Sub Target Rifle Machine

Rare rifle survives from a Sub Target Rifle Machine.


There are some objects we handle here at Wilson55 Auctioneers that are so rare, you may never see one again on the open market. This rifle from a Sub Target machine is one of them.

BSA Lee Speed rifle. 

The exceptionally rare BSA Lee Speed .303 bolt action rifle which appears in our 7th February 2024 Firearms auction is a rare survivor from a 'Sub Target Rifle Machine'. Of standard Long Lee Enfield specifications with 30 inch barrel, the rifle is fitted with a metal frame allowing it to be connected to the Sub Target machine. 


Sub Target Rifle Machine Lee Enfield

The Sub Target Rifle Machine was an invention by the American Henry Havelock Cummings of Boston. It was built under licence in Britain as an instructional aid to improve the accuracy of shooting and was part of a larger plan under Lord Robert's supervision to improve the general marksmanship of fighting-age adults. This was based on lessons learned during the Boer Wars. The Boers, being farmers who relied on marksmanship to hunt and eat, far outshot the average British soldier.

Sub Target Rifle Machine Lee Enfield

The Sub Target Machine. 

The sub target machine was intended to allow an instructor to observe where the pupil was aiming as well as demonstrating where the shot landed on the target. The rifle was mounted to the machine by the metal frame on the side of the rifle and electrical cord. The pupil took the weight of the rifle and every move the rifle made was translated through the machine and replicated to a needle pointing (like a firing pin at a primer) onto a miniaturised card version of the target the pupil was aiming at.

Sub Target Rifle Machine Lee Enfield

Upon squeezing the trigger, the hammer of the bolt moves forward in a normal manner, depressing a plunger mounted to the side of the action triggering an electronic signal as well as firing the cartridge. This signal transmits to the Sub Target machine’s needle which rushes forward and punctures the small paper ‘sub target’ demonstrating where the shot has landed.

One of the benefits of the machine was that it could be used with blanks or no ammunition at all, it still produced a miniature sample target with corresponding holes. The machine could be used standing, kneeling or prone. 

Sub Target Rifle Machine Lee Enfield

No sub target machines are known to exist, only illustrations of them. The rifle included in our sale is the only other one we know of to exist outside of the Leeds Royal Armouries.



Should you have any items you would like to sell in one of our Firearms, Arms and Militaria sales we would be pleased to hear from you. For more information please contact Chris Large on 01270 623878 or email



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