This morning I shot in the World War 2-themed practical rifle match at Langhorne Rod and Gun Club. In order to officially place in the standings, you had to shoot a World War 2 service rifle. The most common rifle for LRGC’s WW2 match is the M1 Garand, with a sprinkling of M1 Carbines, but this year we did have one shooter with a German Karabiner 98k bolt action, another with a Swiss K-31 Schmidt-Rubin straight-pull bolt action, and one guy with an M1903-A3 Springfield. We also had a few people shooting AR-15s, but the match was primarily for WW2 arms.
In last year’s WW2 match, I shot my 1944 Rock Ola M1 Carbine. This year, I brought my No.4 Mark I Lee-Enfield bolt action, made in 1944 at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Fazakerly for the British military. The rifle was later FTRed (Factory Thorough Repaired) at Fazakerly in 1948. It came into my possession in 1985, when I bought it at Woolworth’s at the Plymouth Meeting (PA) Mall. It was the second centerfire rifle I ever bought, the first being an Iver Johnson M1 Carbine that I traded off many years ago. This Lee-Enfield is a keeper, though.
The ammo I shot today was South African surplus .303 Mark VII Ball that I purchased from MidwayUSA about 10 years ago. I wish that I had bought a lot more, since .303 surplus dried up several years ago.
The first three strings were fired from atop the 100 yard berm at the yellow steel plates hung at the 200 yard backstop. We did 8 shots each prone, sitting or kneeling, and offhand.
We then did drills at 15 yards on paper, starting at the low ready, then bringing the rifle up and firing two shots after the match director blew a whistle, then going back to the low ready.
Next we moved back to 50 yards where we did 8 shots each on IDPA targets from standing, sitting or kneeling, and prone.
Finally, we moved back to the 200 yard firing point and shot again at the steel. This time, standing and sitting/kneeling were at the yellow-painted steel, but prone was at the smaller pink-painted plates. Here’s a somewhat better view of my rifle.
The yellow plates were roughly the size of a human torso. At 200 yards through iron sights they are pretty small. The pink plates were maybe 2/3 the size of the yellow plates. I did best from the sitting position. During the standing part I tried using the micrometer sight and I was off. I changed back to the battle sight for the sitting and prone, and got 7 out of 8 sitting. Unfortunately, my shots were impacting right below the plate for the prone stage.
Overall, I tied for 5th place out of about 20 shooters; or 4th if you discount the top shooter, who used an AR15. Considering that I handicapped myself by shooting a right handed bolt action I am pretty pleased, if a bit sore.
Running a bolt action rifle (especially from the wrong side, since I’m left handed) through a practical rifle course really makes one appreciate what an advantage a semiautomatic rifle is in a military or self defense context. Not only are repeat shots faster with the semiauto but operator fatigue is much less with a semiauto.
Also, when compared with more modern military cartridges like 5.56x45, 5.45x39, or 7.62x39, the full power rounds like .30-06, 7.92x57, 7.5x55, or .303 recoil a lot more, slowing down accurate rapid fire and wearing you out sooner. That said, the big bores really smack targets around, and penetrate cover a lot better than the smaller rounds.
Interestingly, the No.4 Lee-Enfield is so reliable under adverse conditions, that it remains the issued rifle of the Canadian Rangers to this day, even if a replacement is in the works.