Charlton Automatic Rifle

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Charlton Automatic Rifle
Charlton Automatic Rifle.jpg
Charlton Automatic Rifle at Waiouru Army Museum
Type Semi-automatic rifle/Light machine gun
Place of origin New Zealand
Service history
In service 1942-1945
Used by New Zealand
Production history
Designer Philip Charlton
Designed 1941
Produced 1942-1945
Variants Electrolux SMLE Model
Weight 16 lb (7.3 kg), unloaded
Length 44.5 in (1150 mm)

Cartridge .303 British
Calibre 0.3125 inch (7.938 mm)
Action Gas-operated semi-automatic
Rate of fire 600 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity 2,440 ft/s (744 m/s)
Effective firing range 1,000 yards (910 m)
Maximum firing range 2,000 yards (1830 m)
Feed system 10-round magazine or 30-round Bren gun magazine
Sights Sliding ramp rear sights, fixed post front sights

The Charlton Automatic Rifle was a fully automatic conversion of the Lee-Enfield rifle, designed by New Zealander Philip Charlton in 1941 to act as a substitute for the Bren and Lewis gun light machine guns which were in chronically short supply at the time.

The original Charlton Automatic Rifles were converted from obsolete Lee-Metford and Magazine Lee-Enfield rifles dating from as early as the Boer War,[1] and were intended for use as a semi-automatic rifle with the full-automatic capability retained for emergency use.[2] It used the 10-round Lee-Enfield magazines and modified 30-round Bren magazines.

There were two versions of the Charlton: the New Zealand version, as designed and manufactured by Charlton Motor Workshops in Hastings, and a version produced in Australia by Electrolux, using the SMLE Mk III* for conversion.[3] The two designs differed markedly in external appearance (amongst other things, the New Zealand Charlton had a forward pistol grip and bipod,[4] whilst the Australian lacked this making it lighter and cleaner in appearance,[5] but shared the same operating mechanism.

Approximately 1,500 Charlton Automatic Rifles were manufactured in New Zealand,[6] and nearly all of them were destroyed in an accidental fire at the Palmerston North service storage facility shortly after World War II.[3]

An example of the New Zealand-manufactured Charlton Automatic Rifle is known to survive in the Imperial War Museum in London, along with a handful elsewhere– one is on display in the Waiouru Army Museum in New Zealand, and another at the Army Museum (Bandiana) in Australia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Skennerton (1993), p.183.
  2. ^ Skennerton (1993), p. 184.
  3. ^ a b Skennerton (1993) p.185.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Skennerton (2001), p.33.


  • Skennerton, Ian The Lee-Enfield Story (1993). Arms & Militaria Press, Australia. ISBN 1-85367-138-X
  • Skennerton, Ian Small Arms Identification Series No. 13: Special Service Lee-Enfields; Commando & Auto Models (2001). Arms & Militaria Press, Australia. ISBN 0-949749-37-0

External links[edit]