The 303 Jungle Carbine: Enfield’s Puzzling No. 5 Mk I

From 1907 to current production (by Ishapore), there have been an estimated 20 million or so Short Magazine Lee Enfield bolt action rifles produced, and one of the more sought after, short-lived and peculiar of the breed has been the No. 5 Mk I, more popularly known as the Jungle Carbine.

Essentially an improvement of the 1880s vintage Lee–Metford rifle, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield with its 10-round detachable box magazine, full length stock, fast-operating turn-bolt action, and excellent sights was a rugged and dependable service rifle that saw hard use by the British Army and her Commonwealth Allies (South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, et. al) in both World Wars as well as the Korean conflict and a host of small colonial actions thrown in for good measure. The evolutionary timeline of these rifles had, by gone through seven official modifications until the Rifle No. 4 Mk I was adopted as a standard rifle in 1942.

Lee-Enfield No 4 Mk I rifle, made in 1943. Caliber .303 British. From the collections of Armémuseum (Swedish Army Museum), Stockholm, Sweden.

Lee-Enfield No 4 Mk I rifle, made in 1943. Caliber .303 British. From the collections of Armémuseum (Swedish Army Museum), Stockholm, Sweden.

This gun was a simplified rifle designed for wartime production and used metal stampings for stock bands, North American birch rather than imported European walnut for the stocks, a heavier free-floating barrel for increased accuracy and a slightly redesigned receiver that could be made faster. This coughed up a rifle that was some 45-inches overall in length and tipped the scales (unloaded and without bayonet or strap) at 9-9.5 pounds depending on the weight of the wood.

With His Majesty’s Tommies jumping out of airplanes and fighting in far off jungles against the Japanese in Burma and elsewhere, a lighter and more compact Enfield was needed. Enter…

The 7-pound, 39.5-inch overall No. 5 Mk I Jungle Carbine:

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Although this gun saw little use in WWII, it proved popular in Africa, Korean and Malaya in the 1950s and 60s…

Sergeant R Beaumont of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI), attached to the Malay Regiment, instructs a Dyak tracker in the use of modern firearms. Via IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212640 'The Koylis' date back to 1755 and in 1968 were amalgamated to form The Light Infantry Regiment which in turn was merged with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment and the Royal Green Jackets to become The Rifles in 2007. As a note of trivia, 80s television character Jonathan Quayle Higgins III of Magnum P.I. fame was a member of the West Yorkshire Regiment.

“Sergeant R Beaumont of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI), attached to the Malay Regiment, instructs a Dyak tracker in the use of modern firearms.” Via IWM Triva: ‘The Koylis’ date back to 1755 and in 1968 were amalgamated to form The Light Infantry Regiment which in turn was merged with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment and the Royal Green Jackets to become The Rifles in 2007. As a note of trivia, 80s television character Jonathan Quayle Higgins III of Magnum P.I. fame was a member of the West Yorkshire Regiment.

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

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