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No4 Savage with head-space issues...?

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GreySaber View Drop Down
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    Posted: October 26 2018 at 11:39am
he!!o Gentlemen! 

I've been reading a good bit on this issue, and I'm trying to take the advise of Douglas Adams, (Don't Panic!) but.... 

A bit of history. I have always been a semiautomatic fellow, and I recently decided to start buying bolt actions. Clearly the Lee Enfield had to be at the top of the list, and I purchased a relic of the lend-lease program in what I thought to be very good condition. It has a #2 bolt head. 

Loving it dearly I picked up a thousand rounds of .303 military Surplus from MEN. 

I took it and some ammunition to the local range, and fired two shots. I found a bulge in the brass a centimeter from the top, https://imgur.com/a/rTgjpZI ;

This being my first bolt action rifle, and having never seen such a thing before I elected to stop shooting and do some digging. Not that unusual my research told me, but I wanted to be safe, so I sent off for the only gauges I could find, a go and a nogo by Clymer in .30-40 krag/.303 British. I couldn't lay hands on a field gauge. 

My temperature rose a bit when the bolt closed on the nogo, and I took the rifle around to the local gunsmith. He told me it had excessive chamber size and headspace, and he was obliged to label it unsafe. Also he was in possession of a field gauge, and it closed on the field gauge. He hinted, unofficially, that fixing the headspace might be what he would do if it were his rifle. So I began the hunt for a #3 bolt head, which I have learned is a rather rare item. 

I started thinking I was out a few hundred dollars, and began to feel quite low. 


Now, I know very little about these rifles, and very little about headspace except that you want it right for safety. I have learned that sloppy chambers aren't uncommon, but how sloppy is too sloppy? 

I have no desire to hurt myself from uncontrolled detonation of a round in a bad chamber. I suppose I could buy a new barrel and take it around to the smith, as it seems as though they are more common than #3 bolt heads, but if I did that would I even be sure I'd get the headspace right? 

So I am most hopeful you lot will be able to advise me not only what to do with this rifle. (I want to understand enough that I'm not trusting my braincase to "Some guy on the internet said it would be okay.")

What would you fellows do in my shoes? 
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Ed Hill View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ed Hill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 14 2018 at 1:09pm
Actually measure your bolt head and look around for the specs on them. Occasionally you'll get one marked #2 that measures less than a # 1. Start there and see what you have.

Ed
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 14 2018 at 1:26pm
Sorry, your Imgur link seems to be broken!

Let me set your mind at rest.

Bulging (within reason) is perfectly normal & is in no way directly connected to, or measurable by, headspace. (unless its massively way way off).

What you are seeing is probably the infamous Lee Enfield "Generous Chamber" which was intentionally made "sloppy" to allow for chambering of dirty, corroded, muddy ammunition in dirty, muddy chambers during trench warfare.

You may even find its slightly off center as well, again, its perfectly normal & no cause for concern as long as its not drastically so.
This, for example is perfectly fine.

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote englishman_ca Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 14 2018 at 4:02pm
The Lee Enfield is a very robust action. If there is a head seperation, the gases are directed away from the firer. Often the case seperation is not known until the case is ejected (or rather, not ejected).

Far from it for me to suggest shooting a rifle in poor condition, but excessive head space has never really been an issue until people wanted to reload the brass. Excess head space wrecks the brass and causes reloader problems.

If you have military ammo and it is Berdan primed, chances are that you are not going to reload, but just fire once and toss. In that case, I would say have at her!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goosic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 14 2018 at 4:31pm
I am going to add my opinion here too. Do not worry about a small bulge in the case. Your rifle however. Does it have an * stamped on top of the receiver where the barrel screws into? That will let you know that rust or corrosion has been found in the barrel or in the chamber or both. Your gunsmith. How knowledgeable is he on Enfield rifles? The headspace gauge he used,did you look at it? Sometimes an inexperienced gunsmith will use whatever rimmed headspace gauge he has. Alot of aftermarket headspace gauges for the .303 are .070" whereas the actual Enfield gauge is .074".  Measure the thickness of your gauge and then make up the difference with a set of feeler gauges until you get the .074". Insert the gauge in the chamber and then add the feeler gauge up through the mag well,touching the headspace gauge,slowly close the bolt. If the bolt still closes,look for that #3 bolt head.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote MJ11 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 21 2018 at 11:53am
Also not all#2's are the same and not or almost no #3's are the same. If you have a short #2 another #2 might be good.

Again also your #2 might be just fine if the gauge is not Correct.

Measure stuff !




Good Luck and keep asking questions.

I would like to hear your report on the MEN 303 when you have time. I have been offered 500 rounds in a just come and get it deal.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2018 at 6:53am
MEN is good stuff.
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GreySaber Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2018 at 1:08pm
Thank you all much for the replies.

What I did was this. I took my headspace gauge, and I added cellophane tape until it was the correct military spec, about .072-.074 and found the difference was enough the rifle passed.

So I 'think" I'm good. I do intend to take someone with me to the range when I next shoot it though, just because I'm paranoid.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Canuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2018 at 6:08pm
Sounds good, please let us know.
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