SMLE Semi Auto? Why Not? Turner’s Canadian Army Submission with Forgotten Weapons

With millions of weapons available post World War I, there was a significant push from various militaries to convert their bolt-action weapon systems to semi automatic. Few of these attempted upgrades were ultimately successful, but with the significant reduction in cash outlay to retrofit weapons from stockpiles, there was nonetheless significant momentum to explore it in earnest.

Seeing the potential of weapons submitted for the Crown, a local Pennsylvania gunsmith and tinkerer Russell Turner designed a conversion kit for the well-known SMLE bolt-action. If successful, it would have a significant leg-up on the Garand for the Canadian military.

The weapon is certainly a novel take on semi-automatic conversions. Rather than use the rotating bolt locking system of the parent gun, Turner’s mechanisms used a tilting locking block that actually locks to the side, versus the top or bottom.

The Canadian military put the weapon through trials and per the inventor’s notes, it did quite well in sub-zero testing. The Garand, also competing at the time, had issues in the Arctic environment.

Alas, the weapon was ultimately not adopted. Ian states this is due to the complexity of mechanism but I would contend there was a fair amount of politics in the decision.

Enjoy the video below with all the details and more, courtesy of Forgotten Weapons. 

If you’d like to own this weapon, it is for sale at Rock Island Auction. 



Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • John

    Now seems like the perfect time to bring it back.

  • roguetechie

    Turner’s second model for the 30 carbine competition is also awesome, and uses a very similar design to this.

    Unfortunately, he got screwed by a powder change between his development ammo and the ammo used in testing!

    Sounds familiar right?

    He apparently could have made it run just as well with the different powder selection, but he refused to out of disgust with the whole situation.