No 5 Rifle

Fighting in the jungle during World War Two revealed some short comings with the British Army’s standard Lee Enfield rifle was too long and too heavy to comfortbly carry in the jungles of South East Asia. What was needed, it was concluded, was a light weight carbine, shorter and more handy than the standard rifle. The resultant carbine was certainly shorter and lighter than its predecessors:

As well as the obvious changes like shortening the barrel and the forestock, elements of the receiver were machined away to reduce weight so there was now a scalloped cut out next to the bolt handle:

The bolt handle itself has been drilled out to remove another few ounces of weight:

A further cut out was to be found on the opposite side of the receiver:

These rifles have been faked over the years, but this is a genuine example and it has the correct lightening cuts to the barrel under the top wood. One side effect of the shortening of the rifle’s length was that recoil increased excessively and a rubber butt pad was fitted to try and mitigate this:

Note the rear sling bar, the front sling loop is a standard Lee Enfield pattern, attached to the barrel band:

One feature that is distinctive to these rifles is the large cone shaped flash hider:

This is fitted to try and reduce muzzle flash which was found to be excessive due to the short barrel. The front sight is fitted at the rear of the cone, with two large sight protectors. The rear sight has a large ring aperture sight for snap shooting and an adjustable precision sight for shots out to 800 yards:

The rifle was a clever attempt to reduce weight and shaved over 2lb off the weight compared to the No 4. Unfortunatley this led to the recoil being excessive and the lightness of the modified barrel and chamber led to the rifles having a wandering zero, where they did not maintain their point of impact over time. Because of this the rifles were declared obsolescent in July 1947- although they would continue to see extensive service into the 1950s in the Malayan Emergency.

Many of these rifles were sold off as surplus and my example seems to have made its way to Germany where it was sold as a hunting rifle at some point. To comply with German law, the bayonet lug was ground off and the barrel reblued, leaving a professional finish, but unfortunately meaning I cannot mount a bayonet to the rifle:

The originl electro pencil markings are now very hard to see as the receiver was reblued over them. A new set of marks indicating German proof testing and the retailer who sold the rifle, Hege, were added to the weapon:

This rifle fills an important gap in my World War II British small arms collection, and with my interest in jungle warfare it is an essential element to the collection that allows me to put together many more impressions. It would be nice if it had not been ‘messed about’, however in some ways this makes an interesting tale in itself as it was exported to Germany, sold as a hunting rifle, then reimported to the UK for deactivation!


  1. I used to own one of those that I actually bought through the mail back in the 1960s. I thought it was a delightful “little” rifle. I did not find the recoil to be particularly excessive but at the time, I was also shooting a .45-70 carbine with a steel butt plate. Everything is relative. They were usually referred to as ‘jungle carbines’ over here. Mine was in pretty good shape, too, and I managed to find a bayonet for it. I think the bayonet fit only that rifle. But that was decades ago. I later owned one of the (supposedly) last No. 4 rifles manufactured, from the late 1950s.

  2. Yes the No.5 bayonet is unique, quite rare and therefore expensive when you do find one.

    The so-called “wandering zero” was by no means universal rather an affliction of a relatively small number of rifles and when found was noted there was something wrong with the weapon causing it. The reason we don’t see it today is because the rifles that showed signs of the wandering zero were either fixed or stripped for parts.

    The rubber butt-pad has nothing to do with recoil mitigation, rather was added so that rifles transported by air could be held vertically by the soldier, resting on the rubber pad instead of a metal plate. The small surface area of the pad in fact only concentrates the force of the recoil to a smaller and more uncomfortable point.

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