UK & Canadian


UK & Canadian


Boys Accessories Boys Ammunition

  .55", Boys Anti-Tank rifle. Mark 1, Mark 1*, Mark 2 (U.K. and Canada)


Picture of MK1 Boys converted to .50BMG

The. 55 inch Boys Anti Tank Rifle

The Boys Anti Tank Rifle is a large rifle with a padded butt, pistol grip, walnut cheek piece, an over-the-barrel 5 round magazine, an integrated mono-pod and oiler in the aluminium butt stock. The barrel and receiver are free to recoil approximately 1" against a large buffer spring. Early rifles had a rear sight with both a 300 yard and 500 yard setting with interchangeable sight elements, later rifles (Mk1* see picture below) were fixed at 300 yards. Designed at the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield, and named after one of its principal designers Captain Boys, this gun was the primary anti tank weapon of British infantry until it was replaced by the PIAT shaped charge weapons in 1943. Originally called the Stanchion rifle, only a couple of minor modifications such as the lengthening of the bolt handle were required before mass production started at Enfield and BSA. It was widely used in campaigns against the Axis armies in France, Greece, North Africa and China in the early part of the war. While effective against the 1930s tanks, it was - due to its bolt-action design - slow to operate and outclassed by the heavy armour on later tanks such as the PzKpfw III. The later instruction manual (1942) states the limitations of the rifle on the first page, unlike the original 1937 edition which makes no mention of the limitations. The 1942 manual also hints at future modifications that would form the MK1* and MK2 versions. Two prototype 13.2mm BESA versions of the rifle were developed, its not yet clear as to why.

In late 1939 on the outbreak of the Winter War on the Eastern Front, international sentiment was very much on the Finnish side. The British government donated two hundred Boys ATRs with the express wish that thirty of  them would be given to Swedish volunteers. The rifles were a remarkable success against Soviet tanks of pre-war design which had been built to withstand small-arms fire only.  In late 1940 Finland aquired 200 Boys ATRs from German captured stocks. The rifles were used on the front in the beginning of the Continuation War in 1941 but were gradually withdrawn by the end of 1943. It is claimed that 300 surviving examples were kept in storage until the mid Fifties when they were sold to collectors. The rifle was also phased out of service by the Commonwealth forces by December 1943 with the widespread introduction of the PIAT once ammunition became readily available. 

The rifles were also often used on 'Universal Carriers', and 2 were mounted on a 15" narrow gauge train that once ran along the south coast of England, near the FCSA's beloved Lydd ranges (actually the train still does run, but sadly without the rifles!) Check out the picture halfway down this webpage - video footage also exists .

To assist training of troops in the use of such a large calibre rifle - which exceeded most gallery range danger templates - two ingenious devices were manufactured, one being a system of brackets that enabled a .22 SMLE rifle to be attached to the right side of the rifle (as described in the 1937 Australian edition of the Small Arms Training manual), and then a much neater solution  manufactured by Parker Hale which used a piece of .22 barrel that had been machined to the external profile of a live .55 round, this contained a small 'firing plug' (striker) in the base that would transmit the central impact of the firing pin to a double edge strike required for the rimmed .22 case. Canada had a similar device made by the Cooey Machine & Arms Company, 77,000 were produced and named the "Cooey conveyor". The fired .22 case was then removed with an expeller rod. Accuracy was acceptable for the distances it was used. A picture of rubber target tanks as used with the .22 conveyor to follow soon.

The MK1* rifles were made by Inglis in Canada (see footnote) and apart from being parkerised rather then blued like the British made rifles, also incorporated a bipod rather than a mono-pod and a carrying handle, they also utilised the flat 'harmonica' muzzle break, 5 ports per side. This was a much more effective design, both in terms of recoil reduction, but also had less of a tendency to spray the shooter with dirt and dust when firing in the prone position.

The MK2 versions were lighter and had a shorter barrel, there were predominantly used in North Africa by airborne troops, very few survived.


As an interesting side note, Disney were commissioned in WW2 to produce a training film on the Boys anti-tank rifle called "Stop that Tank" in the War-time shorts series. At long last this is now available as a limited edition DVD and well worth a watch! The film starts with an animated 'comedy' Adolf Hitler driving a tank and being stopped in his tracks by the boys rifle, then goes onto film footage of a soldier loading and unloading, firing the rifle, cleaning and basic stripping.


   Left: Boys rifle with Flat muzzle break

Above: Very rare picture of an early Boys rifle and its transit box, it would appear to hold 6 or 8 magazines. This photo was sent to me with the title 'Irish soldiers training on the Boys rifle'

Above: I wouldn't recommend taking your Boys rifle on the bus in this day and age!


Above: Note the massive difference in size between the Boys bolt face (right) and the PTRD bolt face

* John Inglis Company at Long Branch, Toronto. The Inglis Company employed 17,000 workers and turned out more machine guns during the war than any other individual firm in the British Empire, a total of some half-million weapons comprising of Bren guns, Browning aircraft machine guns and 38,000 .55 calibre Boys anti-tank rifles.


Pictures of MK1* rifle (taken at the Royal Armories, Leeds UK) Note the revised non-adjustable rear sight and bipod:



Link to the Ammunition for the Boys rifle

Link to Accessories and Parts for the Boys rifle




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This site was last updated 12-Feb-2013