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The Charlton Automatic Rifle

Wartime brings out the inventiveness in all of us, and sometimes that translates to arms that shoot faster than the standard arm you're assigned.  This inventiveness was visited upon the Lee Enfield rifle at various times, since it was everywhere in Great Britain's sphere of influence, and for such a long time.

 

Picture of Charlton Automatic Rifle

There was a need in the dark days of 1941 in the far east for machine guns.  In Australia and New Zealand's case, there was a serious shortage of Bren and Lewis light machine guns, from their armies being away from home along with most of their military equipment.   The Charlton rifle was the brainchild of New Zealander Philip Charlton, and was a  self-loading conversion of the Lee Enfield that could be fired at full auto in emergencies.  The New Zealand gun carried a pistol grip and bipod and were fitted with Bren 30 round magazines, but could still use the standard Enfield magazine in a pinch.  There was a gas tube on the right side of the rifle that bled gas from firing that operated a modified Enfield bolt, which was returned to battery by a spring and picked up the next round.  The gun could be fired in semi-automatic fashion, or full auto if the trigger is held down.  The rifles weight and performance was comparable to the American BAR.

Picture of Lee Metford

Picture of Charlton Automatic Rifle

The guns were built by Charlton Motor Workshops in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, but the project was tougher than envisioned and only 1500 guns were completed by war's end.  The Charltons were wiped out in a fire in an armory after the war, and the very few examples left are mainly in museums in New Zealand and Australia, with one possibly being in the Imperial War Museum in England.    

The few Australian Charlton's were based on the Kiwi's work and were made by Electrolux, but were based on Lithgow made SMLEs.   They used the standard 10 round Enfield magazine without the pistol grip and bipod of the New Zealand version, making the gun lighter and handier.