What Happened to the AIA Enfields?

No4Mk4Bluew

In the comments section of my recent article on the YouTube Channel Bloke on the Range, the subject arose of the AIA M10 Enfield series, one of which is used by Bloke in one of his videos. These were Australian-built rifles made roughly to the extremely venerable Lee-Enfield pattern, and chambered for .308 Winchester and 7.62×39 (like Bloke’s gun).

To many, myself included, the Lee-Enfield is one of the best actions ever designed, and moreover offers a substantial ergonomic improvement over even modern rifles. Naturally, fans of the Lee-Enfield cottoned to the idea of new production Lees mating the excellent action finally to modern ammunition like the versatile .308 Winchester. The AIA M10A1 and M10A2 rifles in 7.62×39 further combined the stock profile of the No. 5 “Jungle” Carbine with the softer-shooting ammunition and high capacity detachable magazines of the Kalashnikov. To many an Enfield fan, this promised to make their dreams come true – finally, a softer-shooting carbine Enfield that used plentiful and cheap magazines to boot!

The reality of these rifles seems to fall short of the expectations, however. A thread on AR15.com has several AIA rifle owners recounting their disappointment in the firearms, many of whom claimed the guns didn’t shoot well and had poor barreling jobs. The company, Australian International Arms, too, was difficult to contact to the point of being downright reclusive, to those who tried, like Steve Redgwell of 303british.com, who investigated the failed importation of the AIA guns to Canada. Despite significant interest, only a few hundred AIA rifles were every imported to the United States, too, and the reasons for this are as mysterious as the company itself. Rumors of everything from their importation being banned due to the wood furniture being made in communist Vietnam to the importers dropping the ball, to AIA dropping the ball on the importers can be found online; the real reason though remains unknown to me.

As of 2011, AIA appears to have gone out of business.

It really is a crying shame that the AIA guns weren’t better made and more successful. The Lee action is beloved for a reason, and the No. 4 in particular could be the basis for a whole family of economically-made rifles with the fast operating action and great ergos that the Lee-Enfield family has become famous for.

Well, one can dream, at least!

Last minute edit, Bloke on the Range released a video detailing his experiences with (and modifications to) the AIA 7.62x39mm carbine he owns. For those wondering about some of the details of and problems with those rifles, take a look:



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


Advertisement

  • iksnilol

    I’d cut an SKS stripper clip guide into one if I had one.

    Wonder how the Lee Enfield action is on brass? Heard something about them not being the kindest to brass.

    • Axel2485

      From what I understand, this was due to the military rifle’s chambers being cut with rather generous headspace, not an inherent problem with the design if the action. If that is true, these new barrels shouldn’t have this problem if they were headspaced correctly for the cartridge in question.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Right, it’s the chamber, not the action, that kills brass on the SMLE.

        • Marcus Aurelius

          No, it’s the action on an SMLE that kills brass. Properly reloaded brass takes care of any chamber issues on the first firing by headspacing the brass off the chamber shoulder, and neck sizing the brass only.

          It’s because the SMLE action is a rear locker, in combination with the floating bolt head, that is hard on brass. Stress on the action upon firing causes the bolt to compress, and it compresses far more (my engineerdar suggests 2-3 times more) than a front locking action like an 98 Mauser or a Rem700. This causes the brass to stretch, which leads to incipient case cracking. The locking on an SMLE action is also asymmetrical, which doesn’t help the brass either.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Wow, that is almost totally and completely wrong. That “2-3 time more” compression is still microscopic compared to brass stretching just the case neck undergoes. MAS 36 rifles also use rear lugs, and do not have any of the case cracking problems of the SMLE. And the floating bolt head issue is only relevant when the rifle develops bad headspacing due to wear; it is completely fixable. In reality, SMLEs have a very loose tolerance for chamber reamings, some are merely generous, while others are stupidly beyond generous. With good headspacing, a less overly generous chamber can allow a case to be reloaded often nearly a dozen times. But a chamber that is too generous can cause case splitting or even head separation after only a couple reloads, regardless of good headspace or whether you only resized the neck; and they are a huge percentage of the available Enfields out there. And your asymmetrical locking theory is bro-science, it has no valid basis; as long as both lugs are making good contact with their respective shoulders, the brass is completely unaffected.

          • Marcus Aurelius

            You are demonstrably wrong, and obviously not an engineer. Even the most basic paper analysis of strain in a modern front locking rifle action like a Rem700 in .223 will show that between the bolt face and the locking lugs (a distance of what, less than an inch?), the bolt will stretch at least 5 thousandths of an inch rearward on firing. Almost universally, this stretch is taken at the transition between the case web and body, which is why incipient case head separation occurs at that point.

            In a higher backthrust cartridge like a .308 or .303, the strain will be larger. Furthermore, strain scales linearly with the length of the body under stress, so for every multiple of length under stress greater than a front locking action, the stretch will increase that amount. If a Rem700 has 0.5″ under stress between bolt face and bolt lug, and an SMLE has 1.5″ – guess what, the action will stretch at a minimum 3 times more than the front locking action. Probably more – because not only do you have to consider the strain in the bolt, you have to add to that the strain in the receiver.

            The chambers are not ‘too generous’; as anyone that shoots an Ackley Improved wildcat will tell you, the brass will happily fireform to match a chamber that is quite a bit larger than the case initially fired in it, and when properly reloaded have a normal reloading life. The issue with poor brass life is a function of work hardening of the brass – not because it has to stretch to fit the chamber, but because the neophyte reloader doesn’t headspace the case off the shoulder and uses full length sizing dies on reloading. If you headspace the case off the shoulder on first firing, then neck size only on each subsequent reload, .303 brass lasts just as long as any other.

            And again, ‘bro science’? How can you tell it’s bro science, it’s clear from the crap you’re posting that you don’t even understand the mechanical processes going on when the action is fired on a simple front locking action; why on earth should anyone consider your opinion worth more than toilet paper when it comes to the far more complex case of an action with asymmetrical lugs.

            Go on, go do the free body diagram, and calculate the strain vectors for a symmetric vs. asymmetric action. I bet you eat your ‘bro science’ hat. The simple fact is that an asymmetrically locking action will cause the case to stretch a greater amount in the least supported location, because the bolt will stretch the most in that location. It’s an unavoidable fact of physics.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pop your balloon here. Now, I’m far from infallible, but insomuch as what knowledge you’ve displayed so far, my understanding of physics and engineering is quite adequately superior to yours.

            First, let’s look at your bolt flex results for the .223 Remington chambered Model 700. It didn’t occur to you at all that .005″ of flex might be unrealistic, did it? Like by a factor of ten, maybe? The bolt flex for such a Rem 700 would be .0005″, which is actually microscopic, and nearly negligible. A Remington 700 chambered in .308 Win gets a bolt flex of a whopping .00095″, which is still less than a fifth what you claimed for the .223. The formula is rather elementary, so how you got it so embarrassingly wrong is a mystery. Sure, the .303 has plenty more bolt thrust than a .223 Remington, but you completely failed to account for the massive shear area of the Lee-Enfield’s bolt lugs, they have an axial length well over 3″ even on the shorter side that easily overcomes the piddly linear strain you’ve been obsessing over! I would tell you to do the math yourself, but for some reason I’ve somewhat lost confidence in your capacity to do so.

            Second, you have no clue what asymmetric locking actually means, apparently. It has nothing to do with which lug is where on the bolt, and everything to do with which lug is making more contact with its locking surface; this is what causes axial stress and tilt in the bolt. As long as all the lugs are making even contact on their locking surfaces, it is nearly irrelevant where the lugs are actually placed on the bolt body. To assume otherwise is indeed bro-science.

            As for how and why the larger .303 chambers cause splitting at the case head, I might draw you some pictures of what is happening to the brass if I have time for it later. Because you seem to lack the ability to visualize it for yourself.

            I’m an electrical engineer by the way, so these are merely side interests of mine. I do hope you are not working as a mechanical engineer, because otherwise you are going to get somebody killed.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pop your balloon here. Now, I’m far from infallible, but insomuch as what knowledge you’ve displayed so far, my understanding of physics and engineering is quite adequately superior to yours.

            To start with, let’s look at your bolt flex results for the .223 Remington chambered Model 700. It didn’t occur to you at all that .005″ of flex might be unrealistic, did it? Like by a factor of ten, maybe? The bolt flex for such a Rem 700 would be .0005″, which is actually microscopic, and nearly negligible. A Remington 700 chambered in .308 Win gets a bolt flex of a whopping .00095″, which is still less than a fifth what you claimed for the .223.

            Your obsession with linear strain is misplaced as well. In Mode II fracture mechanics cause by shear stress, the stress scales by how far the acting counterforce (the receiver shelves) are radially distant from the shear area (the lug roots), not the axial distance of the lugs along the bolt body. You had that completely wrong.

            Still, that brings us to the question of the Enfield asymmetrical lug flexion due to their difference in axial length. So, after calculating out their individual bolt flex, we get: .000625″ for the smaller lug, and .00025″ for the lug with the guide rib reinforcement. That’s a difference of .000375″, which is less than what a .223 case does on a Remington 700 and hardly enough to induce incipient case splitting at the web as you’ve implied.

            As for how and why the larger .303 chambers really do cause splitting at the case head, I might draw you some pictures of what is happening to the brass if I have time for it later. Because you seem to lack the ability to visualize it for yourself.

            I’m an electrical engineer by the way, so these are merely side interests of mine. I do hope you are not working as a mechanical engineer, because otherwise you are going to get somebody killed.

          • iksnilol

            Your math made more sense, and you weren’t as rude.

            I think I’d rather put my faith in you.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Oh, I was plenty rude as ever, but my math is indeed good. Thanks.

          • Goody

            People here in Australia do just fine with recut or improved chambers, getting 7 or more firings out of a case. Recut in particular is more common, remaining legal for our vintage service matches.

  • Big Daddy

    There’s a lot of older designs that can be upgraded and produced. The problem is cost, those guns require costly machining. I like my ARs but they are missing something a gun like the Enfield and a favorite of mine the SKS have. The M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and a host of other guns that just cannot compete with the AR15’s modularity.

    • aweds1

      I’m not an engineer but the question I keep wondering about is how some of the venerable older designs could be reproduced with modern CAD systems, automated machining and additive manufacturing processes that would negate the cost issue? I mean, if you can use modern digital techniques versus the time and material costs a skilled machinist carving up a solid chunk of steel, would the costs come down enough to start making some of the old classics again?

      • Big Daddy

        I think it comes down to execution of the process, they made mistakes that doomed them. For instance it seems like this rifle was well thought out on how to lower cost and use the 7.62×39 round. Yet by the time it got to market there were problems.

        Who dropped the ball? It looks like the company they used to make the barrels did. So they might have saved $5 per barrel by using that barrel maker but the product was inferior. The cost of having another barrel maker make them all new barrels was something they could not afford or wait for. End result they produced an inferior product and went out of business. All it takes is one sub-contractor to screw up and you’re done unless you have enough funds to overcome that and sue them.

        Than they used a company to make the stocks and either they did not know the law or again the sub-contractor screwed them by using wood from Vietnam. That ended their ability to sell in the biggest market which probably ended their ability to get financial help like a bank loan.

        Look at the huge error IWI made with the ACE pistol and having the third hole for the auto sear. They are big enough to absorb the mistake and still get the product out which is well behind schedule already.

      • n0truscotsman

        3D printing FTW. Cant wait to see where it will go in another 10 years.

  • Harrison Jones

    While I would like to see this concept come back on the market(especially the 7.62×39 that takes AK mags) I wouldn’t invest in a company doing it or as a distributor buy a couple thousand. I don’t see this doing well on the mass market. It could be successful for a custom shop to modify existing guns in batches. Though they’d have to track down a large supply of the rifles which I think would be very difficult.

    • I disagree. I think the market sees “popular magazine compatibility” as a much bigger selling point than we give it credit for. Combine that with a few modern features (threaded barrel, one-piece scope rail, extended bolt handle, etc.), and you’d have a big seller, and one that probably would have real legs.

      • Harrison Jones

        3-5 years ago you’d be right, but with the CMMG mutant, Windham(bought from HGI), and the new palmetto state armory AK mag compatible AR style lowers/guns I don’t see the average gun owner paying probably $1500-$2000+ for a cool bolt gun when they can buy a decent AR platform for sub $1000 or $1500 for the CMMG.

        If Some one can make a $1000 or less bolt gun like you describe you’d have a winner, but that’s not going to happen using the enfield pattern. If mossberg introduced the gun at the MVP’s price point I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase one.

        • Oh, I agree that you’d probably need to keep it under $1000 street, and preferably closer to $600-$700. I don’t think the exact action really matters as much as the feature set.

          • Harrison Jones

            Agreed. The action affects manufacturing cost and the 7.62×39 enfield’s were gorgeous in pictures.

        • Blake

          see my post above.

          • Harrison Jones

            CZ is great and I’ve thought about buying one but it’s pointless to me unless it takes AK mags. I believe others have put a lot of effort into converting them with no results.

          • Blake

            Sorry, I meant the one on the SIA bolt conversions (previous post was made before the Ruger/CZ post). But even then I guess TCM mags aren’t really going to float your boat either…

          • iksnilol

            I could live without AK mags, but I would like a 10 round magazine (preferably doublestack so it doesnt protrude much).

            I like the Howa mini action but I don’t know whether it is a controlled feed or push feed (I prefer the former).

        • aweds1

          How many states inhibit the sale of AR/ AK platforms with “feature” restrictions? There are likely a lot of people who would find these Enfields appealing.

          • Harrison Jones

            Not at $1000+. They actual price would probably be over $2000. There are lot of cool things people find appealing but justifying the purchase is another subject.

      • Harrison Jones

        At the end of the day it’s a price point issue.

      • aweds1

        Especially for people living in states with magazine restrictions, using commonly available ones versus yet another proprietary system makes a lot of sense. Same goes for states with “feature” restrictions inhibiting the sale of common AR or AK rifles.

  • When are manufacturers going to fully embrace that there is a SUBSTANTIAL market for bolt-action guns that take popular semi-auto mags?

    The Mossberg MVP, Ruger PR, Savage Stealth, Ruger American Rimfire, etc. are all big sellers already. I suspect that Glock mag and AK-mag bolt guns would be huge sellers – especially with threaded barrels – despite neither 9mm nor 7.62×39 being a particularly good distance round.

    • Roy G Bunting

      Part of the problem is that it’s easier to build a blowback rifle in pistol calibers then it is to make a bolt action. And once it’s semi-auto, out comes the tactical accessories.

      I think a pump action rifle that has kits of barrels and magazine wells for various popular magazine and caliber combinations could really clean up.

      I’d like the Ruger Rimfires to adopt the 10/22 barrel, or even better, have a version that is compatible with the 10/22 Takedown barrels.

      • Anon. E Maus

        I don’t recall seeing much tacticooling of the Ruger Pistol Carbine or Marlin Camp Carbine

        • Roy G Bunting

          They were largely in production during the Federal AWB years. And before that you could make a semi-auto without needing folding, collapsing stocks, pistol grips and miles of rail space.

          These things have their place, but I’d prefer a PC9 that accepted Glock magazines. Perhaps with a top rail that extends in front of the receiver, maybe.

    • Mog Grat

      I had a No4 converted to .357Mag, using Desert Eagle mags, AT polymer stock. Makes a lovely carbine.

      • Adam D.

        Do you have any pictures of it?
        Sounds really nice!

        • Mog Grat

          Had it built by local smith, who also produces copies of .45ACP De Lisle silenced carbines.

          • 2hotel9

            Nice! I have had the chance to fire an original DeLisle and often wondered how well it could be done in a different caliber.

          • Blake

            That’s really slick. The clean lines on the magazine don’t detract from the “classic” look of the rifle.

          • Adam D.

            Pretty sick gun!

            What’s the accuracy on it?

            Guess it’s more accurate than a lever action .357, isn’t it?

    • Blake

      Check out these bad boys: http://www.specialinterestarms.com/index.php?page=novem

      SAA takes Armscor bolt-actions chambered in 22 TCM, converts them to 9mm Parabellum, & integrally suppresses them. It’s a quality USA re-built modern De Lisle carbine for $750, or $1100 with the integral suppressor.

      http://www.specialinterestarms.com/DSC01422.jpg

    • Blake

      Two other good suggestions for a good small-caliber bolt gun:

      – Ruger 77 in 357 Mag or 44 Mag (5 round rotary mag)
      – CZ 512 carbine in 7.62×39 or .223 Rem

  • gunsandrockets

    Frankengun indeed. A match quality 7.62×39 Lee-Enfield!

  • Goody

    I think there ought to be a Chinese shop turning out C96 pistols, small and large ring Mausers in modern calibers, and a 308 enfield. Despite the bad rap that China gets, I think they would do better than the piss-poor management demonstrated by this defunct Australian company. They had parts failures up the wazoo and one day just got sick of it and stopped answering the phone…

    • Benjamin Goldstein

      Most of their parts were made in Korea… And yep… bad metallurgy..

      • Goody

        *Vietnam

        • Benjamin Goldstein

          Really, Who was making them in Vietnam for them?

          • Goody

            Not sure. I don’t think AIA ever gave full disclosure, people only found out by the SEA teak stocks. People here (Australia) were still pretty sore about the war so AIA tried to keep the commie parts quiet.

            To me a tool’s a tool regardless of origin, but these were also of poor quality. Better to convert an Ishapore in my book – and India is not renowned for their quality control.

          • Benjamin Goldstein

            I designed a Pump action and straight pull rifle that looked like a AR15/M4 for the Australian market.. (only parts that interchanged was Stock and magazine) But the Australian government stopped them going into production. only the 3 prototypes were ever made. Such a shame Australia has such draconian gun laws.. When 3 hours flight away. You have new Zealand.

  • Mike

    Nothing smoother than an Enfield bolt.
    Enfield in 7.62×39 or pistol round would be great, but would have to be $500 tops

  • Mike Burns

    For those who didn’t spot it in the other thread, I am the “Bloke”. I can shed some more light on the barrel issue (I didn’t mention it in the vid, cos it was already quite “geek” and this would have been overkill. Can’t have absolutely everybody falling asleep now 😉

    So the barrel, apart from the appalling thread and not-much-more-than-hand-tight breeching up nut, was a chrome-lined job. Wouldn’t surprise me if they hadn’t been reject Vietnamese RPK barrels or something dumb like that.

    So my barrel slugged at .313″. Not ridiculous for a 7.62×39, but a little loose. Workable. The problem was, that it had two loose bits in it that you could feel clearly when slugging it – the slug just shot right through. So a proper “coke bottle”-shaped barrel.

    I’m a huge fan of shooting cast bullets in rifle calibres, and this meant that the gun was just unworkable for this with the original barrel – anything beyond a cat’s sneeze subsonic load leaded like a b*stard cos of these loose bits.

    The infamous “wandering zero” with the .303 No.5 carbines seems to largely have been a myth – exactly 100% of the very many people I have known who have had them didn’t have this problem “Oh, this is one of the good ones”. if I had a penny for every time etc. etc. etc. However, this AIA would not hold a half-decent 100m zero. If you were shooting USPSA-size steel it would have been OK. The barrel was probably capable of 4″ 5-shot groups. But no guarantee that the next 5 shots would go to the same POI… Once my tame gun plumber showed me how loosely the barrel was breeched up it was clear – the barrel could move slightly at the breech end!

    There’s another minor issue which was them being cheap. The original No.5 was a free-float (and one of the possible explanations for the wandering zero myth may have been civilian gunsmiths trying to get upwards pressure on them like on a No.4 and trashing the stocking up as a result), the rear of the handguard being held by a ring around the knox form of the barrel. On the AIA there’s a double spring-clip riveted to the rear handguard like a Lee-Metford… So even had they been breeched up properly, and been decent barrels, they would never have had free-float accuracy.

    • Linz

      Hmmmmmm…what if I were to suggest the majority of the 7.62x39mm AIA in the USA were supplied to Tristar as visual demo models & were not intended to be sold to the public?

      • Leigh Rich

        Source

  • Benjamin Goldstein

    I think one of the major issues was the Dual use of the 7.62×39 mag.. it could be used in Semi Auto/Full Auto made it a Cat C,D or R part in some states.. essentially making it a go to prison offence for being caught with one.. Same issues with Remington 7615 taking a AR15 compatible magazine. I think the best thing possible would be all gun loving Aussies just pack up, sell up and move to NZ or the USA..

  • L. Roger Rich

    Actually a pretty well researched article. Too bad Nathan does not have a M10A2 rifles to look at. I always question the internet sources who seem to be experts. Mine is really a great rifle and accurate to 100+ round if I use a scope for my old eyes. I am happy to have one of these rare birds in my collection.

    • Thanks for the positive feedback. I’d love to get my hands on an AIA gun, but that’s a real trick here in the States.

      I am nothing short of rooting for this concept and – such as it exists or doesn’t – the company, too. I think the Enfield action absolutely has a place in the modern bolt-action rifle world, and I sincerely wish more manufacturers would take cues from it.

  • mazkact

    Well done , love it. All this talk about pistol calber carbines………………..Hard to beat a 1892 Winchester in .357.