THE ACCURATERELOADING.COM FORUMS

Page 1 2 

Moderators: Mark
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
.303 Lee Enfield No. 1 MkIII* rifle
 Login/Join
 
one of us
posted
In my wanderings of late I happened across one of these gems in a local gun shop and it followed me home. I've been all over it looking hard at its condition and aside from a collection of dust over some cosmoline that was on the metal parts of the rifle it appears to be in pretty good shape. No obvious cracks where it matters, and while the stock has some scratches (which I guess we all would have if we were also 102 years old) none are deep and there are no cracks.

I've wanted to own one of these since I was an adolescent - 50 years ago - and I've finally made it.

The weapon bears a 1918 production date by the RSAF at Enfield Lock in Britain. My intention is to eventually put a few rounds down this beauty's barrel, but first I've done some research on it. Everything I've read indicates the chamber dimensions are going to be a bit large for a standard .303 cartridge - this was apparently a policy on the part of the British military to try to negate the effects of dirt, snow, or other stuff that might have stuck on ammo before it went into the chamber. Also, the books state manufacturing tolerances were not the same at all factories doing the production. For this reason everything I've read indicates if you're being careful with this heirloom you shouldn't load any brass that has been used, and should use only new manufacture brass. The reason given is the chamber dimensions reportedly lend themselves to occasional head separation on cartridges if they are consistently full-length resized. Used brass may have been FL resized a number of times before I would get my hands on it, and unless it is carefully inspected and shunted aside before being loaded I may be loading a case that will separate.

For this reason I've also ordered a broken case remover specific to the .303 cartridge, it is enroute. I also want to fire only lower-powered loads through this rifle.

Questions:
-Should commercial unfired brass fit properly into the chamber right out of the box? Otherwise I'll need to RL resize it before doing the first loading. Which leads to the next question -
-What is the best set of dies to obtain for this rifle? From the looks of it I'll need a neck-resizing die, a case mouth flaring die and a seating/crimping die for any loads after the first in my cartridges. If it fits the chamber right out of the box there's no need for a FL resizing die, but as I asked what are the odds of it fitting w/o FL resizing right out of the box?

This is the ONLY British Enfield I own, have no intentions of buying another. If the impossible happens, though - I will keep the brass segregated between the rifles.

-Best weight of bullet for a plinking load?

-Best powder to be using for a mild load.

Thanks!
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
I got my first one of at least 20, in 1966; shipped right to me; pre GCA 68, for $24.
Yes new brass will fit the chamber. Those chambers will take anything. Some aren't as big as you read. Yes the chambers might be a tad wide, but if you partially size them just enough to fit the chamber, headspacing on the shoulder, you will be ok. Just get a set of dies; there will be two; a Fl sizer and a seater/crimper.
Of course you can use fired brass; if they separate, throw them away; it is not a safety concern. Just don't over size them. Like any rifle.
Loads? Pick any starting load out of any reloading manual and use that. Any bullet you like but MKV11 ball is 174 grain. I shot a lot of cast bullets in mine way back when.
Do you know what the * model designation means? This is a test.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by dpcd:
I got my first one of at least 20, in 1966; shipped right to me; pre GCA 68, for $24.
Yes new brass will fit the chamber. Those chambers will take anything. Some aren't as big as you read. Yes the chambers might be a tad wide, but if you partially size them just enough to fit the chamber, headspacing on the shoulder, you will be ok. Just get a set of dies; there will be two; a Fl sizer and a seater/crimper.
Of course you can use fired brass; if they separate, throw them away; it is not a safety concern. Just don't over size them. Like any rifle.
Loads? Pick any starting load out of any reloading manual and use that. Any bullet you like but MKV11 ball is 174 grain. I shot a lot of cast bullets in mine way back when.
Do you know what the * model designation means? This is a test.



Ooooooh, gonna drop him into the deep end right off the bat, eh? Nothing guaranteed to turn a sane man into a jibbering idiot rocking back and forth in the corner faster than our old model designations, especially for small arms. Hope he's got some Tylenol handy...
 
Posts: 230 | Registered: 01 January 2019Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
According to the books this meant the magazine cutoff was eliminated from the weapon. It was something they did to simplify production and slightly reduce cost (they were supposed to be fairly expensive to manufacture). I can guarantee you mine does not have the cutoff. Another fascinating thing was to find out it does not have an ejector, either - unless you count the screw in the left side of the receiver that really just kicks out live ammo if you want to clear the weapon. Fired brass is ejected by a combination of force exerted on the case by the extractor - and a slight inward cant or swelling on the left side of the receiver. You can see it if you look hard. The shiny part of the inside of the swelling is where the cases rub just before they're ejected. Again, fascinating - and ingenious!
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
Right about the *.
Of course it has an ejector; that is what the little screw is called.
Very reliable battle rifle. But complicated and costly to make; way too much complex machining required; but it was British after all.
Those were made in Australia and India too. And the #4 was made in the US by Savage, and Long Branch in Canada, as well as in England.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
In university I had a one-handed logic professor, Canadian by birth, who worked at Long Branch arsenal during WWII although I have no idea what job he performed. I wish now I'd known this stuff then.
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
The LB ones were the best quality, next to Savage, but neither was being bombed....
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
I shot a lot of cast bullets in the three I own. I have found the bore diameters all over the place on mine and others. You can determine this by driving a soft lead muzzleloader ball through the bore and measuring it. My last one was so loose (.314 bore diameter) I just shot lubed/gas checked but unsized bullets as cast from the mold which luckily came out of the mold a teensy bit over .314". It did OK and I had one that was very accurate with .312 sized bullets and one that was marginal. Cast bullets are generally low pressure loads and of course very easy on the bore. All the milsurp ammo was corrosive and while not particularly something to be feared if you cleaned your gun with some surplus GI RBC it was kind of a nuisance. And of course you want to avoid the older cordite loads if you come across them...
 
Posts: 336 | Registered: 03 March 2005Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by KY Nimrod: And of course you want to avoid the older cordite loads if you come across them...


And why is that? I've got and shoot some milsurp that dates to 1945. Shoots quite well, actually. Corrosive I'm sure. Clean well after use.
 
Posts: 30 | Registered: 08 September 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
I have a few cases of MKIV ammo that is cordite. Works fine in a number of Enfields I have. Just clean with RBC or water.
Not sure why you would want to avoid it; send it to me if you think that.
Here is one of them. Most guys have not seen cordite.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
Another quiz question; how did they get all that mess of spaghetti and the wad into the case?
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
The case started out straight walled. Proper weight/amount of Cordite cut from a "rope" went in with the wad on top and the bullet on top of the wad. The cartridge was then necked and crimped.
 
Posts: 30 | Registered: 08 September 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of eagle27
posted Hide Post
Painstakingly one strand at a time, undersized wad with a drop of oil on it to expand it, 10 minutes load time per round Wink

Of course the shoulder and neck was formed after the powder and wad were inserted. Knowing the Brits, the primer was probably the last addition to finish loading a cartridge Big Grin.

Cut my teeth on the old Smelly. Interchageable bolt heads were made in slightly different lengths to take up headspace but as advised by many here, just partially size in the FL die to headspace on the shoulder.

'The' best battle rifle ever made and also not a bad game rifle too. With 10 round clip in mags which could also be loaded with charging clips, the SMLE 303 was used by Government shooters to cull hundreds of thousands of red deer, chamois and tahr here in NZ before helicopters reached our shores and took over culling duties.
I can't remember now if ears or tail but any private hunter handing in a pair of red deer ears were rewarded with 3 rounds of 303 milsurp ammo to help with the culling.
 
Posts: 2866 | Location: Nelson, New Zealand | Registered: 03 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by craig48:
quote:
Originally posted by KY Nimrod: And of course you want to avoid the older cordite loads if you come across them...


And why is that? I've got and shoot some milsurp that dates to 1945. Shoots quite well, actually. Corrosive I'm sure. Clean well after use.


Not dangerous per-se. Cordite is actually quite stable. And the smell brings me back to my days of artillery and mortar firing. But cordite burns much hotter than modern smokeless powders and has a tendency to wash out throats/bores. Not really an issue with a military during wartime. But when you are dealing with 100 year old milsurps you might want to be more careful....they aren't making them anymore! 50 years ago? Who cares. Your gun. Do what you want. I'm not afraid of corrosive primers in the least...no big deal...just clean the thing--twice mind you!
 
Posts: 336 | Registered: 03 March 2005Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
 
Posts: 3361 | Location: Sweden | Registered: 02 May 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
The hot nature of Cordite is exactly why the rifling was changed from the narrow grooved, Metford type, to the much wider, Enfield, rifling.
That is where the E in the name, SMLE came from. The rifling.
Ok, for the one guy who is wondering, the Nomenclature is Rifle: Short, Magazine, Lee, Enfield. Each word describes it.
Lee (an American) developed the rifle; the British just put the two piece stock on it, like the Martini, (also an American design; the Peabody) England did put the internal striker in it.
Another tidbit; the first Lee rifles were made by the Sharps company; after they went bankrupt in about 1880, Remington took over. Those had one piece stocks.
For the amounts most of us will shoot, and I am down to 4000 rounds for ten rifles, I doubt it will hurt them.
Oh, on the bolt heads, only the #4 has the numbered heads to adjust headspace. The #1s don't.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
The video is fine but quite annoyingly, he insists on calling them, "guns", which they aren't.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Good one. My only experience of this stuff was vicariously via my father who used similar powder in artillery pieces, in silk bags, and whose description of it exactly matches the material in the photo. Only thing I can think of is it was inserted down the case mouth/neck via machinery before bullet seating.
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
It was inserted as Craig said; before the case was necked; otherwise you couldn't get the rope of cordite and the wad, in.
As for the propellant used in US Artillery; it was, and is, nothing like Cordite used in small arms ammo.
(One of my jobs was Tank ammunition management for AMCCOM; (now JMC), on RIA. )
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Cordite powder contained as much nitroglycerine as many fast burning pistol powder have today. And cordite powder was banned from machine gun use due to excessive barrel wear and short barrel life.

As stated above the cordite was placed in the case and then the case shoulder and neck were formed. In 1914 the Enfield chamber had to be reamed larger in diameter and longer to the chamber s shoulder. This was due to an ammunition scandal over who was awarded contracts to make the poorly made ammunition that would not chamber in standard chambers.

Below is a new Remington case in a Wilson case gauge and the rim is keeping the case from dropping further into the gauge.



Below is a fired case in the Wilson gauge and the case shoulder is resting on the gauges shoulder. This shows how much further forward the shoulder on the Enfield rifle is than American SAAMI standards.



This means if you full length resize the case and do not let the case headspace on its shoulder you will have short case life.

Below on a Enfield rifle at the max headspace of .074 and with a rim thickness of .058 you will have .016 head clearance. Meaning if full length resized you will have short case life and case head separations. So it is best to neck size or only partially full length resize and not touch the shoulder.





Below you can use a small rubber o-rings or the rubber bands used for teeth braces for fire forming. This will hold the case against the bolt face and prevent case stretching and thinning in the base web area.



Below I'm using rubber o-rings and 100 grain .312 pistol bullets for fire forming cases.



 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
So the best way to determine case length is to just mike every one of them instead of using an "insert" gauge as one would for a rimless cartridge?
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by SSI01:
So the best way to determine case length is to just mike every one of them instead of using an "insert" gauge as one would for a rimless cartridge?


When you feel resistance closing the bolt it is time to bump the case shoulder back .001 or .002. I use a .303 British case forming die to push the case shoulder back. This die is over sized and does not size the case body or neck.

I use the Hornady cartridge case headspace gauge to measure the fired cases. I then set the die up for minimum shoulder bump.

Below is a factory loaded Winchester .303 British that was only fired once. The rifle had the headspace set at slightly under .067 and the case stretched .009.

 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
I ask because my intention is to full-length resize whatever brass I get (used, anyway) just one time, upon purchase - and then go neck resizing from there on.

If I'm understanding your photos of the case position in the case length gauge, the upper photo shows a case that is too short by half; the lower photo shows a properly-sized case, but my question is - in the lower photo, the case shoulder ALONE is holding the rim above the top of the size gauge. If a case is stretched in length and needs trimming, the head will stick up farther than shown in the lower photo? Am I guessing right?
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
bigrd - where does one obtain such a die?
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by SSI01:
I ask because my intention is to full-length resize whatever brass I get (used, anyway) just one time, upon purchase - and then go neck resizing from there on.

If I'm understanding your photos of the case position in the case length gauge, the upper photo shows a case that is too short by half; the lower photo shows a properly-sized case, but my question is - in the lower photo, the case shoulder ALONE is holding the rim above the top of the size gauge. If a case is stretched in length and needs trimming, the head will stick up farther than shown in the lower photo? Am I guessing right?


You do not want to full length resize and set the die up per the instructions. If you do you will have case head separations.

You size the case like a belted magnum and let the case headspace on its shoulder. This way you only have .001 or .002 head clearance.

Its been too long and I can't remember where I ordered the case forming gauge. Just Google .303 British case forming and trim die.

This does not mean you can not just use a standard full length die to bump the case shoulder.
 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Below on the left is a new unfired case showing the shoulder location compared to a fired case.

The Winchester case on the far right was full length resized twice and started to separate.




The best cases to get for reloading are Prvi Partizan cases. They have thicker rims, have a larger base diameter, and are .010 thicker in the base.

Below both thes .303 cases were fired in the same No.4 Enfield rifle. And you can see the Prvi cases are made closer to military standards, like 7.62 Lake City cases.

 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
OK, will start looking them up.
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
I'll cruise YouTube looking for something that shows how to resize a belted magnum case.
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
What you need to understand is military headspace was min .064 and max is .074.

So even at the minimum headspace of .064 and a rim thickness of .058 you still have .006 head clearance. And most reloaders only want .001 to .002 shoulder bump. And when the cartridge is chambered you would have .001 to .002 head clearance. Meaning how far the case much stretch to contact the bolt face. And .001 to .002 is well within the elastic limits of the brass and not stretch.

 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
I want to follow through on your advice but before I do that I want to know what condition the piece's bore is in (I mean, is it washed out or still usefully accurate). I realize there are variations in Mk IIIs due to various manufacturers plus how difficult a service life they led.

A posting I've seen from an English gunsmith relating to No 1 Mk IIIs says if you can find a .303 drill round and insert the projectile point first into the muzzle you should note how far into the barrel the round travels before the movement stops. He says about 1/4" of projectile remaining visible at that point indicates the bore should still be usefully accurate. I've already had some hard looks down the bore, noted no corrosion or pitting. What is your determination of this method? I wanted to give that a shot before slugging the barrel to determine its true dimensions. Question: Can I use a lead projectile - like a wadcutter, or a reversed lead bullet for a weapon with a caliber or bore close to the .303 to slug it with? You've mentioned a soft round ball projectile as a slug. Your preference?
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Load up some Hornady .312 diameter 150 grain flat base bullets and shoot your rifle. Then try some Hornady 174 grain round nose bullets. If you can't get the 174 grain .312 to shoot well you have problems. Meaning the bore or forestock bedding.

Two things can cause accuracy problems.

1. A badly worn bore and an out of round crown. The bullet test in the muzzle is just a ballpark test. I have had barrels that you could not see any rifling that shot well.

2. Fore stock bedding issues and improper up pressure at the fore end tip.

The pamphlet below would be a good start on what effects accuracy. I have had barrels that looked like sewer pipes and the rifles still shot well. Just remember flat base bullets will shoot much better in a worn bore.

 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Will refer back to your post when the Partisan bullets and brass show up. Both are on order. In the meantime I ordered five inert rounds from J&M Spec LLC to study feed of the ammo, determine if pushing down on the cartridges in the magazine will actually get the rims to sit on top of each other - and do that "bullet in the muzzle" test I described (BTW I do get about 1/4" of visible bullet showing between the crown and the cartridge mouth.

Imagine my surprise when I note the inert rounds will come within an ace of chambering but stop just short. This is on a uniform basis with all five rounds. Cartridges are Winchester-Western Super .303 British. Bullets are seated at the center of the cannelure ring with a roll crimp. I'm not sure what's going on here unless this rifle is chambered for something else other than .303 British.

The extractor will snap over the cartridge rim properly; they also eject properly without hangups. the bolt will push the cartridge into the chamber, and goes almost all the way forward but will not rotate and lock behind the cartridge. The rounds were absolutely clean when I received them; after trying to cycle them through the weapon I'm discovering there is a faint area of striations on one side of the bottom exterior of the cartridge cases, and each area of these striations ends exactly 1/4" above the upper rim of the case. Now, I specified brass w/a dimpled (fired) primer to ensure I could tell without question this was a fired (inert) round. The dimpled primer and the uniform refusal of the rounds to completely seat in the chamber are making me think these are fired cases that were not resized prior to having a FMJ bullet seated in them and shipped to me. The only other explanation I can come up with is the rifle has been rechambered for another round, however, there is no damage anywhere, of any kind, on any of the inert rounds indicating forcing into the weapon's rifling, or the shoulders being forced into a chamber too small for them to fit.

As mentioned I have ordered 20 new unfired Partisan cases from Graf which I want to use as the basis for the ammo for this rifle. Maybe another test for this rifle is to see if the new Partisan brass chambers properly in the weapon, which will validate my hypothesis. Am I finding out this is a drill rifle that will not chamber live ammo (which I doubt)? Everything I've read about them indicates they should be plainly identifiable based on markings on the rifle plus a plugged barrel, and a bolt w/no firing pin hole in the face to prevent accidents. Could there be any other causes?
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Of course, it might help everyone involved in writing or answering this missive (if they were so inclined) if the owner would ensure the forepiece/bolt unlock/removal lug for the bolt was screwed all the way in to the inner limit of its travel. Once that was accomplished the rounds fit exactly as designed. I believe this crisis is passed. Sorry for the bother.
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
PS I want to state the inert rounds bought from J&M Spec LLC function perfectly in this rifle. This was due entirely to my oversight. Owning this weapon is a continual journey in discovery.
 
Posts: 43 | Location: SE USA | Registered: 09 August 2020Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of Bill/Oregon
posted Hide Post
Fun reading about an old favorite battle rifle. I preferred the much better sights on the early No. 4, but a Mk. III with very good bore could do some nice work when my eyes were up to it.
I have long admired the super-rare Enfield Envoy Palma match rifle and would love to just handle one some day. Won't happen.

https://www.highwoodclassicarm...0For%20Sale/no4f.htm

Enough blather. SS, I hope you are having fun with your "new" Enfield. When you find a load yours likes, try a "mad minute" with it. In WWI, the Brits were so handy with rapid firing their Enfields that the Germans at first thought they were facing automatic rifle fire. Talk about history.


I love dogs so much more than people.
 
Posts: 13349 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
Right; here is the way you do it; grasp the bolt handle with your thumb and index finger and don't let go, ever. As soon as the bolt is turned down, use your middle finger to slap the trigger; repeat the process; it works. With an Infantry Squad, you can lay down a base of fire that a BREN can't do. You can't do this with a Mauser, Springfield, or Mosin. Allowing your Maneuver Element to approach the enemy position from the flank and sweep them up.
One German AAR during WW1 reported that every British soldier had a machine gun.
In fact, they just had the Lee-Enfield.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
In 1914 Alfred Snoxall fired a mere 38 rounds in sixty seconds, scoring hits on a standard military target at 300 yards.
Every shot was inside a 24 inch circle.
 
Posts: 28 | Registered: 28 February 2011Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
Below "old" surplus .303 Pakistani "click........ bang" ammo and what happens when you open the bolt before the "bang".

Bottom line make sure you have good ammo during "mad minute".

 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of dpcd
posted Hide Post
I have a standing bet at the range, which I win every time; I take an Enfield, and challenge anyone with their M1 Garand, to fire ten rounds and just hit the 200 yard berm. Of course they take the bet, thinking they can easily shoot ten rounds from a semi faster than a bolt action can. I always win.
 
Posts: 12681 | Location: USA | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
one of us
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by dpcd:
I have a standing bet at the range, which I win every time; I take an Enfield, and challenge anyone with their M1 Garand, to fire ten rounds and just hit the 200 yard berm. Of course they take the bet, thinking they can easily shoot ten rounds from a semi faster than a bolt action can. I always win.


What happens if a M1 shooter challenges you to fire just 8 rounds????????
 
Posts: 196 | Registered: 29 July 2009Reply With Quote
  Powered by Social Strata Page 1 2  
 


Copyright December 1997-2020 Accuratereloading.com


Visit our on-line store for AR Memorabilia