Mike Morton on the production version of the Lee-Enfield SMLE

Mike Morton goes over the top all over again and racks the bolt on the production version of the BB-firing SMLE from Lee-Enfield (Guns) Ltd.

KEY SPECS

Gun supplied by: The Shooting Party (www.shootingparty.uk)
Manufacturer: Lee-Enfield (Guns) Ltd
Model: Lee-Enfield SMLE
Price: £429
Powerplant: 12g CO2 capsule
Ammunition type: Steel BB (.177)
Magazine capacity: 15 rounds
Shot count: Around 30
Overall length: 44”
Weight: 8lb 13oz

FEATURES

  • All wood and metal construction
  • Same weight and dimensions as the original
  • Accepts original accessories such as slings and bayonets
  • Instruction manual supplied in period sepia tone
  • Reproduction sling available from The Shooting Party for £19.99
  • BBGold! copper-coated steel BBs available at £9.99 for tub of 1,500

It’s been a bit of a long wait, but the production variant of Lee-Enfield (Guns) Ltd’s incarnation of the SMLE is finally here.

The SMLE was an absolute icon of the First World War, being affectionately nicknamed the “Smelly” and the CO2 version of the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield is based on the Mk III* model that dates back to late 1915.

We took a look at a pre-production rifle in detail back in Airgun Shooter last year, and noticed a couple of inaccuracies now fixed on production guns.

These include the correct orientation of the oil bottle stowage cover cap and the correct use of slotted, rather than Phillips-head, screws on the butt plate. Well done Lee-Enfield (Guns) – the devil really is in the details!

This BB-firer is a good facsimile of the original as it’s made of metal with a genuine wood stock, and has the same weight and dimensions as the Great War variant. Unlike many other rifles of the day, such as the Gewehr 98 or M1891 Mosin-Nagant, the .303 Lee-Enfield SMLE cocks on closing the bolt.

Just like the original SMLE Mk III*, the CO2 version is a bolt-action rifle, and you can also remove the bolt and decock the action if you want

This means it’s easy to open the bolt, after which you can feel the cocking spring compress as you throw the bolt forward, and this feature has been replicated on the CO2 gun. It also has the correct rocker-style safety catch.

A single 12 gram CO2 capsule is enough to power the SMLE for around 30 shots, or more depending on environmental conditions. This sits inside a well in the removable magazine.

With a capsule inserted, the magazine can be loaded with 15 BBs by pulling down on the spring-loaded follower, which is held open using a slotted gate, preserving your fingers. The company has even developed its own BBGold! range of ammo for the Smelly.

The detachable magazine contains both the CO2 capsule that’s used to power the rifle and the 15 steel BBs that it shoots

I reckon many shooters will derive a lot of pleasure simply from owning and handling this gun, let alone shooting it, as it offers a pleasing tactile experience.

It’s bound to be a hit with First World War re-enactors too as it can accept either an original webbing sling or a reproduction model from Lee-Enfield (Guns), as well as an original bayonet.

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