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]