Which rifle was better

In most articles I read about WW2 when it comes to infantry rifles the top 2 contenders are continually the Lee-enfield bolt action rifle and the M1 Garand semi automatic rifle. However there is a lot of contention over which one was better.

I know the Garand was faster firing but it was relatively inaccurate and soldiers had to carry way more ammunition for the weapon. The Lee-enfield bolt action was slower firing but was relatively accurate to fire and is still in production today as both a military and civilian weapon.

So which do you think was better


My question is at what range was the accuracy necessary. At the range of which most engagements happened, both weapons had plenty of accuracy. The M1 was not a sniper weapon and it was a heavy load to carry but the rate of fire could have an impact all of it’s own.

I’m no expert but I think the M1 was a more evolutionary weapon where Enfield was a refinement. I’m biased to the M1. But then I have never been in that situation.


I love the Lee Enfield – it was the first firearm I ever got to shoot (at age 13 … I was barely bigger than the rifle). There’s a reason the British, Canadian, Australian, Indian, and most other Commonwealth/Imperial troops used it for so long (other than bureaucratic inertia and economic cheese-paring).

That said however, Dan’s argument is correct: the Lee Enfield was a great bolt-action rifle, but the Garand was better in most circumstances for WW2 infantry combat.


The concept of best is meaningless as the difference between the rifles is far smaller than the variation among the users.
Weight of fire and accuracy don’t tell you about how quickly wear affects performance or how the 30+cm difference in length affected combat ergonomics.
They both are combat proven weapons that will do the job and that’s all that really matters.

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It’s significant to note how rifles have evolved…not just during WW2, but also afterwards. Sure, a lot of evolution of weaponry over the decades is due to technological advances…laser guided bombs were , of course, technologically impossible in 1942. But regarding rifles, the advancement has more due to design then technological advancement. The M16, used in Viet Nam, (and similar to modern army rifles) is a smaller, lighter rifle using a smaller bullet with relatively more powder behind it, so that it has a shorter, but flatter trajectory. And unlike a lot of other modern weapons, I see no reason that something very similar to an M16 could not have been built in 1942. I know of no technological impediment as to why, in 1942, the allies could not have made a semi/full auto rifle using a 5.56 x 45 round. Allies were already making larger riles, like the M1 Garand (semi-auto, using a 30-06 round) and the Chicago Typewriter (Tommy Gun) was a handheld submachine gun in use by gangsters in the 1930’s. So I say that they could have made a shoulder held semi/full auto rifle, not too different from the M16, in 1942…why didn’t they? I think that the Army really didn’t know what it wanted.

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I think the M1 was often used as a sniper weapon. It has a very good reputation of accuracy and range. (yeah, I know, the 30-06 doesn’t have a very flat trajectory, but has a kill range that is way out there, to like a mile. also, I don’t know how you mount a scope on it without it interfering with the semi auto reloading mechanism.)


The German military had already tried several times to switch their main infantry rifle to what we’d now call an “intermediate” cartridge, recognizing that actual battle distances were much shorter than the technical capabilities of full power rounds like the 8mm (or the British .303 or the US 30-06). Their answer, developed for the Sturmgewehr 44 (which has an almost mystical reputation among the Wehraboos) was the 8mm Kurz (short), which was a lower-powered and lighter round.

Hitler, it must be noted, ordered the StG 44 development abandoned at least three separate times, but the military were so sure it was the correct way to go that they “hid” it from him by changing the name of the project each time (from “machine pistol” through to “assault rifle”) to keep the funding. Hitler, having fought in WW1, did not believe a lighter weapon capable of automatic fire, was appropriate to the role of the ordinary infantryman.

The Allies did want to develop a lighter, intermediate cartridge … at least the British did. The American army had the same opinion as Hitler, even though the Garand was already in production for re-equipping the US Army. This remained true during the Cold War, when the NATO nations wanted to standardize on an intermediate cartridge like the British 4.85mm. The US Army threatened to take their bat and ball and go home unless NATO adopted a “proper” full-power cartridge, which is why the first NATO standard round was the 7.62mm.

The US didn’t have a submachine gun as part of their primary personal weapon array, which is why the “Grease Gun” had to be developed so quickly once American troops were in actual combat. The Thompson was far too expensive and complicated to manufacture in the numbers required (and the British were already absorbing most of that production from before the US entered the war).

Early self-loading rifles were not good bases to build sniper rifles, generally speaking. Commonwealth forces used an accurized Lee Enfield, and bolt-action snipers were very common until quite recently. Snipers often are called upon to fire at much longer ranges than the ~200 metres of typical 20th/21st century infantry combat.


The Garand and Lee-Enfield are apples-and-oranges. British and Commonwealth Doctrine stated that the main firepower of a section was the variable-fire Bren LMG, not the Lee-Enfield. The Garand however was the main firepower of a US section. Different roles, different weapons.

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