Monday, November 7, 2016

The Lee Enfield “Dial Sight”

The iconic Lee Enfield rifle was introduced in the 1888 British Military rifle trials. It went on to become the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957.

Interestingly, the paperwork regarding the 1888 rifle trials specifies the use of a “Dial Sight”.

At the time the feelings were that any future European war would follow gallant civilized notions and would be fought like past Napoleonic style struggles between massive troop formations in the open fields of Europe. The Lee Enfield “Dial Sight” was designed as an additional sight for use against those large formations of troops.

The dial sight was standard on all .303 rifles until 1915 (including the Long Lee Enfields).
The front sight, or dial, is located on the left side of the stock about half way along.

The rear is a flip up aperture sight that is nestled in behind the safety catch on the left side of the action at the rear. It pivots on the safety catch pin and uses the same external spring to provide tension. When flipped up, the lugs engage notches in the spring and keep the aperture sight erected with a slight forward angle.

The Dial Sight part is rotated to the desired (or estimated) distance, from 1700 yards to 2700 yards, and the rifleman sights through the aperture and across the top of the lug of the handle on the dial sight. The rifle is canted up at what seems to be an absurd angle from the line of sight, especially with the longer ranges.

You actually sight along a tangent adjacent to the barrel line, rather than along the barrel or at a converging angle as you would with the normal adjustable battle sights.
The Dial Sight was designed to be used with the Magazine Cut Off, a plate that can be pushed across the top of the magazine to prevent the rounds from indexing upwards when the bolt is worked.

The idea was that a body of men could engage tightly packed masses of advancing enemy at extreme ranges by firing 'volleys' and loading single shot each time, under the command of their NCO. The 'dropping' of large numbers of heavy 215 grain weight bullets into a mass of men at extreme ranges would start to falter an advance and hopefully cause 'disquiet' among them at least. As the enemy drew closer, the sights would be adjusted, until the enemy were close enough to disengage the Magazine Cut Off and fire more rapidly using the magazine feed over shorter ranges, and using the standard blade and adjustable leaf sight on the top line of the barrel.

(Keep in mind that WW1 didn't evolve into a trench war until the spring of 1915, once both sides were entrenched, volley fire became essentially useless.)

(Sometimes called a ''Tangential Sight” or 'Long Range Volley Sight 'or 'Long Range Dial Sight'.)

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