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The Lee-Enfield "Mad Minute"

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    Posted: January 27 2016 at 5:02pm
Every now & then the topic of the "real" Mad Minute comes up. There are U-tube videos, countless wittering posts & so on, but the rather sad truth is that most of the information on it is lost, missing or was simply passed down by word of mouth a bit like tribal histories.

FWIW here's everything I've been able to find, dig up or read up on it. Enjoy!

“Mad minute” was a term used by British riflemen during training to describe scoring 15 hits onto a target at 300 yd (274.3 m) within one minute using a bolt-action rifle. It was not uncommon during the First World War for riflemen to greatly exceed this score. Many riflemen could average 30+ shots, while the record, set in 1914 by Sergeant Instructor Alfred Snoxall was 38 hits.

[ Ian V. Hogg, The Encyclopedia of Weaponry, Sterling Publishing, New York 2006.]

 

The magazine and repeating bolt action of the Lee Enfield, adopted at the very dawn of the 20th century, allowed for an unprecedented volume of fire. The fast-operating Lee bolt-action and large magazine capacity enabled a well-trained rifleman to perform the "Mad minute" firing 20 to 30 aimed rounds in 60 seconds, making the Lee-Enfield the fastest military bolt-action rifle of the day. The Lee-Enfield Resource website has a video of 15 rounds in one minute, aimed, but no reference to the methodology & techniques used originally. It was not uncommon during the First World War for British Empire servicemen to beat this record! On average a rifleman could fire twenty-five shots, and some could even make it to forty shots.”

 

Supposedly there is a formal “Mad Minute reenactment” annually in the U.K.

During the 'mad minute' British riflemen were required to hit a target 300 meters away, with at least fifteen rounds fired in sixty seconds; one round every four seconds. A modern-day, semi-trained guerrilla soldier with a semi, or fully automatic assault rifle can easily top that, although not with the same accuracy, but the Lee-Enfield was a bolt action rifle, requiring the soldier to rotate and cycle a bolt with his hand between each shot. The rifle fired the powerful .303 British cartridge, which had a hefty recoil, and the magazine could only hold ten rounds, requiring several reloads during the minute.

Reloading a bolt-action rifle of the time involved sliding bullets from 5-round Chargers (stripper clips) down into the magazine from above. The Lee Enfield required two five-round clips, and debate still rages as to the best method for ensuring high-speed fire; polishing the clip guides, flipping the bolt with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand whilst firing with the middle finger, or even reloading with the Lee-Enfield's detachable magazine (not usually recommended due to manufacturing imperfections which could cause each magazine to be of a slightly different size).

The mad minute turned out to be extremely useful in the early stages of the Great War, when the lightly-armed British Expeditionary Force was on the defensive; the BEF's soldiers could put up a tremendous, murderous volume of fire against advancing close-formation German troops, many of whom reported that they were facing machine-guns. The upper limits of aimed fire in the mad minute were 30-35 rounds per minute, slightly more than one round every two seconds, including the time taken to cycle the bolt and stuff several clips into the rifle.

Here is probably the best-documented methodology available, but most of the documents & records from the period are destroyed so even this is speculative! Remember this was a "set up" World Record attempt, so there was a lot of manipulation & setup involved!

Targets

On military ranges, where most full-bore shoots take place, targets are chosen according to the distance and course of fire. The most commonly used target is known as a Figure 11. This is 44 inches high by 17 inches wide and depicts a charging infantry soldier.

The drill happened during WW1 so we can assume it was done from a trench standing with the rifle supported on a sandbag. A bench & bag is a reasonable substitute if you don't feel like digging a bloody great hole in the range firing line!

Load up at least 8 chargers with 5 rounds each!

The rifle is not slung & (this is vital) the buttstock never leaves the shoulder. Resist the temptation to "look at the bullets going in". Use tension from the left forearm to keep the buttplate in position firmly pressed into the shoulder pocket throughout. Try to keep the muzzle pointed at the bullseye as well, this is why the positioning setup is so important, the rifle should recover from recoil almost naturally if you do it right.

The bolt operation is done by butting the bolt knob in the bent right hand's "trigger finger" & held in place by the right thumb. That finger/thumb never leave the bolt handle, except when grabbing another loaded charger from the right front of the shooter's position. The second finger is used for the trigger operation exclusively. If you get it set up just right (which needs practice) you'll find as the bolt is "whipped sharply" into the closed & locked position the second finger presses the trigger without you doing anything except keeping it rigid. This takes a bit of practice but is almost instinctive when you get it down pat.

 

Now you're set up here's the actual firing drill.

 

Get prone or benched & rested & set up position so you naturally point at the life sized silhouette target at 300yds. (You can use a reduced size one at 100yds if you like.)

LOAD 11 rounds. (2 chargers & one "up the spout").

Fire 6 rounds as quickly as you can re-acquire the target. Time (1 Minute) starts here at the sound of the first shot.

Breathe!

You have fired 6 rounds & have 5 rounds left, DO NOT close the bolt on round #7, just whack in a charger with 5 more rounds & snap the bolt forward to eject the empty clip.

You have 10 rounds loaded.

Fire 6 rounds as quickly as you can re-acquire the target.

Breathe.

Keep repeating the "fire 6, charge 5" until either the minute is up or you run out of bullets after 38 rounds fired! Once you’ve fully emptied the magazine (assuming you’re still going) just dump in 5-round chargers & fire them off to complete the one minute time frame.

If you fire 38 congratulations you beat Sergeant Instructor Alfred Snoxall’s World Record! Most can fire 15~20 aimed shots in a minute with just a day or two's practice, but the world record set in 1914 was 38!

Some rules for the course:

From Small Arms Training Volume No1, pamphlet No1.

No sling is permitted.

Pp28, 27, I

No sighting shots permitted

Pp28, 27, ii

Misfires. If the cap is proven struck round replaced & time to use allowed.

Pp28, 27, iv(a)

Forfeiture of rounds: Failure to fire in time is scored as “miss”

Pp28, 27, v

Firing after time allotted. Highest possible score for round is deducted.

Pp28, 27, vi

 

“Rested” is a sandbag supporting the forearm & wrist, no contact with weapon.

Pp28, 28, (a).

Now I'm not claiming this is the perfect dead nutz on 100% accurate "Manual of Arms" for the Mad Minute, but if anyone wants to try it its a good starting point culled from several sources.
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bear43 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2016 at 5:29pm
Thanks for putting this together, Shamu! All this information is invaluable and I for one am copying and saving and printing for future reference.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Von Gruff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2016 at 8:19pm
This is a chap on another forum I visit who has done a video on the mad minute. Rob is a guy who is as authentic in everything he does so I would expect this is very close to the original method.
 
This is his second attempt.
 
Von Gruff

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pukka Bundook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2016 at 8:48pm
Very good Shamu,
 
Only one point I want to bring up;
 
In the book, "The Elements of Rifle Shooting" by Major J.A. Barlow, (West Yorkshire Reg't)
 
 
Major Barlow teaches rapid fire  using the normal or index finger to fire the rifle.  He states that 30 to 35 aimed shots can be got off in one minute, in this manner. 
 
I believe that "holding the bolt" is a newer idea, not taught at this time, as it was viewed as most important to renew the vise-like grip with the right hand for accuracy's sake.
Major Barlow insisted  that the thumb must wrap around the grip in the usual manner.
 
So! If we get good at doing it with the "short-cuts", we can then humble ourselves and try it as it was taught by the good Major, between 1932 and 1941.  (These dates are the dates of editions of his book)
 
Major Barlow was no theorist, being winner of the Army Championship, 1930 & 31, The King's Medal, 1930,
Queen Mary's Prize, 1924, King's prize  1934 & '38.
Also a member of the Army Rifle V111, in 1924, 1926, to 1934, 1936 to 1939.
 
Well worth a read, In fact, worth it's weight in gold I would say. Not too hard to find either!
 
Best,
Richard.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pukka Bundook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2016 at 9:04pm
Gary,
 
Rob always does a Fantastic job, but in this clip  uses a rest, and the original was taught with no rest.
I have tried it, and believe me, it is a Lot harder without the rest!....the butt can at times slip from the shoulder. Also the bolt manipulation is the way Shamu mentions, not the way it was actually taught at the time.
Not knocking Rob's presentation, and in actual combat, a rest would be taken wherever possible.
 
I remember as a kid seeing a British Sargeant  firing at a German helmet with his  No 4, at 400 yds, and he shot it full of holes rapid fire.  He too held the bolt as Shamu mentions, and as Rob demonstrated.
I don't know when the manipulation of the bold changed, or if it never did officially. All I know is it wasn't the approved method in and after the Great War, or right up to 1939.
 
Best,
Richard.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hybridfiat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2016 at 6:01am
My grandfather taught me the mad minute' as an 8yr old. He drilled the technique in, especially the fore finger and thumb. Granddad was a regular soldier before the war started and was with the BEF in France and fought in the rearguard action at Dunkirk then Nth Africa and Italy.
I practice the method with blank rounds. As live rounds are dammed expensive.
 I find my No4 Mk1 a lot slower than the No1 Mk3s we used as cadets. Probably the action is too new, too unused, whereas the No1s were polished smooth. Re-acquiring the sights is easier with the No4. A grippy butt plate would be really nice.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2016 at 6:29am
I'm not sure of the bolt handling as practiced officially. Sometimes "Field Expedient Techniques" are adopted by the squaddies even though it may not be "the way God & The RSM did it, the right way".
I do remember my grandfather (who was an RSM in the 13th Gloucesters), teaching me two things. Firstly you never "palm the bolt" with the Lee Enfield, that's a Mauser/P14 technique that will get the ball of your thumb sliced neatly by the rear sight edge, & secondly to use the middle finger in rapid fire ONLY. You still used the crooked index finger & thumb bolt knob grip, but "unhooked" it to fire in slow & timed fire.
Incidentally we were taught specifically to NOT grip the wrist of the stock at all firmly! We were taught to use the Left hand & arm to grasp the forend & pull it tightly into the shoulder pocket to position & sight. One exercise was to intentionally release the right hand completely (holding it up so the instructor could see it was away from the stock) while checking our Point Of Aim hadn't changed.

 
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pukka Bundook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2016 at 7:04am
Shamu,
 
What you describe regarding how to hold the rifle, (loose right hand) is Exactly what was taught in the manuals in Major Barlow's day.
What He presents, is Not the official way of doing things, and in the book he presents a very good case for why we should alter our technique.
(backed up by him being successful with it as well!)
He did follow the "party line" regarding bolt /trigger manipulation, but had differing ideas on how to improve our scores in other areas, sight picture and such.
If you get a chance, pick up the book and have a read.  it Does help no-end!
 
Best,
Richard.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2016 at 8:30am
I'm not sure why but this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IjG1SUh5ak
Is blocked from viewing in the USA???
Not any more apparently as of 8/3/2019

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2016 at 8:35am
I found this, a different take with a bit more info while poking about for more "stuff":

"An alternate view & definition.

At the turn of the century the British Army was the most professional in the world with each soldier trained to be an expert marksman.   The Mad Minute itself is arguably a myth surrounded by myth, its proper name was Serial 22, Table B of the Musketry Regulations classification course of fire. Which instructed a soldier to fire rapidly into a distant target with 15 rounds being a target. However, this was not a requirement as the rifleman’s scores were calculated by aggregate with the other stages of the classification. The exercise of firing as many rounds as possible was probably a challenge set for fun to encourage pride in marksmanship and to see just how many rounds it was possible to fire in a minute. During the musketry classifications shoots of recruits and again shot each year by all infantrymen, engineers and cavalrymen to gauge how good of a shot they were. 

The classification shoot was shot in several stages shot out to 600 yards, the various stages or serials were laid out in Table B, Appendix II in the Musketry Regulations Pt.1,  these included grouping with 5 rounds at 100 yards, snap shooting with 5 rounds out at 200 yards, two 5 round stages fired slowly with the first at 400 yards from the prone position and another at 300 yards from kneeling.   Then came the so called ‘Mad Minute’ stage fired from prone at a target 300 yards out.   This was to be fired with 5 rounds loaded - 1 in the chamber and 4 in the magazine, the rifleman would then reload with 5-round chargers firing until 60 seconds had elapsed.  The target used for this stage was the Second Class figure target which was a 4 foot screen with a 12 inch high figure silhouette at the centre surrounded by two rings, a 23 inch inner ring and a 36 inch outer ring.   This stage was then followed by three final stages fired from prone out to 500 and 600 yards. 

The first and confirmed record for the most hits on target during a ’Mad Minute’  was set by Sgt-Major Jesse Wallingford - 36 hits at 300 yards in 1 minute in 1908.  However, this was allegedly bettered in 1914, by Sergeant-Instructor Alfred Snoxall with 38 hits within the 24 inch inner ring in 60 seconds.  It has not been beaten since although there is little documentary evidence of the feat readily available. This means Snoxall must have averaged around 1.5 seconds per shot to hit the target 38 times in a minute. Quite a feat.

Each man to shoot the classification course was allotted points for where each round hit - 4 points for a ‘bull’ figure hit, 3 for a hit in the inner ring and 2 points for an outer ring hit.  Troops could be classified as follows: Marksman (with at least 130 points out of 200 across the classification), 1st Class (105-130 points), 2nd Class and 3rd Class (sub-standard).  The majority of British troops, even cavalry, were excellent marksman with 50% of troops in some battalions scored as Marksman with the rest being 1st and 2nd class shots."


Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote A square 10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2016 at 4:07pm
that looked fun shy the snow , 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2016 at 6:09am
Och Aye snow in a kilt! No wonder the Scots can be "dour"Evil Smile
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote paddyofurniture Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2016 at 7:10am
Originally posted by Shamu Shamu wrote:

Och Aye snow in a kilt! No wonder the Scots can be "dour"Evil Smile


Do not forget your wee brechs of you will never get by the inspection mirror.
Always looking for military manuals, Dodge M37 items,books on Berlin Germany, old atlases ( before 1946) , military maps of Scotland. English and Canadian gun parts.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2016 at 9:00am
Today we mourn the passing of Hamish McTavish, inventor of the world's first oil-fired centrally heated kilt. His fate is unknown but he was last seen plunging into Loch Lomond with smoke pouring from his sporran!
Embarrassed
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2019 at 3:21pm
-=*** UPDATE ***=-
(Target info.)
The “Second Class Figure Target” was 48" square (approximately 1.2 x 1.2 meters), with 24” inner (61 cm) and 36” magpie (92 cm) circles. The aiming mark was a 12” x 12” (30 x 30 cm) silhouette figure that represented the outline of the head of a man aiming a rifle from a trench. Points were scored by a hit anywhere on the target.


Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Honkytonk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2019 at 3:46pm
Shamu. Assuming the "Mad Minute" was invented by the British, why is the officer in your target wearing a peaked cap and khaki?
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