Rieder automatic rifle

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Calibre: .303 British
Barrel: 25.2in
Length: 44.5in
Weight: 11lb 8oz (5.2kg)
Magazine: 10, 20 or 30 rounds
Country: South Africa
Years: 1941 - 1944


In 1941, television and radio repairman Henry J. Rieder designed a conversion for the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle. He converted about 18 SMLE rifles into automatic machine guns by attaching a gas tube to the right side of the body. The gas bled from a port near the muzzle. The gas tube was about 2.5lb and 12in long. It allowed both single-shots and fully-automatic fire, and could be removed at any time thus converting the rifle back into a bolt-action SMLE.

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Henry J. Rieder demonstrating his automatic rifle. The magazine is a modified BREN gun magazine.

The South African Director-General of War Supplies, Dr. Van der Bijl, recommended Rieder's conversion to the Ordnance Board in Britain. Rieder sent three of his converted rifles to Britain for testing and they performed well. Unfortunately the Ordnance Board was deterred by the fact that the Rieder rifles overheated after firing about 100 continuous rounds and did not see the conversion fit for service. Rieder's efforts were nevertheless recognized and he was presented an original SMLE rifle with the serial number M45374. It is now kept at the Military Museum in Cape Town.

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The Rieder mounted on a tripod, with the original SMLE magazine fitted.

Overall the conversion cost about 2 per rifle and was probably one of the best attempts at turning the Lee-Enfield into an automatic rifle. Other efforts included the successful Charlton, the Howell, the Ekins and the Dawson & Buckingham.