Police in Northern India last week said farewell to a historic infantry rifle that has served them for generations– the .303-caliber Lee-Enfield.
Police for the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which counts roughly 200 million inhabitants, sent their Enfields off after using them for a final time in the country’s 71st Republic-Day Parade in late January, according to local reports. The force used 45,000 vintage Enfields, the agency’s standard-issue rifle since 1947. The historic bolt-action rifle will be replaced with domestically-made INSAS and inch-pattern FAL variants.
The below shows Uttar Pradesh police with their Enfields at last year’s RP Day parade.
“This (.303) rifle is a fantastic weapon and has served us brilliantly in various operations in the past,” police director-general Bijaya Kumar Maurya told AFP. “But it being a bolt action weapon with low magazine capacity, it was time for a change. Its production has also discontinued so there was all the more need for an upgrade.”
Although replaced, the Uttar Pradesh rifles will not be completely retired, they are reportedly being sent to the Indian Ordnance Factory at Ishapore to be re-worked into riot guns.
What is the Enfield, anyway?
The .303 rifle was first fielded in 1895 as the Magazine Lee–Enfield, which saw service in the Boer Wars and various British colonial brush wars of the early 20th Century, then was updated by the best-known Short Magazine Lee–Enfield (SMLE) after 1907.
The SMLE MK III/III* was one of the most common rifles of the Great War and its ability to deliver “ten rounds, rapid” made Commonwealth infantry a formidable force as the rifle went on to equip not only British troops but those of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, India.
By World War II, the SMLE had been further updated to the Rifle No. 4 Mk I and later No. 5 series which remained in production around the globe as late as the 1950s, including manufacture in the U.S. by Savage Arms. In India, Ishapore continued making the weapon in 7.62 NATO, dubbed the Rifle 7.62 mm 2A/1 until 1975.
A common round in factory production by Federal, Remington, and others, the .303 British has been a favorite of deer hunters in the states for decades. This means several of these milsurp rifles have been “sporterized”
To see Enfields and other classic military rifles and other vintage guns, be sure to check out our Collector’s Corner. You may be surprised by what you find.