BRITISH DRILL RIFLES

 


The British modified several models of the SMLE as well as the Pattern 14 to make drill rifles. There were different approaches to these conversions but the illustrations shown below are typical. All of these rifles are marked with a prominent DP (drill practice) somewhere on the rifle. It is uncertain how many of these drill rifles were produced but a considerable number have surfaced in this country.































The U.K. NRA Historic Arms Resource Center has an outstanding web site that has information on Drill and Training rifles as well as a broad range of related items. I highly recommend this site: http://www.rifleman.org.uk



SMLE Mk III  Drill Rifle


This drill rifle has a wooden stock and all of the metal parts are cast from aluminum. The bolt is functional and the trigger moves and produces a clicking sound. It appear as though  original metal parts were used as patterns for the front band, magazine, trigger guard, rear sight and butt plate to produce the aluminum castings. There is no barrel and the action has been significantly modified from the original rifle configuration. The rear sight in non adjustable. The stock is an imperfect configuration but similar to the SMLE profile.

It is unmarked in any way and one can only guess as to the origin. It may have been a movie prop, a parade rifle or a drill rifle for a military school. Considerable work went into producing this rifle and because of this I would suspect that it is not one of a kind. Whatever it was, it has seen considerable use.











































SMLE  MkIII Dummy


This Dummy rifle has a wooden stock and all of the metal parts are cast from aluminum.

It appears that some of the original steel parts were use as foundry patterns. It is interesting in that it has no barrel but the bolt will rotate in the receiver. The trigger makes a clicking sound when pulled. The magazine is made of wood and is not removable.

It is unmarked and is difficult to determine the age or use. It is unlikely that it was used by the Boys Brigade or as a military training rifle and it certainly is not a toy.


































Enfield Drill and Bayonet Practice Rifle


These drill rifles were British military issue and carry correct markings. They are generally patterned after the SMLE No.I service rifle. The two models are similar in appearance but have several structural differences.











This model has a cartouch stamped in the stock with the King’s Crown over ER VII. This indicates that they were produced during the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910). The nose cap is made of cast iron and will carry a standard 1903 British bayonet. The trigger and magazine assembly is made of cast aluminum and has no moving parts. It has no barrel. The rear sight is a fixed blade between two protecting metal ears. There is a lead bar inlet into the bottom of the forearm to replicate the weight and balance of the SMLE service rifle.











This model carries the British broad arrow mark with a date that identifies it as being  British WWII period issue. The trigger and magazine assembly is fabricated from sheet steel and has no moving parts. The rear sight is an adjustable die cast part and all of the others metal parts are made from cast iron. It has no barrel or lead weight. This rifle is also designed to carry the standard British bayonet.

There is very little information relating to either of these rifles. I suspect that they were produce in British arsenals in relatively small quantities. Like many other British military artifacts, they are over built for their purpose. It seems likely that they would have seen the most use during WWI since there was more close fighting where bayonet training would have been more critical. Due to the shortage of SMLE service rifles at the start of WWII it seem strange that they would have used any production facilities to produced any form of bayonet training rifle. It is obvious that they simplified the WWII version to facilitate manufacture and to reduce costs.







British Home Guard


I am indebted to David Morse for the information that he has provided relating to the British Home Guard. David is a member of the Leicester Home Guard Re-enactment group based in England and is very knowledgeable about their weapons and related equipment. He has several early drill rifles and has shared photographs of them.



























































































The section that follows shows examples of Home Guard drill rifles. In 1940 when these home built drill rifles were produced there was a severe shortage of materials in England due to the critical war production. Most of the Home Guard drill rifles reflect this shortage. They had to be made using minimal materials that could be salvaged. The makers were very creative in their approach. It is also apparent that they did not have examples of the current military rifles to use as patterns. Many of these rifles are somewhat over length and have unusual profiles. However, there are examples that have considerable detail and are quite similar to the SMLE service rifle. It seems that the most common pattern for the simplest Home Guard rifles was the Pattern 14 Enfield.












This rifle is unique in that it was made from a common 2x4 pine board. It is 51 inches long and was made in two pieces that were nailed together. The butt portion was shaped in such a was that it could be partially cut from the waste piece left over from the main portion, thus saving several inches of wood. The radiuses on the edges of the 2x4 produce the odd appearing joint where the two surfaces meet. The long main section was cut diagonally across the board so it could effectively produce greater drop at the butt. The resulting profile is a rather crude replica of the Pattern 14 Enfield. One interesting feature is the metal strip that overlaps the butt that produces a protective butt plate and strengthens the joint. It was not inlet into the wood to reduce the production time.


The following drill rifles reflect the diversity of design and execution of Home Guard drill rifles.


















































The following photos are examples to Home Guard rifles in use.

This photo is of Members of Parliament being given instruction in the use of military rifles. You will not that they are using what appear to be functional Pattern 14 Enfield rifles rather than crude replicas.































This photograph was taken from a film that was produced in 1944 to document the activities of the Home Guard.  This is a group of men demonstrating early drill with typical drill rifles for that film.