighted to hear of it. It should not be forgotten that the machining cuts, made to lighten the receiver of a .303" No.5 service rifle, preclude the fitment of the mount for a No.32 scope. This fitment has only been made possible because the .22 No.5 rifles ( and subsequent models) were built up on the flat-sided receiver of the standard No.4 rifle.

Above is the Rifle, .22", experimental, Ref: RB 392 - image courtesy of the Enfield Pattern Room

This rifle is very close to the final specification for the Trials rifles, although the barrel is much longer at 25.6 inches and the fore-end is chequered as well as the wrist. The front of the fore-end woodwork appears to be trimmed from the standard. The overall length - at 44.3 inches - is nearly 5 inches greater than that of the .303" No.5 Mk.I rifle and, at 8lbs. 14 ozs., the weight is heavier by 1lb 13ozs, much attributable to the longer heavier barrel bored to a lesser internal diameter. The No.4 action on which the rifle is built is also not the lightened machined casting used on the No.5 service arm. This is the first of these rifles to be fitted with the specially manufactured target type aperture rear-sight with windage adjustment, and the expensively produced fore-sight tunnel with exchangeable elements. These also are further detailed below on the Trials rifles. The magazine configuration is exactly that of the previous two experimental models and the 5-round magazine insert and the single loading insert are interchangeable within the .303" magazine's modified magazine way; see further down the page.

Above is the Rifle, .22", experimental, Ref: RB 390 - image courtesy of the Enfield Pattern Room

Unusually, the.

 

The following two images below are of another of the hundred or so trials rifles - Serial No T 10091.- left and right hand views.

This is the rifle that can be more closely examined in the rotateable and zoomable image at the top of the page

Only about one hundred of these rifles were manufactured at Birmingham Small Arms in 1944 as trials rifles, each with a 19" barrel. The outward similarity to the .303in. centre-fire full-bore rifle - colloquially known as the "Jungle Carbine" - was borne out of a specified requirement for a small-bore training and target version of the No.5 which was, at the time, destined to become the main British service rifle. Difficulty with maintaining the accuracy of the .303in. No.5 - the so-called "wandering zero" - mainly caused by the loss of material machined away to lighten the parent No.4 action, resulted in the demise of the plan to replace the No.4 rifle with the No.5 for general use. Thus there was no further need for an equivalent training rifle, and the .22RF rifle was never put into production. BSA then moved their attention to the 1945/46 design of what became known in 'in-house' circles as the .22in. RF Rifle No.6. This new rifle was the fore-runner, initially of the British No.7 rifle, and, latterly, the 1948 dated design of the Rifle No.8 ,which is today still in use by Cadet units.

It is a sad fact that the small-bore shooting sport in Britain, more than a year after the end of the Second World War (1939-45), was desperately short of rifles. Even in early 1947 the Board of Trade was still refusing to issue import licenses to companies and associations who wished to bring .22RF target rifles in from the United States. Remington were then still not permitted to send rimfire ammunition 'across the pond'. Late in 1945 I.C.I. were apologising to the shooting public for the dearth of small-bore ammunition, and could only release very limited supplies of the wartime brand "Rifle Club" cartridges. B.S.A. were themselves advertising their inability to supply sporting guns and rifles, and their half-page in The Rifleman, the journal of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, regretted that such new longarms remained unobtainable and declared that " Nevertheles, their very excellence makes them all th more worth waiting for."

The general public had got wind of the existence of the newly proposed training rifle during 1945, and the possibility of its imminent production and issue, at a time when, before the war, it was the norm for such issue items - once military requirements had been satisfied - would be made available to civilian organisations to encourage them to practice and be prepared for an eventuality (those were the days).

A report in The Rifleman of the death of the S.M.R.C. chairman - Lieut.-Gen. Sir Alfred Codrington, G.C.V.O., K.C.B. - early in September 1946, and described that officer's lifetime support of small-bore rifle shooting in Britain, in the footsteps of Lord Roberts, and continued with hopes for the future. It spoke of all the voluntary organisations whose aim was to "create a healthy youth and to provide mental, moral and physical training." It went on .... " Sport is intended to play a large part in the scheme, and already the various organisations and youth clubs are clamouring for equipment. The Education Authorities are empowered to make substantial grants towards the provision of the necessary equipment. It is at this point that the No.6 Rifle of .22 calibre will be of untold value if the Education Authorities are encouraged and made unafraid to build rifle ranges." It was obviously still unclear what form the new rifle would eventually take, but it had advanced to the point where its likely nomenclature was generally accepted. It is, though, interesting to note that, barely three months later, the December journal carried a report of the London Transport Rifle Club; it firstly covered their record of work done in the War years, saying "The problem of training the Home Guard in miniature rifle shooting was overcome by the loan of 80 .22 B.S.A., Vickers, etc., rifles, the property of the club: ........ The paucity of rifles for the Home Guard was equalled by the absence of .22 ammunition; in the early days of training the supply from the War Office ceased, in fact it never fairly started. The Secretary was able to place an order for 500,000 rounds of American ammunition, and this, with the routine supplies of the club from the S.M.R.C., allowed the work to be carried on, supplies being loaned to the Home Guard as required. The Rifle Club, with its membership of over 5,000, is the largets club in the Kingdom, and played its part in training men for various services." Under the following report on the club's equipment, it stated that " As far as possible, the equipment has been kept in good condition, and provision is made in the Reserve Fund for the replacement cost of bringing the stock of rifles, etc., up to the new standard. The work of Parker-rifling takes several months, and at the moment we have nine rifles at Messrs. Parker-Hale and Sons for overhaul. Soon after the outbreak of War, eight S.M.L.E. .22 rifles were purchased, but little use has been made of them; it is recommended that these be sold as soon as other rifles can be purchased. The B.S.A. Company is bringing out a new .22 rifle on the lines of the No.5 Service rifle, and a number of these should be purchased as and when they come on the market. Thes will be prodused in two models - Utility and Deluxe."

Quite apart from the most relevant fact that the hoped-for new B.S.A. training rifle was once again described, quite correctly, as a being "on the lines of the No.5 Service rifle", several points for consideration arise from these post-war texts. That such rifles as the converted S.M.L.E. training arms, perhaps .22RF No.1 Mk.III or the No.2 MkIV models, should have lain idle at such a time is barely conceivable. What could have been the contemporary thinking? Parker-rifling had probably been only applied to military contract arms during the conflict and there was a considerable backlog of heavily used civilian rifles needing attention. Imported ammunition urgently needed in wartime, and adding to the U.S. Lend-lease national debt, was certainly not going to be licensed once the war was over - and the same applied to rifles. Finally, may the anticipated 'Utility' and 'DeLuxe' models relate to the designs of the single shot 'No.6' rifle and the magazine-fed No.5' version? Perhaps so, or perhaps not, we may never know precisely what was intended. Certainly economics would have told effectively on the magazine-fed rifle. The single-shot option did eventually win out though, but in the guise of the No.8 Rifle.

The significant relevance of this prototype work post-war is indicated in an excerpt we show here, taken from a 1945 booklet written by Brigadier General A.F.U. Green C.M.G., D.S.O. The production, entitled "Questions Answered about Rifle Shooting", had a format in which the author posed questions likely to be asked about the sport, and answered them in his own informal and informative way.

Two questions and their answers related particularly to the rifles about which you are presently reading, and to the .22in. RF Rifle No.6 and the Rifle No.8 which became the production rifle "filling the bill".

"1) Is a two-two rifle suitable for war and sport, and does it help to make us a nation of marksmen?


The •22 is a lot better than nothing for killing an enemy, it is good for rabbits and small game, it is the cornerstone for making us a nation of marksmen ; but it has its limitations, and for this it requires Government recognition. With the •2z in artificial conditions you may learn to shoot with microscopic accuracy, but this is only one aspect of training the Services and cadets in the use of the rifle.
The rifle must be suitable for its purpose. From time to time during the life of the Home Guard, small job lots of small •22 rifles suitable for small boys who want to shoot small birds have been issued. Most of these have no military value whatsoever. The only kind of •22 rifle for training a soldier or a cadet must simulate a service rifle-size and weight, bolt action, trigger pull, all the same as the service rifle. The worst possible issue was the delightful little Winchester Automatic (or self-loading) •22 rifle which, apart from being the very worst for military training, can only be used with a cartridge which is unobtainable.


2) Is there any prospect of getting •22 rifles like the service rifle ?


Hush ! not too loud ! In the Daily Telegraph of fifth May, I944, it was stated: " A new miniature military rifle and a match rifle of the same type are to be available as soon as possible after the war." Discounting the use of the terms "miniature" and " match," it really does appear that a•22 rifle will be produced on the lines of the service rifle and possibly a superior model of the same kind with sights sufficiently accurate for high-class competitive shooting.
For this-let us pray."

We return, from that small diversion, to the matter of the .22RF No.5 rifle.

 

Being trials rifles to be issued for appraisal by some of the most critical eyes, B.S.A. ( the Birmingham Small Arms Co.Ltd.) took great care over the quality of their build and workmanship - as indeed had been done over many years for previous designs. These rifles were hand-built and the furniture was beautifully finished including the chequering at the wrist as befitted a rifle potentially intended as a target rifle as well as a service training arm.

 

The rear-sight is based on a standard No.4 rifle leaf, with modified graduations calibrated to the rimfire round. Graduations on the rear face are in common with the No.4 leaf but simply for 25, 50 and 100 yards. However, the left hand edge of the leaf is graduated in minutes with a diminutive vernier scale on the elevation slide. Young eyes would be needed for this! Windage is also calibrated in minutes; with an equally fine vernier scale on the slide!

A most significant departure was the manufacture, by B.S.A., of a completely new elevation slide incorporating windage adjustment.

This particular design has not been seen on any other equivalent sight.

 

...... ...

The bolt and bolt-head are of the same design as that of the Rifle .22RF No.5

For comparison, see collective images of the bolts for the Rifles Nos. 5, 7 (British), 8 & 9.

 

 

The five round magazine insert is exactly that used in the .22RF No.5 rifle, i.e. an especially manufactured unit which was the precursor to the system fitted to the British No.7 Rifle. However, when the No.7 was put into production for the Royal Air Force, the interests of economy resulted in, rather than an expensively hand-made insert, the utilisation of a five-round sporting rifle magazine already in production by B.S.A. for the commercial market . That magazine, with an integral release clip, fitted its parent rifle from below but, by dint of a clever piece of thinking, B.S.A. simply reveresed this release clip in its housing so that it operated from above, since the magazine was now inserted into the plate and slide brazed into the original No.5 magazine in that orientation. See also the Rifle No.7

The rifles were also

issued with a spring-

loaded single loading

platform (right) which could

 

 

 

be substituted for the

five round magazine (left)

when target shooting.

 

The LHS of the butt socket carried the serial number of each rifle, which enjoyed a "T" prefix. This example is T 10091. Outside the Enfield Pattern Room, which holds in its collection an identical rifle (reference RB390) with the serial no. T 10027, the whereabouts are known of another trials rifle, still in original form, but with a standard .22RF "Harmonisation" rear-sight fitted with a Parker-Hale pattern 8/53 target adapter with windage adjustment and a six-hole aperture eyepiece, is also known; this carries early serial no. T10009.

The Pattern Room collection also holds a B.S.A. manufactured .22RF experimental No.5 style carbine (reference RB 389) which is probably a prototype of the trials rifles. This rifle carries no serial number, has a single loading platform fitted into a .303 magazine and still maintains the " Jungle Carbine" classic tapered flash-hider hood at the muzzle. This flash-hider was deleted from the trials models, which had a heavier parallel target type barrel and the special fore-sight tunnel shown above. Another two rifles rifle (reference nos. RB391 and 392) are in the care of the Royal Armouries who now hold the Pattern Room collection transferred from Nottingham. RB 391 is another .22RF "Jungle Carbine" style rifle as RB390, but the barrel is nearly two inches longer - at twenty and three-quarter inches. The stock is unchequered and the serial number is "1". RB392 is a unnumbered full-No.4-length rifle, chequered as the trials carbines, and fitted with the same magazine and five round insert.

Presumed to have been produced around the same time that B.S.A. produced the trials rifles, the Royal Ordnance Factory at Fazakerly made up at least one No.5 configuration rifle in .22 rimfire calibre with a similar outward specification to that of the B.S.A.-made Pattern Room sample RB389. The known example has resided for many years within the Weapons Collection of the Infantry & Small Arms School Corps at the Land Warfare Centre, Warminster. This rifle resembles the .303 issue rifle in most respects, including the rubber recoil reducer and muzzle flash-hider, but is single-shot with a bolt arrangement similar to that of the Rifle No.9, and is fitted with only an empty magazine shell to collect fired cases. The collection also holds one, if not two, of the BSA trials rifles. Several of the latter are known to be in private hands, with more than one having surfaced in North America in recent times, following a renewal of interest in such unusual siblings of the Lee-Enfield.

A further rifle of interest has been brought to our notice. An image is shown to the left. This rifle is in No.4 configuration - i.e. a long rifle rather than a carbine - equivalent to the rather later No.7 rifle, but is built on a lightened action as used for the .303" No.5 service rifle, rather than on the modified No.4 action used for the prototype and trials .22RF rifles. The lightened action from the .303" CF No.5 was eventually used in the production of the .22RF Rifle No.8. The rifle under discussion, shown left, is serial number is T10147, 47 digits above the expected range of 100. The owner advises us that it has beeen suggested to him that the rifle might be what is known as either a 'lunchbox special' stolen from the factory in pieces and built up outside, or perhaps a "bitser" made up from one of the rifles seen at auctions in the past. It could even be a special made up at the factory using a spare No.5 receiver. It is known that the .22RF No.5 rifle was originally destined for production as a training rifle for the new service weapon - at that time intended to be the .303 No.5 (or 'Jungle Carbine'), and many parts were probably manufactured over and above the hundred required for the batch of trials rifles. Strangely, the magazine fitted to this rifle is marked with the serial no. T 10090, only one below that of the example arm on which this page is based. It should be noted that the Enfield Pattern Room collection holds a similar rifle, Ref: RB392, built by B.S.A. & Co. in 1945; this rifle again maintains the dimensions of the No.4 long rifle but utilises the same 5 round magazine as the experimental No.5 rifles; additionally, it is fitted with a smaller diameter barrel than the No. 5 experimental rifles, and is unmarked. Three years later, in 1948, B.S.A. built the No.7 Mk.I rifle along these lines, but with a magazine arrangement which, whilst the same in principle, accommodated the economics of mass production by using, as the magazine insert, the 5 round magazine from one of their sporting rifles rather than the especially manufactured unit in the experimental rifles. Immediately prior to this, B.S.A. also built five prototype No.7 rifles in single shot configuration. These rifles were sold when much of the the Birmingham Small Arms Company's own collection was broken up and sent to auction some years ago. The Pattern Room therefore has no such example, although the rifle is shown in Ian Skennerton's excellent reference book "The Lee-Enfield Story".

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