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Discussion Starter #1
I recently had a SMLE #1 Mk3 rebuilt. The rifle is a bit of a blitzer with parts ranging from 1915 on up to the 20's. The barrel is from the 50s and was still in the grease when I bought it. I am currently looking for any info on armorers State-side that know this rifle. My gunsmith did an excellent job getting the rifle put back together, but I am questioning the head space on it. He doesn't work on 303s and probably only did what he did since I am a friend of his son.

When I finally got it to the range, the first shot was with Remington factory loads and I had total case separation. After clearing the broken shell I returned to the range with handloads I worked up (174gr Woodleigh on top of IMR 4064 @ 4 different weights & 215 gr Woodleigh on top of 35 grs of IMR 4064). The rifle fired without breaking any shells, but all but one had high primers and a few pierced primers. Granted these were all unfired Winchester brass.

I just want to find somebody that knows these guns well enough to give it a once over before I sink the money into the headspace gauges & firing pin gauge to check it myself.

Thanks.
 

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If memory serves that rifle used something like five different bolt heads of different length to achieve the correct headspacing. Suspect you would need to measure the distance between breach face and bolt head then order the correct bolt head length required for headspace.. Likely would have too locate a source for those bolt heads--possibly Numrich Arms.
 

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If memory serves that rifle used something like five different bolt heads of different length to achieve the correct headspacing. Suspect you would need to measure the distance between breach face and bolt head then order the correct bolt head length required for headspace.. Likely would have too locate a source for those bolt heads--possibly Numrich Arms.
Good advice!

This is still .303Brit, right? Make your own headspace guage: cut a small piece of soda can into 3 disks the diameter of the case rim. Now try one stuck on a sized case - you can use grease to hold it in place while you attempt to close the bolt. Now try two at once, then three at once while you attempt to close the bolt. Each shim is approximately .004" thick, so you can tell "how far off" the headspace is by adding shims until the bolt is difficult to close. My No.4MkI will barely close on one shim.

Also, since you reload, you can custom-size your brass to alleviate headspace by partial sizing as follows:

1. Expand the necks of new brass to 8mm or so.
2. Back your sizing die out at least one full turn.
3. Size a case & try in your rifle.
4. When the case will chamber, screw die in an additional 1/8th turn and lock it down.

I notice you're using premium bullets - I'd recommend cast bullets to fire-form cases, or lighter loads using bulk bullets like Remingtons. Also if it fails the "three-shim-test" by easily closing - straight to a gunsmith!
 

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Sounds like crazydave isn't so crazy, afterall! Good advice for determining your headspace needs and how to compensate by proper brass sizing.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks guys. If I remember right the #4 Mk 1 was the design with multiple bolt heads. As far as my rifle is concerned, I am more concerned about the chamber being long, if that is possible. I'll try the pop can idea. That should check for a long chamber.

Once I get this figured out, I will probably run into problems with the front sight. If I need a different sight height, where could I get it? Numerich only lists one, but I think they made 5 or 6 different heights during the war.

Thanks for the input. I'll keep it posted here.
 

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It depends

The Enfield No. 4 Mark I of WWI fame used numbered bolt heads to correct headspace. The No. 1 Mark III Enfield of WWI and WWII did not. Adjusting the resizing die is probably the best way to deal with headspace issues. All the best...
Gil
 

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You can load a case tying some fishing line or something just before the rim of the case , so you can just close the bolt . When the case is fired , it is tight up against the bolt and the shoulder forms to the chamber . Then just neck size the blown out to chamber case .
So your fireforming the case to the rifle .

You also could just part size the Neck almost to the shoulder , then putting it through the action , neck sizing the case just enough to close the bolt comfortably . this creates a false shoulder on the case keeping the case rim tight against the bolt and again you have a case to fit your chamber . then again neck size and back off a bit more on your reloads .
So again your sizing on the shoulder instead of the rim
Hope this helps !!
I would think the smith who put your rifle together would have head spaced the action when he screwed the barrel on the action . Maybe the barrel needs yet a part of a turn to correct the head space . Talk to the Man.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I think the gunsmith did very little after I had to start pestering him when he still had my gun 6 months later. I don't intend to take anything back to him after this.

There is a local shop I have heard about from some folks. It sounds like the smith is a bit of an old school armorer, so I might swing by there to see what he can do.

If he has to ream the chamber, I might switch it up to the .303 Epps (aka British Improved) if I can get the reamer from Pacific Tool and Gauge.
 

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Forget about the Epps improved ( this was Grampa Epps design from Ontario Canada ) Your gun will not stand up to the pressure . The Modify is approved starting with the Mark 4 with medium Loadings and full load for the P14- if sound .
The 303 Epps follows PO Ackney design somewhat, and thus with the extra space for powder , your close to the performance of the 3006.
Ream that gun of yours --- "Dearly beloved we are gathered Here"
 

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If I recall correctly, Enfield rifles in .303 Brit headspace on the rim, not the shoulder. That would mean that advice given above to shim a piece of unfired brass to discover what the headspace actually is, and then to find a bolt face of the proper length to adjust it, is correct.

My understanding is that Enfield chambers are cut deliberately long so that the rifle will still function reliably under the mud and crud of combat conditions. Compare cases from commercial ammunition before and after firing and you should see that the shoulders on the fired cases have been blown noticeably forward. This is normal and intended behavior. Adjusting the sizing die in the attempt to fix a headspace problem with this round and rifle will therefore not succeed because headspace is on the rim, like the 30-30.

It may be possible to improve the accuracy of handloaded ammunition and to increase the service life of brass by adjusting the sizing die to your rifle's ( long ) chamber, but this is a different matter. You can do it by smoking the shoulder of a case fired in your gun with a candle. Then lube the case and start with your sizing die adjusted 'way out. Run the case up into the die and look to see if the smoke on the shoulder has been disturbed. Advance the die in increments until it just touches the shoulder. When it just does, lock the die down and proceed. Bear in mind, however, that this will change the volume of the case, so choose your loads with that in mind.

This method of setting the sizing die will work with any bottleneck case. Just be sure to set the die with cases fired in your gun, not someone else's.

If I have misunderstood what was said above, I apologize.

Best,

Trad
 

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If I recall correctly, Enfield rifles in .303 Brit headspace on the rim, not the shoulder. That would mean that advice given above to shim a piece of unfired brass to discover what the headspace actually is, and then to find a bolt face of the proper length to adjust it, is correct.

My understanding is that Enfield chambers are cut deliberately long so that the rifle will still function reliably under the mud and crud of combat conditions. Compare cases from commercial ammunition before and after firing and you should see that the shoulders on the fired cases have been blown noticeably forward. This is normal and intended behavior. Adjusting the sizing die in the attempt to fix a headspace problem with this round and rifle will therefore not succeed because headspace is on the rim, like the 30-30.

It may be possible to improve the accuracy of handloaded ammunition and to increase the service life of brass by adjusting the sizing die to your rifle's ( long ) chamber, but this is a different matter. You can do it by smoking the shoulder of a case fired in your gun with a candle. Then lube the case and start with your sizing die adjusted 'way out. Run the case up into the die and look to see if the smoke on the shoulder has been disturbed. Advance the die in increments until it just touches the shoulder. When it just does, lock the die down and proceed. Bear in mind, however, that this will change the volume of the case, so choose your loads with that in mind.

This method of setting the sizing die will work with any bottleneck case. Just be sure to set the die with cases fired in your gun, not someone else's.

If I have misunderstood what was said above, I apologize.

Best,

Trad
Yes normally the 303 like the 30/30 would head space on the rim . Since we have a problem and the case is now being stretched we can move the shoulder forward so the case is now not moving back and forth in the chamber . The case will become thin usually about a quarter of an inch above the rim . You will see a shinny ring at this location then , if the case has not already spit .
This trick has also been used in some of the older Savage 99's that develped a head space problem .
You move the die so it partly sizes the neck then see if you can close the bolt . Not touching the shoulder Your given the case neck a false shoulder to space on.So you part size the neck install it in the rifle a bit at the time until you can just close the bolt with out a lot of resistance
You just need to hold the case up against the bolt when the round is fired and the shoulder forms to the longer chamber .
Then from there the case is formed to the chamber and you neck size the case , not moving the shoulder back to where you started .
Many loaders also use this method to get a Mag case to head space on the shoulder instead of the belt at the bottom of the case .
Hope it now clear what we are trying to do.:)
 

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It depends

I have been reloading for various .303 British Enfields for a lot of years. Many of them were long in the tooth regarding the chamber and badly stretched cases. I partially resized the cases exactly as Harry as described. True, the headspace condition still existed, but the cases fit the chamber and the effects of the problem are reduced.

The best .303s for case life I have encountered were the P-14 Enfields that have forward locking lugs and are more gentle on the cases. Take care...
Oberndorf
 

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You move the die so it partly sizes the neck then see if you can close the bolt . Not touching the shoulder Your given the case neck a false shoulder to space on.So you part size the neck install it in the rifle a bit at the time until you can just close the bolt with out a lot of resistance

You just need to hold the case up against the bolt when the round is fired and the shoulder forms to the longer chamber .
[ .... ]
Hope it now clear what we are trying to do.:)
Yes, Harry, and thank you for the explanation.

What concerns me is that this procedure leaves the head of the case insufficiently supported, another way of saying "excessive headspace." Clearly some, at least, on the forum have been using this procedure without mishap, but it is still possible, perhaps likely, that a case may fail as happened to the initiator of this thread using Remington factory loads. I still feel that the best and safest approach is to start by fixing the headspace problem. Then adjust your sizing die to get the cases to fill the chamber, if desired. "Stretching" your cases to get them to go off in spite of a headspace problem doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

Just my $0.02. :)

Best,

Trad
 

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Blowing out the front of the case by this method is how the improved cases are formed.
Once you have fireformed a case to your chamber your good to go .
Yes! head space if very excessive should be addressed . I would want to know where it's at , but this is a way to safely deal with the problem.
 

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Good advice!

This is still .303Brit, right? Make your own headspace guage: cut a small piece of soda can into 3 disks the diameter of the case rim. Now try one stuck on a sized case - you can use grease to hold it in place while you attempt to close the bolt. Now try two at once, then three at once while you attempt to close the bolt. Each shim is approximately .004" thick, so you can tell "how far off" the headspace is by adding shims until the bolt is difficult to close. My No.4MkI will barely close on one shim.

Also, since you reload, you can custom-size your brass to alleviate headspace by partial sizing as follows:

1. Expand the necks of new brass to 8mm or so.
2. Back your sizing die out at least one full turn.
3. Size a case & try in your rifle.
4. When the case will chamber, screw die in an additional 1/8th turn and lock it down.

I notice you're using premium bullets - I'd recommend cast bullets to fire-form cases, or lighter loads using bulk bullets like Remingtons. Also if it fails the "three-shim-test" by easily closing - straight to a gunsmith!
the headspace system is fine on a mauser,but on a 303 the extractor groove is cut to the shoulder specs.if you turn .005 to 008" off the shoulder,to effect headspace,your groove will not line up--hence the a,b.c.d.bolt heads on a 303 as cited by"hailstone"who was all ready on to it. hope this helps.this is not the only way to get correct headspace.
 

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Blowing out the front of the case by this method is how the improved cases are formed.
Once you have fireformed a case to your chamber your good to go .
Yes! head space if very excessive should be addressed . I would want to know where it's at , but this is a way to safely deal with the problem.
a 303 headspaces on the rim,ie bolt face to rim face.if the shoulder is pushed forward as in a rimless case,the shell will buldge at the bolt face. the clearance between rim and face must be reduced by using the 4 different factory bolt bodies. once that is set correctly,then the brass will fireform to the chamber 100%.
 

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a 303 headspaces on the rim,ie bolt face to rim face.if the shoulder is pushed forward as in a rimless case,the shell will buldge at the bolt face. the clearance between rim and face must be reduced by using the 4 different factory bolt bodies. once that is set correctly,then the brass will fireform to the chamber 100%.
This is the point I was trying to make. Fireforming a case in a rifle of this type with excessive headspace does nothing to solve the headspace problem. The originator of this thread had a factory round let go in his rifle. That tells me there is a serious headspace problem that should be seen to before shooting it again.

Best,

Trad
 

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the headspace system is fine on a mauser,but on a 303 the extractor groove is cut to the shoulder specs.if you turn .005 to 008" off the shoulder,to effect headspace,your groove will not line up--hence the a,b.c.d.bolt heads on a 303 as cited by"hailstone"who was all ready on to it. hope this helps.this is not the only way to get correct headspace.
I never said "turn off" anything. Please read my post before replying to a "headspace-check" post with a "barrel setback & timing" post. Thank you.
 

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This is the point I was trying to make. Fireforming a case in a rifle of this type with excessive headspace does nothing to solve the headspace problem. The originator of this thread had a factory round let go in his rifle. That tells me there is a serious headspace problem that should be seen to before shooting it again.

Best,

Trad
I agree - that's why he needs to know how far off headspace is. As I said - "if it fails the 3-shims check" - straight to the gunsmith!

I'm thinking it'll fail the test. But section some solid-webbed brass sometime and see just how far up from the rim the solid part is. Divide that distance in half & that's how far a straight case can be "formed to fit." A tapered case like the Brit? Maybe 1/3rd that depth. I personally like to stay within 1/4 or less, i.e. "3 soda-can-shims" or less.

Ya'll do what you want. And "when in doubt - go to a reputable 'smith!"
 

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headspace

I never said "turn off" anything. Please read my post before replying to a "headspace-check" post with a "barrel setback & timing" post. Thank you.
the machinning of the shoulder was to demonstrate how a rimless is headspaced,and was not written to imply that you said it. i should of expressed myself better maybe.the bit about going to enlarge the neck and and back the the die off works to a degree with rimless cases as they headspace between the centerline of the shoulder and bolt to brass face. this doesnt work on rimless cases as you are trying to correct bolt face to rim face.yes the shell will move backwards to give zero clearance but you have created a space between the inner rim face surface to barrel rebate for the rim. this leaves a sect of the tapered brass shell un supported and will create a bulge at the rim juction or rupture the case if excessive.with 303 barrels having the exractor groove pre cut in most cases,the best way is to change the bolt face to suit the shims you fitted to gauge the amount needed.i had many of these as spares years ago and assume you could still find them around. thats why the poms made them.from memory i think they went up in .003" increments.-cheers.
 
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