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The RF Short Rifle Mk.I and Mk.II

 

Above, the Rifle, RF Short. (Mk.I) , which was approved for service in December 1907 - without the fitment of any magazine.

The two main differences between the Mk.I and the Mk.I*, introduced in October 1911, were in the rear-sight, updated to represent that of the S.M.L.E. service rifle re-calibrated for the Mk.VII .303 ammunition, and in the vertical straightening of the curved fore-sight protector wings of the Lee-Metford Mk.I rifles to which the latter conversion was applied.

The RF Short Rifle was a conversion of various marks of the "Long" Lee-Enfield or Lee-Metford to a .22" training rifle. Issue of the Mark I commenced late in 1907, whilst the Mark I* arrived on the scene in 1912 after approval the previous year. The intention of these conversions was to provide a miniature rifle with similar weight and balance characteristics to the then issued Short Magazine Lee-Enfield, which was superceding the "Long Lee". As the replacement service rifle, the "S.M.L.E" was in short supply, and it was neither practical, nor economical, to convert large numbers of these for training purposes. Outgoing "Long" models, or those showing signs of wear from long service, were therefore either shortened in barrel length, then sleeved, by such as the Parkerifling system, or fitted with a solid .22" barrel. The fore-end furniture was then cut back to suit. The resulting arm then offered handling close to that of the S.M.L.E. with the economy of the miniature cartridge, which at that time was the Mk.1 cartridge hitherto used with the .22 rimfire Aiming Tube. Usually the cut-off was removed, and the rifle fitted with a magazine which had the spring and platform discarded, to receive the empty cases.

Rifle, RF Short. Mk.II , approved for service in January 1912

This practice continued right up to the close of production of the last of the line, the Parker-Hale conversion of the No.4, issued as the .22" Enfield Rifle No.9. The example shown here is a Mk.II, approved in 1912 for use by the Royal Navy. This particular rifle is shown fitted with the Hiscock-Parker magazine designed to offer five round magazine fire. This magazine is a retro-fit of those originally introduced for use with the R.F. Short Rifle Mk.III in 1915. The design was exceedingly clever, but could not cope with hard use by recruits. It proved unreliable, difficult to maintain and required constant attention. With care, and in the hands of an experienced handler, it can be made to perform quite adequately. Between 4,000 to 5,000 were manufactured before its impracticality resulted in withdrawal. Nowadays scarce, a good example may well exceed the value of the rifle to which it is fitted.Versions were produced both for the 'Long' Lee-Metford and Enfield, and the S.M.L.E. The very rare early Metford example can be identified by the radiused nose of the case.


The Hiscock-Parker Magazine -

E.J. Hiscock's original design for this device had his patent application granted on 2nd. January 1912.

189. Hiscock, E. J. Jan. 2.

Adapting for miniature-ammunition practice. -
Consists in a magazine for use with converted Lee-action rifles. The magazine, shown detached in Fig. 1, comprises a casing 2 for the miniature cartridges and a rearward extension 1 carrying a spring-pressed plunger 3 and having an inclined upper edge. When attached to the gun by means of a plate 13, the magazine has a limited vertical movement and is pressed upwards by a spring 5. The breech -block, during its forward movement, first engages the plunger 3, which pushes a cartridge into the chamber, and then engages the inclined top edge of the part 1 and depresses the magazine, as shown in Fig. 5, whereon the plunger 3 is released and retracted by its spring 4.

Messrs., Parker and the Company, as it then was, had become involved with the final design and production of the magazine. They were granted the patent, shown below, for the finalised design, on November the 7th., 1913.


25,533. Parker & Co., A. G., and Parker, A. E. Nov. 7.
Adapting for miniature-ammunition practice: -

Relates to magazines adapted to fit the full¬sized magazine opening and to receive miniature ammunition, especially to the kind in which the whole magazine is upwardly spring pressed and is automatically pushed down by the advancing breech-bolt, as described in Specification 189/12. The invention consists in loading the magazine through a side opening, the top of the magazine being closed, and in providing means for holding the cartridge-lifter depressed during the loading operation. In the construction shown in Fig. 2, the miniaturemagazine 2 is formed at the front part of a frame which loosely fits into the full-sized service magazine casing 1. The frame is mounted so that it can move up and down, and is pushed upwards by a spring 4. When the breech-bolt is moved forwards, it first engages a plunger 17, which presses the top cartridge into the chamber, and then engages the inclined top of the magazine and depresses the magazine and frame against the action of the spring `4Y; -&tis releasing the plunger 17, which is then returned by a spring. The magazine 2 is permanently enclosed at the top and is charged through a side opening. The cartridge-lifter 3 is con¬trolled by a lever 8 which is actuated by the spring 9. The lever 8 can be positively turned to bring the lifter 3 to its lowered position by means of a plunger 12 and a cam 13 which is turned by an external thumb-lever.

Further images of the magazine in actioning sequence can be found on the page for the "Long" Lee-Enfield in .22RF calibre.



The unit was approved for service in December 1917 as the " Magazine, .22" Rifle, Mk.I "

 

 

Images of magazine assembled,

 

 

............................................. and disassembled

 

 

 

 

and cutaway sketches

 

We are pleased to receive feedback and discussion on items shown on this site, and have already received many such enquiries.

One correspondent has suggested that the withdrawal of the Hiscock-Parker magazine from service was more likely to have been because it held only five rounds than because it was unreliable. We are by no means certain that this was not the case, but experience would suggest otherwise. It has to be said that the unit is a most ingenious piece of design, but it has a degree of complication inherent which was no doubt necessary to make it work at all.

The magazine is an exceedingly "fiddly" device to operate. The camming and lever action used to lower the loading platform is very stiff to rotate. The mechanical advantage here is poor. When charging, inserting the rounds correctly is difficult. It is imperative that rims do not come behind one another or jamming can occur. The main spring suffers repetitive shock loading in use and could be prone to early fracture. Careful and frequent maintenance of internal moving parts was necessary to ensure continuing successful operation. The action of the chamfer under the bolt head on the ramp of the magazine platform and the feeding rod is nothing short of brutal, and wear on the ramp is significant. If a round is not fully chambered, and the action cycled again, a jam is almost inevitable. We have heard of no reports that a cartridge may have been fired by the action of the feeding rod, but observation of wear and varied shaping of its leading end suggests that a premature ex-chamber firing in the event of a jam might not be impossible, particularly in view of the force which is required to operate the system satisfactorily. It does not work well for the faint-hearted! This is a feature which gives a semblance of the full-bore action, but whether this was more by design than necessity could be open to conjecture.
Considering that the system was intended for recruit and training use, yet virtually required an armourer to be in attendance, it was not surprising that it was withdrawn after barely two years in service, with only a comparatively small number of the various marks manufactured. This was hardly an indication of reliability. The proof of the pudding is most certainly in the eating, and any one who has had a good taste will well appreciate its shortcomings, which have been noted in more than one of the publications mentioning the unit.
That the magazine only held five rounds was less likely to be a factor in its demise, since subsequent magazines fitted to other British models of .22" trainer almost all still held only five rounds: e.g. No's 5 and 7 as did the earlier War Office Pattern miniature rifle. Around that time, only the Pattern'18 ".303" cum .22" conversion by Parkers enabled realistic operation with a full magazine equivalent. That suffered a similar fate when attempts were made to put it into practical service use, even though it was considerably more robust. The conveyors, not having the pointed nose of a bullet, did not always feed reliably into the breech, and loading them and removing the spent cases, on behalf of a number of shooters, required additional pairs of hands on the firing point.

Further images of the magazine in actioning sequence can be found on the page for the "Long" Lee-Enfield in .22RF calibre.

WARNING: if considering purchase of one of these now rather rare and valuable magazines, bear in mind that we have seen modern reproductions, on which modern milling marks may be evidence of recent manufacture. These replicas would have been time consuming and expensive to make in themselves, and are a fascinating way of investigating and experiencing the use of this magazine, but .......................

Click here to access a Chronology of Enfield genre Training Rifles, Adapters & Cartridges

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