Indian Enfields see their last hurrah

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.

Going back to the old Magazine-Lee-Enfield of 1895, the Indians have used the venerable .303 for over 120 years in one form or another. In fact, starting in the 1930s Rifle Factory Ishapore (RFI) in the Bengal region made first 10-round MK. III* SMLEs then later what they termed Rifle 2/2A, a 7.62 NATO Enfield with a 12-round magazine in the 1960s and 1970s. Several thousand were imported to the U.S. in the late 1990s and sold for about $150.

An RFI (Ishapore) 2A1, note the longer 12-round magazine. These were made until 1975, possibly the last SMLE in factory production

I used to have an “Ishy” for several years and passed it on down the road to a friend. Of course, now I have regrets over that choice.

Nonetheless, I do still have an RFI-marked WWII-era Enfield P-1944 Jungle Bayonet with the late-war square pommel.

It is a beautiful bayonet with remnants of a white “drill purpose” mark around the band

The park is great on the blade and it is very tight. I would doubt it was ever used for anything except parade

Marked with King George VI’s cipher (GR) it has an RFI stamp and April 1944 production date.

As well as a DP stamp, which was likely applied in the 1946-47 era when these “ugly” square pommel bayonets were reclassified as second-line items.

Perhaps, with these stocks of vintage guns removed from service, we may see another wave of relic Enfields and their accessories wash up on our shores.

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