The BSA manufactured Lee-Enfield Rifle No.6 - .22in. RF
Rifle No.6, .22in.RF - RHS
This rifle is held in the M.O.D. Pattern Room collection currently in the care of the Royal Armouries in Leeds
Whilst similar in some respects to its predecessor - the .22 RF No.5 Rifle - it differs in many aspects. The action is also modified from that of a No.4 rifle and the bolt body and head are all but identical, but only single-shot configuration has been found so far, with a loading platform in the magazine well. The fore-end woodwork is deeper below the receiver and fractionally shorter in front of the barrel band. This, and the fact that the barrel is 3.5" longer than that of the No.5, gives a hint that this rifle is destined to lead to the No.8 rifle with its barrel length of 23.2".
For comparison, see collective images of the bolts for the Rifles Nos. 5, 7 (British), 8 & 9.
Rifle No.6, .22in.RF - LHS
One major difference from the .22RF No.5 action is the raised section carrying the new rear sight. This section, or bridge, is fitted into and over the recess originally machined for the No.4 type rear sight folding leaf (as was fitted to the .22RF No.5 with the addition of a target type elevation slide with windage adjustment and a Parker-Hale style six-hole rotating disc screw-in rear aperture unit. This design preceded the A.J. Parker designed 8/53 adapter unit by nearly ten years, although it required a complete replacement of the elevation slide rather than the simple screw-on fixing of the 8/53 windage adapter for target shooting with the Rifles Nos.4,7,8 and 9 ). The two rear sight arrangements are shown below for comparison.
No.6 ..................................... ..... No.5
The rear-sight itself is yet another special design and, unlike the .22RF No.5 rear-sight, does not use a modified No.4 leaf.
No.6 rifle ..... ...............No.5 rifle
For comparison, the centre image above is of the much later (1953) A.J. Parker company's 8/53 adapter for the No.8 and No.4 rifles
The foresight of the .22RF No.6 is identical to that of the .22RF No.5, with a revolving knurled centre section which, when rotated through 180 degrees, releases the fore-sight element from the top. The rifle was usually issued with two elements - one with a post fore-sight and one a ring fore-sight. These complete units were especially manufactured for the No.5 and No.6 .22RF rifles, and we are not aware that they were used on any other weapon. The fore-sight tunnel fitted into a laterally machined dovetail in the fore-sight block which was sweated and pinned onto the barrel. This system appears to have formed the basis of that used on the later Rifle No.8; this permitted the fitment to that rifle of either a target type foresight tunnel or the more familiar service issue open sided fore-sight protector wings emulating those of the No.4 rifle. The quality of manufacture of the No.5 and No.6 tunnel units is exceedingly high, and these fore-sights must have been very expensive to produce as they were effectively custom made. The same holds true of the respective rear-sight modifications for both rifles, let alone the complex bolt-heads which were the pre-cursor to those fitted to BSA's No.7 rifle of which approximately 2,500 were built for the Royal Air Force contract.
On the left is the No.6 fore-sight
and on the right is the No.5 foresight
with the post element removed from the opened slot
The other major difference between the two rifles is that the No.6 is again easily seen as the immediate forerunner to the No.8.
The No.8 has the wider and more sculpted fore-end woodwork familiar to recruits and cadets of recent times and is a single shot rifle with a steel blanking plate fitted into the magazine aperture in base of the action where the woodwork has been made that little wider to provide a lead to a flatter and wider underside to the fore-end as a more comfortable and stable palm-rest. Such is the configuration of the .22RF No.6.
The .22RF No.6 is built rather more along these lines than those of the .22RF No.5, which more closely resembles the finer lined woodwork of its full-bore service rifle brother - the colloquially known "Jungle Carbine". The No.5, though, has a specially made .22 magazine insert fitted into a slotted platform riveted into the top of a .303 magazine, which has had the spring and follower removed. This system is almost exactly that later used for the No.7 rifle, with the exception that the No.7 utilised the .22 magazine from the BSA sporter of the day; this simply had the catch and spring inverted to permit locking into the magazine slot from above rather than from below as in the sporter. See the page for the Enfield Rifle No.7 .
Below is a Rotate & Zoom Image of an Experimental Rifle of similar configuration to the Pattern Room's example of the Rifle .22RF No.6.
The illustrated rifle is described in the following text.
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This image rotates on the bore axis.
The above rifle is believed to have been assembled either at RSAF Enfield or at Woolwich Arsenal workshops.
Currently in the possession of a retired member of RSAF staff, it was originally held by a Colonel who was part of the development team . The rifle is christened "Harry", and goes under the informal family nomenclature " .22RF Lee-Enfield Rifle No.5¾". We are grateful for being granted permission to inspect and photograph "Harry".
It has an unusual butt-stock,with a semi pistol-grip of a shape somewhere between the standard profile butt of the .22 No.5 rifle and the flat-based pistol-grip of the Pattern Room's No.6 rifle, with chequering similar to that of the No.6. Rather than the wide-based fore-end woodwork, this rifle has a slightly modified standard military .303"CF fore-end, broad-arrow stamped.
The barrel is, as on the No.6, of greater length than the .22 No.5 rifle, by about 3.5"; it is of B.S.A. manufacture and is fitted with the identical B.S.A. designed tunnel fore-sight that is to be found only on the Trials No.5 and No.6 rifles. The receiver body differs slightly from the Pattern Room No.6 in two respects. First, in that there is a small upstand in front of the locking-lug slot. This upstand is effectively the remaining base of the RHS of the charger-guide bridge, which has been machine completely flush with the side-rail on the Pattern Room No.6. Second, in the way in which the unique rear-sight base is mounted to the top of the receiver. On "Harry", the sight mounting-plate is flat-based and is machine-screwed to a flat machined face on the top of the receiver. That receiver is ostensibly a No.4 casting, although there is a possibility that it has been machined from billet, or even especially cast by the lost-wax process at the factory, where such work was often entrusted to apprentices. On the Pattern Room No.6 rifle, however, the parent receiver is of the No.5 "Jungle Carbine" type, with the chamfered lightening cuts either side towards the rear. The rear-sight mounting-base is , on the No.6 rifle, also a one-piece machining, but with lugs either side that locate in the cut-outs formed by the milled cuts in the receiver that were made to reduce the weight of the .303" carbine's action. Here, the mounting-plate is affixed with a pair of lateral screws through the lugs either side, and just the single vertical screw on the extension that goes forward on the left-hand-side.
"IS THIS RIFLE REALLY A 'No.6' ?" - You may well ask .............................. read on and decide for yourself
There are those Enfield historians who consider that the designation 'No.6' given to this model of the Birmingham Small Arms Company's .22in. RF training rifle series was an error in nomenclature made at the time the rifle was produced. However, the fact that the Australian version of the No. 5 "Jungle Carbine" , trialled around two years earlier, was also given the number "6" ( initially they were known as the 'Lightened Pattern' rifles) is not really good reason to draw this conclusion. When the B.S.A Co. was prototyping the variously proposed designs of .22 training rifles, first "off the blocks" was the conversion of the Rifle No.4. The three or so rifles built were prominently marked on the LHS of the action body
THE BIRMINGHAM SMALL ARMS CO. LTD.
CARTRIDGE .22 LONG RIFLE
The subsequent carbine version , the Rifle .22RF No.5, was marked identically except for the transposition of the number "4" for "5".
Both consecutive and concurrent .22 series rifles' numbering was nothing new. Indeed, such nomenclature was used for the miniature calibre conversion of the Lee-Enfield No.1 series of rifles ( The S.M.L.E.) when its .22RF training rifle conversion became the Rifle No.2. This could perhaps have been considered to set a precedent for future training rifles, and it was almost certainly taken into consideration by B.S.A., who probably only used the notations 4 and 5 concurrent with the full-bore Service rifles, as indicated above, on their prototype and trials rifles to illustrate which service rifles they were intended to represent. With rifle numbers running from the early 20th. Century as 1, 2, 3 ( Rifle No.3 being the Pattern '14), 4 and 5, the next available number was 6. The fact that this number had been afforded to the Australian carbine conversion of the No.1 Rifle, was probably discounted or considered irrelevant, since that rifle was itself only a trials rifle which was already known not to be going into production for general issue. At the time, the .22 No.6 would anyway have been readily distinguishable from its .303"CF counterpart,and was itself to be superceded in design by its development into the upcoming Rifle No.8, although the No.8 was obviously preceded by the Rifle No.7 - put into production for the Royal Air Force. There then followed the last of the so numbered Lee-Enfield series, the Rifle N.9 for the Royal Navy - understandably, but incorrectly, generally know as the "No.9".
It was not unreasonable that what we usually term the .22 Rifle No.6 should have been given a follow-on model number in the range starting with the .22RF Rifle No.2, with the Rifles Nos. 3,4, & 5 being the associated full-bore Service weapons. With no subsequent .303" rifles going into production, The numbers 6, 7 and 8 would have naturally fallen to the ensuing .22RF training rifles. The .22RF No.6 was a significant design change from the .22RF No.5, with the introduction of the longer bolt-head, with a heavily modified action to take the solid over-action mounting block to carry the new fixed design of target rear-sight, and further modified fore-end woodwork. This certainly warranted a new inhouse number, and the follow on "6" was the obvious choice.
When the"Jungle Carbine" training rifle became known, within both BSA and many external circles, as the .22 No.5, nobody appears to have argued with that. Indeed although it occurred at almost the same time as the Australian No.6 was trialled, and two years before the next number in the series was internally allotted by BSA to their nearest equivalent follow-on design.
This model numbering series for the small-bore training rifles was, of course, continued through to the Royal Air Force's No.7 - 22in. RF version of the No.4 rifle, the No.8 purpose designed service training rifle (of which the .22 No.6 was the precursor), and the final No.9 - .22in. RF conversion of the No.4 by Parker-Hale for the Royal Navy. Coincidentally, three of the early prototype .22in. RF conversions of the No.4 long rifle by BSA were sold as three lots at auction when the BSA collection was broken up in 1971. These were originally perceived as the prototypes to the No.7 production rifle, and it is believed that there was a batch of at least five made by BSA . All of these are marked up on the LHS of the receiver body - "BIRMINGHAM SMALL ARMS" - "ENGLAND" - "No.4 RIFLE" - "CARTRIDGE .22 LONG RIFLE". Even the "Pattern Room Collection" does not include one of these rifles. At least one seen of the batch carries the struck designation "No.5" on the left hand side of the butt socket; however, another in the 3 lots sold was struck with "No.3", suggesting that the prototypes were serially numbered in this unusual way. An example carrying "No.5" is illustrated in Ian Skennerton's well known and comprehensive "Lee-Enfield Story" and on our page on the Rifle No.7. This appears to be the same rifle, which is currently in the hands of a private U.K. collector. The late Herbie Woodend - stalwart guardian of the Pattern Room collection - based his estimate of the minimum quantity of these rifles upon information obtained when they were catalogued for the auction; and the fact that "5" was the highest number actually seen. It could otherwise not unreasonably have been suspected that the designation was intended as a Rifle number rather than a Serial number, since using the prefix "No." is a quite unusual way for BSA to have marked a serial number. That situation may, perhaps, have confused matters more than is already the case. However, a rifle marked in an identical fashion, with the consecutive number, "No.6", is illustrated on our page for the Rifle .22RF No.5, and, although this could have been taken as an indication that it is a No.6 rifle, it is now shown more likely to simply be a consecutively serial-numbered rifle from the same series or batch of prototypes.
The one hundred .22in. RF No.5 trials rifles are known, as well as having been issued to the military, to have been offered, in small numbers, to the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs (S.M.R.C.) for trialling by civilian shooters in selected clubs. The fact that they may not all have been returned, or that some were subsequently sold off, is probably illustrated by the presence of a small number still in private hands.
The target-shooting sling fitment is indicative of the rifle's probable use for that purpose, at least in its later incarnation
The .22in.RF No.6 rifle enjoyed a similar, but rather more restricted, test in civilian hands when, at the main open meetings of the S.M.R.C. in the Summer of 1946 Brigadier Barlow supervised the issue of a few of these rifles for use in two major S.M.R.C. competitions. These events were the 'Scottish' in Edinburgh and the 'British National' at Ham and Petersham. The report in the Autumn Rifleman ( Journal of the S.M.R.C.) reads:
"Brigadier Barlow ( J.A. Barlow Jnr.; author of 'The Elements of Rifle Shooting' Editions 1932 - 1941: Ed.) authorised the loan of the War Office new prototype rifles, known as the No.6. These were used only for competitions at 100 yards range. At Edinburgh the best single shoot was a 99 by D. Harkness, whilst at Ham a more serious single entry triple 100 yards shoot was staged with a £20 prize list. This resulted in a top score of 294 being duplicated by Messrs. M. Bergson of Bradford and D. McGillivray of Glasgow to divide the first and second prizes. Following these there were two scores of 293, two scores of 292, and five scores of 291 to take prizes. The rifle was generally admired and the criticism was constructive The main question then asked was "how soon can we hope for production?"
The journal "The Rifleman" is today still the prime means of dissemination of all matters relating to the latter day National Small-bore Rifle Association.
Below are images of the two No.5 and the two No.6 rifles for comparison
Rifle No.5, .22in.RF .....
Rifle No.5 , .303in.CF.....
Rifle No.6, .22in.RF.....
Rifle No.6 , .303in.CF.....
There was also an Indian - R.F.I. (Ishapore Rifle Factory) - involvement in the No.6 genre development of an S.M.L.E. based carbine, considered of possible practical use in that environment. This rifle is not represented on this page.
The eagle eyed ( or previously informed ) will perhaps have spotted, from even these low resolution images above, that all except the Australian manufactured rifles above are built around the No.4 (or 5) action. The Australian No.6 (Mk.I) alone is built on the S.M.L.E. (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield - the primary rifle of British and Commonwealth troops in the First World War). Australia never obtained machine tools for the No.4 rifle and had little alternative but to manufacture modified rifles on the S.M.L.E. action. This they did with great efficiency. Even their WWII sniper rifles were initially scoped SMLE rifles. In order not to be without an equivalent of the British No.5 "Jungle Carbine", they built two marks of SMLE-actioned carbine prototypes for use in their Pacific jungle theatre. Only the capitulation by Japan, which brought the conflict there to a close, precluded the Australian No.6 rifle from going into production.
Click here for Chronology of Enfield genre Training Rifles, Adapters & Cartridges
Where might the small-bore rifle have fitted into the British, Commonwealth and allied Service rifle scene if the second World War had continued? Well, such rifles had already been issued to personnel who had been chosen as would-be members of the British resistance in the event of a successful German invasion. These home-guard "guerrilla" style resistance units were intended to create havoc amongst a German occupying force by selecting important TARGETS and eliminating them with a significant degree of stealth. DeLisle even designed and prototyped a small-bore version of his silenced SMLE based carbine for the British Special Forces. Additionally, some rifles issued at home are believed to have perhaps been .22RF versions of the No.4T sniper rifle. Such rifles do exist, and were used Post-War for sniper training and stored at Warminster. Their whereabouts now are unknown - unless you know better?
Such use of small-bore rifles has even been considered for jungle type arenas. Their light weight, comparative silence ( almost complete when moderated ) and great accuracy at short range were ideal qualifications where stealth was required. An article was written on the subject relating an interview with
Brigadier-General Merritt Edson (of the U.S. Marine Corps) in "The Rifleman", journal of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, as it was at the time.
We copy the article below. It must be taken into consideration, in these politically correct times, that what is said must be taken in the context of the period. Immediately post the second World War, there was much to consider from the recent past and more to be taken into consideration for the future. The World was still not perceived as an entirely peaceful place, and the possibility of further conflict was still very much in the mind of those whose duty it would be to deal with any new threat.
'Scope Sights on .22 and Value of Marksmanship
" The outstanding troops on Tarawa were our scout-sniper platoons. These were made up of expert riflemen, expert scouts, working in carefully organized, carefully trained teams. They were armed with Marine sniper rifles ; Springfields, with telescope sights. Those scopes might surprise you. Lots of them were long, target-type, eight-power instruments, with wide fields. Some were hunting scopes. In either case they were damned effective ! Those boys didn't waste a lot of ammunition ; they held and squeezed. When they fired, Jap rifles stopped cracking. That's better, even, than scoring a V-on the range ! But scoring Vs on the range is the way to learn to do it!: " There has been a lot of discussion, pro and con, about our carbine. In my opinion it's a good weapon for the use for which it is intended. It can't replace the rifle ; it hasn't the long-range accuracy,'nor the penetration. But it's fast handling, and it will get a bullet into a Jap in a hurry, at close ranges. That counts, in close fighting.
" I don't think much of the carbine as an officer's weapon. I don't think an officer needs a weapon, other than a strictly self-defence weapon. His job is to command. When he starts showing the boys how well he can shoot, his efficiency as a commander suffers.
" I'd say, arm officers with pistols. Other men whose basic weapon is not the rifle might better be armed with pistols, too ; such men as machine gunners. A machine gunner has a load to carry. Sling a rifle or a carbine over his shoulder and it handicaps him in the transportation and handling of his basic weapon. When the going gets tough he's apt to discard that extra burden. The pistol isn't in his way, yet it's there when he needs it. It would be even better if the pistol were carried in a Shoulder holster. You get in pretty deep sometimes in the jungle ; it's good to have your equipment high up on your person. Ay and out of the way. "Any weapon that will kill that fits a specific need is valuable. I can see plenty of places where the .22 calibre rifle could be used very effectively in jungle fighting, as a sniper's weapon. Ranges aren't apt to be long, in the jungle, and for those ranges the .22 scope-sighted would be superlatively accurate. It makes little flash, little noise. A sniper armed with it would be hard to locate. And it would do the job. I've heard, unofficially, that one of my junior officers killed a Jap on Tulagi with a Colt Woodsman. It doesn't surprise me in the least."
"The Jap, he's no superman by any means. He's no better woodsman than our men, except when he's been trained longer ; and he isn't even potentially as good a rifleman.
" That's bad- for him, because the individual rifleman is the back- bone of every army. Everything else - the tanks, the planes, the artillery, even the Navy - are supporting arms to back up or pave the way for the man with the rifle : the man who goes in on his own two feet, to take and hold the ground.
" It is rifle fire that ultimately takes ground, and it is rifle fire that holds it after it's taken, by throwing back enemy counter-attack. The man with the rifle is the man who wins wars ; and accurate fire from individual riflemen is the most effective factor on any battlefield. We've proved that, on Guadalcanal, at 'the Ridge', at Tulagi, at Tarawa, and everywhere we've gone into action, in this war and in wars past.
., " Lots of people have wrong ideas about training men for combat shooting. They stress fire power above accuracy, and they look for some
short cut by which they teach men to be good combat shooters without teaching them the good old fundamentals of basic marksmanship - to hold and squeeze and hit TARGETS at known ranges. In my .opinion that's wrong. Fire power is important, but it is effective only in so far as it is accurate - and the more accurate it is, the less fire that's needed. Teach basic marksmanship first. Given that, a man can devote his whole mind to the meeting of combat conditions without being in doubt of his ability to kill his enemy, once the enemy is met.
" Teach target marksmanship at known ranges first. Then teach the man to estimate his own ranges. Teach him to shoot at indistinct TARGETS , at moving TARGETS . Teach him to scout: to take cover properly, to move properly, to use his eyes to see before being seen. Teach him then to work as a part of a team : to support his teammates and to make use of the support they give him. But, above all else, give him a knowledge of and a confidence in his weapon and in his ability to use it ! Given that, he'll learn the other things quickly. Lacking that, a man goes into battle mentally unarmed. His weapons are small comfort to him because he has no faith in them.He is handicapped, because he isn't sure what he can do when he meets the enemy. Give him confidence in his gun and his ability to use it, and he can devote his efforts to taking care of himself and making contact with the enemy, knowing that when that contact is made, he can make the most of it.
"Too, having faith in his weapons, a man will take care of those weapons. Lacking faith in them, he takes poor care of them, with the frequent result that they don't function properly when he needs them. We saw plenty of that in the Islands. Mud and salt water and coral sand don't improve automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and unless a man loves and trusts his weapons, when he's dog-weary he's apt not to. bother to clean them. Give him supreme confidence in that gun as the thing that will stand between him and death, and he'll clean it ! He'll clean it first, and worry less about his own ills for having done it.
" Teach him to shoot before he ever goes into the service. Teach him to shoot again, after he's in. Teach him to shoot, again and again, every chance you get. Give him refresher courses. ' Frequent application of the seat of the man to the seat of the saddle' is a good way to make a rider ; frequent practice is the only way to make a good shooter. Teach men to correct errors made in battle by means of target-range practice, and pretty soon they'll be using target-range skills in battle. Once you get them doing that, you've got an army !"
And finally, we copy a letter, following the interview recorded in "The Rifleman", written by Major-General Julian C. Smith, from the Office of the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Forces (U.S.), Pacific, and originally addressed to the "American Rifleman"
"THE SCORE IS THE PROOF"
Office of the Commanding General,
Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific.
I was talking to Colonel Murray, who commanded a battalion of the Sixth Marines at Tarawa and Saipan. He also fought at Guadalcanal, and was wounded at Saipan. I asked him what training he would stress for his battalion to prepare it for the next battle. We have so many weapons in an infantry battalion nowadays that I was really curious to get his reaction.
He said," I would spend more time teaching them rifle marksmanship than anything else."
He found that Japs were very good shots at short, range. He also found that automatic weapons, such as machine guns and BAR'S,
often fail to hit individuals at 250 yards and beyond, whereas his good rifle shots could pick them off. He said, "I would like to have my
men all able to pick off individual Japs at about a hundred yards farther than the Jap riflemen can pick us off."
Murray's battalion cleared up the remainder of Tarawa Atoll after Betio had been captured. The Japs all withdrew to the northern end
of the atoll and made a final stand. The ranges in the last steps of the attack were very short and the Japs, who were among the best
trained Japanese troops, were unexpectedly good shots. Quite a number of our men were shot through the head when they lifted their
heads looking for the enemy. Also, an amazingly large number were shot through the right arm or shoulder while in the act of throwing
grenades. However, the better shooting of the Marines showed up in the fact that they buried 156 .Japs, with the loss of about 80 of his own
men killed and wounded.
Major-General JULIAN C. SMITH.
The whole article finished with an advertisement for a new publication.
A new book. Rifle Shooting for Cadets, by Lieut.-Colonel E. R. Godfrey, is published by Messrs. Gale and Polden Ltd. at Is. 8d. post free.
" That every boy in the Empire for the next hundred years should be a marksman is a form of national insurance we dare not neglect,"
says Colonel Godfrey. He deals with many individual problems in a way both practical and interesting.
We make no apology for including these, only partially relevant, passages in this page allotted to the British small-bore training carbines of the period. Please draw your own inferences and conclusions. It is not our wish to put words into the mouths of others.
A suitable follow-on read to this page may be found in the article Champions of Civilian Marksmanship - by Philip Bourjaily on the origins of the British miniature rifle clubs relating to the formation of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs and Rudyard Kipling's part in the process.
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