In the tail end of World War II, the Australian military was crafting a shortened Enfield .303 for jungle warfare, but it never made it into full-scale production before the A-bomb ended the conflict.
The above beauty is a rare bird and a bit of evolving gun control history all in one.
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory, which crafted Australian Lee-Enfields and bayonets from 1912 into the 1950s when they switched to making inch-pattern semi-auto FAL (L1A1SLR) rifles, had this beautiful No 6 Mk I Lithgow Enfield recently turned over to their museum from the New South Wales Police. According to the museum, it is a super low serial (XP124) and was one of just 100 of that rare model made, 50 with brass butts and 50 with rubber.
As noted by a British site on everything Enfield, the “No. 6 Australian” was that country’s domestically-made equivalent to the British No. 5 “Jungle Carbine” designed for use in the Pacific island fighting in WWII and, “Only the capitulation by Japan, which brought the conflict there to a close, precluded the Australian No.6 rifle from going into production.”
John Walter in his book Rifles of the World, notes the No. 6 Mk I rifles were shortened and lightened guns crafted on older No 1 Mk III actions with half-stocks and handguards and used 19-inch barrels, tipping the scales at 7.5-pounds. He also says some were later altered by the Royal Australian Air Force to take 7.62x51mm NATO and use 20-round box mags in the 1950s.
Here is an unconverted prototype .303 No 6 Rifle Mk. I in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, donated by a collector from Queensland:
However, the gun turned over to Lithgow is not original.
Tragically, around 1950 it was re-chambered from standard .303 British (7.7×56mmR) to the just slightly shorter 7.7x54mmR by area gunsmith Barry Cockinos to get around the new gun law passed in NSW after 1948 banning “military caliber” firearms for civilian ownership.
NSW police recently impounded 109 firearms from a collector, including several rare pieces, that he did not have a license to possess, so this may have been one of his…
Under threat of a fine of up to A$280,000 ($219,000), 14 years in jail, and a criminal record for being otherwise caught with an unregistered or illegal gun, Australia’s National Firearms Amnesty concluded on Oct. 1. Australian media is reporting that 51,461 firearms of all type were turned over to police in the three month period, up from the 26,000 tallied by early September.
However, some of the rarer birds were saved….
I thought this was great.
Australia is conducting their first nationwide firearms amnesty since the great melt-down of 1996 in an effort to get an estimated 300,000+ undocumented guns either on the books or in the furnace and they have had a lot of interesting stuff show up. These included this awesomely wicked specimen turned over to blue heelers in QLD.
The thing is, the impressive hand cannon is actually a British-made Thornton-Pickard Mk III H model “camera gun” of the type used by the Royal Air Force, and to a lesser degree the U.S. Army Air Corps, during WWI and the immediate post-war period.
The only thing it shoots if film.
More in my column at Guns.com
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum opened its doors 20 years ago in the home of the historic Australian firearms works that made Enfield and Steyr rifles for the military. Staffed by volunteers, they are now working during the three-month National Firearms Amnesty to keep some of the more interesting pieces from the scrappers.
Among the historic guns brought to the museum since the turn-in event kicked off last month are a Webley .455 revolver with three notches cut into the grips — reportedly used by a Gurkha unit soldier in World War I.
Other weapons, saved from likely destruction if turned over to police, include a Swedish AB Ljungman rifle and an antique palm pistol as well as a Slazenger 1B sporting rifle with intricately carved stocks and a 1902 Winchester.
More in my column at Guns.com