I thought it may have been a Lee Speed sporter?
I re-watched Ghost and the Darkness a few days ago and i was wondering if the rifle that Val Kilmer's character John Patterson used was a Metford? It was a beautiful rifle. Is this historically correct?
I thought it may have been a Lee Speed sporter?
I have seen this question come up on other forums and seen the rifle from that movie misidentified as a cut-down Lee Metford, etc., but it was in fact a Lee Speed sporter. Yes, it was historically correct. BSA made such rifles from 1892 until at least the 1930s, possibly (but unlikely) even later. The sporting versions were built on the early, pre-charger bridge Lee Metford/Lee Enfield actions, the bolt cover giving them a very sleek and elegant appearance. Later sporters were offered on the charger-bridged MkIII actions (I know because they are in later catalogs, and a friend of mine has one).
The name "Lee Speed" comes from two designers' names--James Paris Lee, who invented the action that was used in all the Lee Metford and Lee Enfield military rifles---and Joseph Speed, RSAF designer, who took out patents on many of the features we associate with the Lee Enfield series of rifles. The term "Lee Speed" was used for commercial rifles (i.e., non-Government; intended for civilian sales). These rifles were mostly manufactured by the BSA company (who also made Gov't rifles, so they had the machinery in place to make sporting versions very economically), and many are stamped with the BSA logo. However, other companies also sold them, and put their own stamps on them--so you will find some Lee Speed rifles that are marked W.W. Greener, Army & Navy, Manton, etc. The "Lee Speed" was stamped on the rifles to indicate the patent holders (however, my own BSA sporter doesn't have such a stamp--go figure). The easiest way to tell if it's a commercial vs. Gov't rifle is the markings. Military rifles will have the sovereign's stamp; commercial guns will not.
Val Kilmer's rifle was one of the "sporter" models, and you can see what BSA offered in the reprint of their trade catalogue, available from http://www.skennerton.com/.html.
BSA offered several different versions and options on these rifles. Sadly, there is no excellent source of details on these rifles. It's disappointing that Skennerton's book--definitely the best book on Lee Enfields ever published--is very scanty on the Lee Speeds. It has some photos, but really just offers the same info as the old BSA catalog, which is currently the best source of info.
It would be interesting to read accounts of sportsmen across the British Empire, who perhaps could not afford a luxury gun from Holland and Holland, Purdey, etc. but could afford a Lee sporter from BSA and how they made out. These references are probably scattered throughout a thousand books, diaries, letters, and photographs. It would be great if they were collected.
Beyond the old catalogs, the source material for a definitive work on these rifles is pretty scant. Anyway, I doubt there are very many people interested in them, but most gun folks think they are quite cool when they run across them.
If you're thinking of buying one, be very careful that the rifle is truly a commercial gun and not a converted military rifle, or worse, a Khyber. If you're new to Lee Enfields, then learn how to tell the difference and you'll be much safer when purchasing.
Last edited by jc5; 11-19-2009 at 03:51 PM. Reason: typo
Also, if you are interested in how the patented BSA shotgun-style safety operates, the patent illustration is reproduced in Arms & Militaria Collector, in a short but anonymous (Skennerton??) article on the Lee Speed sporter. This style of safety is only found on commercial Lees, never on any military guns, so I think it's quite interesting. Like other features on these rifles, the safety was a special order item, so you could conceivably request it on most any style of commercial sporter. As a customer, you could mix and match features--safeties, barrel ribs, stock style, sights, caliber, bolt handle, even rifling--so identification is a bit trickier on Lee Speeds than it is on standard issue Gov't models. Also, commercial guns tend to lack date stamps anywhere! Again, the data in the old catalogs is about all there is to go on, plus any anecdotal evidence that may surface.
Anyway, I thought it was pretty darn cool to see Val Kilmer using a Lee Speed in that movie! Agreed that it's one sharp looking firearm.
Even the most "low end" Lee Speeds are not "bog common" as someone once referred to them--I think they are somewhat rare (at least in the USA), but you can certainly find one if you are patient and can afford to pay.
If you cannot find (or don't want to shoot) an original Lee Speed, you could build one up from a Lee Metford or Long Lee Enfield action, but please only do this if the gun has already been "bubba'd" or wrecked in some way that prevents its restoration. Please don't cut down an original military Long Lee. I have a spare unbarreled action that I am going to build one on, but normally this must be an expensive, long-term project if it is to be done right. I am dreading to think of what the wood alone will cost. It's the sort of project that will likely take years, but will be worth it if it adds something stylish and beautiful to the Enfield world. I suspect that many "bubbas" out there are Lee sporter attempts gone bad...or done cheap, or done impatiently...and we've all seen some really hideous ones.
Last edited by jc5; 01-09-2009 at 11:15 AM. Reason: typos, image hosting
This one is not a Lee Speed, nor was it made by BSA.
Apparently LSA did up some sporters as well.
Unfortunately, even LESS is known about these!
The "Lee-Speed Patent" acknowledgment (whether it is present or not) has to do with the currency of the Patents. As British patents ran for 14 years, and most of the applicable ones were "out of date" (expired) by 1914, then there was no longer any Legal necessity to put "Lee-Speed" on any commercial (BSA) Lee Enfield Sporter product after the end of WW I.
BSA and LSA were both "Licensed" by thye british Government to produce both Sporting rifles and "Commercial Military (ie, "Contract") rifles on the existing British War Department patterns.
The British Government did not "sell" rifles to its colonies out of RSAF Enfield or other RSAF; BSA, as a Public Company (Corporation) could do so, and snaffled up the majority of Colonial, Private and Sporting orders., LSA, being a smaller company (disappeared during WW I), made far fewer, and these are now correspondingly rare.
Of course, after WW I, the whole situation was "upset" by the British Government giving direct Military aid both to Empire members, and to new nations (ie, LEs and etc senbt to the Baltic States. But these rifles were out of existing War Department Stocks, and not "New manufacture". BSA did manufacture in 1920s and 30s, New rifles for Foreign sales
(Siam, Iraq, just to mention the most common).
I have several BSA rifles, one marked "Lee Speed", the other not; and a LSA "Army-Navy".
as well as a Lee Metford Mark II Volunteer (reservists/Rifle Club).
Calibres .303 and 8x50R ( ==Austrian Mannlicher for the India trade).
Thanks for the posts. So we can assume that any commercial Lee rifle that lacks the "Lee Speed" stamp was manufactured after 1914?
Do you know of any other sources of info on the Lee Speeds besides those already mentioned above?
More photos! More photos! Please?
Thank you all for the information. Those are some beautiful rifles. I'd like to come across one and maybe eventually purchase one now that I have a better understanding of what to look for.
Here's a deluxe Lee-Speed made by BSA for A&N CSL. It was sold to Lt. R. E. M. Russell in 1906.
Some time ago I captured some stills from my copy of The Ghost And The Darkness to illustrate a discussion of the firearms in the movie, so I might as well post a few of them, starting with Val Kilmer's Lee-Speed ....
Those are some beautiful rifles gentlemen.
That last fellow has a snider and is wearing a bandolear. never noticed that before.
Nice pics Grant..now I have to watch it again and pause the movie this time
Wonder if the extras supplied their own guns?
You never know.....
Should mention that I picked up a 1896 rifle converted to a Lee-speed type rifle. looks to be done by a competant gunsmith.
but I just got it for spares for my MLE, It was cheap enough.
Last edited by copilot001; 01-27-2008 at 03:01 PM.
I've watched that movie a number of times trying to figure out what model was the single shot rifle that had extraction problems. After looking at your capture, I think it is a Field action.
Thanks for posting those movie pics. G&D is defintely one of my favorite 'gun" movies. In fact, I can't think of any other film that shows a Lee Speed rifle...can you?
As for the large bore single-shot, it looks like a Farquharson, right? And the four-barrelled howdah pistol is perhaps a Lancaster? I seem to recall that Col. Frederick Burnaby used a Lancaster in the Sudan 1884-5 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Gustavus_Burnaby). However, I don't think the Lancaster had external hammers, so maybe it's something else.
Also interesting that Kilmer's Lee rifle has a full-knobbed bolt handle rather than the flat and swept forward bolt that is usually seen on the commercial rifles (based on the carbine). I wonder if it came that way or if the bolt was replaced at some point in its life. The prop house would probably know, but since the film was shot on location, it certainly wasn't a Hollywood props company, and must have been a local supplier...probably not too many prop houses in Kenya or wherever it was filmed. I didn't see a cocking piece safety, so it must have had the shotgun-style safety. The problem with commercial Lees is that there were so many options available according to customer preference that it is hard to date something. The 1911 BSA catalog (posted above) lists 8 civilian models alone, and when you factor in the options available for each--safety, barrel length, sights--you've got a much larger variety of possible specimens.
I'd love to see someone post any historical photos of Lee Speeds...I mean, say, 1945 or earlier. I can't say for sure I've ever seen one, outside a catalogue.
Last edited by jc5; 01-27-2008 at 04:30 PM.
The rifle has the 'Metford' cocking piece and that in itself is the safety with it's half cock position (considered sufficient at the time). The BSA tang safety could be added as an option but wasn't necessarily automaticly placed on a rifle that didn't have the cocking piece safety.
Two of my sporters have only the Metford cocking piece and no extra safety device. Another has the tang safety added along with it. The tang safety gets a little getting used to, as it works in the reverse of what is common for a tang safety.. forward-is on safe,,,back-is off safe/ready to fire.
After I saw your post, I put on my stronger glasses and saw it is a Farquharson. What I thought was a side lever is a safety, duh!
There's a Lee Speed thread over at Nitro.
Last edited by jc5; 11-19-2009 at 03:53 PM.
According to the Internet Movie Data Base much of the movie was actually filmed in South Africa so it's very likely the rifles were provided by a prop house in Cape Town or Praetoria. Boy I'd like to get into the warehouse.
While surfing the internet looking for info on Lee Speeds I came across this thread. I have acquired a Lee Speed in a group of rifles purchased from a neighbor after she lost her husband several years ago. I never new much about this gun but, with the help of this and other forums, have learned a lot.
I'll be selling this rifle soon and thought some of you might enjoy seeing some photos here. I hope I have not violated any forum policies by posting them. Thanks for looking.
:cool: What more can one say? Well except thanks for the photos.
No it is not mate. It is a cocking indicator. It shows its cocked in the pic. When fired, the little lever is slanted horizontal. Very nice guns those.
As for Kilmer's Lee Speed, I'm sure its the same one used in the South African movie called "Rhodes". The guy acting as the Major uses it. Now knowig how difficult it is to get old guns for movies in South Africa, I'd bet it is the exact same one. (I have been a soldier in a Boer War Movie and had to bring my own damn gun + lend my other ones out to the boys)
It would seem that the producers tried to be fairly correct with the type of firearm used for the period and their use.
If I remember the film correctly there is a scene where he is stalking with the Lee and has the rifle cocked, cutoff out (off) and his thumb on the safety - just the way you would.
Also there was a detail shot of the Farqueson misfireing and it shows the half applied safety being knocked forewards - i have tried this and it seems to work (fail that is).
Hence the comment about not using a firearm you are not familiar with.
Rkammer - that is a nice example of an early Lee Speed - probably around 1895 at a guess.
Is that your Farquarson? WOW. Very very nice collection. What cal is it? Same for the double barrel gun, what make and cal?
I collect all rifles - as long as they are in .303 British.
The other two are both Jefferys.
I recall that Breaker Morant used Long Lees, thank goodness. Any other film sightings of Lee Speeds, besides Ghost & Darkness and Rhodes?
Also, does anyone know of any other photos (or paintings) of Lee Speeds from pre-WWII?
Last edited by jc5; 11-19-2009 at 02:59 PM.
The British South Africa Co. ordered Lee Metford Mk.II rifles as well as 400 Lee Metford magazine sporting rifles (refered to as flatrib carbines) in 1895.
The carbines were used in the Jameson raid were of the first model as no other versions were available before 1896 and would have looked exactly like the one pictured by Rkammer.
Do you have a source that I can footnote?
The film was a re-inactment of the battle of Talana, it was going to be produced as a short film, but never was.
Gen P Symmons was armed with my 455 mk II Webley 9and blanks supplied by me)
I (a Boer) was armed with my carbine 7mm Mauser and C96 pistol.
My other guns was a 1873 Martini, a Artiliry martini (450/577 both)
and my Long Lee Metford and my Mauser 7mm.
As for the films containing Lee Speeds, no I have not seen others.
I recall a photo of a native Chief of Ethiopia (I think) called somethig like Raskonin (My memory is not clear)? He was standing with a Lee Speed.
Have you seen Rhodes? Best Lee Speed pictures there.
As for the raiders last stand, I have seen a photo of that, but it was of the Boers all armed with their Mausers, and some Lee Metfords on the ground. Cant recall if there was any Speeds there. I was not aquinted with Lee Speeds at the time. But lucky I do now!
Pictures of some of mine will follow.
Judging by the pics, a Howdah pistol really gets your attention! LOL
Jc5 - that information came from an article in our local Collectors guild magazine by Ray McMahon.
He had access to a copy of the BSA board miniutes - borrowed from Ian Skennerton I believe - and detailed some of the sporters and orders for them.
The reference "The 400 flat top rib barrel sporters ordered by the British South Africa Company in February and May 1895 had their first tast of action when Dr Jameson's force comprising 480 men ..... surrendered to Commandant Cronje on the 2nd January 1896" would not, I presume have come from the minutes but another source.
Would that be the article from Skennerton' Arms & Militaria Collector #3, by Ray McMahon? He lists several references but doesn't footnote anything. I'd love to know exactly where that info came from. I'm not doubting it's true, of course, I just like things footnoted.
Can you recall anything more precise about that photo of the Ethiopian chief? If not the name, then maybe where you saw it?
Again, are there any photos or references to Lee Speeds before WWII (besides commercial catalogs)?
Or any other sources of info? Articles and such? I know there's some stuff in A&M Collector. Anything else?
Can I see the photo you have from the guy on safari in Africa with the lee speed?
I recall reading that the big game hunter Karamojo Bell had one of these dainty rifles, besides his fav 7mm mauser buildt by Rigby.
Here's the photo...I scanned it years ago from a book on Africa that I no longer have, but I'm pretty sure that the fellow is not Bell. Looks like a Lee Speed, don't you think?
Any memories of where I can find that pic of the Ethiopian chap? Or any other old Lee Speed photos?
Yes its def a lee speed.
I'm trying to remember. But all my books and photos etc are back home in South Africa. I'm going there end of July, will scan everything I can lay my hands on also take pics of my own Lee Speeds.
I see you are very interested. Maybe try to get enough info for a book. I'll buy the first one! Will be more than glad to help as much as I can.
There is a guy called Jose Morin in Texas who is a collector of Lee Speeds. See if you can contact him. I will PM you his email address.
thanks for all those photos and info, great to learn something about firearms i'm not familiar with. Hal O'Peridol.... nice rifle, can you tell me more about the mount you have it on? a better pic of the mount would be nice. all these rifles just look like they were made for dangerous game and fit right at home in india and africa, thanks again.
" Dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machinegun"... Bo Diddley
Great photo! Thanks for posting it.
"The reprint of the Manton 1925 catalog is available from www.kynochammunition.co.uk . The cut shows an earlier type of the Lee-Speed action, the name of the civilian versions of the Lee-Enfield, but new cuts were expensive to make and so were used in catalogs over and over again. When BSA was stopped from selling .303 rifles in India, they had to look for another rimmed cartridge with reasonably low pressure, but similar ballistics that fitted in the comparatively weak Lee action. The most popular hunting load for the .303 at that time was the .303 Mk VI loaded with a soft point bullet, essentially the .303 Mk II*C , the world-infamous Dum-Dum load. These loads gave a 215 grs bullet a mv of 2060 fps, so the 244grs at 2034fps of the 8x50R Mannlicher/.315 was definitely not inferior! I quoted the Kynoch ballistics,as Manton´s appear to be rounded off a little bit.
The maximum case dimensions of the old 8x50R were still listed in the 1991 German proof tables. For sure someone over there has got a .315 case and a caliper to compare them, but consider the generous manufacturing tolerances:
Total length of case: 50.2 mm= 1.976"
length to start of shoulder: 38.29mm= 1.51"
" " " " Neck: 44.17mm= 1.74"
rim thickness: 1.4mm= .055"
rim diameter: 14.2mm = .56"
base diam.: 12.6mm= .496"
shoulder diam.: 12.09mm = .476"
neck diam.: 9.04mm = .355"
Bullet diam.: 8.22 mm =.324 "
Very informative, but his knowledge on Lee Speeds is limited?
Just some useless info. I used my Lee Speed on my very first hunt and bagged an Impala with it. Nice to have given the old girl a day out.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Thanks for the info!
I didn't see the 1925 Manton catalog at the Kynoch site. Perhaps you know another source? I do have a 1926-27 Manton catalog (reprint), and it lists the Lee available in .315 (which I see from your post is the 8x50R Mannlicher). The catalog also has some pages in the front about the ammunition ban in India (sounds depressingly modern with all its talk of licenses, restrictions, etc.).
Fletch--that's not "useless" info at all! Please post details or photos of that hunt if you can!
Hi I am new to all this however I just stumbled apon this page the other day by googling Lee speeds. I live in the UK but would be very interested in picking up one of these rifles. Does any one have an idea if there is one avalible? I pressume LSA stands for London Small Arms!
Up here in Yorkshire is two for sale.
One has scope mounts on.
PM me if you interested.