*◊ EXTREMELY RARE BSA-HOWELL M1916 SELF-LOADING CONVERSION OF THE SMLE RIFLE.
SN 73698. Cal. .303 British. Extremely rare M1916 BSA Howell self-loading conversion of a standard SMLE #1 Mark III, chambered in .303 British. To increase firepower in the trenches of WWI, several concepts were floated to convert the iconic SMLE from bolt action to semi-automatic. Most of these weapons were hastily completed in base workshops. The Howell Automatic Rifle design was one of the first attempts, tapping gas from the barrel with a simple gas piston bolted onto the right side of the rifle which engaged an ingenious contoured cam at the rear to cycle a modified SMLE bolt. To protect the user, a crude stamped handguard and faceguard were added in addition to a stamped tubular pistol grip. The front and rear sights, stock, and trigger were also modified. The weapon was reasonably reliable in use, though firing, with the fully exposed operating cam and bolt mechanism was exciting, but it was heavy, unbalanced, the pistol grip and handguard were awkward and the cycling bolt interfered with handling and accuracy. The sights were modified with folding left-side extensions to both front and rear sights to allow the firer’s face to be held to one side to lessen the danger from the exposed reciprocating parts. Howells were though issued and used later, during WWII, mainly as an AA weapon for the Home Guard due to the shortages of weapons in 1940-41. Surviving examples are exceedingly rare, and usually only seen in the most advanced government collections. This Howell is all original, complete, and is one of the very few ever made available to private collectors. It is marked “BSA & Co.” on the right, Z 76398 on the receiver and modified rear sight, H 76718 on the muzzle while the bolt is marked 6223. The numeral “2” is stamped in several places on the stock and handguard. British proofs appear on the metal components to include the receiver. Includes a standard ten-round magazine and a special twenty-round extended magazine original to the rifle. PROVENANCE: Ex-Visser collection, Collection of Dr. Geoffrey Sturgess. CONDITION: Overall good, serviceable condition. Mechanically fine, with tight, crisp mechanism. Finish shows an even, blue-gray patina on all metal components, Stock has numerous handling marks, light scratches, and a three inch repairable crack at bottom wrist. Bore is dark with strong lands and grooves but should clean up. Both magazines are in very good condition with edge wear only. 4-53192 DW4 (20,000-27,500) – Lot 1146
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