RSAF Enfield Trials Rifle for the testing and evaluation of 7.62 x 51 Rifle

                                    Dated 1959         Serial no 137

Unfortunately this is probable the most unglamorous Trials rifle program R.S.A.F Enfield were involved in,   even the very name of the program seems a far cry from the past.

But this Trial program had a real purpose with serious objectives that addressed a real scenario that could have happened.  During the late 1950's the British military had changed not only rifles but calibre, this coupled with a major labour problem at its R.S.A.F Fazakerley , Liverpool. 

This all started back in 1952 when the British adopted the NATO 7.62 X 51 (T65) ball and also  adoption of a new weapons platform the L1A1 self loading rifle. This was a closed bolt semi automatic rifle and a far cry from the Lee Enfield No4 Mk2 bolt action rifle it replaced.

After the adoption of the L1A1 weapons platform to replace the No4 Mk2 , three factories  R.S.A.F Enfield , R.A.S.F Fazakerley and Birmingham Small Arms , Birmingham were selected to manufacture the L1A1 in 1953 and by mid 1957 the plan was that all three factories would be in full production..

During the 1950's R.S.A.F Enfield was heavily involved in the manufacture of Bren Guns but still had spare capacity start tooling up for L1A1 production and production start in late 1957 straight after the last ever Bren guns came off the production line.

BSA & Co for some unknown reason had production problems and production did not really get going until late 1959,  but by 1960 BSA was back on target and for around five years kept its workers employed. 

The real problem was the second government factory 'Fazakerley' which had started tooling up after of the Number 4 Mk2  bolt action rifle stopped production in 1955.  By the mid 1950's the labour problems at the factory got so bad with wild cat strikes and with the factory in constant loggerheads with the Unions,   the production date of mid 1957 was doomed.

 

By late 1958 the decision was made by Government to close Fazakerley and the tooling up for L1A1 was halted.  

 

 See foot note at bottom of this listing to read Fazakerley ultimate fate.

So what has all this to do with our Trials rifle you may be asking ?   The elephant in the room was looming up fast.  As any well planned military and production event 1957 should have seen three factories manufacturing thousands of 7.62  L1A1'S.

 

All government munition factories had changed from manufacturing British  .303 to manufacturing NATO 7.62 by 1956 as it was anticipated the change over.

By 1959  the British had a very limited number of  7.62 L1A1's service rifles but hundreds of tons of 7.62 .  By now most if not all 303 service rifle should have been replaced by the new L1A1  service rifle and the war reserve stock of  303's should have been replaced by L1A1's service rifles.

By early 1959 all war reserve stocks were still full of  .303 service rifles,  but since .303 munition product had almost stopped in the mid 1950's reserves of .303 were getting very low.

 

If there was a war with the Soviet Union the British Army would have a few thousand L1A1 but tons of surplus 7.62 ammunition and a full war reserve of .303 bolt action rifles without  ammunition , this could be a bad day at the office for UK PLC.

Most of the issued L1A1's had been sent to units at BOAR ( British Army on the Rhine)

as that was the effective front line with the Soviet main battle groups.

Who knows when somewhere,  someone at the MOD woke up in the middle of the night and understood this nightmare. 

R.S.A.F Enfield were asked to start a Trial program to convert all those obsolete .303 service rifles that were taking up space in War Reserve and convert them to 7.62 Nato,   this at a stroke would solve any problems with the supply of ammunition.

 

Enfield understood that to convert from  .303 to 7.62 it was not only a question of changing barrels,  there was a pressure issue on the receiver and the bolt. 

This rifle and a few other were involved in testing out any conversion before any conversion could be done.  Pressure testing of the receiver and the bolt was the first task.   It was found that the bolt head needed to be hardened and the proofing pressure increased to 19 tons.  The receiver rear locking lug had to be test to destruction and finally testing of any new 7.62 barrel. 

The barrel design was changed to a parallel two step design as machining time was a big consideration as any conversion had to be done as quick as possible.  This rifle has all these modifications and the barrel and receiver have Enfield inspection and proofing stamps .

No idea why they removed all inscriptions but more than likely it was to keep to project secret from the Soviet Union or maybe a factory thing ! 

In the end the project was scrapped,  if you cannot manufacture your current service rifles due to lost in manufacturing capacity you stand no chance in re-manufacturing thousands of stored service rifles which would involve retooling a whole factory or two.

This rifle almost certainly was drawn from a War Reserve depot and shipped to R.A.S.F Enfield.  Their the receiver was wiped of all inscriptions and a small EFD stamp was stamped on the rear of the receiver and a date code 59 (1959) . 

This rifle has come out of the biggest Enfield collections in the UK and has been in the same ownership for over 35 years. 

£1850.00

                                EXPORTING

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In the House of Commons in mid April 1960 the British Government announced that the Small Arms Factory Fazakerley was to be closed and by July 1960  the Factory was shut.

This was no surprise to anyone except to the Transport and General workers union as after years of labour disputes and wild cat strikes , walk outs and intimidation by the hard left of anyone walking though a union picket line and the removal of workers union cards ( Fazakerley was a close shop) everyone have had enough.

But this was not the end but a journey to a foreign land,  Fazakerley was put up for sale by tender and the winning bid was from Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF)  Wah Cantt, Punjab, Pakistan.

https://www.pof.gov.pk/

In march 1961 at  Liverpool dock yard stood 137 40 foot containers filled full of machinery  which were being loaded onto a very large ship.  Two weeks later that ship docked at Muhammad Bin Qasim port, Pakistan.

The entire Fazakerley  factory was reassembled at POF Main Small arms factory at Wah Cantt.  

Trouble at R.S.A.F Fazakerley

British machinery now used to train apprentices at POF

                                   ex Fazakerley