American Rifleman | An Enfield Destroyed: The Impact of British Gun Laws
by Orson O. Buck –
Thursday April 1, 2021
This article, “Farewell to an Enfield”, originally appeared in July 1989 Edition of American Rifleman. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select American Rifleman as your member magazine.
S.Honk USA caution. If you give in an inch to the anti-gun lobby you will end up like the poor people here in the UK. And it’s not just handguns I’m talking about.Recently enacted regulations have made all semi-automatic rifles larger than .22 long rifles illegal. If you have one (and each is individually licensed), you’ll need to hand them in. After a lot of work in Parliament, it was agreed that you would be paid for it – only £ 150 ($ 260) at the time of writing (February). It’s legalized robbery!
And now shotguns also need to be registered individually, although so far there is no limit to the number you can have.
There has always been a sneaky piece of British gun legislation, too. It forms Section 5 of the 1968 Act and allows the Police Chief of any area to refuse a license. What if you can manage in years and are a little frail?
I saw a heartbreaking scene the other day. The owner of an excellent firearm, a World War II sniper rifle, was almost in tears when he pounded a bullet into the rifle at the end of the breech and then filled the chamber with weld metal.
Why? His three-year license was due to be renewed and police said he was too weak to hunt or punch paper anymore. Logically he couldn’t use it, he had to sell it if he could, or hand it over to the authorities – without compensation – and it would be destroyed. The thought of it was unbearable for the old guy, hence the sweat exercise. At least that way he could hang it on the wall and dream of days gone by.
What days too! As a Scotsman, he had hoped to be drafted into a Scottish regiment, but that was not to be. Men from the draft were distributed among regiments that had no connection with their hometowns. So our man was in a light infantry unit.
He did well there. When he found that he was ready to shoot, he was sent on a sniper course and passed with flying colors. Then with the 79th Division to Italy (the badge was a yellow battle ax on a blue background – some of you vets may remember seeing it). Off to Special Forces, a high score, a couple of wounds, and he was back on Civvy Street.
He wanted a rifle for hunting and targeting but didn’t have many pennies at the time and was looking around for one of the surplus # 4 Enfields that became available and that he knew so well. He saw an advertised mail order company with a telescopic sight. In due time it arrived. One thing a soldier remembers by his ID number is the serial number of his rifle. The one-in-a-million chance had arisen; This had been his own tool that he had used over and over again.
For many happy years he used the normal aperture sight to shoot at range, but the occasional rifle scope would fit out of the steel box when it came to picking up a deer or two in the winter and the light was poor. This was one of the plus points of No. 4. The scope could be dismantled, transported separately in a transit case and converted immediately before the campaign without zero loss.
The rifle itself was specially chosen, in .303 British of course, and the battle sight, a 200-yd. Zeroed peep, milled off to allow the scope to be mounted, but the guide sight was left intact. Two machined steel blocks were bolted to the left side of the receiver. Everyone has a threaded hole.
The lower halves of the scope rings are an integral part of a steel bracket that holds two screws with two large knurled heads. These screws are located in the receiver blocks and allow the locking to be repeated every time. The inevitable presence of machining tolerances meant, of course, that every scope rifle job was a one-off, and this is confirmed by the sight and rifle numbers recorded on a label in the shipping box.
After 45 years (the combination was made in 1943) the lenses of the rifle scope are still clear, although they are only 2 times. Eye relief is of course quite critical. Each end of the scope has a roll-over screen, and the reticle is of the post and rail type. The visor is made of brass and is immensely strong, but that strength obviously comes with a weight penalty. In fact, the entire order, rifle plus scope, comes in at just 11 lbs. Unloading.
Of course, when used with the riflescope, the shaft had to be higher than the standard on the ridge to get a firm “pinch” with the cheek. This was achieved by dropping a block of wood with two short pins into holes on top of the piston and securing it with a leather strap. Unfortunately this block has become AWOL over the years, but it probably would have added another 8 ounces. or so on the sum, making a total of over 12 pounds. loaded. A hand full.
But now our old Tommy can only doze and dream of that deer on the hill when the snow was 3 feet high. deep and the sky bright blue … the machine gun, the crew of which dropped one by one.