The Ministry of Defence will keep the venerable .22″ No.8 rifle in service until the end of September, despite a rapidly shrinking pool of spares with which to keep the 65-yr-old rifles serviceable.
A missive sent around the cadet forces, seen by UK Shooting News, reveals that the No.8 will now continue as the cadet forces’ basic .22″ training rifle until 30th September 2016, a 12 month extension over the original withdrawal date of 30th September this year.
UKSN previously reported that the No.8’s safety case had been extended beyond September, so the latest notice does not come as a surprise.
The note stated that No.8 operations would continue, subject to:
Parent Unit Armoury maintenance and repairs only
No further procurement of spares will be made – Support limited to existing stocks of spares
Any Rifles declared by parent unit armouries as Beyond Local Repair (BLR) will be withdrawn from use. Where possible parent unit armouries will strip these weapons to provide serviceable spares to extend the life of remaining serviceable weapons
UKSN believes this just repeats the present position where No.8s that go unserviceable for any reason are cannibalised for spares to keep other rifles going. It is believed that about 6,700 No.8s are in use by the UK’s three MoD-sponsored cadet forces.
The No.8 replacement rifle saga has dragged on for a long time. Earlier this year UKSN reported the technical requirements for the replacement. While trials were due to take place in April, everything has gone suspiciously quiet since then. Sources have told UKSN that regular servicemen were invited to take part in the trials, though it appears no outcome has been reached.
Save the No.8s!
Civilian shooters are beginning to get together to persuade the MoD to release its stocks of No.8s to the public once they are withdrawn from service. Their historical value, combined with the affection many shooters and former cadets feel for the rifles they learned to shoot with, makes them an attractive prospect to be saved from the scrapman’s torch. UKSN has obtained a copy of the letter which New Zealand shooters used to lobby their MPs to have their country’s .22 Lee Enfields released to the public, while the original “Save the No.8s!” post on UKSN caught the attention of the Historic Breech-loading Small Arms Association and the Lee Enfield Rifle Association. Will either body step up to the plate before it’s too late?