Early Semi-Auto Conversions – The Howell M1915 Enfield Conversion with Forgotten Weapons

    As weapons technology has progressed through generational leaps, it has bee historically common for notoriously frugal militaries to look to adapting their current standard issue to the new development. Generally speaking, these attempts are disasters as the technological leap is difficult to adapt to the old weapon system. Often, these systems are kludgy, if they work.

    Notable exceptions to this rule do exist, but it should be known they are truly exceptions. This includes the Pederson device among few others. More often, but still rare are the conversions that indeed work, but are obviously major changes to base platform and are not accepted for one reason or another. A fine example of this is the Howell M1915 conversion for the standard British issue SMLE rifle.

    In short, the Howell conversion adds an external long-stroke piston system to the side of the SMLE. Its a notable example for not significantly changing the base action, rather adding the minimal modifications necessary for the weapon to be functional… and usable. The result is a combination medieval and steampunk interpretation of a semi-auto rifle – which I love looking at.


    Where the bolt-action rifle would potentially hit the shooter in the face if they did not move their cheek during cycling, the Howell adds a facial shield and offsets the sights to the left-hand side of the weapon. The weapon is decidedly not southpaw friendly, but in its defense, the SMLE was not either.

    For the full story including shooting footage, check out Forgotten Weapon’s video below:

    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.