Thursday, May 10, 2012

Still on a .303 kick

I felt like writing about old guns again today, so here's a gem from my personal collection that actually comes with a rather interesting story.

The rifle pictured is a World War One British Pattern 14 Enfield, made for the British right here in America by the Eddystone Arsenal in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. This factory was not really an "arsenal" in the true sense--it was actually a half-finished locomotive factory that Remington Arms acquired during the early days of WW1 to use as an extra rifle-manufacturing plant in order to fill it's British Government contracts. Interestingly enough, these rifles were produced by both Remington and it's chief competitor, Winchester Repeating Arms, at the same time.

When the United States joined the war in 1917, it wasn't long before we realized that we didn't have enough rifles. (Our standard at the time was the .30 caliber Model 1903 Springfield.) As the original British contract for 1.2 million Pattern 14's was nearly completed, Remington and Winchester were told to change these guns over to .30 and start supplying them to the US Government.

This particular Pattern 14 would have been made in 1916, as it's an early model that predates the Mk 1* version with the longer bolt locking lugs. That change took place in December, 1916, and all subsequent rifles were so marked. This one does not have those markings.

I found this one in a small general store in northern Michigan that also sold guns and ammo. It was sitting on the sale rack with a rather niftily-done sporterized stock but without any apparent metal damage, as is often the case when some Bubba decides that a historic rifle would be better suited for banging away at deer if the original sights are ground off and/or the receiver is drilled for a scope. This one seemed restorable, at with a price tag of $75.00, how could I miss?

So I asked the old man running the store if I could see it. As I looked it over, I determined that it was, in fact, a Pattern 14 and not a Model 1917. Not that it would have mattered. I would have taken it either way. The old man remarked that it was one of the best .30-06 rifles ever made. Clearly he thought that it was a Model 1917, and to be fair, it wasn't marked as either one. All it bore was the Eddystone "ERA" stamp and a few small British proof-marks. I politely replied that this one was a .303, but he rather huffily argued back that it was indeed a .30-06.

OK, well I like to be nice, so I smiled and began to explain exactly how I knew it to be a Pattern 14, and not a Model 1917 as he believed it to be. He reached out, took it back from me, and asked "Do you want to buy this .30-06 or not?"

Well yes, I did. So when I pulled the cash out, he wrote up the bill of sale...for a .30-06, which of course, he wrote in large numbers and underlined twice for emphasis.

(The scummy lawyer in me thought that I should have taken it out, shot a .30-06 round through it, then sued him, but I love old guns too much to do that.)

Anyway, I took it home, found a correct stock and fittings for it, and it now looks as you see it here. And these days it usually graces a rack right below a pristine Model 1917, which I acquired a few months later for a similar very small sum.

Ah, for the days before Saving Private Ryan and the other movies that suddenly made war popular and drove up the prices of all of these once-cheap and plentiful firearms to insane levels.


  1. So a question..

    Does that Pattern 14 rifle have excess head space like most SMLE rifles?

    Most .303 Enfields have the chambers cut large at the neck to take care of mud. But does the Patter 14 have such?

    The reason I ask is reloading the .303 can be a real pain as case head separations care quite common in reloaded .303 ammo in SMLE guns.

  2. @ Paul, I couldn't tell you. I do know that it's the most accurate of my .303 rifles and a joy to shoot. No issues yet with my .303 loads in any of the rifles yet.

  3. Very cool story. Where did you find the stock you refitted to the gun?

  4. Andy, I think I got the wood from Numerich back in the day. It was off of old DP drill rifles, as indicated by the little cut-outs in the chamber area where the de-milled rifle that the wood came off of would have had holes drilled to allow a rod to be spiked into the chamber. Very sad. But at least the wood survived.