I have a Lithgow SMLE with 1923 on the butt socket, serial # B5806 on the knox form and 1917 stamped on the barrel.This follows on from the 1926 Lithgow discussion, but probably better served by having its own thread if anyone has any ideas.
The gist is this: Were Lithgow barrels dated on manufacture, or on fitting up to the receiver?
For most production during WW1 and WW2, the barrel date would fit both requirements, as manufacture, fitting up and finished view would occur within a few days.
However, during the 1920s and 1930s when production was very slow and sporadic, a barrel may have sat in store a long time before fitting up. Hence using the barrel date as the basis of production chronology could end up confusing if you make the wrong pick between dating being applied at manufacture, or at fitting up.
I previously assumed that the barrel date was applied on fitting up, and was the best indicator of when the rifle was completed. That was somewhat based on the fact that the New-old-stock heavy barrels that used to be commonly available were all undated, hence no fit-up, no date. Some of the club rifles I have seen used in the 1950s and 1960 are a mixed bag. Some have barrel dates and some don't, but they almost never have the rifle serial number. Then there is the matter of the new MLE and SMLE heavy barrels being supplied into the gun trade from 1926 to 1939. Were these commercially supplied barrels dated when they left the factory?
Other factors that muddy the waters are the stories that:
1. service issue heavy barrel rifles were built up, but were sold to rifle clubs in the 1930s, only to be requisitioned at start of WW2 (we know that is true).
2. barrels were sold to the trade so that civilian club armourers and members of the trade could fit them to rifles as part of their trade. If so, did they bother serial numbering the barrel to the receiver?
3. barrels sold commercially into the trade were then requisitioned back to Lithgow at the start of WW2. These are marked MOTTY, TAYLOR, SPECIAL STEEL (any others?)
3a. Question: Did Lithgow stamp the MOTTY, TAYLOR etc onto the barrels they supplied, of did the trade apply the stamps themselves?
4. Lithgow did commercial work for the gun trade by fitting barrels to privately owned club SMLEs. You would think that what came back would have been dated and serial numbered.
The only examples of 1930s commercial barrels I have noted are:
1. Lithgow 1915 No.28389 with a defaced sold out of service /I\ S /I\ mark on receiver ring. Rifle came out of war stock in 1982. Barrel is dated 7 '36, no serial number and marked SPECIAL STEEL on the knox form. That sort of tells the story that the rifle was disposed of to a rifle club post WW1 (official sale mark), was fitted with a heavy barrel by the trade circa 1936 without numbering the barrel, and was then requisitioned back into service circa 1939 and had its sale mark obliterated. That sort of indicates that the barrel was dated on manufacture, but what if point 4 is true?
I have been a bit remiss in not paying too much attention to the club rifles, so have not been gathering much info.
Are there also any New-Old Stock light barrels out there? No serial number is a given, but are they dated or not??
Any info appreciated.