I found this fascinating in-depth debate of the comparative strengths & weaknesses of the Mauser & Lee-Enfield, its well worth reading all of it. The general concensus they form is that the Lee-Enfield is the better battle weapon due to its easier, faster bolt, bigger magazine, resistance to filthy conditions and better sights but the Mauser is the better hunting or sporting rifle as it has better accuracy, stronger, more reliable bolt action and more modern cartridge. I guess thats the same as what I said - Lee-enfield for fighting, Mauser for accuracy (hunting, target shooting etc.)
http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/inde ... -1437.html
Most of the good points of the Mauser are down to German over-engineering (they call it precision, we call it over-egging the pudding) the Mauser, is just very well thought-out and very strong, but the Lee-Enfield, although it was flawed was the better weapon for the fighting man, same thing with T-34, KV series vs Tiger, Panther etc.
Some interesting stuff from that thread about the Boer War, I forgot about the lee-Metford rifling problem as a cause of the accuracy advantage of the Mauser, didn't know about the other technical problems though. I had always read that the Boer's daily experience with his rifle and superior ammunition ballistics and longer barrels was the reason, turns out there were other reasons too:
First off..I own both Mausers (M95,M96,M98) and Enfields (SMLE, No.4 Mk1, No.4 Mk2). And I like them both..
There are a few misconceptions about these rifles and there history.
On the Enfield: This design was originated by an American: James Paris Lee. Originally, this rifle was designed for a Compressed Black Powder round pushing a unjacketed 215 grain bullet. The early "Enfields" (actually I should say..Lee Metfords), came in 2 flavors..an Infantry Rifle with a 30 inch barrel and a Calvary version with a 20 inch barrel.
Shortcomings during the Boer War.
When the Boer War rolled around..the Brits had just adopted a smokeless powder cartridge. This cartridge burned cordite, and was not only about twice as powerful as the black powder version..it burned quite a bit hotter.
The only change that the British government initially made were to replace the rear sight due to the greater muzzle velocity of the new round.
And so..during the outbreak of the Boer War..off went "Tommy Atkins" the British Soldier..
Unfortunately the Brits did not initially replace the shallow grooved Barrel made at the Metford Arsenal. And..because the new Cordite powder burned hotter along with Mercury Fulminate Primers..this had a very corrossive effect on Barrels.
This quickly led to poor accuracy as the Barrels burned out.
Both the Calvary and Infantry Models (Carbines and Rifles) did NOT have an Charger Guide. This caused some severe problems during firefights..the British Soldier was expected to load the rifle with single rounds of Ammuntion and only open up the Magazine Cutoff Switch during an emergency..(well..a Firefight is an Emergency) and after the 10 rounds were quickly expended..the Lee Metfords..took a long time to reload. (The 10 round detachable magazine on the Rifle and the 8 round detachable magazine on the Carbine were not originally designed to be swapped with a loaded magazine..it just happened that the rifle *COULD* be reloaded thusly)
Reports of Burned out barrels filtered back to England and so the Brits replaced the barrels on the Metfords with a Barrel that had deeper rifling Grooves....but..the barrels had a slightly different twist rate. Since the Barrels were made at Enfield..these became known as Lee Enfields.
And off to Africa went the Rifles along with British Reinforcements. Unfortunately there was a little flaw..since the twist rate was somewhat different than the original Lee Metford Barrels..this necessitated another change in the calibration of the sights..this time in the position of the front sight ..the rifles shot pretty far to the Left and thus the Front Sight needed a bit of "windage".
It was only late during the Boer War that the Brits corrected this problem with recalibrating the sights.
There were other problems as well..at the time very little training was done with the British Soldier on Rifle Marksmanship..instead the Brits were still training as if they were using smooth bore muskets with a short effective Range. This meant Close order formations..closing with the Enemy at a march, and then firing volleys.
The uniform of the British Soldier also had a problem..The Brits had just switched from RED to Khaki..but..their Belts and Suspenders were White and made an "X" shape across their torsos..
To the Boers hiding behind the Rocks in the Hills..watching Close Order Formations of British troops performing a Slow March directly towards them..each one having an Easily Seen "bulls eye X"..well..engaging the Brits at ranges past 1000 yards was too hard to resist..and if the Boers didn't hit the soldier they were aiming at..they certainly hit the soldier next to the target.
Misses were few.
The Boers were using Mauser M95's chambered in 7x57mm. They shot a 173 grain round nose bullet. Their Rifles had a 5 round staggered internal magazine. The Rifles also had Charger Guides and so allowed for rapid reloading during firefights.
Once the British Soldier shot up the 10 rounds in his magazine, the Boer Soldier then had superior firepower since they could then fire more shots per minute due to the fact that they could reload faster then their British Counterparts.
Also significant was the fact that Boers placed a high premium on Marksmanship. Most Boers hunted since they were children. Since the Boers in the Transvaal and Orange Free State did NOT have an Army and instead had a Militia..Boers were issued "Service Rifles" which they became intimately familiar with, as they used the rifles for hunting and recreational target shooting.
Also..tactically the Boers were different than the Brits. The Boers would travel by Horse to a location, then dismount and spread out using bolders and tree stumps for cover, or sometimes dig in.
They would then shoot at slow moving close order formations of British Troops from Long Distances. The British were trained to first close with the Enemy, then take up position and then fire Volleys.
So for quite a while, the Boers would fire at British Troops without being shot at. Also since the Boers would take cover, they were harder to see and hit for the British Trooper.
Post Boer War.
The British learned a great deal from this war. And because of it, they made some changes to their Service Rifle.
(1.) They decided upon having ONE rifle for both Infantry and Calvary..thus, they shortened the Infantry rifle to have a barrel length of 25 inches.
(2.) They noted that their rifles needed to be able to be reloaded quickly, so they modified the receiver design to include a Charger Guide.
(3.) to Compensate for the Shorter Length of the Rifle, they increased the length of the Bayonet, hence the Pattern 1907 Sword Bayonet.
(4.) They noted that the Boers were superb Marksmans and their forces suffered greatly for it, so a premium was placed upon Rifle marksmanship in the Pre-WWI British Army.
(5.) to compensate for widely different cartridge dimensions of Ammunition produced by different Arsenals throughout the British Empire, the chamber was lengthened and was overly large as well as long. Since the cartridge was RIMMED, this present no headspace problem..it was just a tad hard on the Brass, but the British Army was not concerned about "reloading".
This had the happy and fortuitous side effect of making the new Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) ultra reliable when covered with filth. This was noticed in the muddy fields of Flanders, while other rifles jammed, then Enfield still chugged happily along, firing round after round into the German Army.
BUT...even though the Brits had made these changes. Most of the critics were still unhappy, and the design changes were supposed to be "temporary" until a NEW and More "MODERN" (re: Mauser) Service Rifle and Cartridge could be designed and built.
And so the Brits took the Mauser and modified it and turned it into the P14 (or I really should say the P13, it only became the P14 after it was modified to accept the .303 round). The original .276 cartridge was very similar to what the Canadians were experimenting with (the .280 Ross) for their new Service Rifle..the Ross Rifle.
Ballistically this cartridge was similar to the 7mm Remington Magnum. (which was invented much later) but had no "belt".
WWI broke out, and the P13 hadn't been adopted, and so it was quickly converted to accept .303 rounds and had the Rear Sight modifed for the .303 cartridge. And the P14 was born.
During WWI the Brits used both the P14 and the SMLE. British soldiers noted that while the P14 was more accurate, it wasn't nearly reliable as the SMLE.
The US also used 2 Rifles, the M1917 Enfield (a 30-06 variant of the P14) and the 1903 Springfield. In fact more US soldiers used the 1917 Enfield than the 1903 Springfield.
The Canadians initially used the Ross Rifle, but while the Ross Rifle excelled as a Target Rifle..it was prone to jamming if it was slightly dirty.
(The Ross Rifle is what Herbert McBride used for Sniping during WWI)
The Canadians dumped the Ross and quickly adopted the SMLE.
On the German Side: Mauser had modified his small ring Mausers to have a stronger action, better gas handling capabilities and incorporated a Cock on Opening Action.
The Cock on Opening Action was a "Mistake" because, in the field some of the Rifleman's energy went into cocking the rifle instead of just extracting a round. This made for a slower action.
From that info, it seems that the reason for the adoption of the Mauser action in the P13/14/17 was due to the experiences of the Boer War, chiefly the greater accuracy of the Mauser, WWI showed that the SMLE was the better option, it just needed to have some flaws remedied, the 1903 SMLE was flawed, the WWI ones had most of those flaws corrected, the Mk4 WWII version had all of the flaws corrected.
ANother reason is the .303 round, being an old-fashioned, rimmed cartrisge it was ideal for a bolt-action rifle, easier to load into stripper clips and in single rounds into a rifle than rimless (Mausers are much trickier to load than Lee-Enfields) but wasn't suitable for automatic weapons such as macghine guns. The Mauser design was ideally suited to production in different calibres, so that will be a large part of the reason for adopting it, no redesign needed, just produce it in whatever calibre you want, and it used modern rimless cartridges, so if WWI hadn't happened in 1914, the Brits would have abandoned the .303 round in favour of the rimless .280 they had shosen for the P13. The Lee-enfield was eventually modified to accept rimless cartridges (7.62 Nato for sniper rifles) but was really intended for rimmed cartridges. Anyone who's ever filled a stripper clip with rounds will tell you the rimmed .303 is much easier to load than the rimless ones like the .30-06 and 7.62.