New Zealand’s Bolt Action Machine Gun

The Charlton Automatic Rifle sums up the adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” These LMGs were produced for the New Zealand home defense forces beginning in 1941 from old Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles.

Charlton Rifle 1 action s

For those familiar with the Lee-Enfield the conversion should be fairly easy to track. The bolt handle was cut off and the barrel modified and fitted with heat dissipation fins and a compensator. A gas powered operating rod was fitted on the right side with a return spring in the tube below it. A buffer assembly with spring is at the rear of the operating rod. A bolt guide is attached to the operating rod that behaves much like the Garand. It has a helical cut that acts on a new lug, welded atop the original right side rib, to cam the bolt open and closed. Steel plates have also been fitted to reinforce this whole operation and provide a raceway for the bolt guide. A pistol grip has been fitted to the original stock and a forward grip attached to the new barrel along with a bipod. Original rear sights were fitted on a steel extension over the finned barrel. The new LMGs were fitted either with modified Bren 30 round magazines or their original 10 round Lee magazines.

The development and conversions took place in Charlton’s Motor Workshop and it seems roughly 1,500 were produced. Nearly all were destroyed post war by an accidental fire in the arsenal where they were stored. So we’re very lucky to have these nice photos of two of them!

Charlton comparison

We covered just a little more at C&Rsenal.  Special thanks goes out to photographer Nicholas Gore for taking time out of his travels to visit the welcoming Waiouru Army Museum.


Othais is practically useless with modern firearms. That’s OK though, because he specializes in Curio and Relic military pieces and has agreed to decorate The Firearm Blog with a little history. He maintains his own site, C&Rsenal, with the help of his friends and the collector community.


  • Fox218

    WOW! I have never seen anything like this before. This is why I keep coming back to the firearmblog.

  • bbmg

    Very good article on Forgotten Weapons on the piece:

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      That was quite a while back, too.

  • gunslinger

    that’s awesome.
    i was going to post that BAs are by definition NOT MGs.

    but holy engineering batman!

    • scw

      You mean like “self-loading rifle”?

  • RocketScientist

    I read this on C&Rsenal (my favorite site) a few days back when it showed up. Very cool, and very interesting, as always!! I did have one question though, that maybe someone can answer. In the somewhat-more-detailed description on C&R, it sounds like he is saying the piston is actuated by the pressure of ambient air inside the barrel being pushed ahead of the bullet as it is making its way down the barrel… not by the high-pressure combustion gasses BEHIND the bullet. Is this true, or am I just reading the description incorrectly? I would think that with the open barrel, the air in front of the bullet would not be compressed enough to provide much actuation, and if the piston/spring WERE light enough to be actuated by such a mild pressure increase, that they would be beat to hell by the much-higher pressure spike of hot combustion gasses immediately behind the bullet. Just a question I had, hoping Othais could chime in and comment.

    • Othais

      I accidentally a sentence! Good catch and thank you!

      “It also
      seals the now-expanding gas behind it, which keeps the pressure up for
      the length of the barrel.” Although it still sounded a bit clumsy. I
      might fix it better later. I do these in fits and spurts and sometimes
      lose control of my thought process.

      Pop us an email at Prints at referencing this comment and I’ll toss a 1:1 scale 1911A1 print in the mail for you.

  • Dang, those Kiwis are crafty!

    • Jeff

      Nah, we just had to get by in those days due to the fact we are at the bottom of the world and the “Mother Land” was somewhat preoccupied (almost completely occupied as it happens).

  • Mabey

    Canada did it first with the Ross during the First World War

    • julio

      Sounds interesting – have you got pictures?

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Actually, so far as I can tell, Britain did it first with P’13s just prior to the FWW. I’ll have to work on a post about that.

  • Phil Hsueh

    Better hope the ATF and the antis don’t catch wind of this otherwise we might see a ban bolt action rifles for fear of criminals turning them into machine guns. 😀

  • ColaBox

    That’s a Franken-gun if iv ever seen one.

  • YoullPokeYourEyeOutKid

    Wow! I would certainly not want to shoot that left handed or even try to use the sights right handed. Looks like the operating rod would stab right through your head when it cycled.

  • Jeremy David Thomson

    A wonder if a mauser action could be cycled so fast, 700-800 rpm!

  • Martin M

    I’ve often wondered if the amount of work that went into converting the Ross-Huot and Charlton would have been better spent constructing license built designs. About the only thing in a surplus rifle that could be re-purposed would have been the barrel.

  • Scott

    This reminds me of a
    company in Sacramento, California, that makes custom paintball guns. Palmer’s Pursuit
    Paintball got their start in the 80s creating some of the first functioning gravity-fed semi-automatic paintball guns by converting pump-action models to cycle
    pneumatically. Also, they make a double-barrel model.

  • percynjpn

    10-round mag for a light machine gun – wow!