I cannot look at a .303 SMLE (Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield) without having the stereotypical image of an Indian constable pop to mind — overweight, disillusioned, possibly a trifle dishonest, but often brave when it counts the most. If he’s armed, there’s a good chance that he carries a .303 SMLE. You may have seen him on the street, at the airport, railway station, so many places. In my mind’s eye, he treats his rifle as though it is unloaded; I also suspect that it wouldn’t pass a thorough arms inspection.
The constable’s SMLE was one of the 20th century’s outstanding military rifles and surely the one with the longest service record. Continue reading
Between 1771 and 1818, East India Company (EIC) infantry, along with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of soldiers around the world, carried the India Pattern musket into battle. Weighing around 10 lbs and firing a .76in caliber lead bullet that left the barrel at roughly 2,425 foot-pounds of energy, it had a maximum effective range of about 200 yards (Harding 1999a: xiv, 380-381). For all this, it wasn’t the perfect flintlock musket. A knowledgeable critic probably wouldn’t call it aesthetically pleasing or of high quality. Nevertheless, like all widely adopted smallarms, it was good enough. And just being good enough turns out to be pretty impressive when one considers the war records of EIC and British armies armed with this weapon. Continue reading
My background research for the Mysore hill forts article (see Lewis 2012) required that I learn about the early 19th century arms and equipment of the East India Company’s (EIC) army. This work soon broadened to include several of the more common smallarms of the Indian Army, which is the direct descendant of the EIC army (Menezes 1999).
As I studied what the Indian infantryman carried into battle over the past few centuries, two weapons stood out, the India Pattern musket and the .303 Lee-Enfield. Both were in service for a half century or more; both were important British Army weapons and were used by armies elsewhere in the British Empire; and hundreds of thousands of both weapons were issued to Indian soldiers. In short, the India Pattern musket and the .303 Lee-Enfield, more than any other smallarms, played significant roles in recent Indian military history. Continue reading