Lee Metford MkI*: Britain’s First Repeating Rifle (Almost)
The first repeating rifle adopted by the British military was the Lee-Metford MkI, or as it was later redesigned, the Magazine Rifle MkI. This design combined the cock on closing action and detachable box magazine of James Paris Lee with the rounded-land Metford rifling pattern. Formally adopted in 1888, about 350,000 Lee-Metford rifles would be produced in total, among the LSA, BSA, Sparbrook, and Enfield factories.
It would not be long until the design began to be modified, however. The Lee-Metford we have here today was made in 1891 as a MkI pattern, but updated to the MkI* variant in 1892. This modification involved removing the manual safety, changing from Lewis pattern sights to traditional barleycorns, and modifying the upper hand guard for easier removal. Other changes would follow, with the MkII pattern adopted in 1893 with a 10-round magazine, Enfield pattern rifling adopted in 1895, and ultimately charger loading adopted in 1907.
Despite the fairly large number of Lee Metford rifles made, they are very scarce to find in original condition like this one. Typically the British military would update any older pattern rifle to meet new specifications, or convert them in to rimfire training rifles if such a conversion was not possible. Few left the military in the early configurations.