A couple of years ago a number of very interesting conversions of Lee Enfield Rifles began to show up on the collector’s market in the UK. There was no details of where they had come from, or even a definitive answer as to what they were for and several years on the mystery remains. These rifles featured a shortened No4 rifle action, with a No 5 butt stock, wire wrapping to the handguard and a large cylindrical discharger at the muzzle:
The first theory as to the rifle’s use is that it was for firing tear gas canisters as an anti-riot weapon and comes from India. The second theory, and the one I feel more likely is that it is a line thrower used by the Irish Navy. A line thrower used a blank cartridge to fire a line between two ships and whilst I cannot find any pictures of this weapon being used in that fashion, I have found examples of the M14 being used by the US Navy for the same role and the similarities are clear:
To return to our rifle, however, the individual components are very interesting. The buttstock comes from a No 5 rifle and so has the rubber buttpad to absorb recoil, a useful feature on such as short rifle:
Moving forward we can see that the receiver is from a wartime No 4 rifle, complete with the simplified economy sights (completely redundant now as the discharger blocks any sight picture you might get through them!):
The rifle’s original designation of a No4 Mk I remains on the side of the receiver, and the serial number and date on the socket are also unchanged:
The magazine has been modified internally to only accept short blank cartridges, presumably for safety as a live round accidentally fired form this rifle would have resulted in it blowing up and killing the user! To further distinguish the magazine, it was painted red, although little of this paint remains on my example:
The force of firing from a cup discharger can quickly result in the stock of a rifle shattering, so to reinforce this rifle, the cut down forestock has been wrapped in copper wire that has been soldered together for strength:
Note also the bolt passing transversely through the stock to add further reinforcement.
The cup discharger itself is a large metal cylinder which in this case is too wide for a traditional No36 grenade, again adding credence to the idea that this was for line throwing. The discharger cup would once have been removable, but is now welded to the rifle as part of the deactivation process:
The large vent at the bottom can be opened or closed to regulate the gas flow and thus the range.
This rifle is fascinating and it is very frustrating that we still do not have a definitive answer as to its use or even country of origin. Hopefully more information will come out in the future and I will be able to revisit this post with some more concrete facts.