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The British SWIFT Training Rifle
and its Commonwealth contemporary - The Canadian Long Branch Training Rifle
Images of (left) the least common A-Series mark and (right) the most common "B" Series rifle.
The above are the "Pattern" rifles, held in the Enfield Pattern Room whilst the collection was at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Nottingham, before its removal to the Royal Armouries at Leeds.
This training rifle was not a firearm. It was intended simply to provide a tool to allow an instructor to teach holding and aiming. To that end, the rifle was provided with a bolt which actioned realistically, including a safety, sights equivalent to those on the service arm for which it was a reproduction, and a representative trigger pull.
Right is shown the Pattern Room Collection's Swift B series folding target frame.
The top three images by courtesy of the Enfield Pattern Room
The action side plates of the A-series are heavily forward tapering. The B-series rifles were modified to give more of the appearance of the side elevation of the Pattern 14 ( Enfield Rifle No.3) much in use by the Home Guard.
The joinered protecting hood is shown below first in storage position (although it is possible to use the rifle in this configuration sighting through a square hole cut in the front of the protector), then shown removed completely, and finally slid back onto the underside of the rifle's fore-end. It can be so inverted for use, or to act as a rest to stand the rifle on a flat surface.
The rifle is shown below in its transit chest, with the calibration frame and cut-away drawing in the lid showing the mechanics of the device.
The Swift training rifle was fitted with a pair of spring operated pointed wire probes inside a protective fore-tunnel. These probes were cocked against a firing spring's pressure with the action of the bolt, and, on trigger release, shot forward out of the tunnel and punched a mark in a target fixed to a wooden frame in front of the recruit. The rifle and calibration board packed into the transit box to allow easy transport to any proposed site for use. The whole system included the deck-chair-like folding target frame, which required separate handling. No range was needed, and small hall or room could provide a suitable venue. The rifle's main advantage was that it presented a means of familiarising recruits with the Service rifle without expenditure of ammunition, or occupation of valuable range facilities needed for more advanced training. Although most of the Swift rifles used in the U.K. were issued to the Royal Air Force, (the Army seemingly treating the idea with a degree of contempt - (read Captain C. Shore's comment in "With British Snipers to the Reich" - for details see BIBLIOGRAPHY), attempts were made to sell them in other quarters. Even rifle clubs were encouraged to use the system to train volunteers, and a number were sold abroad, even to Switzerland.
A further noteworthy fitment to the rifle was a spring-loaded butt plate - evident in the pictures alongside. The purpose of this was two-fold. Partly it prevented the accidental discharge of a sharp implement into any bystanders, but primarily it assisted the instructor in his task of ensuring that the trainee pulled the rifle firmly into his shoulder. If the spring was not fully compressed, and the butt plate against the butt-stock, an internal safety mechanism prevented the "weapon" from being "fired".
The particular example here shown is representative of the P14 (Enfield Rifle No.3), as illustrated by the familiar tall receiver side plates and the internal magazine. It carries the model no. 9B/1588 and Series no. B 8440. Another model representing the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield or No.4 Rifle was built using the same basic mechanics and metal parts, but was fitted with a wooden dummy magazine in front of the trigger guard, woodwork simulating that fitted to the No.4 Service rifle, and the safety catch was appropriately moved to the left hand side at the rear of the receiver body. These British-made trainers had a direct equivalent of slightly different design, which was manufactured at Long Branch in Canada from 1943. The Long Branch training rifle was reputed to cost but a fifth of the price for the manufacture of a Swift rifle. This is less surprising when the fine joinery and quality timber of the early Swift is taken into account, but is less likely to be true of the later marks.
An advertisement for the system, in the Handbook for the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, shows how the system is set up, with the rifle held at the correct distance from the target frame by a steel rod bridle which locates in the pressed steel hook attached under the fore-end.
The Swift Rifle Company manufactured these training rifles. The company base was at 67-68, St Aldate's, Oxford; but they also had London offices and a demonstration room at 29, Palace Gate, W2. The rifles were produced in four known marks, in two series - "A" and "B". The SWIFTRAIN organisation also offered to the market the "S.T.A.W. Machine gun trainer" and the "Swiftrain grenade". The former was an electrically operated device modelled on the various Service machine guns; the latter a device which " Inspires confidence in the handling of explosives - accustoms men to the noise of burst - when exploded does not damage the outer casing of the grenade". The originators of this lateral thinking, and directors of the various companies in the group, were Frederick J. Minns and Z. de L. Bakanowski, P.M.C., K.S.R. They purported to be able to create " a marksman in six hours" and produced a short film to illustrate their point. Nothing has been unearthed, by us, of the latter two devices, but the Swift Rifle certainly acquired a following in some quarters, and could be deemed to have been at least a minor success. From 1942 these rifles were both issued to some Royal Air Force units and rotated around Home Guard units. During the War period, the rifle was even reported as being available for use by the general public at "Wings for Victory" or equivalent Army displays - a recruiting device no less! Post-War, it is known that some rifles were on the inventories of Air Training Squadrons for cadet use and that these rifles mostly lay idle in their armouries until well into the 1950s - largely only being aired as curiosities. One was reputed to still have been on strength with a Gloucester A.T.C. unit as late as 1997.
The Swift Rifle Series A
The first mark of Swift training rifle was most evidently designed around the Pattern'14 ( Enfield No.3) Rifle. Although some would say rather loosely.
The fore-end arrangement carried a weighty and cumbersome hood - although strangely elegant in its own way - to protect the mechanism and "sharp bits". The hood had an open rear end and an aperture cut in the front to permit sighting through the woodwork. It was probably most often removed when in use.
The paired pin and blade were sent forward almost instantaneously, when the trigger was pulled, by a long and strong spring tensioned when the bolt was operated. The accuracy of the path of the pin was calibrated by the instructor, before each session, to give a point of impact at the centre of the point of aim when the rifle was correctly held and aimed. The diamond-shaped flattened blade, to the right of the centre pin, cut a small horizontal slit in the paper, to the right of the point of impact of the main central pin. This allowed assessment, by the instructor, of any cant (lateral tilting) of the rifle by the student. Even a small degree of cant on a full-bore rifle, particularly when shooting at long range, could result in a miss several feet to one side - and low - of the point of aim.
The system can be seen more clearly here with the pins forward and the hood removed.
Below is a Swift Mark I with the 'action' still wrapped in cosmoline in its transit box -
Image courtesy of the late Herb Woodend at the M.O.D. Pattern Room
The "U" shaped plywood calibration frame can be seen resting in the box lid on the label. This frame screws onto the front of the rifle and would have a piece of plain paper taped to it to facilitate adjustment of relationship between the point of impact and the sight-line. The path of the needle-pin that punched the hole in the target could be adjusted by virtue of several screws bearing on the needle channel. These screws are located in the side of, and under, the fore-end below the hood. The rear sight could only be adjusted for windage. The foresight was fixed to the mid "barrel band" giving a significantly shorter sight radius than the service rifle - although this was not necessarily to be considered a shortcoming for the purpose to which the device was being put..
View the above rifle's operating manual - the Manufacturer's Notes for the Swift_Training_Rifle_Series A
The Swift Rifle Series B
Alongside are two drawings included
with the patent application for the rifle.
We hope to bring you further details in due course.
Below is the Series B rifle in its transit case. The wooden hood was replaced with a fixed sheet metal alternative on the Mks. II (B) and III rifles. An improved arrangement, but still cumbersome and obstructive to the "firer". The side plates of the "action" body have been reduced in height and reshaped, compared with the Mark I, to more represent the No.4 rifle. The basic design, however, was still that of the early Series A rifle, being an emulation of the No.3 (P14) service arm.
and below, a more detailed image of the label showing the cross-sectioned rifle.
View the above rifle's basic operating manual - the Manufacturer's Notes for the Swift_Training_Rifle_Series B with photographic illustration
or the rather more comprehensive manual for the Mark III rifle - the Manufacturer's Notes for the Swift_Training_Rifle_Mark III with sketched illustrations.
An example of the the Mark III is shown in greater detail below.
The Mark III was the last version in the style of the Series B Rifles with the raised hood over the 'muzzle' workings of the rifle.
This model carried markings on it its stamped plate, on the stock to the left-hand side of the 'action', that were in the style subsequently to be used on the Mark IV.
The Plate reads: ................................THE SWIFT TRAINING RIFLE
14406 is the serial number of the example shown. More of the numbering anon.
Below can be seen the working Lee-Enfield Rifle No.4 style safety-catch, and the bolt in its fully drawn-back position.
Left below: looking from the rear, the "foresight blade and protector wings"...... half-way down the fore-end ........... since there is nowhere for them over the rifle's "muzzle". What appears to be a loop beneath the fore-end, is the hook with which the rifle is clipped to the bridle of the target frame. This wire bridle holds the rifle at a constant distance, of about only two inches, from the target.
Right: the "muzzle", showing the one-piece fabricated steel hood covering the probes. The 'cant-indicating' barb-like upper probe lies just above the top-line of the fore-end wood, and the 'point-of-impact' probe is just visible in the slot in the front plating. The two inset screws in the holes on the sides, at a level vertically between the two probes, provide the calibration adjustment to ensure the probes are lined up with the sights. The single counter-sunk screw beneath them is one of the side mounting screws for the metal-work, whilst the large round-headed screw beneath the probes at the "muzzle" is the holding screw for mounting the plywood frame that supports a sheet of paper to be pierced by the probes when 'test-firing' during calibration.
It should help understanding of the sight calibration method if the following two images are observed.
The calibration frame is affixed to the front of the rifle using the mounting screw in the front plate.
A sheet of paper is tacked across the frame and the rifle is 'fired' leaving two perforations in the paper as earlier described.
If the sight picture does not show as being correctly aimed at the perforation representing the point of impact, then the appropriate adjustmust must be made using the four small recessed machine screws, two low down on either side of the fore-end's steel hood - they are just visible in these images.
Once the P.O.I. perforation coincides with the Point of Aim ( P.o.A.) then the rifle is 'zeroed'.
Below is the final Mk.IV version, in its transit case, with the flushed fore section hood, which made the rifle considerably more akin to the No.4 service rifle that it was intended to represent. This brought the design more into line with that of the contemporary Canadian Long Branch Training
and a close-up of the box label showing the working parts of the rifle.
Being a Royal Air Force issue training device, it was obviously necessary for the use and merits of the Swift equipment to be discussed and publicised within the Service. This was achieved, with the customary R.A.F. sense of humour, via the monthly issued periodical - Training Memoranda - more simply known and published as the "Tee Emm". This publication provided a means of disseminating safety and operational information with a degree of informality and humour. This manner of circularising such information was continued after the War with an equivalent Safety Matters publication regularly issued to R.A.F. Stations and particularly aircrew crew rooms with regard to flight safety. Within both periodicals, a fictional aircrew member both offered advice and, on occasion, became the butt of some operationally associated joke which also carried an inherent safety message. The stooge in the original magazine was none other than the celebrated "Pilot Officer Prune"
An article regarding the Swift Training rifle was entered into the February 1942 issue of the Tee-Emm journal with a light-hearted accompanying cartoon. The text and cartoon are copied beneath.
"SOME psychologist or other called, we think, de Grote
(P.O. Prune says No, that's a violinist) had a" Theory of Play." He
said that the reason that young animals played was that they were really practising
for the more serious business of life, getting food, fighting, and so on. The
kitten chases a reel of cotton by way of working up into the mouse class, or
pads at a blind-cord as practice for the future swatting of a rival in the fields
of love. ...
All this doesn't seem to have much to do with the Swift Training Rifle, does it ? Frankly, we don't think so either. Still, if you look upon the Swift Training Rifle as a plaything to help you in the more serious business of life-at the moment killing Huns-you won't be far wrong. And when we add that it is a rifle which instead of firing bullets when you press the trigger, momentarily projects two sharp pins out of the nozzle, and that if by any chance someone you don't like is in front of you, and happens to be bending down-well, what we mean is you can see it can be a very amusing plaything indeed. . .
But perhaps we'd better get on with telling you about it, as it is now being universally supplied to Stations for the instruction of both officers and men in correct rifle aiming.
As the idea of the Swift Training Rifle is to teach you to use a service rifle, it is naturally as much like the latter as possible. It has the same weight and balance, the bolt is handled in the same way and - except for the fore-end-it is the same shape ; there are the same two trigger pressures, and the sights give the same view. All that, so to speak, is the Swift Rifle's " straight role "; now for the " character part "-designed to note and check the various faults in shooting.
The complete apparatus consists of the rifle and a frame, holding paper TARGETS of different types, the rifle muzzle being kept an exact short distance from the target by means of a parallel metal bar to which the rifle is loosely attached bv a hook under the rifle stock. The ends of this bar are bent round and fixed to either side of the target frame, but not rigidly fixed, so that any wobbling of the rifle is at once communicated to the target. Thus, to begin with, you learn to keep the rifle steady while aiming. Next, there is a spring butt-plate protruding an inch or so out of the butt which, unless completely pressed in, locks all trigger action. If, therefore, you are not holding the rifle correctly and firmly to your shoulder, it won't fire.
The actual shot is recorded by a pin which, at the moment of firing, shoots forward, pierces the paper and immediately recoils. As it is centred exactly along the sighting line, the centre of the little round hole made shows whether you have taken correct aim or not. Parallel to this central pin about a half-inch away on the right, and working with it, is another which has a flat spear-headed point, the flat side horizontal to the horizontal axis of the rifle. This pierces the paper at exactly the same time but naturally it makes a tiny longitudinal slit. This, if the rifle is correctly held, is dead horizontal ; if, however, it has been tilted while aiming, the slit will be inclined up or down. By this yet another error in sighting can be detected.
And finally, the pins themselves stay embedded in the paper for the fraction of a second, so that if you haven't held your breath while firing, the round hole will be elongated ; if you move, or jerk, or pull rather than squeeze the trigger, the edgés of the hole will be torn. In other words, it shows whether you keep properly motionless at the moment of trigger release and just after.
Probably this is the best method yet devised of recording and deducing nearly every possible fault that can be made with a rifle-short, of course, of cleaning someone else's by mistake ! All the above and more-appears in the official instruction for using the Swift Training Rifle. And don't forget that if there is anyone you don't like, and he does happen to be bending down, and you have a Swift Training Rifle handy. ... But we mustn't put ideas into your head."
Captain Clifford Shore was an American officer who was seconded to the British Forces, serving initially with a sniper team and subsequently as a sniping instructor. He was present during the Allies advance from Normandy after the D-day landings, through French, Belgian and Dutch teritories and into Germany. He had a personal interest in firearms consequential to their effectiveness for the combat tasks in hand, and penned criticisms of a number of the small-arms available to contemporary forces. The Swift was by no means a weapon of combat, but merely a device for training in the use of the rifle. Nonetheless, Shore seems unable to find one redeeming feature of this piece of equipment; indeed his opinion appears tantamount to derision. Some merit must have existed in the system though, otherwise the Swift would never have been taken on strength in their thousands, even if mainly by the Royal Air Force - not that this should be considered to be other than a favourable observation upon that Service. Shore's argument that the Swift lacked "bang and recoil" could equally be levelled at almost any .22 training rifle that was ever made. Patently that argument holds little water when one takes into account the numbers of small-bore training rifles used by military forces world-wide over more than a century. There is clearly much to be said for teaching aiming, hold and trigger pulling before presenting a recruit with a chin and shoulder bruising, ear-deafening hand-held explosive device.
Clicking on the image of the original text to the left will provide you with a PDF. The text is given alongside.
Fairly early in the War there came into being a monstrosity called the Swift Training Rifle. This was a device for teaching marksmanship in a small space indoors, or out, without expenditure of ammunition and without noise or any danger. I underline the farcical attributes! It consisted of a rifle which was similar to the service rifle in weight, shape and balance, and trigger pull, and had a breech bolt that had to be handled in the same way as when loading the normal rifle from a magazine. There was a target stand to which the rifle was fastened when in use; this stand moved freely so that it adjusted itself to any movements of the firer when he was taking up position, either prone, kneeling or standing. The target marker was a rod which was projected a short distance from the muzzle of the rifle, being propelled and almost immediately drawn back, by the action of springs. The rod was provided with a double marking end; one was sharp pointed and marked the actual impact of the "shot" and the other was lance- shaped, and hit below the aiming mark showing, if the paper was cut or distorted, that the rifle had been moved -during the "up-the-barrel" period. Also,' if the lance- mark was out of the perpendicular as regards the hole made by the bullet, it showed that the rifle, and therefore the sights, had been canted.
It was about this weird and wonderful invention that the leading shooting magazine in England said :—"With this ingenious piece of apparatus the whole of rifle training can be taught.- To read such a eulogy of what the majority of riflemen surely thought a useless toy was enough to make one despair forever of the future of British shooting. I maintain that the use of the Swift training rifle was that it might possibly be used as a rather uncomfortable drawing-room game. And yet, in 1941, NCOs of my Regiment travelled hundreds of miles to take a 24-hours' -" course" on this "weapon," and I never knew one who did not come back to treat the matter as a huge joke.
In Feburary 1942. I was at the R.A.F. School of Musketry which was run by Flt. Lt. Hanson, probably one of the best all-round shots in the world, and an ardent enthusiast whose keen exuberance was contagious. The Swift Training Rifle was supposed to be one of the weapons we "took- -we saw it and immediately forgot it. It was clearly apparent that none of the instructors had any time for it. And I certainly had not! I have been amused many times by laudatory references to the weapon in the one or two magazines devoted to shooting in this country. Read this :— "The Swift Training Rifle is a rifle and target combined. It has the same weight, holding, balance, sighting, trigger release and bolt action as the Service rifle. It is a psycho- technical method of synthetic training -which, besides training men to aim correctly, teaches them to effect subconsciously and automatically with a rifle having the characteristics of a Service rifle, the series of movements necessary to make a good marksman.- (The Rifleman. June 1941.) In the same journal in March 1943 there appeared in the Correspondence Columns a letter from a Brigadier in which this extract appeared :--"It does great credit to the R.A.F. that they were first to clearly understand the immense advantages of musketry training's mechanisation aid to the self defence of their airfields by making their ground staffs excellent shots in the quickest and most economical way by using the Swift Training Rifle." My comments on this are brief since I know a good deal about the ground staffs' excellent shooting—the majority could not have hit a haystack at ioo yards; and I think it is to the eternal credit of the British Army that they had little to do with this, to me, idle toy.
I never came across an Army man who knew anything about the Swift. Any instructor knows that rifle shooting can be taught successfully only by shooting, and that the so-called "psychotechnical" method was entirely lacking in elementary psychology. The user of the Swift rifle knew that there was to be no noise, no "bang" and no recoil, and it is this noise and kick of which the recruit, who is at all nervous, is most afraid.
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The wartime monthly journal of the Home Guard - "Defence" services' magazine - had already included a piece on this new training rifle in the February edition in 1942. However, the article had been limited, and had incorrectly named the device the "Speed". The error was corrected in the April edition with the following piece, quite probably after an approach by the Oxford based manufacturer.
More about Swift Training Rifle
In an article contributed to the February issue of DEFENCE some details were given of a training device which was inadvertently described as the " Speed " rifle. The correct name of this rifle is the SWIFT TRAINING RIFLE, manufactured under patents by the Swift Training Rifle Co., Ltd., of Oxford; and by courtesy of the Company we are enabled to give a fuller description of it, and of the method of training evolved by this Company.
The primary object of this method is to facilitate and speed up musketry training, and to enable men to master the arts of marksmanship as applied to Service shooting quickly -and without the necessity of going to a shooting range or using any ammunition.
It is a psychotechnical method of synthetic training which, besides training the men to aim correctly teaches them to effect subconsciously and automatically, with a rifle having the characteristics of a service rifle, the series of movements necessary to make a good marksman.
Correcting a General Fault
For example, a very general fault when the firer is in action, is that he does not fully withdraw the bolt when loading (thus ensuring clean ejection and positioning of the new round for feeding) and consequently the bolt becomes jammed. With the Swift Training Rifle, unless the bolt is drawn back to its limit, the action will not cock. From the outset of his training, therefore, the recruit becomes accustomed to loading correctly, and this correct movement quickly becomes subconscious and mechanical.
Similarly, with the Swift Training Rifle it is impossible to release the trigger if the rifle is not held firmly into the shoulder. In this way the trainee learns to hold his rifle correctly from the start, and when, later, he fires a service rifle, he subconsciously continues to do so, thus entirely absorbing the recoil.
The Swift Training Rifle is the same in shape as the real service rifle except for the fore end, and the same in weight and balance. In firing, the trainee holds, aims and releases the trigger in exactly the same way as with the Service rifle.
As regards the mechanism, it may briefly be said that every time the trigger is released, two captive needles (arrows) dart forward, pierce the paper target, and recoil instantly into the rifle. The size, shape, and position of the holes pierced by these arrows in the target sheet indicate instantly the several faults commonly made.
These faults are seen immediately both by the Instructor and the firer, and this is an obvious advantage, as faults seen quickly can be quickly corrected; nor does the Instructor need to move from the firer's side to point out these faults; and this is not possible with any other system of training. Owing to the fact that the target is only about one inch from the fore end of the rifle, and that therefore no great amount of space is needed, training can take place in an ordinary room, and at any hour of the day or night, in any weather. It is only necessary for a man trained with the Swift Training Rifle to shoot at an open air range a couple of times to accustom him to the noise of the report and to enable him to convince himself that he is a proficient marksman.
For a man who is already a trained marksman, the Swift Training Riffle provides an excellent means of constant practice and enables him to keep up to standard without expenditure of ammunition.
In conclusion, the Swift Training Rifle SAVES:—
2. Time, which can be used for training in the use of other weapons.
3. Instructional personnel.
4. Cost of training equipment.
5. Transport costs.
6. Provision of shooting ranges.
I. A complete equipment for the making of a Service shot.
2. Variety and interest in shooting.
3. Visual proof of faults, thus inculcating determination.
4. Facilities for practice that are so vital if the standard reached is to be maintained.
5. Suitable equipment for the practising of trainees in firing the following: grouping, application, aiming off for wind (elementary and advanced) snapshooting, aiming off for movement, gas and rapid fire practises.
6. Practical training in the military vocubulary — indication and recognition of targets and all types of fire control orders.
To prove their claim for the rifle, the Company's Instructor is prepared to take any six average men with reasonably good sight who have never fired a Service rifle and to guarantee that, after ten hours' instruction with the Switf (sic) Training Rifle, they can be taken to the open range, and fire their course, with the certainty that their resulting score will be sufficiently high to enable them to be classified as first-class shots or marksmen.
An indication of the article relating to the earliest mark of Swift rifle is that the drawing (below) included with the piece was of the A-Series model.
Click this image to view wartime newsreel of the Home Guard employment of the Swift Training Rifle
The suggestion made in the commentary that the rifle has " a kick in the butt just like a Service rifle " is, of course, arrant nonsense.
THE CANADIAN LONG BRANCH TRAINING RIFLE
An equivalent training rifle was manufactured at Long Branch in Canada
This related more closely to the MK.IV Swift rifle and was reputed to have been produced at about a fifth of the cost
The basic principle on which this rifle operated was identical to that of the Swift
The rifle carried a hook beneath the fore-end. This hook engaged with a steel rod bridle attached to the target frame. The bridle kept the rifle "muzzle" at a constant distance from the target. The sighting arrangement was significantly more realistic than that of the Swift. The Long Branch was also prevented from "firing", unless firmly in the shoulder of the student, by a spring loaded butt-plate safety system.
The "sharp end" was similar to, but far less complicated and fragile than, that of the Swift rifle. There were still two pins, but these were arranged vertically - one to indicate the point of impact, and the other to show any canting of the rifle by the recruit.
Click here to view a representation of the Operator's Manual for the Long Branch Training rifle with its cut-away diagram.
A most worthwhile reference book for those interested in these unusual "weapons" would be:
"The Swift and Long Branch Non-firing Training Rifles of Great Britain and Canada"
an inexpensive, but comprehensive, spirol bound book written by Malcolm MacPherson, who did much groundwork with the assistance of the late Herb Woodend - keeper of the Enfield Pattern Room collection at both Enfield and, latterly, Nottingham - before its removal to storage preparatory to re-housing in new premises being constructed for the Royal Armouries at Leeds. It is hoped this facility will be completed late in 2005 and a significant part of the collection become available to researching visitors by 2006, after the "reopening"
The rifle shown below is to be found in the Pattern Room Collection. It is one of only two examples of this particular design of BSA trials rifles whose whereabouts are known; unless you have seen another elsewhere? Do you think you know what it is?
CLICK IMAGE FOR DETAILS
Click here to access a Chronology of Enfield genre Training Rifles, Adapters & Cartridges