December 2011

Classic Military Bolt-Action Rifle Shootout: Lee Enfield Wins

What boltgun would our staff have wanted during WWI or WWII? Hands down, they would pick the Lee Enfield No. 4 Rifle. But for non-martial use today, they picked the Springfield 1903A3.

During World War I and World War II, and in some cases beyond, there came four great bolt-action rifles in martial actions: the Lee Enfield, the Mauser, the Mosin Nagant and the Springfield. While there were many variations among the rifles, we all know what a Lee Enfield and a Mauser look like. The Nagant was produced in the many millions, and the Springfield is sometimes regarded as a rifle with almost magical accuracy. These rifles wrought many a bloody victory for one side or the other in warfare from about 1903 onward. The Lee Enfield and Mauser rifles are still seen in action in Afghanistan today. Recent events in India showed Indian security forces armed with the Lee Enfield, probably a homegrown version. These rifles simply refuse to die. While these four are the great battle rifles of the 20th century, there were other contenders for the test program that were considered and discarded. The excellent Schmidt Rubin straight-pull rifle was considered, but since it didnít figure into warfare it was not included. The French rifles are a bit quirky for our tastes, and ammunition is difficult to obtain. Likewise, the Italian Carcano is not really in the league with the others. We admit the Japanese Arisaka is an omission, but we were unable to find a suitable firing version within our time frame. We used four rifles primarily during the test program and added two special interest rifles for a side comparison as well. In the end we think we have a good idea of the handling properties of the rifles used in the Great Wars.

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