One of the main features of late 19th Century and early 20th Century military rifles was the magazine cutoff.  Repeating rifles have been plaguing logistic types since the American Civil War with the thought of expending huge amounts of ammunition.  Someone has to pay for that (you would think the Generals is charge of logistics were paying) and someone has to keep everyone supplied.  All that aside, the first use of the magazine cutoff in battle actually saved the hides of the men carrying Spencer carbines.

Picture of Spencer Carbine

I wrote about Ranald Mackenzie in an earlier post, and one of his responsibilities running the 4th US Cavalry was keeping the Commanches at bay.  Commanches were not push overs in any stretch of the imagination, and his command got tangled up in a large group of them in the Battle of Blanco Canyon.

picture of Spencer with breech open

The Indians were in no mood to settle in a reservation, and Mackenzie and the 4th Cavalry aimed to put them there.  In pursuit, the column entered Blanco Canyon and were promptly set upon by hundreds of Commanches.  One Lt. Carter fought a rear guard action while the main column sought to escape the trap.  Carter had his men close the magazine cutoff in their Spencer carbines, and had them use single shots till they were to make their break as the last of the column.  At the last moment he told his men to release the cutoff and pour it in to them.  The Indians were shattered by the volume of fire the troopers dished out.  They made their escape and the troopers only lost one man during the entire fight.

picture of Spencer Carbine

Magazine cutoff just before trigger.  This rifle sold at auction.

Lt. Carter was awarded the Medal of Honor for that action.  His quick thinking saved the day, but an action like that would not be repeated, as the cavalry was soon to give up their Spencers for Trapdoor Springfields.  As Custer was to find out, those carbines had no magazine cutoffs, as there were no magazines.  Repeating rifles would return to the cavalry, but not until the turn of the century.

picture of Carter's Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation

 Second Lieutenant Carter, Robert G.

The last No. 4 Enfield rifle entered British Army service in  1970.  An updated version of the WW2 No. 4 sniper rifle, this last iteration was finally retired in 1985, after service in Oman, Ireland and the Falklands War.  

 picture of L42 rifle

L42A1 picture from Imperial War Museum

The L42A1 was one of the last arms built by Enfield Small Arms Factory before it's closure in 1988.  The caliber was updated to .308 (7.62mm) to keep up with Nato ammunition compatibility,  and there were about a thousand rifles built.  The magazine still kept 10 rounds but the shape was altered slightly.  A heavier hammer forged free-floated barrel was used with  4 grooves with a right hand twist. Enfield rifles had always suffered from the barrels being too light, but combat rifles have to make some compromises. The handguard was cut back to the middle barrel band, and the previous sniper butt stock was retained.

picture of No. 32 scope

No. 32 Scope

The standard No. 32 scope (originally developed for the Bren Gun) was modified to the trajectory of the .308 bullet and became the "Telescope, Straight Sighting, L1A1". Other variants included Parker Hale sights (L39A1) for target shooting, a police version (Enfield Enforcer) and a nicely finished civilian version (Enfield Envoy). These guns are available in the states, it has been estimated that at least half of the thousand guns are over here.  Still pretty pricy though, this example on Guns International in somewhat north of $5000.

picture of L42A1 for sale

L42A1 for sale on Guns International


Lowdown on L42A1 by Graeme Barber