Bren Magazines and the Charlton Rifle

We see it a lot – folks wanting to convert their Enfield rifle to use 30-round Bren gun magazines. And it’s often a bit difficult to convince them of the complexity of doing so, because they will often point to a photo of a Charlton with what appears to be a Bren mag. Well, the Charltons didn’t use Bren mags, but instead a proprietary mag based on the Bren but with significantly different geometry at the top.

We are fortunate that Gundoc in New Zealand kindly sent us photos of TWO of the (very, very few) existing original Charlton magazines produced in Australia.One is still in its original configuration as made in the factory (which didn’t quite fit the guns) and a second has been fitted to actually run in a New Zealand Charlton:

Bren and Charlton magazine comparison
From left to right,standard Bren magazine, unfinished Charlton magazine made in Australia, and completed Charlton magazine

As I mentioned in the recent post on the Charlton Automatic Rifle, the magazines were subcontracted to an Australia firm that already made Bren magazines. A new stamping die was made so the magazines would fit the significantly shorter Enfield receiver magazine well (note how the bolt hold-open feature of the Bren follower and body has been removed). Converting a Bren magazine into this configuration would definitely be a non-trivial exercise.

The Australian magazines arrived slightly out of spec to fit the Charlton guns, though, and had to be modified. You can see above where the unfinished magazines was ground down where the case shoulder of the top cartridge would be located. The back surface of the magazine also had to be ground down, although that is not visible in the above photo. Whether the magazines arrived from Australia with short rear catches an no front catches, I am not sure.

Charlton Automatic Rifle 30-round magazine details
Charlton Automatic Rifle 30-round magazine details

Thanks for the photos, Gundoc! Aside from the magazines actually in the handful of Charltons in museum collections, this is probably the only surviving example of its kind.

Also, before someone mentions it, some of the Enfield semiauto conversions probably used extended 20-round trench magazines made for WWI use. Since those were made for standard Enfield receivers, they will fit the converted guns without any problem. We have seen a Howell equipped this way, although we don’t know if that was its original configuration or if the mag was added by a private owner.