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America’s Forgotten Military Rifle: M1895 Lee Navy


– [Alex] Hey guys, it’s
Alex C with TFB TV. We all know about the
Springfield 1903 service rifle and how it saw use in the hands of multiple generations of Americans and soldiered through both World Wars. Fewer people know about the M1917. But it is certainly
still held in high regard by many enthusiasts, as
they were quite prolific. In fact, more Americans in Europe used the M1917 than the
Springfield in World War I. Fewer still know much about
the humble Krag rifle, probably due to its short service life in the USA, and relatively weak action compared to the aforementioned rifles. But I have a soft spot for them because they are just so unconventionally laid out in terms of bolt-action rifles, and they have just about the slickest
action I’ve ever come across. Now, that brings us to America’s
forgotten service rifle. The Lee rifle, model of 1895, caliber 6mm, commonly know as the Lee Navy. This is not a rifle you’re
likely to see out in the wild, as it was in service for
such a short amount of time. Like most military forces in
the late Nineteenth Century, the US Navy was using a smattering of old black powder firearms and was looking to change to something
smokeless and small bore. The Army had, in 1892, decided to go with the 30 caliber Krag-Jorgensen, but the Navy felt that
the slow-loading Krag, with its large projectile,
would not meet their needs. It was thought that the Marine Corps and Naval Landing Parties would need a high rate of fire in addition to a high-velocity cartridge that could pierce light armor found on small torpedo boats that were becoming common. Winchester would step up to the plate with a 6mm cartridge that the Navy deemed suitable,
the 6mm USN or .236 Navy. Originally, the cartridge contained a 135 grain projectile, but later was switched to a 112 grain bullet travelling at 2560 feet per second. Also noteworthy is how on the box it says for Lee rifles and also
Colt automatic machine guns. Remember that before 1934, anyone could have bought a Colt potato digger no differently than a hunting shotgun. The cartridge’s performance statistics for 1895 were incredible, and it would be the eccentric James Paris Lee, most famous for his involvement in the design of the Lee-Enfield,
who designed the rifle. Lee’s rifle is considered a straight-pull despite having to cam the bolt upwards a bit and then pull back. This is because the
rifle locks at the rear with a tilting bolt, not
unlike an FN FAL, actually. The rifle cycles incredibly fast, with speed that could
rival the Lee-Enfield as both rifles share optimal
bolt handle placement. The trigger pull is also incredibly light, especially for a military rifle. The rifle’s magazine is a single-column design loaded with clips, but unlike Mannlicher designs, the
clips are not necessary. A user would insert a clip of five rounds, and it would be retained until a round was chambered, and then it would fall out. An order for 10,000 Lee
Navy rifles was placed, and 500 were delivered in October of 1896. And the Lee Navy is light,
handy, and at the time sported the smallest-caliber
military cartridge around. Despite all of its pros, the Lee Navy only served as the standard rifle of the US Marines until shorty after 1900. While it served valiantly
in the Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, Boxer Rebellion, and elsewhere, problems
quickly became evident. The bolt is a complicated affair and is difficult to take out of the rifle. This bit must be pushed down,
and it can be very stubborn. The extractor is a
floating design as well, and it can be easily lost in the field. The coup de grace was
however, the ammunition. Today, we’re used to being able to push bullets well beyond
3000 feet per second, but back in 1895, the
hot-burning compositions, corrosive primers, and even
unstability was a problem. The powder, called
Rifelite, became unstable over time, and as Navy guns, the Lee Navy rifles and their ammo were kept in humid, salty conditions. Essentially, the cartridge was overly ambitious for the time. That is to say that the chemistry and metallurgical
constraints of the day were detrimental to more widespread
acceptance of the Lee Navy. Thus, the Lee Navy is a perfect example of an idea on paper
not working in concept. The idea for a 6mm high-velocity rifle was sound for naval use, but technological constraints certainly held it back. This incident convinced the Navy that rifle procurement with the Army might not be such a bad idea, and they soon switched to the Krag. Military production for
the 6mm cartridge stopped before 1917, and commercial
ammo for the rifle was no longer in production by 1935, which would make a running gun impossible without a
highly modified DeLorean. The demise of the Lee Navy is a sad one. It was unarguably ahead of its time, but perhaps ambition outpaced
practicality in this case. Either way, it’s one hell of a cool piece of US Naval history. Thank you for watching
this episode of TFB TV. Big thanks to Ventura Munitions for making our shooting videos possible, and we hope to see you next time. (rifle fires) (bullets clinking)

100 thoughts on “America’s Forgotten Military Rifle: M1895 Lee Navy

  1. This to me was one of your best videos yet. It was extremely informative a eye pleasing to watch. I'm just starting to appreciate how much work you guys put into it! That was a very well thought discussion on this rifle which I had never heard of and will probably never see. Keep up your amazing work, this is fast becoming one of my favorite channels!!

  2. Thank you so much for doing a vid on this! Been waiting for years for someone to give this old rifle some respect.

  3. Alex, as always great video and great work! I know from munitions constraints that you are unable to do a run and gun, but did you get an opportunity to fire it at least once or twice?! Thanks always. Ruggz1515

  4. Isn't this cartridge comparable to the Swedish 6,5×55 Mauser? Why was the Lee
    cartridge so flawed whereas the Swedish 6,5 is popular?

  5. If you've got the tools, you could totally run and gun this rifle. Brass can be put together from 220 Swift I believe. And there's some IMR load data around.

  6. hey this guy makes 6mm lee rounds, he is out now but he has them in once in a while https://www.buffaloarms.com/6MM_Lee_Navy_Ammunition_it-158108.aspx?CAT=4451

  7. After the Boxer Rebellion , the Germans were looking upon a 6×57 as a military round. That was never completed. Civilian round looking similar to it is 6mm Remington.

  8. They used the case later for a .22 caliber , on the Lee Navy case. The case is .220 Swift. There is folks reforming them to 6mm ,

  9. Some say that the lee navy was still been used in the first Dominican Intervention back into the early 20 century… Is that true?

  10. Heh, Back to the Future reference :). If you do manage to find a Delorean and rip off some Libyans, could you pick of the LeMatt Revolver and test that out as well?

  11. Seems like a slightly better option than the DeLorean would just be getting someone to make reloads, wouldn't be cheaper by much, but definitely easier to build than a flux capacitor.

  12. It seem like a worst desing than the Lee-Enfeild.
    the lack of an actual armo clip seem like a bad design choise
    (specialy for the navy water sand)
    It is a nice historical piece nice find.

  13. @2:55 This should be required viewing, so everyone that calls magazines "clips" can see how stupid they sound. For some weird reason I'm disappointed that probably none of your viewers make that mistake.

  14. a run and gun is possible, buffalo arms makes 6mm lee navy if you'd ever want to drop all that money on the ammo and do it, if you did i'd be really interested in seeing it, i dont think hickock or the rest have a video of any getting shot

  15. It was truly a rifle ahead of its time. James Paris Lee made great contributions to firearms that we can still see today.

  16. So I have to ask, I am assuming they're expensive.
    How high do they run in value and do these exist in other calibers?

  17. Fun fact: The 6mm Lee Navy cartridge was necked down by Winchester back in the 1930s to create what is still the fastest commercial cartridge in existence, the .220 Swift.

  18. What hurts the guns for some people is you (famous) gun guru''s do video's on them so the price goes out of a lot of people's reach..Now a dam Mosin in some place's are $900..Put's it OUT of my reach..

  19. So how exactly does the clip work then? Its somewhere between en-bloc and regular chargers, but how does it release the rest of the rounds after the first loads?

  20. You guys really need someone to provide hand re-loads for you. No excuses, im only a novice re-loader, I was forced to, to be able to shoot my Finnish M/28 that has 54r case body, but a .308 caliber bullet. ANYTHING can be reloaded for, there is always donor brass somewhere.

  21. The reason the 6.5 carcano went out of style is because its was horribly unaccurate and the shells were known to tumble

  22. I know of the Krag-Jorgensen because of the deadliest warrior episode that had Theodore Roosevelt and his rough riders as one of the fighting groups.

  23. how come they just didn't make this rifle in other cartridges??? wonder how different bullets would work on this system

  24. Anyone notice how youtube has more and more long adds before the video?

    1). People will buy the membership to youtube to avoid ads.

    2). People will stop coming to youtube and a new video website that isn't super greedy will emerge.

  25. The first rifle you showed is NOT a M1903. It is an 03A3 made by either Remington or Smith Corona starting in late 1942. I have been an '03 collector since 1997 and have had several 03A3s and more M1903s both Springfield and Rock Island. The differences between '03s and 03A3 (besides the nomenclature stamped on the receiver) are too numerous to miss by anybody who has ever seen an example of both.

  26. Interesting trivia…this is the rifle depicted as the bar above the round medal of the U. S. Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

  27. I would like to see a reproduction model Lee Navy, but in a more modern cartridge. Doesn't even have to be a large caliber (Assuming the action might be of a lower tolerance), perhaps something between 5.56 and 6.5 swede.

  28. Удивительная винтовка) Элегантный механизм перезарядки)

  29. If a company made a reproduction of this could they fix the problems while staying reasonably true to the design?

  30. I don't know if you mentioned this or not, but this rifle or at least its cartridge still has an impact today, being the parent cartridge of the 220 swift, which is touted as the fastest round commercially available.

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