Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Saved another old war veteran.

About a month ago, I stumbled across this thing in a local pawn shop.

The shop owner said that an old local used to use it to hunt deer, and when he died, his adult children brought it into the shop to get rid of. I recognized it right of way as a #4 Mk1 Enfield rifle made by the Savage Arms Company in Massachusetts. Back when the Second World War was getting started, Britain was desperately short of small arms (again) and they contracted with the Savage Arms Company to help them out. The only problem was that America was avowedly neutral--at least officially--at that time, and a 1939 act of Congress known as the Neutrality Act made it illegal for American companies to sell munitions to either side. However the Roosevelt Administration came up with a creative fiction known as the Lend Lease Act whereby we could loan US government supplies to the allies. As part of that fiction, these rifles--Enfield rifles made in the British caliber .303, neither of which were ever used by American forces--were manufactured, stamped "US Property" to prove that they were really only US gear, and loaned indefinitely to Britain.
When the war ended, we never asked for or wanted them back and they remained in British hands until they were declared obsolete and disposed of.

Some time between the end of the war and 1968 when imports of surplus foreign firearms into the United States were stopped, this one came over and was probably sold in some hardware store for a few dollars and subsequently butchered into a handy deer rifle by cutting the stock down, removing the handguards the front sight protector and the rear sight and mounting a new sight on the barrel. No doubt Bubba--or a succession of Bubbas--used it to fill the larder with deer over the decades and bestowed little to no care on it until it found it's way into this particular pawn shop some sixty-three years after the end of the war.

I wasn't really looking for another gun but the offered out-the-door price of $60 was too good to pass up on, especially as I knew that I already had a set of correct wood for this rifle at home, so I took it.

Once I got it home, I rooted out the old stock-set that I had for it--a four-piece, refinished set that contained some, but not all, of the required missing metal parts. A good cleaning revealed a bore that was actually pretty good, with sharp lands and grooves. The bolt turned out to have a serial number that matches the receiver too, and of course there is no unsightly import stamp on this rifle. Subsequent examination showed that the extractor spring was missing and had been replaced with a totally non-functional spring from who-knows-what. As usual with restorations, I needed about a dozen small bits and I had some scrounging to do.

Now here's were my luck ran bad. I checked with all of the dealers in surplus gun parts and no one dealer had all of the parts that I needed. Since they were all cheap, tiny parts, I didn't relish the idea of paying shipping costs for two or three separate orders, as by that time the shipping would have cost me more than the parts.

So I put out a call for help on a couple of websites set up for collectors of British guns and in less than a week, every little bit that I needed showed up in the mail from one collector or another. Who says that gun folks aren't the greatest people in the world, eh?

I just finished re-assembling the rifle after a complete rear-down and cleaning which included the removal of a lot of rust and accumulated grime. Modesty aside, I have to admit, it looks spectacular. You've seen the "before" pics. well here it is now.

As you can see, it's been put back to it's appropriate configuration again. The crude barrel-mounted rear sight is gone and the proper "L" 300/600 meter aperture once again sits in it's rightful spot. The stock set is correct again and the sling swivels, sight guard and barrel bands are all back where they should be.

The bolt has been disassembled and cleaned and a new extractor spring has been installed. Six decades after it's retirement, this old war horse is once again ready to hit Gold Beach at Normandy and begin another drive inland.

It always feels good to be able to rescue one of these historical old firearms and return it to it's proper condition. So many have been irreparably ruined over the years by conversion to hunting guns back in the day when these rifles had no collectors' value. And considering that this one only cost me sixty bucks and a few hours labor, mostly with some fine steel wool and a toothbrush, I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out.

A range report will naturally follow just as soon as I get over this Bronchitis and am able to go out in the chill air again.


  1. Wow, you did an awesome job!

  2. Thank you, Heather.

    It's a labor of love.

  3. I agree, you did a lovely job on that old rifle. Are you going to do any other work on it, or leave it as is?

  4. It looks like a brand new gun!

  5. Well the pics tend to be a bit overly-flattering. The gun's metal was originally painted with a baked-on black enamel and that finish is now completely gone. I cannot restore that since I don't have access to that type of paint or the giant oven used to bake it, so what you're looking at is just bare metal now, aged and treated with oil.

    However that's pretty much how they all look these days, with the exception of a few museum pieces, so it basically just looks like a typical 70 year old Savage that was never hacked into a deer rifle.

    I can't see doing anything else to it. There's not much I could do that would bring it any closer to original. It's done as far as I'm concerned and it is now sitting in a rack in my gun room, waiting for a trip to the range.

  6. That my friend is love....refit the old warrior and take her out and shoot her once in a while give us a range report. I am in a reverse process right now, I am sporting a Mauser 98 that my wife,s grandpa had rebarreled in 25-06 the year she was born and was never finished.

  7. LG - your heart is in the right place, and you have done well by that old Enfield. It looks great.

  8. Wow, I am soo jealous- but inspired!