Since these were finely accurized rifles, the furniture (wooden parts) were numbered to the rifle. The bolt was already numbered to match the rifle body. The scope bracket was numbered to match the rifle, and the scope number was also stamped onto the butt.
The rifles converted to sniper equipment by the British were all fitted with Normal length butts (with an “N” mark on top just in front of the butt plate or unmarked) and the Small Arms Chest No. 15 (Transit Chest) was made to fit that. The Lee-Enfield was designed with an easily changed butt and it came in four sizes Bantam, Short, Normal and Long so that a soldier’s rifle could be tailored to fit him to aid in accuracy. I find it amazing that the sniper, who was expected to be the most accurate shot, was issued a rifle with only the Normal length butt!
To remove the butt on a Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifle:
- Ensure that the rifle is EMPTY.
- Open the butt trap (save your fingernails by using a flat blade screwdriver) and remove the pull through and oil bottle.
- Using a hook fashioned from a wire coat hanger, and flashlight, fish out the fiber (fibre) washer at the bottom to expose the slot in the bolt head.
- Support the rifle main body. Using a LONG flat blade tipped screwdriver, unscrew the bolt. You may need to use a wrench (spanner) to get the leverage on turning the screwdriver.
- Eventually the bolt will disengage. The butt may come off easily or may need to be gently tapped with a rubber mallet to loosen it.
- Reassembly is simply the reverse. Insert butt into socket, tighten the bolt, drop in the washer (the oil bottle or screwdriver can help to seat it, insert oil bottle cap end first (remember the rifle normally sits upright in a rack or on parade), insert pull through (“thong” to Americans used to the M1 Garand terminology) and close the butt trap.
Variations of this marking occurred, especially as it took time for them to become standardized. These may include:
- One scope serial number. The one originally matched to the rifle at the time of conversion. Note that the year of the scope should be within 1 year of the rifle. If not, then the scope and butt have been replaced in service.
- Multiple scope numbers, with older examples barred out. This occurred when scopes were changed by the military due to damage, loss or upgrading to a new model. Up to three such scope numbers have been noted.
- Grafted wood repair. If the area became damaged or possibly too many scope serial numbers, then a piece of wood could be grafted in and the most recent scope number stamped in. Such repairs are common at the heel and toe of the butt due to damage from drill etc. but is far less common at the socket end.
- Rifle serial number instead of scope. This has been noted on couple of rifles, including a 1943 BSA which had a Long butt fitted. It is believed to be an armourer’s error, stamping in the wrong serial number, i.e. that of the rifle instead of the scope. This example is not believed to be fakery as it did not have a high asking price in 2005 when it was sold.
- No scope number – About 3,000 No. 4 MK. I* rifles were partially converted by Holland and Holland, but never had scope matched to them. As a result they has the “S51” stamp on the underside of the butt, not the “S” and “TR” stamps on the body. They did NOT have a scope number stamped onto the upper side of the wrist of the butt and did NOT have the “T” stamp on the side of the body which was the final marking.
- False scope number – Some forgers have added scope numbers to rifles. Most of the sniper rifles sold in North America had mismatched scopes and at least one unscrupulous owner added the present scope number by stamping the wood. e.g. on 1933 No. 4 MK. I (T) Trials rifle SN A 0507. Link to a website analysis of a 1933 Trails No. 4 MK.I (T) SN A 0507 with some faked markings.
HOW TO REMOVE THE BUTT ON A No. 4 LEE-ENFIELD
(photos to come)
- Ensure that the rifle is unloaded.
- Unhook the sling and remove it from the butt swivel.
- Coat hanger (modified – see pictures)
- Long shaft slot screw driver e.g. Fuller 3/8 x 12 (12 inch long blade)
- Crescent wrench
- Piece of carpeting (as padding to protect the muzzle)
- Use screwdriver blade to flip open the butt trap door.
- Remove pull through and oil bottle if they are present.
- Place rifle muzzsle down on a soft surface such as some carpeting.
- Use flashlight to see if the leather (or fibre) washer is in place. If it is there, you will only see the centre of the screwdriver slot. If it is not there, you will see the full width screwdriver slot.
- If the washer is there, fish it out with the modified coat hanger. I orient my wire handle to be pointing in the same orientation as the tiny hook at the other end. I try to get the hook into the clot in the centre, then move to the side and pull up on the washer. This may take numerous attempts!
- Use the screwdriver to undo the stock bolt. If it is too tight to turn, use the crescent wrench on the screwdriver shaft for leverage, and at the same time pushing down hard on the screwdriver handle to keep the blade engaged in the slot so that it does not slip out and burr the bolt head.
- At some point the butt will detach from the body. I like to clasp the forward part of the rifle between my knees so that it will not all over. If the butt is stuck firmly after the bolt is turning endlessly, it may need some gentle tapping with a rubber mallet. Tap gently on the four sides of the butt plate and the butt should come free.