The Lithgow Model 12 Repeater

By Anthony Mitchell

Considered by many to be an Australian classic, the Lithgow Model 12 was a bolt action rifle chambered for the .22LR cartridge. The Model 12 was made by the Lithgow Small Arms Factory and marketed by Slazenger in the post-war period.

The Commonwealth Government established the Lithgow Small Arms Factory in 1912. The main purpose was to manufacture the Lee-Enfield .303 rifle, this being the service rifle used throughout the British Empire at the time. 

Using machinery sourced from Pratt & Whitney in the USA, the first Lee-Enfield rolled off the production line in 1912. The last Lee-Enfields left the factory in 1956.

One of the problems with running a factory is matching output with demand, and arms factories are no exception. During the period between the two world wars, the factory produced a variety of commercial goods in addition to its core products. These included items such as sewing machines, sheep shearing equipment and handcuffs. The government was keen to keep the factory ticking over to maintain skills. Also, in the post-war period, there was an effort to boost local production across a range of fields, limiting the amount of money spent on imports. To this end, SAF Lithgow entered into a partnership with Slazenger in 1944 to manufacture firearms for the civilian market. These were:

  • A single-shot .22 rifle (Model 1, 1A & 1B. Produced from 1945)
  • A bolt action .22 repeater (Model 12 & Model 55. Produced from 1947)
  • A bolt action repeater in .22 Hornet based on a Lee-Enfield action
  • A .410 shotgun based on a Lee-Enfield action.

Approx. 220,000 single shot .22’s (Some figures say 228,000) and around 85,000 .22 repeaters were manufactured before production ceased in the early 1960’s. As they were well made of military grade materials, Lithgow .22’s gained a reputation for reliability and accuracy.

A 1958 catalogue for Mick Smith’s Sports Store lists a Slazenger single shot .22 rifle for £13/5/-, while the repeater cost £21/9/6.

The Model 12 was replaced by a shorter and lighter version called the Model 55 in 1955. The photo below is a new, unfired Model 55 in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum.

Photo courtesy of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum

Using machinery sourced from Pratt & Whitney in the USA, the first Lee-Enfield rolled off the production line in 1912. The last Lee-Enfields left the factory in 1956.

A 10 shot Bibby Magazine

The Model 12 bears a passing resemblance to the Winchester 69A, which was manufactured from 1937. Unlike the Winchester, the Model 12 does not have a magazine release catch. The Model 12 magazine is located in the magazine well by two leaf springs. The rear leaf spring has a small protrusion which mates up with a slot in the rear of the magazine. To remove the magazine, simply pull the magazine down. When replacing, simply insert the magazine until it clicks into place.

The bolt cocks on opening, while the safety catch locks the trigger. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation only, with each notch equal to 25 yards.  All Lithgow 22’s were sighted for high velocity ammunition. A single takedown screw is provided to enable the rifle to be dismantled for cleaning or storage. The black plastic butt plate bears a roundel marked “Slazengers S.A.F.”


Action:                  Bolt action Repeater

Barrel Length:      25 inches

Weight:                 2.7 Kg

Chambering:        .22LR

Magazine::            5 or 10 shot detachable box magazine

A close-up view of the Action, safety, magazine, takedown screw and rear sight.

Hopefully in the not-too-distant future I can carry out a range test.

Until next time, have a happy and safe shoot!

Further Reading:

The Lee-Enfield Story by Ian Skennerton

A Classic Rimfire – The Winchester Model 69A by Ben Gregory.  Australian Shooter, April 2009.

Lionel Hartnell Bibby – Fast and Fancy Shooting by Rod Pascoe. Australian Shooter, November 2014.

Lionel Bibby and his Colt by Rod Pascoe. Australian & New Zealand Handgun, Issue 15, November 2017.

Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum Website


The author acknowledges the assistance received from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum.

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