LEE ENFIELD SMLE
As the Boer War concluded, lessons learned from it were already being incorporated
into a hopefully improved rifle, which was unveiled in 1903 as the "Rifle,
Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield Mark 1", the famous S.M.L.E. The word "short"
designation referred to the rifle, not the magazine! Whereas the magazine
had the same dimensions as before, the rifle was indeed shorter than its predecessor.
The idea was that the S.M.L.E. would be in between rifle and carbine length,
and thus serve both functions.
Barrel length was now 25 inches, and the robust nose cap/sight protector was introduced. Finally refined as the S.M.L.E. No.1 Mark 3 in 1907, it was lighter and handier than the long Lee-Enfield, was sighted for the new Mark 7 .303 ammunition, had the desired clip feed facility (or "charger loading", as the British termed it) and possessed an excellent set of open sights, which could now be readily zeroed.
S.M.L.E. No.1 Mk.3.
At the end of the First World War, everyone was thus extremely pleased with the S.M.L.E., which had evolved into the No.1 Mark 3*. The star merely denoted a number of simplifications to the rifle to allow for greater ease and rapidity of manufacture. These simplifications primarily included the omission of volley sights, magazine cut-off and windage wheel on the rear sight, none of which materially affected the rifle, and indeed this type is the most commonly encountered version of the S.M.L.E. The volley sights in particular I find to be a source of great puzzlement and confusion, so they are worth going into in greater detail.
Early Lee rifles are frequently found with a peculiar rotating arm halfway down the left hand side of the fore-end, and a flip-up peep sight affair on the left rear portion of the receiver. These are the so-called "volley" sights, and are designed for mass firing at extremely long range. One rotates the front arm until the pointer indicates the desired range (which can be set from a low of 2000 yards up to an incredible 3500 yards).
One then flips up the rear peep sight, lines this up with the stud on the front arm (at which stage the rifle is being held not unlike a mortar) and lets fly at the extremely distant target. One was not, of course, expected to actually hit any individual with such a system, but it was supposed to be used by large concentrations of troops firing in volleys against other far distant enemy troop concentrations. This system may have been of benefit before mobile artillery and machine guns, but even then the benefits were, I suspect, more perceived than real. The volley sights were not missed when they were quietly dropped as an accessory to the rifle.