The L42A1 is a former sniper rifle of the British Army, in service from 1970 until 1990. The design was born from the existing Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk 1(T)/No.4 Mk 1*(T) bolt-action rifles used in the sniper role during the World War 2 period (1939-1945). Requiring a successor to these sound and proven - yet aging - guns, the dedicated L42A1 was selected in their place. It went on to see considerable combat service in the period following including the Falklands War of 1982 and the Gulf War of 1991. It was eventually succeeded by the all-modern Accuracy International L96 detailed elsewhere on this site.
Unlike the World War 2-era Lee-Enfields, which were chambered in .303 British, the L42A1 shifted to the newer 7.62x51mm NATO standard rifle cartridge adopted by the West during the Cold War (1947-1991). As the original base Enfield No.4 frontline infantry rifles were already being succeeded by the 7.62mm-chambered FN FAL Battle Rifle during the latter part of the 1950s, the British sniper stock required attention to keep up with the times. This led to a decision in the 1960s to modify and adopt a revised form of the No.4 to become the "L42A1" in service for the dedicated sniper role.
The guns were reworked by the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) of Enfield from the period spanning 1970 to 1971 to which 1,080 or so of the guns were redistributed following conversion. Key to the changes were a new, heavy hammer-forged, free-floating barrel assembly (no part of its length was to touch the stock-works, leading to enhanced precision) with revised internal rifling, new optics support (the "L1A1" of 3.5x power), and a shortened forend.
The gun retained the manually-operated bolt-action system and fed from a 10-round detachable box magazine. The magazine was fitted into a well just ahead of the trigger loop. The pistol grip was integrated with the shoulder stock, the latter containing a cheekpiece for some comfort. The forend stopped near the midway point of the barrel assembly, the barrel continuing forward and capped by a forward iron sight. Over the receiver was mounted the telescopic sight in typical fashion.
The L42A1 was introduced into service as soon as 1970 and managed a career into 1990 - its last notable actions being recorded in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. The L39A1 was devised as a target-shooting alternative, though for military-minded elements, and carried Parker-Hale iron sights and had the same hammer-forged barrel as the L42A1. The "Enfield Enforcer" was issued to police forces for ranged work and was based highly in the L39A1 target shooter though with revised butt stock and a Pecar Berlin scope. The "Enfield Envoy" was also based in the L39A1 but produced to a higher standard for marketing to civilian shooters.