Weapons: Lee-Enfield Lives

July 2, 2008: Indian police in Himachal Pradesh recently agreed to sell several hundred Lee-Enfield rifles, and thousands of rounds of World War II vintage ammunition, to police in Jharkhand. Himachal Pradesh (an Indian state just south of Kashmir) wants to buy more modern weapons. Jharkhand (in eastern India) is having problems with communist rebels, and the bolt action Lee-Enfields are adequate for arming local voluntary security units. Since many of these volunteers belong to tribes out in the countryside, they like having a fine, if elderly, hunting rifle like the Lee-Enfield.

The Lee-Enfield is one of the oldest, and still widely used, rifles on the planet. Over 17 million were manufactured between 1895 and the 1980s. While there are more AK-47s out there (over 20 million in private hands), these are looked down on by those who use their rifles for hunting, or killing with a minimum expenditure of ammunition. The 8.8 pound Lee-Enfield is a bolt-action rifle (with a ten round magazine) noted for its accuracy and sturdiness. The inaccurate AK-47 has a hard time hitting anything more than a hundred meters away, while the Lee-Enfield can drop an animal, or a man, at over 400 meters.

There are millions of Lee-Enfields still in use throughout India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Iraq and other Persian Gulf nations. These are largely World War II leftovers. In the early half of the 20th century, the British gave out millions of these weapons to allies, or those being courted. Noting the accuracy of the Lee-Enfield (.303 caliber, or 7.7mm), the locals came to prize the rifle for hunting, and self-defense. There are still many gunsmiths throughout the region (and at least one factory in India) that will refurbish century old Lee-Enfields to "like new" condition. Ammunition is still manufactured, with the high quality stuff going for a dollar a round, and lesser quality for 25 cents a round. These rifles sell in the west for $500-1,000. Non-firing replicas can be had for a few hundred bucks, and for about twice that you can buy deactivated (cannot be fired) originals. So the Lee-Enfield will carry on well into the 21st century.

 

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