A Crude Rifle for Desperate Times
In 1940, the British Army needed new weapons — and fast
by MATTHEW MOSS
Born of the desperate times following the Allies’ harried evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, the Simplified Rifle,1941 was London’s attempt to develop a cheap and efficient rifle design — one that British industry could rapidly manufacture in order to re-equip the traumatized British Army and prepared it for a possible German invasion.
With production of Lee-Enfield rifles still ramping up, the Enfield Design Department quickly slapped together a number of prototype Simplified Rifles.
Historical Breech-loading Small Arms Association photo
Chambered in the British military’s standard .303-caliber service cartridge, the Simplified Rifles borrowed the action of the Pattern 1914 rifle … and, well, simplified it.
Compared to the Pattern 1914, the Simplified Rifles’ furniture was less complex. One prototype, pictured at left, had a half-stock butt with a metal skeleton. Another prototype, perhaps an earlier model, featured a full-length, more-traditional butt-stock as well as front-sight protector posts.
The prototypes’ metal receivers were slab-sided and square, which required less machining than a more-refined receiver. The Simplified Rifles’ flip-up sights were marked for just two distances — 300 yards and 600 yards.
The rifles retained the Pattern 1914′s five-round internal magazine. They all included a push-button safety just behind the trigger and a spike bayonet situated just under the barrel. To use the bayonet, the shooter removed it, reversed it and reattached it to the carrying point.
While these British Simplified Rifles were indeed simple, they were not as simple as some of Germany’s late-war Volkssturmrifles, which were arguably born of even greater desperation.
By 1942, the threat of invasion had subsided and the need for the Simplified Rifles diminished. Production of the Lee-Enfield № 4 had significantly increased, so London abandoned the crude, last-ditch Simplified Rifles.
Today, the prototypes are part of the Royal Armories’ Firearms Collection, formerly the Pattern Room.