I would argue that the Lee Enfield is the best combat rifle of the early twentieth century (controversial viewpoint I know from those who love Mausers). There are a number of reasons for this, but the main thrust of my argument would be its superior magazine capacity (ten rounds as opposed to the five on a Mauser) and the speed with which it could be fired accurately and reloaded. The speed of reloading was due to the use of charger clips, often seen referred to as stripper clips. A charger clip holds a number of rounds in a sprung metal clip that allows rapid reloading of a bolt-action rifle. The Lee-Enfield used five round clips holding .303 ammunition and we are looking tonight at the most easily found example of these, the Mk4:The clip is made of a stamped blackened steel, with three circular and one oval hole on each side:Note how there are two pressed pips on the bottom of the sides to help with the stiffness and that the model number ‘Mk4’ is stamped into the metal. At either end the sides bend inwards and are sprung to help hold the rounds in place:A series of four staggered holes on the base allow the user to check how the rounds are seated:This was vitally important as the base of the rounds needed to be in the sequence ‘down-up-down-up-down’ (DUDUD) in order to feed correctly into the rifle to prevent stopages, as illustrated in the Lee-Enfield weapons manual:As mentioned earlier, this clip is the Mk4 version, various changes being made to the clips over the years, as recorded in the LoC:
Mark I LoC 11753 16th Jan 1903
Mark II LoC 13465 24th April 1906, said to be strengthened by the addition of three ridges on the base.
Mark III LoC 18973 15th Feb 1916, “…having circular pips and lightening holes and no ribs across the bottom.”
Mark IV LoC 19786 20th Oct 1917. “Differs…in having four holes in the side instead of five, which leaves more room for the spring on the lug end, and makes it less stiff.”
The clips were made from simple stampings and so were cheap and viewed as more or less disposable. Ammunition was frequently issued ready packed into clips which in turn were packaged in fifty round disposable cotton bandoliers. The charger loading system, along with the well designed ergonomics of the Lee family of rifles ensured a soldier could maintain rapid accurate fire in the field, such that when coming up against rifle equipped British soldiers of the Old Contemptibles the German army thought they were equipped with machine guns.