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The Lee-Enfield Rifle No.7 (British)

see also the Canadian C No.7 rifle equivalent


A .22" training version of the No.4 Rifle Manufactured by the Birmingham Small Arms Co. for the Royal Air Force

and the 1948 Air Publication which outlined the rifle's handbook

The appearance of the first of the British conversions of the Rifle No.4 to .22 rim-fire calibre for training, came as part of a Ministry of Defence requirement for a long-term new training rifle to partner the soon to be selected general issue .303" calibre Service weapon shortly after the end of WWII in 1945. This requirement necessitated the building of a series of prototype and trials rifles, including training versions of shortened rifles in the form of the No.5 carbine, for reasons that will shortly be made clear. That work was undertaken by B.S.A.'s Birmingham Shirley factory, since they carried, post-war, the main production of No.4 rifles. Although the No.7 rifle, and its succeeding contemporary, the N.9, filled a gap created by the obsolescence of the great number of .22 conversions of the No.1 rifle, the future of British musketry training, and military involvement in small-bore competition shooting, lay with the incipient No.8 rifle, the final selection from this series of trialled rifles. The No.8 was not destined to hold the place as the last of the line of Lee-Enfield training rifles; to the N.9 goes that accolade chronologically; but the No.8, to this day still in use with Cadet Units, deserves the greatest praise for its notable practicality and longevity in service. Deliveries of the finally adopted issue No.7 rifle for the Royal Air Force contract were commenced in 1948. It has, we hope, been useful to give a brief run-down on the progression of the post WWII training rifles, but the subject of this page is just one of that progression, and it behoves us to cover it in greater detail.

We are grateful to have been afforded access to one of the early .22RF No.4 prototypes, shown below.

Herb Woodend, the late curator of the M.O.D. Enfield Pattern Room collection, whilst it was still at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Nottingham,

believed that no more than five B.S.A. manufactured prototypes of the No.7 Rifle were produced, and all these with beechwood stocking.

On the left-hand receiver side plate, these rifles bore the designation

THE BIRMINGHAM SMALL ARMS CO. LTD.

ENGLAND


No.4 RIFLE
.....................................................................
CARTRIDGE .22" LONG RIFLE ...........................

The left hand side of the butt socket of one of the illustrated rifle, carries the highest serial number so far seen, it is simply stamped "No.5". Other metal components of the rifle are stamped with a singular "5".

The nomenclature of the rifle is shown left,

and the marks include the B.S.A.Co,

famous 'Piled Arms' motif.

 

To the right is the serial number on the butt-socket.

 

The action is that of a No.4 Mk.2 rifle with the trigger mounted on the trigger guard.

The earlier mark of No.4 service rifle had the trigger mounted in the fore-end woodwork, resulting in an inconsistent pull-off due to movement of the wood in changing climactic conditions.

 

This prototype rifle was actioned along the lines of the almost contemporary .22 No.5 trials rifle, with a shortened No.4 bolt-body headed now by a similar, but new and yet longer, design of bolt-head. This machining received further slight modifications before its introduction as the production item for the finally issued rifle No.7. Both this design, and the associated No.5 and No.6 trials rifles, heralded a sea-change from the long-serving offset two-part firing pin and striker arrangement used for the early conversions of Lee-Metford and "Long" Lee-Enfield rifles, latterly fitted to rimfire S.M.L.E's in the form of the ".22 No.2" bolt-head.

The 1944 Canadian "C No.7" rifle, for all practical purposes, utilised the then nearly five decades old S.M.L.E. method of conversion which, largely speaking, afforded only single-shot capability (other than when preceding conversions of Lee rifles were furnished with such turn-of-the-19th.-Century equipment as the comparatively rare Hiscock-Parker magazine, occasionally encountered with converted M.L.M / M.L.E. and converted S.M.L.E. rifles). The C No.7 was fitted with a No.4 type magazine case containing a unique follower in the form of a channelled pressed steel spring-loaded loading-platform which replaced the standard .303 follower, and greatly facilitated the feeding of a fresh round into the chamber. In essence, the Canadian C No.7 rifles were of the configuration used little more than six years later for the Royal Navy's "Rifle, N.9" which was the Senior Service's specifically contracted .22RF conversion of the No.4 rifle, more commonly (and mistakenly) known as the Rifle, No.9.

The prototype above carries only a No.4 magazine case, with the spring and follower removed, which conveniently receives the fired cartridge cases on extraction, but renders feeding a round into the chamber, with finger and thumb, a fiddly process often resulting in live rounds dropping amongst the empties in the magazine casing. This is precisely the situation which obtained with most of the preceding standard .22RF conversions of the various marks of Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles. As this prototype is actioned by one of the earliest No.7 type bolts intended for magazine feeding of the breech, it is reasonable to suppose that the rifle was once fitted with a No.7 type magazine with a five round insert. It would stand to reason that this fitment would have followed on from the magazine configuration especially produced for the .22 No5 rifle. We can only presume that this prototype's original magazine has been found employment elsewhere.

Although the prototype's bolt-head and the No.7 production version are slightly different, that difference does not prevent correct feeding and extraction/ejection of rounds from a production magazine into the breech of the prototype.

The minor nature of the differences can be seen by comparing the images below.

Top right is the No.4 prototype bolt.

 

 

Below that is the No.5 prototype bolt.

The number "6" is just discernible on the bolt wing.

 

 

 

 

And bottom right is the standard No.7 bolt,

showing the shorter bolt-body and longer bolt-head.

 

 

 

What is more clearly apparent, when viewed from the bolt face, is the absence of an auxiliary extractor on the prototype bolt-heads.

....No.4 Prototype

....No.7 Issue

It is presumed that the auxiliary extractor was added to the production rifles to provide a firmer grip on the cartridge-case rim, minimising the risk of the fired case falling into the magazine platform on extraction, and to afford more positive ejection as the head of the case is drawn onto the ejector spur on withdrawal of the bolt. Its holding action is clearly illustrated below left, whilst the ejection manner of the prototype is viewed, right, from beneath through the magazine well with the magazine removed. It is evident that the case has a tendency to tip towards the main extractor before it reaches the ejector spur, reducing the pressure of grip that would send the case well clear of the action on contact with the ejector.

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As previously touched upon, the British No.7 rifle was a completely different kettle of fish from preceding training rifles, and was borne out of the research for a design of .22 training rifle that would be more representative of the intended post-war (1939-45) magazine-fed Service rifle. The proposed service rifle was the .303"CF No.5 carbine, colloquially known as the "Jungle Carbine" because of its employment in the Pacific theatre, for which ilk of combat it had initially been designed. (See also the Rifle No.6). So handy did this rifle prove in the field, that it was mooted for general issue in place of the little more than a decade old Rifle No.4. Only the failure of these lightened rifles to reliably hold zero prevented the demise of the No.4 as the principal rifle of the British services. The removal of material from the No.4 action, to lighten the weapon, adversely affected the strength of the action, and giving breeching-up difficulties. Thus the No.4 rifle retained its supremacy for general issue, and remained in service, in one guise or another, right through until the early 1980s, when, having been re-barrelled to the new N.A.T.O standard calibre of 7.62 mm in 1971, it played a significant part, as the L42A1 sniper rifle, when used in combat in the Falkland Islands. These superb rifles had been re-built on Second World War vintage No.4T actions.

 

 

The production version of the rifles were serial numbered with a "BS" prefix.

 

We are able to show both a B.S.A. General Arrangement drawing of the No.7 rifle and a facsimile of the Air Ministry AP (Air Publication) No. 1641 covering the rifle and its use. This document formed the basis for the final handbook, which document is nowadays in the same category as hen's teeth.

The drawing is dated 14th. October 1947, and the AP leaflet is dated 17th. August 1948.

Click the image below for a highly detailed view, and for the Air Ministry AP.

As are most images and many papers on this website, each of the above documents is strictly copyrighted and identifiable as such.

 

 

The pattern of the rifle having been adopted in 1948, the Birmingham Small Arms Co., manufactured 2,500 of a new .22" training version of the No.4 Rifle for Royal Air Force and R.A.F. Regiment use. It was fitted with a solid barrel, and a specially produced long bolt head. A standard No.4 magazine had the spring and loading platform removed and a plate riveted into the top with a slot and channel to hold a modified BSA Sportsman five round .22" magazine. This magazine, which in its original utilisation was fitted into the rifle from below, was now inserted from the top by the simple expedient of inverting its locking clip and spring in their box section at the rear of the unit.

 

This differed from the Canadian manufactured C No.7 in which the No.4 magazine was fitted only with a single loading platform.

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

The bolt and bolt-head of the C No.7 rifle were, to all intents and purposes, identical to those of the N.9 (No.9) rifle.

Somewhere over 17,000 of the C No.7 rifles were produced at Long Branch between 1944 and 1947, with a small batch reported to have been assembled in the early 1950s, but the Royal Airforce's contract was for less than one seventh part of that figure.

The left hand side of the receiver of the British rifle is lightly stamped "No. 7 Mk.I" below which is milled the slot for the ejector plate. It can be seen below that a spring steel auxiliary extractor is fitted in a slot machined in the left hand side of the bolt head. This has a curved lead (see images below and bolt comparisons) which rides over the cartridge rim when the bolt is closed, and holds the fired case in position against the extractor until the bolt face comes back to the ejector plate whence the case is plucked out of its grip.

 

 

 

Clicking on the image below will show a high-speed video clip of case extraction and ejection.

Quicktime viewer is recommended, Java may be required

The video is cyclable and can be controlled via the slider

Left: the case just being extracted from the chamber.

The auxiliary extractor is on the far side of the case

with its nose just visible as a pal spot.

Right: a case is shown held between the
main and auxiliary (uppermost) extractors.

 

The bolt, illustrating the comparative complexity of the bolt-head machining, is shown below. Left: viewed from above, and Right: from below.

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One other magazine type was used in the No.7 rifle. Its raison d'être is presently not fully known to us, but it is a single-shot version carrying a Royal Air Force part number "7B/1061/M" electro-pencilled on its base. We hope to soon discover its true origins, but suspect that because of the quite roughly ......machined loading-platform and rather crude trimming of the upper periphery of the magazine shell, on the two examples we have seen, it may well have been an on-station unit armourer's modification using in-house parts made centrally. It certainly does not appear to be of the quality expected from a BSA factory manufactured item. It is possible that these magazines were produced to meet a certain training requirement or, more likely, to cover a deficit of the original units, since the BSA insert magazine can be fairly easily damaged by rough handling or heavy-handed bolt use when a live round or fired case escapes into the 'works' in the well around the insert.

Photographs of the single-shot magazine kindly submitted by R. Soetens

Like the Hiscock-Parker magazine for

the .22 "RF Short Mk.II"

and converted S.M.L.E. rifles, that

preceded the No.7 rifle by several decades,

the .22 training versions for magazine-fed rifles proved less reliable than their parental counterparts.

 

The No.7's auxiliary extractor was neither used on the earlier No.5 trials rifle, nor carried forward to the No.8 rifle production. However, in order to reduce the bolt travel of the new No.8 trainer, which was intended to double-up as a target rifle, the bolt head was shortened and the barrel brought back into the receiver a further one and a quarter inches. A further concession to target shooting was that, unlike the No.7 and preceding bolt designs which cocked as the bolt was closed, the No.8 cocked on opening.

On the example of the No.7 Rifle shown above, the left hand side of the butt socket carries the serial number "BS 0341" and the right hand side only the broad arrow and crown stamp of military acceptance. The magazine carries no marking at all. The rear sight fitted to this rifle uses the standard No.4 leaf graduated for 25,50 and 100 yds, with the additional marking "H" high on the left hand side at the rear. When set at this position, the rifle was said to be "Harmonised". This elevation raised the point of impact by 27" at 25 yards, and was for use with the Landscape training targets. It has been suggested that the 'harmonisation sight' was not an original standard fitment, however, many of these rifles are so configured and it is by no means certain that either the specification did not change at some point during the production period, or that many rifles were not retro-fitted with this sight.

 

 

The No.7's barrel was an especially made solid .22 version with, unlike the Canadian "C No.7", the bayonet lugs still in place.

In 1962 Parker-Hale were advertising their own commercial No.9 rifles at £15 for the standard example plus a further £5:10s:0d (£5.50) for the PH-5C target rear-sight,along with surplus No.7 rifles, which they had bought in from the War Office, at £16 for the standard rifle plus £6:10s:0d (£6.50) for the addition of a PH-5D rear-sight. Even the No.2 Mk.IV S.M.L.E. conversions were still on offer at £10:10s:0d (£10.50). The 21st. Century prices for such rifles have increased by a factor of around 25, or even more for a pristine original example of the more scarce magazine-fed Royal Air Force issue No.7. The high value has resulted in a number of rifles, of both marks, being built up from a mixture of spares and re-manufactured parts. Caveat Emptor!

It should be noted that, in 1962, the then more up-to-date Enfield No.8 rifle was described as "unobtainable".

Click here for Chronology of Enfield genre Training Rifles, Adapters & Cartridges

View the page for the No.5 .22RF Lee-Enfield rifle by BSA

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As a result of enquiries and requests made of the editor,

 

Below are 16 images showing detail of the No.7 bolt head ................ and below those, detail of the magazine and insert.

The millimetre scales are subject to parallax errors and are only for approximation.

 

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The main extractor pin is too tight to punch out without damage, hopefully enough information for the extractor will be evident when dimensions follow.

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A spring circlip can just be seen in the groove ahead of the threaded rear section

Auxiliary extractor detailed images.

For scaling purposes,the extractor is 31.3 millimetres in overall length

and is obviously a very close fit within the machined groove in the bolt-head.

 

 

EJECTOR DETAILS - 5 more images for refurbishers

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Here is detail of a replacement option for a missing magazine insert

Top: the No.7 magazine outer case with rivetted plate to accommodate the insert 5 round .22RF magazine

Lower left: the BSA Sportsman type magazine used for the insert. This is shown, in order to relate to the No. 7 insert, orientated as if it was to be introduced from above into the well of the No.7's modified magazine from the No.4 rifle. In its original usage, the magazine would have been inserted from below the BSA Sportsman rifle, and would have been inverted to the way it is shown in the image. The spring-loaded latching and release lever would have been at the bottom of the magazine below the rifle.

For use in the No.7, the release lever is fitted the other way up, and its fulchrum rivet requires removal, from where it is shown on the left hand image, to where its drilled hole is shown on the centre image. The original rivet hole is removed when the necessary trimming of the case side-plates is undertaken. When the lever and spring are refitted inverted in the case, the release is then at the top of the magazine where it is accessible above the mounting plate in the No.4 magazine shell.

Lower right: An original No.7 insert, partly disassembled, for comparison

 

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