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Tuning a rebuilt SMLE #1 Mk 3

4762 Views 19 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  gunho1954
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.

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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.
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"
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.


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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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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