The British WWII Swift Training Rifle

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In June 1940, Great Britain stood alone against the amassed hordes of Nazi Germany. Her European Allies, France, Poland, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Holland had all been crushed by the Blitzkrieg. Her own British Expeditionary Forces sent to the continent were almost overrun and only saved by the "Miracle of Dunkirk".

At Dunkirk, they had been forced to leave behind a huge store of equipment and munitions. This created an acute shortage of arms for defense not to mention training of new forces. With invasion pending, the government turned to the Swift Training Rifle to help educate the nearly two million British Home Guards and the RAF ground defense forces who would repel German paratroopers expected to land at RAF airfields.

The Swift Training Rifle

Going back before to the 19th century with the US Hollifield "Dotter", the German Mauser company's own sub target devices, and the Cummings Dot Rifle, rifle-sized practice devices were used for target practice. The reasons for this were multiple.

The British WWII Swift Training Rifle - christophereger - dscn1900-665.jpg
Built in Oxfordshire the Swift Training Rifle had the same dimensions as either the Short Magazine Lee Enfield or the US-made P14/17 Enfield rifles. Some 16,000 of these devices were built in 1941-43 in five variants. The trigger group, magazine, bolt and sight were identical as was the length of pull, weight and overall "feel" of the device to its model.

The British WWII Swift Training Rifle - christophereger - dscn1901-666.jpg

Where the Swift Training Rifle differed from the real deal was instead of a barrel that fired cartridges, the end of the Swift had a series of metal probes. The soldier behind the sights would aim these probes at a scale drawing of enemy troops and when the trigger was pulled, the prong would 'dot' the paper target. The whole affair was set up in a folding frame that held the rifle and target.

Why Use a Training Rifle Anyway?

When using an active line rifle to train raw recruits, many of whom were city-dwellers who had never held a firearm before, safety issues were tantamount. By using the Swift rifle, which was incapable of taking and firing any sort of live ammunition, it was nearly impossible for a recruit to have a negligent discharge. Because the Swift could not and would not fire live ammunition, you could practice basic marksmanship in any room and were not chained to a shooting range. This also allowed training in inclement weather when outdoor ranges would be closed.

The British WWII Swift Training Rifle - christophereger - dscn1902-667.jpg
Firearms instructors, both civilian and military, attest to the fact that basic marksmanship is decided by the proper use of trigger control, grip, stance and sight alignment to effect rounds impacting down range of the target. The Swift Training Rifle taught all these fundamentals. The use of one Swift device with proper reinforcement could teach the basics of these fundamentals to a platoon of recruits in a single afternoon.

With these skills, the recruits could progress to being issued live weapons and proceed to the shooting range to fine-tune their skills. This training formula also would reduce the amount of rounds having to be fired in training as poor shooters could be sent back to the Swift device for more simulated firing before coming back to the range to try again.

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