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Reloading the .303 British for accuracy at 100 yar

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RayR View Drop Down
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    Posted: May 01 2018 at 7:53pm
My friend let me shoot his custom 6BR rifle at 100 yards. It had a 2 ounce trigger (not a typo, 2 ounces) and a 36 power scope mounted on a custom made benchrest rifle. My 3 shot groups ranged from just under 1 " to 0.253". This was all resting the rifle on bags fore & aft and sitting on a bench. My friend shot a 0.010" group with his 6.5mm PPC, and he hadn't shot for 4 years. You aim the rifle by squeezing the rear bag and it really works!
I'm now hooked on benchrest shooting and will be using my #4 as a test bed for developing benchrest reloading techniques. That's were my getting back to this forum is all about.
I am 72 years old with poor eyesight and scars on the optic nerve of my right eye from surgery on a macular hole. I have never been a good shot. I have my work cut out for me. My friend suggested that before I go crazy getting a 1/4 MOA benchrest rifle I should learn how to perform benchrest reloading and start to acquire some of the highly specialized equipment they use in reloading using a rifle I already own. Then I would be all set to support a new rifle when the time comes.
 
The benchrest community is fanatical about consistency. They turn down the necks of the brass by hand with very small precision lathes. They segregate the brass by manufacturer and then within a manufacturer, by weight. They spend a lot of time developing their loads. They worry about consistent brass length and bullet seating concentricity and seating distance from the leade of the chamber.
 
I now have all the equipment needed to prepare the brass:
1) Fire formed brass (I de-prime the fired cases, then clean the them in a rotary tumbler using SS pins).
2) A K&M Precision Shooting lathe with a .303 British pilot
3) A K&M .303 neck sizer with a .303 British mandrel that matches the lathes pilot. (0.310")
4) A .303 British Lee Collet die set (I will be using the neck sizing die (0.311")).
5) A .303 British Lee Dead Length Bullet Seating die.
6) A .303 British Lee Factory Crimp die. (This may or may not be used. I'll see if it helps my accuracy).
7) A Hornady Lock-N-Load Neck Wall Thickness Gauge
8) A Hornady Lock-N-Load Concentricity Tool
9) Bullets I will initially be using:
     Hornady 303 CAL .3205" 174 grain FMJBT
     Hornady 303 CAL .3120" 174 grain BTHP (MATCH)
     Hornady 303 CAL .3120" 174 grain RN (INTERLOCK)
10) My initial powder will be VARGET min.= 38.5 grains, MAX= 42.5 grains, step size will be 0.2 grains
 
I'm initially going to use once fired brass from S&B, PRVI PARTISON and REMINGTON.
I'm using Stephen Redgwell's "The Accurate Lee Enfield" for some initial loading information.
I will be using WINCHESTER & CCI Primers for my initial development. I will move on to match primers after I have some basic loads established.
 
I may eventually get the really expensive dies, but that can wait until I find out how far all this ammo preparation takes me.
 
Currently my benchrest rifle consists of:
 
1) Heavily used Lee Enfield No4 MKI (F) 10/48. (Bore is clean & shiny but all scratched up).
2) South African Barrel installed ~1959-60.
3) Rifle was set up by Brian d**k about 4 years ago.
4) cad-technik scope mount
    (I had to replace the rail on it with a longer one to get adequate eye relief).
5) Bushnell 8-32*40 Elite 4500.
6) Missing the rear ladder sight.
 
I am currently shooting ~1.75" 5 shot groups at 100 yards using 174 gr. Prvi Partizon FMJBT and 174 pr. Remington MC.
 
I expect to have my brass prepared and start loading sometime next week.
 
I am open to suggestions for accurate loads and reloading techniques for the 303 British and any benchrest positioning recommendations. I seem to shoot better in a more upright position than the leaning forward that seems more common place. My scope axis is high, about 2.75" above the rifles bore axis. This makes my eye placement difficult to consistently line up. I can go to lower rings and reduce this height about 0.25". Currently I am using a nylon cheekrest on top of my wooden Enfield cheek rest. I could use another 1/2 inch of rise. I will probably use some rolled wash cloths worked into the nylon cheek rest to get that height. It may be ugly, but if it works, Ill be happy.
 
My hopes are I can get 1.25" to 1.50" groups by the time I'm done. I understand that converting the rifle to a MK II would improve the accuracy by 1/2 MOA, but I am not sure it's worth the cost with this old rifle.
 
 
 
 
 
Semper Fi
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Zed View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zed Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2018 at 1:16pm
Sounds like a great project Ray. I have a couple of minor suggestions before you get too far in to reloading.
Firstly, don't bother with the SB brass, it's generally brittle and does not reload well; splitting cases very early in it's life. I use PPU and Remington; however the PPU is the superior of the two. My last pack of Remington brass was poor with some split necks visible before the first load! So I'm weening off that to concentrate on PPU.
The Mk2 rifle was generally thought to be more accurate than the Mk1; however the trigger modification is basically to ensure a better consistent trigger pull. Most of the extra accuracy is probably from the rifles quality; being made out of wartime on machines that where better maintained.
If Brian d**k set up your rifle it should be good; so I doubt you'd get 1/2MOA from the trigger. 
You may improve the groups with the hand loading; pleas keep us informed of your progress.

Zed.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Honkytonk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2018 at 1:43pm
You could think about purchasing and installing an aftermarket walnut cheek piece. Would work good with your scope.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2018 at 7:57pm
I spent a number of years shooting my No. 4 off the bench with a 20x Leupold Target scope doing everything I could read about to produce accurate ammunition. The majority of my shooting was using the 174 gr Sierra Matchking. A bit with the Hornady equivalent and a few other bullets.

My case supply was from Canadian military surplus, and when neck sized only, I was able to get many reloads, more than 30, until case head cracking (and a few separations) occurred. I could not seat the bullet anywhere near the lands, even though the barrel was new with only a few test rounds fired thru it before I got the rifle.

I shot a lot of lead into the berms at 100 yards, thousands of rounds in fact. I tried numerous powders and range of charge weights. The avarage all 10 shot groups was 1.5 inches. About 30% of the groups were under 1.25 inches, a few of the best were under 1 inch. I kept accurate records to keep myself honest.

My motivation was strictly to ensure I understood how my rifle and ammunition performed so when I got into position competitive shooting, I knew that any groups larger than this were solely because of me. Looking back at it now, I realized a few facts:

1. The LE is not a bench rest rifle. It can be shot off the bench like any rifle, but expecting 10 shot groups to be consistently at 1.25 MOA might be a bit of a streatch. Some LEs may do this, but likely a very small percentage that have been carefully accurized.

2. I would not expect the tricks of accurate benchrest loading techniques to show up on the target with a LE. The most significant variable in accuracy will be your bullet choice. The SMK worked good in my No. 4.

3. Tweaking powder charge weights don’t result in much improvement in accuracy with the LE.

4. Don’t get excited when you shoot a particular load for the first time and 10 rounds on the bench group at under 1 MOA. Shoot that load again, it will be different. You need to take averages of several 10 shot groups to judge the load. Don’t expect a 3 or 5 shot group to tell you anything about the accuracy of the rifle or the load with a LE.

5 . Expect occasional fliers, your probably not the cause, it’s the nature of a light weight barrel and the many other things that contribute to a LE not being a bench rest rifle.

6. I used up a lot of barrel life while not learning a thing about position shooting.

I don’t mean in any way to discourage you, your thinking was very much like my own. Someone else in the forum may come along and give a totally different experience, this is just my own experience with my two No. 4s, and several other WW I and II era military rifles.   I would use this as a means to learn the techniques, but if you really want to see the fruits of your labour, you will need a bench rest rifle. It will be tough deciphering the effects of the load variables and bench rest reloading techniques with a LE.





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MJ11 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2018 at 8:01pm
While I'm not an expert on anything I do know a few and the general thought is that the .303 is not a 100 yard target rifle.

I have seen and had some luck with the 150g Sierra Game King and IMR 4895 or RL15 at 100 yards. Past that it's 174g SMK's and 4064 or RL 19. The safe bet is with the flat base bullet in an unknown barrel. Plus with the known barrel whip built into the Enfield rifles they don't lay down till 300 yards unless highly tuned specials. I'm not commenting to argue this it is just that I'm repeating what is known and what i was told saw at Bisley by the days high score shooters. It was all above my pay grade till I had time to test it. I don't wedge, pack or shim my barrels and generally rely on the people smarter than myself like H&H to have the proper work.

Have a nice day.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Honkytonk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 6:48am
The above threads got me thinking about my expectations with my Lee Enfields at the range. The only "accurazing" of done on all my Enfields was to take apart, clean and lightly lubricate moving parts, ensure bore is cleaned after every use, and reload bullets for consistency. I'm quite satisfied shooting 1 1/2" groups at 100 yds.4" at 50 yds with my Enfield Battle Carbine. As primarily a hunter, these numbers are acceptable and repeatable. Hats off to some of the shooting exhibited by members of this forum!! Way above my skill!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RayR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 7:02am
Your information agrees with what I've read. One source recommended the Remington cases over any of the others. I will be using up the ammunition I own and use their cases. When I get to the point where I have a reasonable load I'll consider getting new, unused cases.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RayR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 7:47am
Thank you for your information. It is consistent with my expectations for this project. I have found a few quirks so far during the neck sizing and neck trimming process.
1) My 0.3105" diameter bullet fits with a little pressure into cases that have been neck sized in my Lee Neck sizing die. My 0.312" diameter bullet won't go in by hand.
 
2) After resizing the neck in my L&M Precision Shooting Products neck sizer, (necessary to match the mandrel in my turning machine) my 0.3105" diameter bullet slides into the case without any noticeable friction while my 0.312" diameter bullet still can't be put into the case go in by hand.
 
After I trim the neck and try to resize the case again in the Lee neck Sizing die I do not get any change. I think that by shaving the neck down a few thousands of an inch keeps the Lee die from being effective. This means my first reloads will be using the 0.312" Hornady Match bullets.
 
I hope I can use the Lee Collet die to crimp bullets in the cases that don't seem to be able to hold the 0.3105" bullet firmly. I have my dobuts that I can maintain a COL, but I will find out.
 
I will try neck sizing with just the L&M sizer on my next batch of fire formed cases to see how well it works.
 
If the trimmed cases don't show any performance difference to cases I don't trim for, then I will skip that step in my load development cycle.
 
I found it curious that my benchrest shooting friend does not crimp his bullets into their case, but relies on the limited friction he gets when he shoves the bullets in by hand.
 
I agree on using 10 shot groups to determine the rifles real accuracy. I will use 5 shot groups to establish the developmental loads initial accuracy and then go back and fine tune that load using 10 round groups.
 
Concentricity may be the most surprising contributor to accuracy that I can effect. It dawns on me that the rifles axial alignment between the rifle bore to the receiver and the chamber can have a significant effect on accuracy. I wonder if this is the variable that is responsible for the most variation in accuracy between rifles made by the same manufacturer? This could account for the variations in accuracy seen among the Enfield rifles I've read about. This could explain why my old, beat up rifle with a highly used and scratched up bore is as accurate as it seems to be.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RayR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 7:50am
It is my understanding that the 303 British round stabilizes the most between 200 and 300 yards.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RayR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 7:52am
Never underestimate the value of a 32 power scope, as long as you can keep the gun stabilized and maintain good eye alignment at the same time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 8:36am
One of the .303's biggest quirks is the variation in chamber shape from rifle to rifle. Because of this I use something called "Partial full length resizing". I tried both regular full length & neck only & frankly both have both advantages & disadvantages.
It used to be a well known accuracy technique with .303, but has become a bit of a lost art. I've posted a description on here in the reloading forum, check it out. It basically uses an adjusted full length die to exactly match the fired brass to the chamber its being fired in.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2018 at 1:19pm
On my No. 4, I've not really noticed much difference in the MOA group sizes at 100, 200, 300 and 600 yds.  That just might be my rifle, the forend is centre bedded by Fultons.  Standard muzzle bedding could be different.  Bullet quality could also have something to do with how quickly it stabilizes. 
 
When they first introduced the No. 4 conversion to 7.62, reports of accuracy were poor.  I'm convinced it had nothing to do with the rifle action or barrel; it was the typical ammunition being used.  I get excellent (for a LE anyway) accuracy with my No. 4 with a standard No. 4 service weight barrel in 7.62 with the 168 gr. SMK.  It's as good, or better than my Fulton .303 No. 4 at 100, 200, 300 and 600 yards. 
 
I did not find any advantage at all with taper crimping the case mouth on the bullet.  I believe it is slightly detrimental as it is another variable.  Now, perhaps with low neck tension, it could help, but correcting neck tension is relatively easy, get a reduced size expander or mandrel (depending on what type of dies you are using).
 
For neck sizing, I use a Lee Collet die with a -0.001 mandrel (you can order these thru Lee).  I'm getting plenty of neck tension on the SMK .311 diameter bullet.  For a long throat, you will have to have some neck tension, there's no way your going to get near the lands. 
 
I typically trim cases back about 0.005 - .008 that have exceeded the maximum 2.222 inches after sizing.  Neck sizing doesn't usually change case length much, but I always check case length after sizing.  In the .303, it's tough getting sufficient bullet grip at magazine COL with a boattail bullet, so not trimming more than necessary helps; and it helps to reduce the variability (at least in my mind anyway!). I recently went to an RCBS auto case trimer which has taken a lot of time out of my reloading process, especially for auto-loading rifles that need more frequent trimming from the full length sizing process.
 
I also agree with the previous posts here that IMR 4064 and Re 15 are good choices, they both gave me good accuracy for the No. 4.  4895 would probably be good too.  My match load has been 40.0 gr. Re 15.  I'm now working on a Varget load, which seems to require more powder than most published data shows to get equivalent velocities of my Re 15 match load. 
 
I've settled on a COL of 3.05 inches as we shoot a rapid stage in the Vintage Military Rifle matches that require a reload via charger.  I just didn't see any improvement in accuracy with seating depths I've tried out to 3.10 which have to be fed single shot.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MJ11 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 05 2018 at 9:10am
While I stick to my original comment that these are not 100 yard target rifles I understand for the average Tommy there are fewer place to test with 300 yards to zero.

150g Game King and H4895 or RL15, I really can't tell the difference between the powders.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Honkytonk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 05 2018 at 3:18pm
Whatever powder or bullet you use (150 -180 gr), in my humble opinion, it is not designed to be a "speed demon". In fact, my most accurate loads are usually about 75-80% between minimum and maximum. I suspect a deer, elk, moose or paper target won't know the difference of less than 100 per/sec... until it's on your plate while the magnum boys flinched and missed!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 05 2018 at 4:12pm
Originally posted by Shamu Shamu wrote:

One of the .303's biggest quirks is the variation in chamber shape from rifle to rifle. Because of this I use something called "Partial full length resizing".



One techique I have not tried is fireforming the case and maintaining consistent case orientation in the chamber. Filing or scribing a small notch in the rim edge as an index mark.   Subsequent neck sizing maintains the alignment of the neck and bullet with the bore axis. It’s been shown many years ago that a bullet that is started into the rifling not concentric axis of the bore will result in poor accuracy as the bullet corkscrews down the barrel.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 6:49am
With a well done partial resize that doesn't happen! The last fraction of an inch of the neck is un-sized & so centers the case mouth perfectly as its chambered.
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