The No4Mk1 rifle
No4MkI’s were made by several factories during the 2nd World War. The bulk being from the Royal Ordinance factory Maltby, ROF Fazakerley, BSA Shirley, with smaller quantities at Longbranch in Toronto Canada and by the Stevens-Savage company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, USA.
To work out which factory that your No4 was made is to look at wrist markings where the serial numbers are. Now this only equates to British No4MkI here. The British made No4MkI’s use a prefix and number – (Alpha numerical) system to identify manufacturer. Numbered serials starting with 1 indicated ROF Maltby, 2 indicated ROF Fazakerley and 3 indicated BSA Shirley. However as one soon learns with anything to do with life there are exceptions, early in on the game BSA Shirley did a production run which used only 4 numbers and went from Axxxx to Zxxxx.
Canadian made Longbranch No4MkI’s are easy to tell as they have “Longbranch” written across the receiver and they would have been changed over around 41 /42 from MkI to MkI*. The US made No4MkI’s were produced under the lend-lease agreement and as such will have U.S. PROPERTY stamped across left part of the receiver. Well it should have it stamped there! I’ve had stories recounted to me that some units removed the marks. But again, a very stylised square S or the US flaming proof mark may well give it away. But these early US marked No4MkI’s will be rather limited in numbers.
For particular example this particular rifle is manufactured in 1943 with the serial prefix BA 1XXXX, with a stylised M next to the date stamp. The trick to working out who made the rifle is to at this stage forget the alpha aspect and look at the first number, the 1. It was made in the Royal Ordinance factory Maltby. Whilst a mid war production it carries most of the aspects of a typical No4MkI, it has broad arrow marked woodwork with SL indicating furniture made by William Sykes Ltd, the Foresight protector MkI being broad arrow marked with manufacturers markings.It does however have the squared cocking piece, the MKII. Whereas the earlier models had a button cocking piece, however due to production date of this rifle the square piece is correct to the rifle, as was highlighted in the list of changes Para B4737.
The main way in which to easily differentiate the models is the bolt head release mechanism. It is a spring-loaded catch just rearward of the charger guide on the right hand side the receiver. Depressing this allowed the bolt to be removed from the rifle.
Improvements in the bedding and a heavier barrel, coupled with a longer sight picture gave the Allied soldier a battle rifle with great potential. The reduced weight in the nose cap allowed the rifle to balance and come up to the aim quicker. An improved graduated rear flip-up sight called the singer sight was graduated from 200yds to 1300yds in 50 yd graduations.
The woodwork of the early No4 was that of beech or birch. Earlier less hurried times would have seen wood such as French or European walnut being used. The walnut would have been suitably seasoned and prepared years in advance. However luxuries like that were soon to be a thing of the past. But those issues are better suited to be explored in No4Mk1*. But needless to say, by the time the No4Mk1* was hitting production what skilled operators and man power was left, were doing an exceptional job with what wood they were able to harvest or being supplied. The times of enjoying wood from Europe was ending and North American woods were now becoming increasingly the norm as well as woods from as far as Australia.
The accuracy the No4 was expected to achieve was hitting a 6×4 inch plate at 100 yards. But when we talk about accuracy I feel that I must remind readers of what Maj E.B.B Reynolds wrote in his book “The Lee Enfield Rifle”. Maj Reynolds summarised this whole subject up perfectly when he wrote “throughout its many years of useful service the Lee Enfield has had many critics, particularly regarding is accuracy as a target shooting weapon. Many writers and critics appear to have overlooked the fact that it was designed as the British soldier’s personal arm, not as a target rife” Pg 9, Second impression 1962. And this was no target rifle, nor was it ever intended to be, it was deadly efficient in its intended role and proved an extremely solid and dependable battle rifle.
Jeff wrote a superb article that ive included in the articles section, well worth a read regarding the accuracy. Along with Graeme who wrote an interesting article on the No4T, again worth a read.