Little did I know what I had in my hand when I picked up my Dad’s rifle the other day. My father died last year and left me his rifle, but only recently had I been able to go back to see Becky and pick up the rifle to bring it home.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t know it when he bought it, but what you’re looking at in the photo above is the last class of non-sniper military bolt action rifles ever designed anywhere in the world. The Enfield Ishapore 2A/2A1 Bolt Action 7.62MM NATO rifle is a beautiful piece of weaponry
The rifle often has the misfortune of being called a .308, which is indeed what my Dad fired in it. In actuality, it’s not a .308 rifle at all. The Enfield 2A1 was the last Lee-Enfield rifle ever made. They bear a striking resemblance to their forefather, the British .303 SMLE MKIII, which shoots a 5.65mm round. The only visible difference between the two rifles is the 7.62 2A1 model has a squared cartridge that holds 12 rounds where the original MKIII had a sloped cartridge case that only fired 10 rounds. The only other difference is due do the difference in ammunition types. The ejection claw on the 2A1 model has slightly more metal to accommodate the rimless NATO round.
This particular rifle was built during the last years Ishapore made these. You can tell because the rear sight was changed from a 2,000 meter sighting design to an 800 meter sighting design. When this rifle was put heavily into use, the days of long range volley fire was over in India, so the decision was made to recalibrate the rear sight to a more accurate need of the time.
The weapon specs, if you’re a fan of rifles are:
Production: Ishapore India. also known as the Ishapore Armory, located outside Calcutta in West Bengal.
Number Built: Approximately 350,000 rifles made.
Weight: 4.7kg unloaded (10.36 pounds)
Length: 44.5 inches
Caliber: 7.62x51 NATO
Barrel Length: 25.2”
Action: Bolt Action
Rate of Fire: 20-30 rounds per minute
Muzzle Velocity: 2,600 feet per second
Effective Range: 800 meters (1/2 mile)
Maximum Range: 2,000 meters (1.25 miles)
Sights: Sliding Ramp rear sights, fixed-post front sight.
Why were these rifles ever made in the first place?
This rifle and it’s 350,000 or so brothers, were created for the Indian army after their army suffered a defeat in 1962 from Chinese troops armed with Type 56 SKS, AK and PPSh submachine guns. India needed a better rifle. They immediately decided to redesign a rifle to use the more popular and more accurate 7.62mm round. They had the 7.62 round, but not enough rifles to shoot all the ammunition they had. Thus, the last of the Lee-Enfield rifles was born. Incidentally it should be noted that the 7.62 2A1 model rifle made by Ishapore has approximately 10% more power than the .303 it was modeled after, which equates in the field to a flatter trajectory out of the barrel, resulting in about 10% better accuracy.
The action and bolt, before cleaning. It’s dirty, but not bad for a rifle that’s 43 years old and been through a war (or two).
The front of the rifle contains a two post sight protector and bayonet mount.
Just a photo sighting down the rifle. Hard to believe this thing can shoot a 1 inch pattern at half a mile and a 3 inch pattern at 1.25 miles without a scope huh?
At this point I’ve started disassembling the fore-stock and hand guard so I can clean both the wood and the steel. The wood stocks on these rifles is cut from Italian Walnut, which is obviously very resilient!
The trigger has been removed for cleaning. You can’t see it too well here but that black band in front of the stock contains the rifle markings that tell you what it is, and where and when it was made.
The Serial number of the rifle: U2940
Here she is almost completely broken down. The rear stock takes an especially long flat blade screwdriver to remove, and since there are so few moving parts left in the remaining steel, I decided to clean the remaining parts in-situ instead of taking it all the way apart to get at only one more piece of steel that I can already get to anyway from here mostly.
After some serious time spent with the wood, solvents, and sandpaper I’ve finally gotten the gunk and grime off the walnut and re-oiled the wood so it can retain some of it’s moisture. Having a dry-stock on a wooden rifle is bad for your shooting and bad for the rifle’s longevity as well.
She looks pretty now that she’s all cleaned out. Forty three years of oil, dirt particles, and left over packing grease were gobbed up inside the wood. However, removing that much grease means it has to be oiled a LOT for the next couple weeks.
Here are a few photos of the rifle after it has been completely cleaned and reassembled.
I could possibly have removed the marks left over the years near the action, but I felt it more appropriate to leave them here as a reminder of the other men who held her and fired her in war.
The wood-grain on this thing is beautiful!
Reassembled and beautiful.
The serial number for this rifle.
The Ishapore factory stamp.
What is an Enfield .308?
I decided to mention this so others won’t make the same mistake I did at first. Simply put, there is absolutely no such thing as an Enfield .308 rifle. The physical characteristics of the .308 and the7.62 mm NATO round are so similar that many shooters inadvertently use the wrong ammunition simply because it fits. Will this rifle fire a .308 bullet? Yes it will. I shot an entire box of them yesterday as a matter of fact, however it’s not designed to do so.
Why? There are a couple of reasons NOT to shoot .308 load in a military rifle, and I’ll leave the majority of them for another discussion and just give you the important reason: It can blow up in your face. Commercial brass cartridge casings are thinner than military casings. There’s less brass behind the bullet. Both thickness and depth of the rim are slightly different. It’s a very very slight difference, but it’s enough. There may not be enough material in the shell casing to stretch to fill the chamber without rupturing when you pull the trigger. Normally, the case expands to completely fill the chamber, forcing the bullet down the barrel with the approximately 58,000 psi. If the casing were to rupture on civilian brass, the exhaust could instead rupture over into the receiver of the rifle and blow up in your hand. Does it happen often? Obviously not, but I’m not taking the chance any more. If you’d like more info on the differences between 7.62 NATO and .308 Winchester Ammo, you can read in detail here.
Disassembling your own Enfield 7.62 Rifle
I’ll save you some of the headache and frustration I went through trying to find an original schematic for a weapon produced in India in the 1960s, for Britain. If I had thought to bookmark the source forum, I’d gladly give the poster the credit, but I didn’t think to do so. Anyway, the basic configuration and design of the Ishapore 2A/2A1 is based of the .303, so the original 1945 schematic for the .303 will guide you through disassembling and finding replacement parts for the weapon. I’ve put a copy of the PDF on my server. You can download it by clicking here. (2.5mb PDF file)
The picture above shows Indian soldiers carrying this very rifle on a patrol during the Sino=-Indian war. Someone long ago laid silent, looking across a mountain valley, 12,300 miles from where this rifle now sits, hands clenched tightly around the fore-stock, squeezing then relaxing to keep the blood flowing during the frigid cold, his body heat leeching away into the hard cold ground hour after hour. He laid there on the Himalayan border between India and China and used this exact rifle to shoot down enemy Chinese soldiers from distances up to 1 mile away, a distance so far that most modern shooters of today wouldn’t even attempt it. At that distance a human body resembles not so much the shape of a man as a tiny speck on a faraway hill or mountain.
The Chinese enemy they faced later reported that they often thought they were facing machine gun fire, due to the rapidity of shots coming from the muzzles of these rifles. Expert shooters could put from 25 to 40 rounds within a 3 inch kill zone from half a mile. Considering these rifles have no scope and only a 10-12 round magazine, that means reloading two to three times reloading per minute while still reacquiring your target and making the shot again and again.
It’s just awesome to think of that kind of history. I’ll never know the story of this particular rifle, but I’d love to know it’s journey from there to its final destination where it lies now.