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Timeline of Scottish History

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James Paris Lee

  • Name  : Lee
  • Born  : 1831
  • Died  : 1904
  • Category  : Military
  • Finest Moment : Invention of the bolt-action rifle

The Lee-Enfield repeating rifle has a long and admirable record of service in the British armed forces. The 'Lee' in Lee-Enfield is James Paris Lee, a Scottish-born arms inventor who perfected the design of the box magazine which allowed for the development of bolt-action repeating rifles.

Lee's parents emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1835. At some point he moved from Canada to Wisconsin in the United States, becoming a naturalised citizen. He also invented a bolt-action repeating rifle (the Remington-Lee) which was tested by both the United States Army and Navy. (Magazine rifles were first used during the American Civil War.) This rifle soon attracted the attention of the British forces, and in 1880 Lee's basic magazine rifle, modified to fire a British service round and fitted with a Martini-Henry barrel, beat several foreign and domestic competitors in British Service Trials.

In 1888, prototype Lee magazine rifles were put on test, fitted with barrels featuring the seven-groove rifling of William E. Metford. The first Lee Magazine Rifle was officially accepted into British Service in December, 1888. This rifle, the 'Magazine Lee-Metford Rifle Mark I', was Britain's first general service repeating rifle. It was a bolt action, .303 calibre rifle with Metford-rifling, and had an eight-shot box magazine.

Continuing the evolution of this killing machine, Britain adopted their first smokeless powder rifle load in 1891. It was charged with cordite and boasted a muzzle velocity of 1,970fps. Unfortunately, it burned so much hotter than black powder that the Metford rifles and carbines suffered a considerable amount of bore erosion. The experts modified the Lee's rifling and the final result was a more angular and deeper five-groove rifling.

And the 'Enfield' in Lee-Enfield' It refers to the town of Enfield on the northern outskirts of London, where a government arms works was established in 1804 to assemble 'Brown-Bess' flintlock muskets. The Lee-Enfield rifle was adopted by the British army as its basic infantry weapon in 1902. It fired .303-calibre ammunition with a rimmed cartridge carried in a 10-round box magazine. The magazine could also be loaded with five-round clips or single rounds.

Though less accurate than the Springfield rifle at longer ranges, the Lee-Enfield could hold twice the number of cartridges and was capable of a faster rate of fire. The various models of Lee-Enfield rifles were the standard weapons of British infantry troops in both World Wars I and II.

This evolution in arms changed the face of warfare; from guns firing followed by a bayonet charge, to a more static, trench-based battle. A different sort of hell really.

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