HOWTO: Things to check on SMLE no 1 mk III


So, I’m looking for a Lithgow built no 1 mk III to be representative of what my great grandfather would have carried at Gallipoli and in France, and what my grandfather would have carried in PNG.

I want to shoot this (plinking mostly), I’m not after a competition rifle or collection piece.,but I would like it to be essentially original.

What do I really need to look for?

Where exactly are the numbers (bolt handle, receiver, nose cap?) that should match. What if they don’t match? I’ve seen a few that the number on the bolt handle does not match that on the receiver. Do I need to get the headspace checked by a gunsmith? Anything else to look for? Markings on the stock that are important?

Cheers, and thanks in advance.

Firstly, it is very. very unlikely your Great Grandfather would have used a Lithgow at Gallipoli, we had bugger all of them available. In fact the 1st Diggers going away carried Long Toms and were not issued SMLE (British made) until they got to Egypt. If you really want a Lithgow (I’m sure you do!), a 1916 to 1918 dated rifle is most likely to have been used by Australian troops, and quite possibly re-issued for WW2. If you find a matching rifle, not that easy, check that the number under the bolt handle matches the number in the slideway at the rear of the action, as this is the factory production number and whilst bolt numbers were force matched this number never was. Don’t worry about headspace, it is usually irrelevant to a 303 unless you are having case head problems with new brass. The reasons for this are quite involved and not space for it here, but if you want more info look for the articles by Peter Laidler, former Senior British Armourer, he has a lot to say on the matter. Butt markings are sometimes found but commomnly lost due to restocking, but try and get a State issue mark to match where your elders were from, ie: Victorians = 3MD, NSW = 2MD etc, best of luck.


I was aware that Harry probably had a British made rifle in his hands on the 25th April (you have pointed this out before), but I would like to think that by the time he was discharged he would have had carried a Lithgow (maybe not, but it’s part of my nostalgic view of this piece of family/national history)…

So is it fair to say that chasing an all “matching serial numbers” is not necessarily worthwhile as the bolt may have been replaced in a FTR?

Good to know about the headspace not being an issue.

How many marks should there be on the woodwork. Ive seen some with lots of marks, others with no clearly visible marks. Would no or very scarce markings on the stock indicate that some clown has rubbed the stock back and refinished it?

Thanks again :slight_smile:

I am no expert at all. But I do have a Lithgow 1916 matching numbers rifle. It does however have a Heavy target barrel that would have been added in the 40-50s and the sights are the target side plate type. So the beasts do exist and they are not necessarily that expensive. The FTR marked ones may be harder to find and may be worth more to some people and non FTR worth more to another group of people for exactly the opposite reasons.

I am chasing a really good or never used heavy target barrel. As I would like to get one back to competitive shooting but on the cheap as it would only be used a couple of times a year.