I was reading down the WSJ headlines this morning and saw this article about the Afghan government negotiating with some Taliban fighters in order to bring them into the fold. Then the picture illustrating it make me do a double take:
The rifles those Taliban fighters are holding are No. 1 Mark III Enfields -- a design which was the standard battle rifle for the British Army in World War One, and continued to be manufactured in India and Pakistan through the 60s. The design is over 100 years old, having gone into use in 1907. It's a bolt action rifle firing the .30 caliber British 303 rimmed cartridge. Its ten round magazine can be loaded quickly with five-round charger clips, and its bolt action is impressively fast (it cocks on closing the bolt rather than on opening it) such that trained men could file 20-30 rounds a minute, despite having reload every ten rounds. Unquestionably one of the great battle rifles of the Great War, though like the German Mauser, it was showing its age by World War II. Here's a closer look at it:
People talk about how Afghanistan has been the scene of fighting for a long time, but nothing brings that home like seeing mujahadeen carrying rifles that were designed in 1907, and built back when the British were ruling the area. Those rifles were old when those men's grandfathers were fighting age.
Fortnightly Book, November 29
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