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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Were the Marines regiments armed with the 6mm Lee when it was the standard Naval rifle?
I would expect Marines stationed on board ship to be armed with the Lee but what about the regiments on shore duty as well as the expeditionary forces --
 

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I seem to remember seeing pictures of China Marines with them, could have been gun boat members ashore though. Interesting going to have to look into this.

You do know the 6 is the longest serving weapon in the services right! It hangs on the good conduct medal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
i hope your research is more fruitful than mine -
I have only seen photos of shipboard marines with the 6mm lee -
I seem to recall seeing photos of marines at the boxer rebellion with Krags.
I was not aware the lee was on the medal -- In fact i don't recall ever looking at the medal closely --
 

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To the best of my memory, the Marines did use the Lee in China at the siege of Peking.
they also used it in the Cuban conflict and the Philippines. The Krag wasn't accepted until , I believe around 1898 and first issued 1899. The Navy continued to use it until into the 20Th century.
 

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there was a nice article on them in one of the gun mags a year or two ago. I forget if it was american rifleman or one of the others, but i thought it said they were used very shortly and in the phillipines.
 

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for some reason it blocked out the magizine name but it focuses a lot on guns and ammo:D
 

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by Garry James

Apr 4, 2011, 3:11 PM



The unique--and highly accurate--Model 1895 straight-pull bolt-action Lee Navy had a short, but eventful career.

It was one of the most dramatic sieges in modern history. Hundreds of civilians were bottled up in foreign legations and defended against masses of fanatical Chinese attackers by a relative handful of stalwart American, British, French, German, Italian, Russian, Austrian and Japanese soldiers and sailors. The Siege at Peking (we'll go with the older designation for atmosphere's sake) in 1900 was the sort of action that legends are made of, and U.S. Marines armed with an oddball smallbore, straight-pull rifle, the Model 1895 6mm Lee Navy (also called the Winchester-Lee), did more than their share to add to that legend.



IN THIS ARTICLE

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According to an eyewitness account of some long-range shooting at several hundred yards during the siege:

“Men were wanted to drive back, or at least intimidate, a whole nest of Chinese riflemen, who had cautiously established themselves in a big block of Chinese houses… The Chinese riflemen were becoming more and more daring and had already made several hits. Half a dozen of the best American shots were requisitioned… One man [was] armed with a pair of binoculars and the other with the American naval rifle--the Lee straight-pull--which fires the thinnest pin of a cartridge I have ever seen and has but a two-pound trigger pull… Then when the quarry was located with the man with the binoculars and the man with the rifle had finished asking a lot of questions so as to gain time, the first shots were fired… Sometimes it took an hour, or even two, to bring down a single man. Americans stayed patiently with their man until the sniper's life blood was drilled out of him by these thin pencils of Lee straight-pull bullets.”

The Lee Navy is a fascinating arm that unfortunately had a rather abbreviated service life. It saw action not only in China, but also in Cuba and the Philippines during and after the Spanish-American War--where it was also extolled for its superb accuracy. At the time of its adoption it was the smallest-caliber long arm ever officially issued to U.S. fighting men, it was the first round to be designated by millimeters rather than inches, and it was the first to have a straight-pull bolt action--a system that was gaining traction with the success of the Swiss Model 1889 Schmidt-Rubin and the Austrian Model 1895 Steyr-Mannlicher. Authorities thought that a bolt that was pulled straight back, as opposed to one in which a bolt handle had to be lifted, could be operated more quickly and efficiently.

The Action
James Paris Lee, of Lee-Enfield fame, came up with the plan for a rifle that would meet specifications outlined by the U.S. Navy. His straight pull did eliminate the bolt rotation problem, but unlike the Swiss and Austrian rifles, whose rotating bolts came straight back on the same plane as the action, the Lee rifle used a camming action that eliminated bolt lugs. Instead, the bolt was locked by a pair of shoulders milled into the rear portion of the bolt and receiver.

When the bolt was pulled to the rear, the unit rocked upward, freeing one from the other. Closing it secured the bolt safely in the forward position. To effect proper lockup, the bolt handle itself rotated slightly backward when the bolt was withdrawn. Then, by means of a camming action in which a projection on the bolt moved within a rounded cutout on the outside of the right rear of the receiver, it lifted the bolt upward, unlocking it.

When pushed forward, the bolt locked into position and could only be pulled back by firing the piece or pushing down on a knurled release button on the left side of the receiver, just in front of the safety. The safety, by the bye, was a simple up-and-down firing-pin blocking stud. Up is on Safe, down the gun's ready to fire. Interestingly enough, unlike many safeties, the Lee Navy's is knurled on the bottom for better purchase when snapping into the On position. A cocking indicator projected from the rear of the bolt. Unlike the Army's service rifle of the period, the Krag-Jorgensen, the Lee did not have a cocking piece.

The rifle itself was a typical infantry-style arm of the period--fairly long (47¾ inches overall with a 28-inch barrel), hefty (8⅓ pounds) and sturdy. It could be fitted with an 8¼-inch knife bayonet. The rear sight was a V-notch ladder style, graduated to 2,000 yards, and the front, a hooded blade. The stock was walnut and the steel buttplate (original Navy specs called for an aluminum plate, but this was scrapped) had a sliding trap for an oil bottle and cleaning implements. Metal parts were blued and the receivers marked on the top in front of the bolt with “U.S.N.,” the serial number and the inspector's initials. The manufacturer's info was stamped on the left rear of the action.
A Service 6mm
Like the action, the cartridge and cartridge loading setup of the Lee was unique. The round employed a 112-grain roundnose 6mm bullet, fixed into a smokeless-powder-charged, slim bottleneck semi-rimmed case. Velocity was 2,565 fps and muzzle energy 2,217 ft-lbs (as opposed to the .30-40 Krag's 2,200 fps and 2,360 ft-lbs). Five rounds were clipped into a charger with a curious elongated locking lever. The loaded charger was inserted into the top of the magazine against the follower, pushing past an extended extractor that jutted out from the rear left inside of the receiver. Closing the bolt stripped rounds from the charger, and when the second round had been expended it dropped from the magazine through a hole in the magazine in Mannlicher fashion.



A special web-and-leather ammunition belt allowed sailors and Marines to carry 180 rounds per man, 80 more than the U.S. Army infantryman could stuff into the double-row of loops on his canvas Mills belt.

A special sling arrangement involving a rear swivel that could be detached from the butt and moved to the front of the triggerguard allowed the clip to drop free when the gun was in action. A wire attachment on the sling, which could be attached to the stacking swivel, kept it up and out of the way. In a pinch, rounds could be pressed in one at a time, though experience has shown me that anything much past two naked cartridges in the mag produces jamming.

The Lee was adopted by the Navy in 1895, and manufacture was undertaken by Winchester. A total of 15,000 Lee Navys were produced, 10,000 in an initial contract ending in 1897 and an additional 5,000 under a subsequent contract in 1898. Out of this number, some 1,800 were issued to the Marines.

While the Lee Navy served with distinction, there were a few flaws. It did fire a proprietary cartridge (which was also chambered for the Navy in the M1895 Colt/Browning “Potato-Digger” machine gun), creating a bit of a logistics problem. Because it was a Navy/Marine-specific arm, this could have been dealt with if there weren't other difficulties. Unfortunately, it was found that the gun suffered excessive bore erosion due to the corrosive effect of the smokeless power, and officers complained that trigger springs broke easily and the follower was weak at its hinge rivet. Extractor springs were also found to be weak and often had to be replaced in the field. Additionally, the open magazine well collected dirt and debris, affecting the sear.
The bottom line? The Navy decided it was probably best to retire the Lee Navy, and Krags were finally ordered for the Marines, to be replaced by 1903 Springfields. Still, the Lee Navy remained in the system--a few hanging in through World War I--and was felt by Winchester to be a good-enough design to warrant a sporting version, of which some 3,300 were sold commercially from around 1898 to 1916.

We were able to obtain a very-good-condition Lee Navy military rifle for our evaluation. Obtaining ammo was not so easy. It is not commercially loaded and must be custom built. For this onerous task I turned to Bob Shell of Obsolete Ammo (www.aco4u.com/ammo, 480/983-7078). He was able to fabricate some excellent fodder using 100-grain Hornady .243 bullets and modified .220 Swift brass.

Not surprisingly, the .220 Swift itself was derived from the 6mm Lee, first appearing in the Winchester Model 70 in 1935--just about the time commercial loading of the 6mm ceased. Chargers were obtained from S&S Firearms (www.ssfirearms.com, 718/497-1100). I must admit I did have a bit of a problem snapping the cartridges into them, which could be nothing more than my terminal klutziness or perhaps a slight variance in the remanufactured semi-rimmed case. (Incidentally, S&S also makes a very nice replica Lee Navy sling.)

In any event, I ultimately gave up trying to use clipped ammo in the gun and loaded cartridges into the magazine individually. It was an easy-enough operation, but--as noted above--two rounds would feed just fine, yet three or more invariably caused a stoppage.

The trigger on our rifle was a long, gritty two-stage pull, which broke at about 4½ pounds. The bolt operated easily and quickly, but I could probably fire my Krag just about as fast. Rounds chambered easily and extracted with aplomb. Recoil was minimal.

Despite what I would consider a substandard trigger, the gun delivered a 3¼-inch five-shot group at 100 yards, with four rounds going into two inches, and that's just about as good as I can shoot with any open sights at that range. With a better trigger, I'm convinced the gun would be a really phenomenal shooter--not that it's any slouch right now.

The safety, while positive, was a bit of a bear to engage, though the bolt release lever functioned with ease.

While its term of service was brief, the Lee Navy saw enough action to cover itself in considerable glory. It was doomed to be too innovative, too early on, and cursed with propellant problems that would easily be corrected in a few years by chemistry.
 

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there is the article posted without the pretty pictures. Hope this helps. I really want one of these rifles, i think they are awesome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
thanks fleetwood for your effort -
A very informative article --
However the distribution of weapons between navy and marines is still not clear to me.
I do believe in that era the navy still had a rating of "landsman" and i presume they would be armed with the lee - Also any other ships not large enough for either marines or landsmen would have their armory chuck full of them.
20,000 total weapons does not seem to have been enough to satisfy both naval needs and all the marine regiments.
 

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At that time the Navy was small, the Marine Corp was small. The Navy did not keep a full armory to be able to arm every sailor on board. they had a token number of firearms for their own use ( on the larger ships, I'm not referring to river boats or gun boats ). They did not expect to send a landing party a shore to storm any forts nor did they have any desire too, that was what the marines were for. At the end of the 1800's and early 1900's 20,000 rifles were probably more than enough to arm both the Navy personnel ( who needed to be armed ) and the Marines. The services at the time were very short of funds with no chance of getting more in the immediate future, they did not want to waste any money on " non navy " items. You also have to remember, at the beginning of WWI, the US Army had so few rifles, recruits were drilling with broomsticks. In that era, we did not have a large standing Army or Navy. Even during WWII, the navy did not keep a full armory aboard ship to arm every sailor on board, Why would they. They didn't need no puny.30 caliber rifles, they had 16 inch guns.:D PS, Long on traditions, the US Navy still had cutlasses on the inventory until 1949, go figure. Another side note, when they recovered ordnance and equipment from the Maine, there where on 50 Lee's on board. And everone knows the sinking of the Maine started the Cuban American war, We blamed the Spanish for sinking her. One thing wrong with that fact, not true, The Maine suffered a internal " Coal Dust " explosion, not a external one caused by a mine. Perhaps somewhat like the non existing WMD we didn't find in Iraq.
 
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