Cartridges: .303 British Handload Test

.303 British Handload Test
by German A. Salazar

Sometimes, things don't go quite as planned. The plan, in this case, was to test my handloads against Canadian  Mk VII ammo (DA 51) as used in matches for decades. The objective was to see how much better modern handloads are. I was given two boxes of this ammunition by Clint Dahlstrom some time ago and had set it aside for just such a project. Clint warned me that the primers are corrosive, and I don't want to fire corrosive primers in my rifle, so I planned to replace them.

DA51 case, bullet and approx. 38.5 gr. of extruded
powder similar to IMR 4064. Sierra 174 for reference.
Replacing the primers with modern non-corrosive primers is a fairly simple proposition; I intended to pull the bullets, dump the powder into the scale pan, remove the primer crimp, install a fresh primer, put the powder charge back in without any changes and reseat the bullet. Well, that was the plan...

Military ammo typically has a tar-like sealer on the bullet for waterproofing and a crimp to ensure that the bullet doesn't move as it cycles through automatic mechanisms in machine guns. Those two features, desirable though they may be for military use, do nothing for accuracy and they make pulling bullets a bit harder than normal. In fact, they make bullet pulling impossible unless you first break the seal and the crimp by seating the bullet a little bit deeper. I took 22 rounds from the box and ran them into my seater die until I got a sharp crack on each one. I takes a minimal amount of bullet movement to get the crack sound; it's quite loud, you won't miss it.

Once all of the rounds had the seal broken, I used my Hornady collet bullet puller to pull the bullets. They came out fairly easily albeit with a bit more effort than handloaded ammo. I apparently missed cracking one and it stubbornly refused to come out - and I stubbornly kept trying. Eventually the little bulb went on in my head and I went back to the seater die, cracked the seal and it then came right out with the puller.

So with all the bullets pulled, I was ready to decap and re-prime. That's when I came to the realization that these primers were Berdan, not Boxer... With no Berdan decapping equipment on hand and no Berdan primers with which to prime the cases, that was the end of that little project. A bit chagrined, I reseated the bullets and put the cartridges back in the same box they've occupied for 61 years.

Before re-seating the bullets, I examined them a little. As you can see, they're a flat-base design; I must say that I was expecting a boat tail. The jacket is folded over the base quite evenly and consistently from bullet to bullet. They aren't absolutely perfect, but they're better than a lot of FMJ match bullets I've examined in the past. I also noticed a star-shaped impression on the base of each bullet; I've never seen that sort of thing before, kind of interesting. The DA bullets measured 0.312", as did the Sierra SMK, although those are labeled as being 0.311". The larger diameter doesn't cause any concerns on my part as I've fired thousands of 0.309" diameter Lapua D46 bullets through 0.308" diameter barrels with great results. Besides, I don't know the actual bore and groove size of my rifle's barrel, so it's really not a concern.

Shooting the Handloads
I went to the Ben Avery range this morning, we had practice at 300, 500 and 600 yards. I planned to shoot the .30-06 at the longer distances and the .303 British at 300 yards. We shot 300 last, and it was fairly windy. I'm glad we didn't start at 300 because the Lee-Enfield is really uncomfortable to shoot and it when I was done firing it, I was definitely done for the day. The comb is very low, there's no pistol grip to speak of and the trigger is every bit of 8 lb. and it smacks me in the face on every shot. None of that is news to me, I've had the rifle for a long time, but I'm reminded of it every time I shoot it, which is fairly infrequently. Then, of course, there's that post front sight, although I was able to see it reasonably well today.

To keep it brief, I shot a 140-0X for 15 shots at 300 yards on the MR63 target (2 moa 10 ring). I left the camera at home, so no pictures, but it was certainly nothing spectacular. Most of the shots had good elevation, but I put four in the 9 ring low and one high as I struggled with the post sight. The rest of the points went out to windage, including one in the 8 ring. As you can see in the photo of the fired cases, the primers retain the full edge radius, the load is on the mild side and shoots well, but today, the shooter wasn't really up to the task! I'm sending the rifle home with Doan Trevor to add the high comb that came on the sniper version of these rifles, maybe that will make it more comfortable.


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