Lee United States Navy Rifle, Model 1895
By Patrick McSherry
This image shows the Model 1895 Lee Rifle, with its
ammunition belt and bayonet with scabbard
(photo courtesy of the Doug Howser Collection)
for an article concerning the qualities of the Lee Rifle from the period
of the war
here for a website with info. on one of the 1895 Lee Rifles recovered
from the wreck of the Battleship MAINE
here for another a website with info. on one of the 1895 Lee Rifles
recovered from the wreck of the Battleship MAINE
This rifle was designed by James Paris Lee, "one of the foremost arms
inventors of the century". It was a standard U.S. Navy weapon in the Spanish-American
The Lee rifle was accepted by the Navy in 1895 and manufactured by Winchester
beginning in 1896, with an initial order of ten thousand units. Eventually
close to twenty thousand were produced. A large number of these weapons
were aboard the USS MAINE when it sunk in Havana
Harbor. Fifty of these were later recovered and sold. The Lee was considered
to be ahead of its time, and was not well-liked outside of the U.S. Navy.
Production stopped in 1902.
The Lee has what is frequently referred to as a straight-pull action.
In fact, the action is more properly a camming action in which pulling
the bolt caused a the bolt to rock, freeing a stud from the receiver and
unlocking the bolt. The cartridge used by the weapon was the smallest cartridge
adopted by the U.S. military up to that time.
Acut-away view of the mechanism
The weapon, unlike the Krag-Jorgensen Rifle of
the time period, was not designed for the ammunition in the magazine to
be held in reserve for emergencies while the weapon itself was basically
used as a single shot rifle. The magazine could be reloaded very quickly,
allowing the "ammunition reserve" to be unnecessary.
The ammunition used for the Lee utilized smokeless powder, offering
a definite advantage over the "trapdoor" rifle.
Shell casings were automatically extracted from the weapon. The extractor,
however, had a tendency to fall out in battle, and if not carefully replaced,
would render the rifle non-functional.
One disadvantage of the weapon was that, when the magazine still
had ammunition in it, the gun could not be used for firing single shots.
A second problem was severe erosion of the bore because of the powder used
in the weapon's cartridges.
Lee 6mm cartridge with five round charger
||Straight pull bolt action rapid-fire breech-loader
|Length of barrel:
||6 grooves, making one turn in 6.5 inches.
||6mm rimless, in five round clips
||33 grains of smokeless powder
|Weight of cartridge:
|Weight of projectile:
||2,460 feet per second at 60 feet from the muzzle. This
||weapon the ability to penetrate 3/8 inch steel boiler plate
at 100 feet.
||Knife-type, 8.25" long
Alger, Prof. P. R. USN, and Ensign N. C. Twining, USN, The United
States Navy Rifle, U.S. Bureau of Ordnance.
Gluckman, Arcadi, United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines.
Buffalo: Otto Ulbrich Co., Inc., 1948.
Howser, Doug (Image of rifle with belt and bayonet, and image of
Kirkland, K. D., America's Premier Gunmakers: Winchester,
New York: Exeter Books, 1989.
New York Sun, June 1898.
Schreier, Philip, "The Guns of the Spanish American War," Military
Classics Illustrated (Los Angeles: Emap USA, 2001).
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