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After serving admirably during the First World War, the Number 1 Mark III Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) rifle enjoyed widespread popularity across all branches of the British military. The weapon was, however, time consuming and expensive to manufacture. With another war looming, the British Army required an accurate rifle that was easier to mass-produce. It tested SMLE variants before approving a simplified design, dubbed the Number 4 rifle. Although frontline veterans were initially skeptical of using the new, unproven weapon, they soon warmed to the Number 4 rifle’s improved sights, reliability, and long-distance accuracy. Both Lee-Enfield Number 1 and Number 4 rifles armed British and Commonwealth units in all theaters during the war, and several police and military units across the world still use its numerous variants, making it the second longest-serving military bolt-action rifle still in official use.

(Jim Laurier)

this article first appeared in world war II magazine

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