24hourcampfire.com
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Hop To
Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s #16105755 05/22/21
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
4
43Shooter Offline OP
Campfire Guide
OP Offline
Campfire Guide
4
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
How big an issue or important is it for a safely functioning rifle to have a matching # bolt? Seems since they have replaceable size bolt heads they anticipated there would be headspace issues and the bolt head corrects it. Would it being a rimmed cartridge be some sort of factor re head space? Could handloading for the specific rifle make a difference? In looking at Brit. websites on shooting surplus Enfields they don't seem to think headspace is that much of an issue.


Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16105867 05/22/21
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 3,273
F
flintlocke Offline
Campfire Guide
Offline
Campfire Guide
F
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 3,273
My opinion is that all the endlessly repeated stuff about LE's regarding brass life, headspace, stretchy action is pure nonsense. Propagated and endlessly repeated by people who are unqualified to comment. Most importantly the .303 is a military cartridge, for which the military does not reload, it was designed to fire reliably under horrid conditions with loose tolerances. We, the reloaders/sportsmen can work around the loose tolerances with just a little common sense. So what do we do with any other cartridge with a long headspace? Yes Virginia, we form a secondary shoulder on the cartridge neck juncture with something like a 8x57 resize die. Thusly, we make damn sure the reloaded cartridge is firmly seated against the bolt face when the cartridge is fired. Presto, we have a fireformed brass case that fits our rifle. That piece of brass, loaded sensibly will last just as long as any other cartridge. I have used HXP, PPU and CIL without failure for 10 cycles. Form your brass to your rifle, ignore the twits who endlessly juggle boltheads because they don't know how to reload. Live long and prosper, headspace be damned.


Well this is a fine pickle we're in, should'a listened to Joe McCarthy and George Orwell I guess.
Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16107705 05/22/21
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,964
D
dan_oz Offline
Campfire Ranger
Offline
Campfire Ranger
D
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,964
As I've said a few times, including quite recently on this website, the No 4 rifles were designed so that, in production, the barrel could simply be screwed into place and then the semi-skilled operator would select a bolt head, made in a range of nominal lengths, until the headspace was in spec. There was no other reason for making boltheads in different lengths, and all the stories about actions stretching and so forth are, as flintlocke said, nonsense. Having said that, a mismatched bolt may not result in headspace being in spec., and will drop the value.

As a general thing though, the chambers on Lee Enfield rifles can be a bit big, and tolerances a bit loose, to allow the rifles to function even with ammunition which is a bit grotty or dented. This is perhaps especially the case with wartime production. They were never intended to be used with reloads.

As a result, brass life can be a bit short if, and this is important, you reload according to some of the practices which appear common. Full length resizing, for example, will soon put paid to your brass in most Lee Enfields, as the brass will tend to stretch and eventually separate - sometimes in as little as a couple of loading cycles. It can also bulge unevenly in a loose chamber.

What I find works well is to pay careful attention to fireforming the first time you fire your loads with new brass. I used to put a narrow band of masking tape around the case just in front of the rim, but a suitably-sized O-ring works just as well and is less effort. The idea is to hold the case both concentric with the bore and hard against the bolt-face on the first firing. This way, it fireforms symmetrically and the shoulder expands out to fill the chamber. This avoids having to make a false shoulder, and also can be done with factory loads.

From there on, if you only neck size (I like the Lee Collet dies for this), the brass will headspace on the shoulder, and it won't stretch. As a result you get excellent case life.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16110372 05/23/21
Joined: Feb 2008
Posts: 1,118
W
WTF Offline
Campfire Regular
Offline
Campfire Regular
W
Joined: Feb 2008
Posts: 1,118
Yep, both of you guys are correct. The LE actions don't stretch. I get tired of seeing repeated internet BS about stretching receivers.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16110432 05/23/21
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 4,267
szihn Online Content
Campfire Guide
Online Content
Campfire Guide
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 4,267
I have set the barrels back 1 thread and rechambered to give only .002" thousandths on my 303 "speed" and also I have done it for about 6 other men who could not find the longer bolt heads they wanted to bring the headspace to a tighter spec. You have to shorten up the wood the same amount to make it all work but that doesn't take much labor.

IC-A

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16110668 05/24/21
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 844
F
fourbore Offline
Campfire Regular
Offline
Campfire Regular
F
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 844
It is a concern however you look at it. Wear and tear or loose mfg specs. Setting back a barrel is not something your average person wants to deal with. I use the O-ring trick and neck size. I will not even consider range pickup 303 brass as a gift. On the other hand, I neck size for all my bolt guns, so; it is not anything that bothers me.

The OP can research 8mm lebel if he wants to see how bad things can be in the loose chamber dept. I recommend this forum for additional reading on all mil-surp topics: GunBoards.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16114438 05/25/21
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
4
43Shooter Offline OP
Campfire Guide
OP Offline
Campfire Guide
4
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
Thanks to all for the info.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16114638 05/25/21
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 7,985
J
Jericho Online Content
Campfire Outfitter
Online Content
Campfire Outfitter
J
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 7,985
I knew a couple of guys that hunted with Lee Enfield rifle when I was a kid and they both had the head space issue. They didn't reload and just bought ammunition when they needed it.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16115207 05/25/21
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 23,907
GunGeek Offline
Campfire Kahuna
Offline
Campfire Kahuna
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 23,907
I don't know about action stretching, but no doubt my No 4's are a bit rough on brass. To deal with this, I have changed to neck sizing only and my brass life is much more normal.
Enfields have very generous chambers because they wanted them to work under any conditions.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16164390 06/12/21
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 407
I
immature Offline
Campfire Regular
Offline
Campfire Regular
I
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 407
I believe that in many cases the "excess headspace" bulges on cases are instead just oversize of even off center chambers. Mismatched bolts are likely a result of bolt-swapping by importers, dealers, or previous owners who didn't understand that what they were doing could alter headspace. When bolts were changed in service they normally (never say always) renumbered after lining through the number already stamped on it.

At least the Europeans were good enough to stamp numbers in lots of places on a rifle so there's less guesswork if the bolt matches. There's usually (never say never) no way to know if the bolt in a U.S. rifle that has seen several owners was properly fitted by an armorer using headspace gauges. When I was an ROTC cadet in the dark ages the arms room people took the bolts out of several hundred M1s for safety reasons and tossed them in a box without noting the number of the rifle they came from; first hand witness and not internet rumor.


Increasing my post count so people will buy stuff from me
IC-B

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16175621 06/16/21
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 7,182
Steve Redgwell Offline
Campfire Tracker
Offline
Campfire Tracker
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 7,182
Originally Posted by 43Shooter
How big an issue or important is it for a safely functioning rifle to have a matching # bolt? Seems since they have replaceable size bolt heads they anticipated there would be headspace issues and the bolt head corrects it. Would it being a rimmed cartridge be some sort of factor re head space? Could handloading for the specific rifle make a difference? In looking at Brit. websites on shooting surplus Enfields they don't seem to think headspace is that much of an issue.


My apologies for the length.
---

Matching bolt heads on any rifle is important, but any gunsmith with a gauge can quickly check to verify it.

It wasn't until Lee Enfields, regardless of model, were surplused out that headspacing problems started. Most shipments had their bolts removed and put in a box to be reassembled upon arrival at their new homes. This was usually done because it was unlawful to ship fully functional arms.

The civilian purchaser would take the box of bolts and begin inserting them back into the rifles. This was where the problems began. Some rifles were not correctly headspaced because they did not have their original bolts. They were subsequently sold to the public with headspace problems. There was no assembly manual or checklist followed when these rifles were being made ready for sale. Very few businesses knew enough to check for matching nos or even bothered to check using a gauge.

How many made it out the door with headspace problems? We will never know the number, but from the 1990s forward, the Internet was often the source of incorrect information. Call it a double edged sword. It brought the potential problem to more people's attention, but at the same time, the stories were exaggerated or made worse by all the so called "experts" you find on the web.

One story that still floats is that No 4 rifles had different length bolt heads to correct headspace on rifles that increased due to use. This is simply not true. The different sizes were a manufacturing step that got rifles correctly headspaced without too much fuss. Remember that the assemblers were not skilled labourers. As well, in the days before CNC machining, when parts were being pumped out to meet production demands, parts tolerances were a concern. It was easy to train unskilled workers to use gauges and fit boltheads as required.

There is additional information here. Chambers and Headspace
---

The second part to this story is actually about rifle chambers themselves. These days, most people use rifles chambered with rimless cartridges. With most rimless cartridges, headspace is the distance from the bolt face to the middle of the case shoulder. That's easy to understand. I suppose with years of shooting, that area could lengthen, but it is not a common event. You will shoot out the barrel first.

[Linked Image from 303british.com]

Rifles that shoot rimmed cartridges have a small recess where the rim sits when a cartridge is chambered. The length of this recess determines if a rifle is correctly headspaced. The 303 British is rimmed and has this area. When your gunsmith checks a rifle, the gauge he uses fits into this small space.

The area forward of the recess - the space where the body of the case sits - can be any length, but still headspace correctly. In other words, a perfectly headspaced 303 British can have an excessively long chamber, but pass a gauge check.

[Linked Image from 303british.com]

Excessively long chambers were usually the result of a manufacturing reamer plunging too deeply. "Too deeply" isn't very much. Just a few thou. When that extra space was created, the assemblers would gauge the rifles for headspace and the rifle passed. When the rifle fired, the case was ejected. No one looked at the case to check for stretch. No one worried about the chamber being a little long. No one picked up the fired brass and reloaded it.

Long chambers cause virtually all of the case stretching in Lee Enfield rifles. Long headspace was rarely the cause.

When I was still in uniform, I checked records, maintenance instructions and talked with other armourers about some of the things that were talked about on the Internet. I never found any issues or special inspections ordered about headspace on rifles that came out of the Long Branch factory. The problems happened after the various governments sold off their rifles to civilian businesses.


Safe Shooting!
Steve Redgwell
www.303british.com

"Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution." - anon
Proverbs 22:10: Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.
Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16175715 06/16/21
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,824
Theo Gallus Offline
Campfire Guide
Offline
Campfire Guide
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,824
Well stated, Sir.


"Live like you'll die tomorrow, but manage your grass like you'll live forever."
-S. M. Stirling
Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16176330 06/16/21
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 7,182
Steve Redgwell Offline
Campfire Tracker
Offline
Campfire Tracker
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 7,182
Thank you. All the best.


Safe Shooting!
Steve Redgwell
www.303british.com

"Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution." - anon
Proverbs 22:10: Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.
Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16176734 06/16/21
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 26,148
1minute Offline
Campfire Oracle
Offline
Campfire Oracle
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 26,148
First rifle as a kid was a 303. From memory $18 from an Army Navy store. First reloading's unfailingly resulted in totally separated case heads.

Last edited by 1minute; 06/16/21.

1Minute
Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16177122 06/16/21
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 7,985
J
Jericho Online Content
Campfire Outfitter
Online Content
Campfire Outfitter
J
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 7,985
and in todays military how many M16s and M4s have the bolts switched back and forth

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: Jericho] #16177239 06/16/21
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,964
D
dan_oz Offline
Campfire Ranger
Offline
Campfire Ranger
D
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,964
Originally Posted by Jericho
and in todays military how many M16s and M4s have the bolts switched back and forth


I can't speak of your military, but in ours when rifles were put into store each one had a position in the rack and there was a rack for bolts/breechblocks to match. When a rifle was issued out the rifle number and bolt number were checked off, and the two then handed to the soldier for them to confirm the two numbers matched (and check the CES) before putting the bolt into the rifle and signing the issue record.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16178515 06/17/21
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
4
43Shooter Offline OP
Campfire Guide
OP Offline
Campfire Guide
4
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
Thanks again to all for the info provided.

I bought a used 1954 No 4 Mk 2 "Irish Contract" Enfield a few weeks ago. Had no luck finding brass for it and the only bullets I could find were 150s but I found five boxes of older Hansen 174 FMJ ammo mfg. in what used to be Yugoslavia so it's got to be at least 30 years old. I read somewhere Hansen was the import name for PPU, which IME has always been decent ammo. I shot 40 rounds of it yesterday and had no problems with it. Went bang every time and 100 yard accuracy with the 300 yard flip up battle sight was well centered, 6" high and averaged around 2& 1/2" for 5 shots so can't complain. The brass looks good so I'll see how it does neck sized with a light load of 40 gr of 4064 and the 150s which are also PPU.

Last edited by 43Shooter; 06/17/21.
Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: 43Shooter] #16185532 06/20/21
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 844
F
fourbore Offline
Campfire Regular
Offline
Campfire Regular
F
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 844
Very nice. Neck sizing is the way to go. I do that on all my bolt actions. I dont want to say the wrong word and trigger another defensive post. Curious what number is on your bolt head? I will risk the question.

The deal with the Lee Enfield (my opinion) has always been, or is now, the rich history. When I was younger, mil-surp imports were mostly about cheap deer rifles. Except Lugers and a few rifles. Today, it is all about the history. Even bad history, in some cases. It is all history. We shoot them, if we shoot them, to appreciate how they work and experience what that was like. For most, pimping the features is secondary or not needed. You figure out what you got and if so inclined, work with it.

I have been using IMR3031 with 150's, but my plan is to standardize as much as I can on IMR4064. That includes 303.

I maybe blowing smoke, but; the Lee Enfield guys do seem to be more shooters, while the Arisaka guys fixate on mum's and original Posion Ivy varnish. I really enjoy the Gun Boards L-E forum. Maybe some of them hang here as well.

Re: Enfield 303 Headspace & Mismatched Bolts?s [Re: fourbore] #16186025 06/20/21
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
4
43Shooter Offline OP
Campfire Guide
OP Offline
Campfire Guide
4
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 3,132
Bolt head's a #2. Agreed on the history. For accuracy and quality I'll take the Swedish Mauser. For a bolt action battle rifle it's hard to argue against the 10 shot Enfield.

Speaking of Arisakas, back in the 50s a friend of mine's father had a 6.5 and 7.7 he'd brought back from WWII and kept at his farm. They were pretty beat up looks wise but functioned fine and were accurate enough for younger eyes to hit with.


Moderated by  RickBin, SYSOP 

RR1b
Who's Online Now
317 registered members (1sgLunde, 204guy, 257Bobs, 257Ackley, 2ndwind, 1moredeer, 53 invisible), 2,242 guests, and 998 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
RR2/3










Fish & Game Departments | Solunar Tables | Mission Statement | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | DMCA
Hunting | Fishing | Camping | Backpacking | Reloading | Campfire Forums | Gear Shop
Copyright © 2000-2020 24hourcampfire.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.3
(Release build 20190728)
PHP: 7.3.29 Page Time: 0.053s Queries: 14 (0.002s) Memory: 0.8676 MB (Peak: 1.0199 MB) Data Comp: Zlib Server Time: 2021-07-24 05:12:33 UTC
Valid HTML 5 and Valid CSS