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SMLE MkIII: The Iconic Smelly of World War One

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In 1907, the British adopted the final major pattern in the evolution of the Short, Magazine, Lee Enfield. Designated the ShtLE MkIII (Short Lee Enfield) at the time, it would be retroactively renamed Rifle No1 MkIII in the 1920s. This new design was simpler and more durable than its predecessors while actually improving the practical accuracy of the rifle. The rear sight protector wings were substantially strengthened, the front sight became a square post, the front sight protectors were opened up to allow more light in, and the rear sight windage adjustment was simplified – while retailing 1 MOA adjustment clicks and 25m elevation adjustments. A new bayonet was also adopted in 1907 for the MkIII. The previous 1903 pattern bayonet was deemed too short, and the British essentially copied the Japanese Type 30 Arisaka bayonet as its new Pattern 1907 – hooked quillion and all.

The example we are looking at in today’s video is a fantastic specimen, as it was sold out of service to an Australian reservist in 1912 having not received any post-production modifications or updates. It is still sighted for the early MkVI round-nose ammunition, for example, and its bayonet retains the hooked quillion. The rifle’s owner died prior to World War One, and the gun remained stored away and forgotten through both World Wars, where virtually all existing service rifles were taken back into service and updated. Only in the 1960s was this one found, making it a pristine collector’s example to show how the MkIII was originally produced.

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