Borepatch and the .303

The previous post is the introduction to this one. Borepatch came to visit, with everything he had acquired for reloading in a box. After dinner we were joined by Dan, my shooting and reloading partner and we retired to the shop.

We clamped his press on my bench, opened up his dies, and step by step, went through the process for setting up and reloading a bottlenecked case. It went well. The only thing he lacked was a shellplate for the case. We talked of loads, load development, getting the length, paying attention to the details, and we made 30 rounds of .303 British for his Lee-Enfield.
I had never made .303 Brit before, but except for being a rimmed case, it didn’t seem much different from 30-06 or 8mm Mauser. It was a pleasant evening, good company, and hopefully he learned enough to gain some confidence to setup and reload on his own.

Saturday we took his rifle and the new reloads to the field. Since we didn’t have a bench, it was difficult to judge groups and settling in on a pet load is not done in a day anyway. We were out to see if we could put them on paper and see how they fed, look for problems, and enjoy shooting.

On the last round of the last series, we experienced a case head separation. Huh. I’d never had one before. It wasn’t anything exciting, just left the body of the case in the chamber and ended the shooting. But it turns out the question you don’t know to ask will give you the answer you wanted.
Referring to Cast Boolits to see what a search turned up, I found the answers. Old Lee-Enfields chambers were cut long, so if the rifle or the ammo was dirty, it would still chamber and fire. Since ammo was meant to be used once, it didn’t matter if the cases stretched. When reloading, once fired brass from the same rifle should be used and .303 British should be neck sized only. Additionally, some brass is more brittle than others and if you get some Privi brass, neck size only, and watch for signs of case separation, you can generally avoid this problem. Once again, I am blazing down a trail that others have already hiked. There are no new reloading problems, just problems that are new to you.

Cast Boolits – .303 Case head separation (1)
Cast Boolits – .303 Case head separation (2)
Cast Boolits – Safety of the SMLE No.1 Mark III

So the problem isn’t unusual, there are ways to mitigate it, and keeping the tools necessary to extract the broken case with your range gear is a good idea.

Having Borepatch come visit, do some reloading, and go shooting was a highlight of the Thanksgiving weekend. I hope to do it again soon. I am looking forward to his post and his impressions of his first reloading adventure.


7 thoughts on “Borepatch and the .303

  1. Good info, and it CAN happen on any case… Attention to detail during reloading IS the key. Glad y’all had fun too!

  2. Hartley, yes, I would think it is a No.4. If I understood correctly it is a late production from India. I did not look at the markings or the S/N.

  3. I don’t shoot my Enfield enough to bother reloading. The reloading gear would cost more than the dang rifle.
    But, I’m still working on buying a gun from every country I’ve been to….still need a few more.

  4. The rifle looked to be in great shape with strong rifling out to the muzzle. Looks to be a fun shooter. I enjoyed meeting Borepatch again.

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