A Canadian collector has one of the last of the 1947 British .303 jungle carbines ever made.
The Lee-Enfield Rifle No. 5 Mk. 1 is known as the ‘Jungle Carbine’ but it was never called that in official terminology. Although it was a castoff design brought to Britain by American James Paris Lee, the English adopted the rifle and modified it to fire the .303 British round out of a 10-round magazine.
When Mississauga, Ontario native Mike Filippi obtained the rifle for payment of a debt he must have been licking his chops, but when he realized it was still in perfect working condition he started digging into its past.
According to the venerable Gun Digest, “The rifle was popular with troops because it was shorter and lighter than other models” but that “there were however continuing complaints that the rifle could not shoot with consistent accuracy.” This ‘wandering zero’ effect had ordinance officials scratching their heads as the rifles would shoot acceptably for a time then become increasingly inaccurate.
They had some idea as to what the issue was and it was apparently one of the features that made it a safer and therefore more effective weapon for ground troops fighting in the jungles of Asia at the time.
The problem seemed to be at the muzzle.
Filippi said that the weapon is in excellent firing condition, but he doesn’t shoot it all that often citing its age and the expense of the ammo.
Some of the interesting features of the finalized version of this rifle include being lightened by removing some steel in certain areas. The rear site graduated to 800 yards instead of the original 1,300 yards, and a rubber recoil pad on the butt stock, but maybe the most popular attribute of the .303 was the pinned-on flash eliminator.
While Phillip Peterson said in his article that “a significant factor in the lack of accuracy is apparently the flash hider” he didn’t count it as the only reason: “Other things that might factor in are the length of the fore stock, lightning cuts on the receiver and barrel, and methods of holding the barreled action in the wood.”
In gun collecting circles this is still a great piece. Filippi said via e-mail that “It’s not the most valuable one which is the 1944/45 but it is the year 1947 which is the last year they made them and that to me is still quite nifty.”
If the rifle has matching serial numbers and is in mint condition it can go for $400 to $700. Production of the Lee-Enfield Rifle No. 5 Mk. 1 had ceased by the end of 1947.
Photos courtesy of Mike Filippi