By: Harry Dolazell
This month Harry Dolazell looks at a modern variant of a historical British bolt-action rifle – the No 5 Jungle Carbine; known for its unpleasant manners and bad performance. So how will the Australian-made M10A1 derivative chambered in 7.62X39 compare?
Lee Enfields, and by that I mean either the SMLE or later No 4 patterns; what great guns they truly are. As a combat weapon of their time; their robust build and high comparative magazine capacity made them in my opinion the best of their type ever. But if there was one fly in the ointment of this illustrious family it must be the No 5 Jungle Carbine. Chopping a No 4 to produce a close quarter rifle for jungle fighting might seem like a good idea – lighter and handier to carry and use, but mate that with the full power 303 cartridge and you have a mule in every sense of the word. Plus research shows that the conversions were not that good with badly crowned barrels and lightened actions that flexed far too much. This gave the poor old No 5 a reputation for not just its bark, but its inability to hit things other than at really close ranges. I have spoken to an ex-Burma campaign solider who had a No 5 and he praised it for its handling and power in close quarter battle situations. But also admitted that when taking aimed shots out past 200 yards then the recoil was far more noticeable and the accuracy… well intermittent to say the least!
However, the No 5 Jungle Carbine is without doubt the best looking of the Enfield family, almost racey, well certainly for a British rifle. And I, like a few I would imagine, bought one many years ago, thinking it would be a good Practical bolt action – after the 1988 SLR ban. Regrettably and painfully I soon found out it was not the case with 300 yards being a definite bridge too far for my particular example. Others I know use No 5s and apart from their fierce recoil say they shoot quite well given their limitations, but the general consensus is one of looks good but shoots bad!
These days Lee Enfields of any type are getting thinner on the ground, as they are after all a military surplus item. Occasionally a nice one will appear, or as in the case of 1995 - Armalon Ltd sourced a batch of Fazakarley No 4 Mk IIs from Canada. These were probably the last mint examples available, so now we scrabble around looking for good guns. So I was quite surprised when I saw an advert from Sabre Defence Industries for what looked like No 5 Jungle Carbines, only to discover they were new manufactured guns chambered in - of all things - 7.62X39mm Russian.
Called the M10A1 and made by Australian International Arms (AIA) they are Enfields mechanically and in the strictest sense of the word too, yet brand new and with a few subtle modifications. So no refurbished receiver’s etc.
Given we are used to accepting Enfields of any condition over here, the M10 is a real beauty. The receivers are machined and aren’t cut for a charger guide on the rear bridge, which is not a problem for the new calibre, as these rifles run on 7.62X39mm AK47/AKM magazines. Capacities of 10, 20 and 30 are available; so already we can see that this rifle is shaping up to be a very practical option.
AIA have kept it simple with the iron sights too. At the rear is the basic L-flip type with the arms stamped L (long range) and S (short range) with a subsequent difference in the aperture size and their height. An M14 type muzzle brake finishes off the 18”, chrome lined barrel, in a set of big protective ears is a medium width pin foresight. This is adjustable for windage by moving the sight block left/right by opposing screws and for elevation by rotating the pin up/down. AIA include a tool for the job.
The bolt looks 100% Enfield, but closer inspection shows a fully supported head and a plunger type ejector, as opposed to the original screw type through the left side receiver wall. Simplicity too has been applied to the method of bolt removal, gone is the sprung catch at the rear of the action. Instead and as with the Canadian Long Branch Arsenal guns a slot has been cut out of the guide that the bolt head runs in. So all you do is slide the bolt in with the head at 12 o’clock, position it over the cut out, push it down then slide it forward and it’s in. This feature and the basic sight were originally done for economy and ease of production and in the latter case is a good idea, as it would seem likely that most will want to run the M10A1 with a scope.
Here again AIA have been clever, as they make a dedicated 1” scope rail that screws directly to the front and rear receiver bridges. So no more mounts that clamp on and it also allow the scope to be mounted lower to the bore line, so giving a better head position at the rear. Though saying that some form of comb riser wouldn’t go amiss.
The trigger is a two-stage design with a grooved blade, after taking up the first stage it lets off with a reasonable release. But top marks must go to the magazine system, which is always the biggest problem on any form of magazine conversion. The whole well assembly is not modified from the original, but a brand new design built to accept the AK magazine. It hooks in (front end first) and snaps back to engage. And the release catch is a big and sensible lever, which is easy to get on to and operate. It is as fast and easy as an M14 or Mini 14.
The safety catch is identical to the No 4, mounted at the rear left of the action, it pushes forward to fire and back for safe. As before the bolt cocks on closing! Equally pleasing is the finish to the metal work, which is a grey phosphate and gives a very nice look. Best of all is the woodwork, which is of all things teak. This tough and dense light brown/golden wood is configured as the No 5 with a short upper handguard exposing the barrel in the lower forend. IAI have machined finger grooves down each side and they do feel right.
The barrel is partially floated in the forend and there’s a forward band and sling swivel and one under the butt too. There’s also more than enough wood to easily fit a bipod too. AIA offer as extra not only the scope mount, but also a new copy of the US M1907 leather sling, plus the three magazine capacities.
The butt is classic Enfield with its scant type build and low, or should that be no comb to speak of? At the back is an aluminium butt plate complete with hinged trap for a cleaning kit, if you fancy. I have to say that in my opinion AIA have built a very nice Enfield derivative in an interesting calibre indeed. Still keeping that Jungle Carbine look it’s better by design if you will.
The M10A1 came with a scope mount already fitted, so I stuck with that and mounted a 6X42 fixed power scope, which seemed in keeping with the rifle. Using low, tip-off mounts to keep the height down there was far better cheek to comb contact than on any of the other after market No 4 mounts I’ve used before. Though saying that some form of raised comb like the No 4 T, or a comb raiser kit would give a better head position.
Rather than settling for the usual choice of military surplus 7.62X39mm, which does differ in quality, I opted for some good stuff. This consisted of some Prvi Partizan 123-grain FMJ from the importers Henry Krank & Co Ltd.
The first impression with a full magazine and a scope on top was one of a medium heavy rifle, most of this I put down to the denser Teak woodwork. I found the weight to be good, giving a solid feeling gun in the shoulder. The finger grooves on the forend offered a comfortable position for the supporting hand.
You may wonder at the choice of calibre, as I did, as the 7.62X39mm M43 is a true intermediate cartridge. Producing 2300 fps with a 123-grain bullet, it was designed for the SKS self-loading rifle, which appeared in Russian hands at the end of WW II. It was then used in the AK47 until being replaced by their own version of the 223 Remington, in the AK74.
In the AK47 the M43 cartridge is surprisingly lively from its 16” barrel and in that sort of action has never been considered that accurate. But then again it was never meant to be, as the AK was an assault rifle for short range/high firepower use. So I was interested to see how it would work mated with a bolt action, which will offer more stability.
Recoil was very pleasant, hardly surprising given the extra weight of the M10A1 and the fact the barrel is two inches longer than an AKs and also has a muzzle brake fitted. And the M43 fires a lighter bullet and uses less powder to do so. At 100 yards the rifle was shooting 2-3”. Frankly I was expecting a little more, but compared to a No 5 a real pleasure to use from both the shoulder and the target ends!
The general handling was as an Enfield, with the cock on closing bolt offering the usual extra resistance as you pushed the bolt handle forward and down to chamber the round. Some people don’t mind this, whereas others do and I think it’s far more noticeable when you are shooting for fun. If I was using the M10 in a competition, I doubt if I would notice at all. That aside feed and function was also excellent and the plunger type ejector is a vast improvement over the original system.
Though some might find it sacrilegious I did like the fast and efficient magazine changes and the fact you have the option of using 20s and 30s if you need the extra rounds. Although an Enfield by genre, this is not for those who like clip loading and in that it mates a reliable and familiar action with a facility you would be paying big bucks for on a practical gun.
Whether the AIA M10A1 is a 600 yard rifle remains to be seen, as I have always thought that the 7.62X39mm is struggling a little after 300 yards; certainly on more windy days. But this is a reasonably accurate and eminently practical gun that shoots better than any of the other straight pulls in this calibre; like the Saiga M3 and Ruger Mini 30… and to my mind far preferable and a lot more shootable than a No5 Jungle Carbine in 303 British!
I think I would describe the AIA M10A1 as a modernerised classic, as it will satisfy those who like the Enfield look and system, and also those looking for a more practical adaptation of the No 4 design. As to the calibre, you will have to make your own mind up on that one. But with good quality ammunition or reloads you will have an acceptably accurate rifle.
I wonder if AIA have anything else up their sleeve along this styles. As if they can chamber a No 5 for 7.62X39mm with detachable box magazines, then why not a full length No 4 Mk II derivative in 7.62X51mm with 20 round magazine from an SLR or similar. Now that would be nice!
|Action||Bolt action rifle (Enfield No 4)|
|Barrel||18” (chrome lined) with muzzle brake|
|Feed||10, 20, 30 round magazines|
|Stock||Teak sporter with sling swivels|
|Sights||Front sight height adjustable pin - Rear sight 2-Plosition L-flip aperture|
|Spare magazines||£20-£29 depending on capacity|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates