Following on from our recent post on the MK VII .303 round, tonight we are looking at the chargers used with these rounds to load the Lee Enfield, P14 and Ross rifles. Firstly on the matter of nomenclature: these are not clips and especially not stripper clips! All the period literature refers to these as chargers, they are fed into a rifle using a charger bridge and indeed the conversion of the early long Lee rifles to use this method of loading was referred to as the ‘Charger Loading Lee Enfield’.
Chargers are small sprung metal holders for five rounds of .303 ammunition and altogether there were four different marks of charger. Tonight we are looking at the MK II and the MK IV:The MK II is on the left and the MK IV on the right. The official List of Changes for the chargers lists the following models:
Mark I, LoC 11753, 16th January 1903
Mark II, LoC 13465, 24th April 1906, strengthened by the addition of three ribs on the base.
Mark III, LoC 18973, 15th February 1916, “having circular pips and lightening holes and no ribs across the bottom”
Mark IV, LoC 19786, 20th October 1916, “Differs…in having four holes in the sides instead of five, which leaves more room for the spring in the lug end, and makes it less stiff.”
This last mark would remain in use with the SMLE and No4 rifles for the rest of their extensive service lives.
Here we see the MK II above, with its distinctive rectangular cut outs to the base and reinforcing ribs. The MK IV is below with four holes cut in the base of the charger to lighten it:On both chargers however each end is slightly sprung to help keep the rounds in:When loading chargers, .303 is fitted with the rims down-up-down-up-down (DUDUD). This is often described as a way to avoid rim-lock, but is as much to do with allowing the chargers to be used either way up in the dark and to help them pack together neatly.
Returning to our chargers, looking at the sides we can see that the MK II has lightening holes that are both circular and oval, on the MK IV only the left hand hole is oval, the rest being circular:The MK IV chargers are exceptionally common and are easily picked up for around £1-£2 each. The MK II chargers are considerable scarcer and can sell for up to £10 each. I have been lucky enough to come across four of the MK IIs, including two chargers with original pre-WW1 drill rounds.