A History of Drill and Training Rifles Part 20

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The Swift Training Rifle system was developed in Great Britain in 1941. At the start of WWII there was a severe shortage of usable firearms both by the military and the general population. This was due to the policy of disarming the population following World War I. American hunters and shooters contributed sporting rifles to arm the British citizens when it was feared that Germany was going to invade England. The Swift Training Rifle is one of the most complex training rifles ever produced. In principle it had two needles that moved forward when the trigger was released and they pierced a paper target that was held in a frame near the muzzle. This allowed the instructor to evaluate the sight picture and whether the rifle was being canted. Viewing the sectional drawing of the Swift shows clearly the complexity of working parts. Before the Swift was ever produced, the military had serious concerns about the practicality of such a device. Under the stress of severe shortages of weapons the Swift went into production late in 1941.

The Swift Training Rifle was used by the British Home Guard. This was a group of approximately 1.5 million older civilian men who were being organized to defend the British shoreline. The RAF also formally adopted the Swift and the ground crews started training with them early in 1942. There were approximately 16000 Swift training Rifles produce from 1941-1943. There were four different configurations of the Swift which were designate MK I, MK II, MK III and MK IV. The MK I and MK II are generally patterned after the Pattern 14 Enfield rifle. There were some modifications made in the MK III and the MKIV to make them look and feel more like the SMLE rifle which was the primary rifle of the British Army. All of these training rifles have a one piece stock and function in the same manner. There is a spring loaded mechanism in the butt stock that requires that the rifle be pulled firmly against the shooters shoulder in order to make the trigger function. You will notice a small ring located at the base of the butt stock that holds the mechanism in the locked position. This ring must be removed in order to use the training rifle.

Since this was a complete system, the training rifles and a sight testing frame were packaged in a very well made wooden transit case. A separate target frame was included with a shipment of rifles. These training rifles are extremely well made and were expensive to produce. One has to wonder why their efforts were not directed toward producing functional rifles.

From the paper, Non-Firing Drill and Training Rifles, by By Malcolm MacPherson

The next installment: The Long Branch Training Rifle

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