Project Rifles

Over the past weekend I had a long and interesting conversation with Longtime Friend and Rifleman Combat Controller (and for the purposes of brevity, I’ll refer to him henceforth simply as “Z”).  Here’s the setup.

Z has two old Lee-Enfield rifles that have been extensively modified to the point where bringing them back to “original” condition is not a proposition.  As he puts it:

“They are both very well done conversions but I also have several (rare even) Enfields in original condition so I am not interested in restoring them. The cost would be higher than buying unaltered ones. “

So please don’t go down that road, ’cause it ain’t gonna happen.

“Here are the donor rifles.  The Mannlicher-stocked one is a 1916 No.1 MK III* has a 16″ barrel, and  has such an early serial number it might have been made in the first weeks of production, since 1916 was the year it was adopted.”

“The other one is a Santa Fe Arms conversion with Williams sights and a new heavy 19.4″ barrel.  The Model 1941 was the apex of the conversions apparently. No idea what year the receiver was made.  I am thinking right now of a .308 conversion that takes the M14 magazine, or a .45-70 conversion.  But I am interested in other ideas for sure.”

Basically, he’s thinking of staying away from anything that smacks of a wildcat chambering, but would be supported by ammo of which he has at least a case — that would be .308 Win, 7.62x54R, .45-70 Gov and so on.  As he’s an engineer and competent amateur gunsmith, rechambering, or reboring barrels — or, for that matter, putting in a new barrel altogether — are not a problem, so the field is pretty much open.  (Remember that the .303 Enfield uses a bullet of .311 diameter, so any 7.62mm cartridges are possible.)  The Enfield action is wonderfully rugged, so it could take pretty much any cartridge e.g. even .458 Win Mag.  Also, the short barrels would militate against using a cartridge which requires a long barrel to get the bullet working (e.g. the 6.5x55mm Swede).

During our (long) conversation, I had a couple of ideas myself, such as converting the 1916 rifle to .357 Rem Mag or even .454 Casull, for instance (as I happen to know that he has supplies of both in, shall we say, adequate quantities). Certainly, a chamber which headspaces off a rimmed cartridge makes life simpler (.45-70 Gov, anyone?), but a rimless cartridge is definitely not off the table.

So Z is also interested in any and all suggestions from my Readers (because he knows that we are a bunch of unabashed gun nuts).

So there it is:  let’s hear it from you folks, either in Comments or via email (which I’ll forward on to him).  What shape would your conversion of the above carbines take?

Just to add to the fun:  there is a real possibility that one of the above carbines would be raffled off on this here website once the conversion has been accomplished and tested as fit for purpose.  (Just for the record, the 1916 carbine set my trigger finger to itching, something terrible.)


  1. Phew. That’s a tough one. I love the Mannlicher… but gawd – I’d hate to see him go to a pistol calibre. There is something about that that just sticks in my craw sideways.

    What burns well in a 16” pipe outside the centre fire 22’s? Can’t wait to see what you guys decide – please keep us posted.

  2. I’ve always been a fan of the Mark 5 jungle carbine and the 41 Santa Fe would be a great starting point for a pretty easy project. .308 caliber and M14 magazines would be a excellent choice, although a heavy hitting low pressure round like .45-70 would give great service against bears. If I was making the decisions on the rifle I’d install an old military style flash nicer because it looks cool and an old military stock for the same reason. Since we’re talking a replaceable magazine stripper clip access isn’t necessary. Mount a good length of rail above the receiver for a low power scope or (forgive us) a good quality red dot.

  3. Obvious.
    .311 bore? Short barrel? Magazine meant for a tapered case?
    Drumroll, please—–7.62×39

    Except we have a problem…..setting the 16″ barrel back to allow rechambering is going to make it too short for gov.

    BTW, is 16″ a misprint? It sure looks longer than that in the photo.

  4. Can never go wrong with 308. That round gets a lot of abuse, but is a good round. 30-06 might be better but that needs a long action.

  5. Using a .308 round would result in accuracy loss in a .311 barrel.

    I think 7.62x54r, which uses a .311 bullet, would be a better choice.

  6. The Lee-Enfield magazine is specifically fitted to the rifle – stripper clips were used to top up, not spare magazines.

    I’d either 1) buy a case of .303 and load it all into stripper clips (WTF cannot be killed in North America by a 303?), or 2) consider reboring the shorter rifle into 38/55 (or 375Win, if you prefer). Rimmed cases are preferable for LE conversions, and there is a slew of wildcats based on the 303 case – 243, 25, 270 are all available, as well as the Epps improved case, if the no wildcat injunction can be overcome.

    Seriously though, just buy a case of good 303 ammo and live a less complicated life.

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