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.
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!