By Chris Dumm
I know what you’re thinking: Lee-Enfields are about as obscure as Ford Escorts. The Brits made 17 million of them. Between 1895 and 1957 soldiers equipped with the gun fought for Crown and Queen in all corners of the Empire. With a ten-round magazine and the fastest manually-operated turnbolt ever made, the Lee-Enfield gave its Commonwealth soldiers a substantial advantage in firepower over their Mauser-equipped foes.
Despite being out of production since 1956, you’ll still see them at gun shows and pawn shops in various (often poor) conditions. Most of them, by now, look as though the ‘Pals’ of Kitchener’s New Armies dragged them through the mud of Passchendaele and never cleaned them.
Several models of Lee-Enfield were manufactured over the years. The final version was the elegant No. 4 Mk. 2. It was slightly lighter than its predecessors, because it lacks their three-pound steel muzzle cap/bayonet mount. In addition, the No. 4 Mk. 2 is also slightly more accurate due to a slight redesign of the trigger mechanism.
About 40,000 No. 4 Mk. 2’s were manufactured to order for the Irish Republic, but the order was never delivered for political reasons. In 1956, the last British Lee-Enfield rolled off the assembly line. The machinery was sold to India, where the 7.62x51mm ‘Ishapore’ Lee-Enfields were later manufactured.
What makes this particular Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.2 an ‘obscure’ object of desire: it’s in abso-fricking-lutely 100% condition. Unfired and as clean and bright as the day it was born in the Fazakerley Royal Ordnance Factory in Liverpool in 1954. The beechwood furniture is smooth, bright and unblemished. The steel is either a deep, smooth black or in the white and impeccably preserved. You will not work a smoother rifle bolt in your life.
A supply of these came stateside in the mid-1990s. Priced at around $400, they didn’t stick around long. A 100% example with matching serial numbers books for many times that today. The real trick these days is getting your hands on some ammunition for it.