British & Commonwealth Infantry Weapons

This page discusses the basic British or Commonwealth Infantryman weapons which are generally used for reenactment.




The .303 Lee-Enfield rifle

A Lee Enfield .303 Mk4

Lee Enfield

The standard-issue rifle for British troops during World War II was either the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) or the Lee-Enfield No.4.

Both were bolt-action rifles which fired a .303 calibre round from a box magazine with a 10-round capacity.

The SMLE had served the British Army well during the Great War and remained in service during the early years of the Second World War.

The standard SMLE in service from 1939 was the SMLE No.1 MkIII which was almost unchanged from the rifle the British Expeditionary Force took to France in 1914. However, the SMLE was expensive to produce and so, from 1941, the Lee-Enfield No.4 replaced it.

SMLEs remained in service however, generally in the Mediterranean and Burma theatres.

The No.4 differed from SMLE in having a longer and heavier barrel which protruded from the front of the weapon. It also had an easy-to-use aperture sight and a different fixing for the 'spike' bayonet.

Much more cost-effective, the No.4 was produced around the world in armouries as far apart as Canada and India. It was the standard battle rifle carried by British troops during the North-West Europe campaign.

Lee-Enfield rifles are among the cheapest deactivated weapons available on the market, although British-manufactured ones tend to be quite expensive.

The typical price you can expect to pay for a good-quality rifle with working action is around £200-£250. Reproduction Enfields are generally of poor quality and should be avoided.

 

 

 


British Weapons

The British Armed Forces of WW2 started the war using weapons of WW1 vintage, loosing many on the retreat from France and in the Far East.

Re-equipping generally meant that weapons were either purchased overseas, primarily from the USA, or weapons were produced at home that were quicker and more economical to mass produce.

As many weapons were imported, it is common to see WW2 British and Commonwealth troops using US weapons, although it was rare to see this the other way around.

break

Bren

The Bren-Light Machine Gun was based on Czech design and was adopted by the British Army in 1937.

It fired .303-calibre rounds from a 30-round box magazine, with a maximum rate of fire of 500 rounds per minute.

The Bren came with a fixed bipod below the barrel and a rotating carrying handle above it. It was an effective weapon that could be moved easily, and British infantry tactics were based on supporting the Bren and vice-versa.

The Bren Gun could be operated by a single soldier, although for effective fire typically two soldiers would work the weapon, one firing, one reloading as swiftly as possible and carrying the ammunition.

A Bren gunner typically carried the same equipment as everyone else, although often he would take four ammunition pouches instead of two (or these would be carried by the No.2) and a pouch worn on the back with a spare barrel and spare parts for the weapon.

Bren Guns are becoming rarer but a deactivated Bren will cost anywhere from £300-£800. There are no good quality replica Brens.

break

Sten

At the outset of war the British Army had no effective submachine gun. Following the fall of France, it adopted the Sten gun.

This was an ultra-basic, cheap to produce to design which, although often unreliable, was used throughout the war.

The Sten gun fired 9mm rounds from a 32-round box magazine fitted at the side of the weapon. Millions of Stens were produced and were issued to NCOs and above in the Army – Corporals commanding sections carried a Sten – as well as being dropped to resistance organisations throughout Europe.

Sten guns vary in price from £200 - £900 depending on the type of deactivation procedure.

A cap-firing Sten Gun with full working action will cost around £500, while an airsoft version, which is an acceptable substitute, costs around £200.