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The P14 .303 infantry rifle - lecture to Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association of Great Britain


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IWM Lecture by Tony Edwards on the P14 rifle HBSA Jan 2010
This is a presentation delivered to a monthly meeting of the Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association (HBSA) in London, UK.

  • Great presentation on the history and use of the Pattern 1914 Enfield and rightly placing it back in our military history.
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The P14 .303 infantry rifle - lecture to Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association of Great Britain

  1. 1. 1 The Pattern 1914 Rifle – Its predecessors, successors and accoutrements Tony Edwards IWM 18th January 2010 Background The Pattern 1914 rifle never received the acclaim it should have. In both world wars the P.14 nearly made it onto the great stage, but due to the vagaries of timing, was relegated to a secondary role. The genesis of the P.14 rifle lies in the Boer War, when the British army was out-shot by the Boers with their 7mm Mauser rifles. Following the Esher enquiry into the conduct of the war it was decided to equip the army with a new Mauser actioned rifle firing a smaller calibre high velocity cartridge. Work on the new rifle and cartridge progressed from 1908 and by 1913 a version was ready for troop trials firing a new .276” cartridge 1 of 11
  2. 2. 2 . 1200 rifles, now called the Pattern 1913, were manufactured and distributed to units at home and abroad. Whilst the rifle was liked complaints were received about the ammunition giving excessive noise, flash and fouling and trials were stopped when a round “cooked off” at Aldershot, injuring the firer. World War One Before any corrective action could be taken Britain became embroiled in WWI and there was a desperate need for millions of additional rifles. Vickers offered to make a .303 version of the P.13 and were given a contract for 100,000 rifles and bayonets. Meanwhile, due to the shortage of manufacturing capacity and skills in the UK, the American arms companies were approached to 2 of 11
  3. 3. 3 manufacture the new Pattern ’14 rifle. Contracts were placed with Winchester and Remington in November 1914 for 200,000 rifles each with delivery to start in 9 – 12 months, and further contracts were placed with both companies in 1915 together with a new company formed by Remington at Eddystone. By September 1915 the total number of rifles ordered was 400,000 from Winchester, 1 million from Remington and 2 million from Eddystone. Problems were encountered with specifications, quality and shortage of machine tools and skilled workers, with the result that the first rifles were not accepted by British inspectors until February 1916. Shortly afterwards a modification was made to enlarge the bolt lugs and the rifle became the Mark I*. 3 of 11
  4. 4. 4 By the time that American production had reached sufficient numbers British production of the SMLE had also increased, there was far less need for the P.14 rifle and consideration was being given to cancel the remaining contracts. Despite this, a full range of accessories was introduced for the P.’14. A bayonet based on the P.’07, wire cutters, grenade discharger cup , 20 round magazine, sighting aids and a magazine depressor were all sealed for Land service. 4 of 11
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  7. 7. 7 Eventually an arrangement was agreed with the manufacturers for production to cease with the last rifles to be delivered in mid 1917. The final total manufactured was about 1.25 million with Winchester making 235,000, Remington 400,000 and Eddystone 600,000. Some of these were used for training, a few for conversion to sniper rifles and100,000 went to India, but the majority were placed directly into store. A fine adjustment rear sight was introduced and a telescopic sighted sniper version was developed in 1918, but these saw only very limited use before the war ended. Only Winchester made rifles were converted as these were considered the most accurate. Model 1917 When the United States entered the war in April 1917 her army faced the same problems of rifle production as Britain had three years earlier. Fortunately the cancellation of the British contracts coincided with this demand and allowed a .30-06 version of the rifle to be manufactured as the Model of 1917 for the U.S. forces. Britain sold all the production machinery and work in hand to the U.S. government and by the end of the war 2.3 million Model 1917 rifles had been produced. Post War years 7 of 11
  8. 8. 8 Immediately after the war Britain supplied large numbers of P.14 rifles to the emergent Latvian army and others, and by the mid 1930’s some 600,000 remained in store. By then once again Britain was contemplating a new infantry rifle and the stock of P.’14s was considered for conversion. Prototype shortened rifles were made by RSAF Enfield and the Soley Arms Co. and a new high velocity cartridge was also being developed. However, just as in 1914 the advent of WW2 put an end to further work. 8 of 11
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  10. 10. 10 Immediately before WW2 broke out, the Pattern ’14 rifles were withdrawn from stores and refurbished under what became known as the Weedon Repair Standard. The rifles were inspected, the long range volley sights removed and any necessary repair work carried out prior to issue. This work was done not just by RSAF Enfield but by several of the leading companies of the gun trade. World War 2 Following Dunkirk, the P’14s were invaluable to the army and were extensively used for training, whilst some saw active service, particularly on early commando raids. Britain also received large numbers of .30-06 Model 1917 rifles from the United States and these were issued to the Home Guard, the decision having been taken that the HG should be armed with the .30-06 weapons to simplify supply. 10 of 11
  11. 11. 11 The WWI Winchester sniper rifles remained in use through the early part of WW2 and some additional P.’14 rifles were converted to sniper rifles by adding some old WWI telescopic sights. Many P.’14 rifles were also sent to Russia as military aid. After the war the remaining P.’14 rifles were sold as surplus, many going to the United States and others being used for target shooting in the U.K. Whether the Pattern ’13 before WWI, the Pattern ’14 in WWI or the “new” Pattern ’14 prior to WW2, at every turn events transpired to deprive the design of its place in history 11 of 11