Cousin Bongo – Lee Enfield Scout
The Lee-Enfield rifles are rugged, reliable weapons which have an exemplary record garnered in the harshest and most diverse environments in the world. They are among the smoothest and fastest operating bolt action rifles ever produced and all these features make them a good foundation for converting into a sporting arm and, even more so, a Scout rifle. Back in the 1990s, I decided to convert a No. 4 Mk. I to Scout configuration. Here are the results:
The finished piece turned out much better than anticipated being highly dependable, lightweight, compact, handy, and incorporating a Scout scope and many Scout elements. I showed this rifle to Jeff Cooper shortly after it was finished and he liked it labeling it an excellent “pseudo-Scout” – (“pseudo” mostly due to it being a bit overweight coming in at 7 lbs 6 oz). Regardless, it is an excellent rifle, which possesses great “friendliness” and “shootability” and I am very happy with it. I have used this rifle a fair amount taking many head of game including impala, kudu, blesbok, gemsbok, springbok, nyala, warthog, and zebra, at ranges of a few feet (nyala) to about 300 meters (zebra).
As it comes, the No. 4 Mk. I receiver really doesn’t need much done to it for conversion to sporting configuration. The bolt and safety are compatible for a conventionally mounted scope, and the stripper clip guide is a bonus for those who like to utilize strippers. However, I elected to remove the stripper clip guide as well as the rear sight and sight attachments in order to streamline the action a bit. The ability to use stripper clips, while desirable, is far down on the list of features for a Scout rifle and since the Lee-Enfields employ an excellent detachable magazine assembly, I chose to utilize magazine changes and single top loading. I cut the barrel back to 20 inches and installed a front sight from an M1 Carbine, as I wanted a protected sight more streamlined than the issue sight out on the end of the barrel. For a rear sight, I mounted a Williams Foolproof adjustable aperture sight. This is an excellent sight. Accuracy with Scout scope is just under two inches at one hundred yards with tailored handloads. It groups a bit bigger with the ghost ring iron sights but that’s just due my aging eyes. Not benchrest accuracy, but this isn’t a benchrest rifle and accuracy is quite acceptable for general use.
While the most advanced Scouts will have provisions for mounting Scout scope, conventional scope, and red dots/reflex sights, I elected to go with Scout scope only. To mount the scope, I went with Burris scope rings and bases as they are petite, yet very strong. Two base blocks were soldered to the barrel, then finish machined on the mill. The scope I originally installed was an early version of the Burris Scout Scope with “normal” Plex reticle (today, Burris offers only the Heavy Plex in their updated and improved Scout scope). Later, I installed a Leupold Scout scope with regular Duplex reticle. I have a quite a bit of experience with both Leupold and Burris (fixed-power) Scout Scopes. Both are excellent and the differences between the thick and regular plex reticles aren’t enough to worry about, in my opinion. I have no experience with variable Scout scopes…yet.
Even though a Scout rifle is properly set up with “Hammerhead” sling swivels (Pachmayr QD Flush Mount – no longer available), I opted to utilize Uncle Mike’s screw-in protruding type in order to use a leather CW sling with the as-issued magazine retaining chain loop (the loop sits just in front of the magazine) as the middle sling attach.
For a trigger, I kept the issue two-stage military type working it over to obtain a smooth draw back and crisp, lighter release. On the trigger gauge, it comes back (1st stage) at 44 ounces and breaks (2nd stage) at 62 ounces. A bit heavy, but not bad for a Lee-Enfield.
I installed a stock made from American black walnut, set its dimensions for Scout Scope use, its length of pull at 12.6”, and capped it with a Pachmayr D752 Decelerator recoil pad. (Please note that when doing a Scout, attention to stock design and fit – especially comb height – must be factored in and set accordingly. This is an area that seems quite neglected when it comes to Scout rifles.) After fitting the stock, I shaped and contoured it to my taste.
The detachable magazine seen in the pictures is an aftermarket version of unknown manufacture, which holds five cartridges. Being detachable, I can also use a regular ten round magazines.
My favorite load consists of South African made 215-grain CLAW Bonded-Core bullets loaded with W760 powder. This has proven to be a great combination. I’ve also used Sierra 180 grain Pro Hunter bullets with the same powder with excellent results.
- Chambering: .303 (British)
- Overall length: 38.0 inches.
- Weight: 3.37 kilograms / 7.42 pounds – unloaded, but with everything in place including scope and sling.
- Metal finish: Manganese Parkerizing – excluding scope, rear aperture, and magazine.
All-in-all, I am quite pleased with my Lee-Enfield Scout. While it is not quite a true Scout, it’s close and it’s a good representation of a very well done pseudo-Scout. It has seen considerable use in South Africa and the United States, hence, it is worn, scratched and dinged up. It has proven to be 100% reliable, smooth in operation, extremely rugged, easy to maintain, and it’s a joy to carry in the field. It’s definitely a keeper!