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Thread: Explain this - bullet stability in .303 Brit

  1. #1

    Explain this - bullet stability in .303 Brit

    On the range yesterday, one of the shooters on another lane had bullets striking the target side on, keyholing. I suggested his bullets were clipping the grass before striking the target, but he refuted this. (We were shooting at 100 yards from fire trenches, not raised berms.)

    He was using factory loaded PPU, he said it was 174g FMJ though I didn't inspect the box. His rifle is a well battered 1943 No 4 that had probably been round the word twice and fought in every campaign. He thought the rifling looked good: I thought it looked eroded but as I didn't have my bore scope with me, I was only able to use the Mk I eyeball.

    So I fired ten rounds of the PPU through my 1954 No 4. (This is one of the rifles from the 'Irish contract', one of 50,000 sold to the Irish goverment and mine probably never left the armoury.) In my rifle the PPU factory shot about 18" higher than my handloads with Hornady 174g FMJ-BT. They formed two groups, one of five rounds and one of four (one shot went just over the target board), both groups were under 2", all bullets had struck nose on. Nothing wrong with the PPU ammo, then, must be his rifle.

    I then fired ten rounds of my own handloads in his rifle, two groups of five. Again, they formed two groups of 2" (OK, one errant round went out ot about 5", I probably snatched the trigger). So, nothing wrong with his rifle.

    So why was his rifle keyholing the PPU bullets? I still say he must have been clipping the grass en route.

    -JMS

  2. #2
    So why was his rifle keyholing the PPU bullets? I still say he must have been clipping the grass en route.
    That's the most likely cause. I have seen 303 military rifles though whose barrels were so worn and/or badly specc'd that they wouldn't stabilise bullets. A guy turned up at Paul Lane range in West Yorks with an SMLE some years back whose bore looked dark but good, but could hardly hit a three by three ft frame at 100 and those that did hit mostly went through sideways leaving a near perfect 174gn Mk7 cut-out. After a lot of puzzling, John Farrel whom many Yorkshire stalkers will likely know suggested pushing a 303 round that was known to shoot well point first into the muzzle. The bullet slipped in easily until the case-mouth stopped it, so the bore diameter had to be greater than 0.311 or 0.312", and the groove diameter another eight or ten thou' on top. No wonder the bullets keyholed - it was like shooting then through a smoothbore.

  3. #3
    Pull one of his rounds and mike the bullet , 303 is actually about .312 and in my opinion it's unlikely to be clipping the grass causing the problem ?
    Right where's those stones , I'll start !

  4. #4
    One of our club members bought a "new" P14 from Kranks a few years ago and that keyholed at 100 yards with every shot using a variety of ammo. One look at the bore and the muzzle gave you a very good idea why this was happening. There was no blades of grass on our indoor range.

    Kranks replaced it after only a slight amount of argument. So much for the story that was told when selling him the rifle that it had done very little shooting and that it had been used mainly for ceremonial drills.
    It's the calibre of the shooter that counts not the calibre of the rifle.

  5. #5
    Much of the European 303 is made with .310" -311" bullets. Many aging 303's have .316" groove diameters and .306" bores. The mating of bullets to barrels is essential with the Enfields. Rifling can look very good and be very worn, resulting in pie-plate accuracy. Other 303's can have light frosting of an otherwise dimensionally excellent bore and shoot really well.

    Deflected by blades of grass?? Not likely.~Muir

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Muir View Post
    Much of the European 303 is made with .310" -311" bullets. Many aging 303's have .316" groove diameters and .306" bores. The mating of bullets to barrels is essential with the Enfields. Rifling can look very good and be very worn, resulting in pie-plate accuracy. Other 303's can have light frosting of an otherwise dimensionally excellent bore and shoot really well.

    Deflected by blades of grass?? Not likely.~Muir

    These mismatches are pretty common and seen a lot here - we have a lot of 303s in the UK (surprise!) and many are wartime spec / well worn (surprise!). However, 5 to 7-inch 100 yard groups are one thing, keyholing bullets quite another.

    When the OP said 'clipping the grass', I'm pretty sure he wasn't referring to bullets being deflected by intermediate blades of the green stuff. Since the shooting was from fire trenches that makes it an Mod or ex-MoD range and they all come with damn great mantlets in front of the butts, usually clad in good thick turf, the British Isles being a great (wet) place for cultivating grass. Sights set low will skim the mantlet and often go through the target - but sideways.

    Seen that scores of times and had many a cup of coffee ruined when marking by some fool failing to check his sights so that those behind the mantlet are showered by soil, bits of grass and pulverised sheep dung! If one thinks this has been happening, the easiest way of checking is to ask the butts crew. In fact, the Butts Officer should report this to the RO and scores should not be awarded where shots have ricoched off the mantlet.

    On one occasion, My fellow marker and I had a 'serial offender' shooting on our target and a 144gn 7.62 Nato bullet ploughed through several feet of turf before lodging in the pine target frame. It lost so much velocity, it only penetrated as far as the cannelure (having apparently remained in a fairly straight line of flight) and after it had cooled we recovered it and presented it to the owner after we finished for the day suggesting he get a decent loading manual and put enough powder in the case for the bullet to go through the target. He refused to believe it was his bullet though, convinced we'd found it in the butts area. Its jacket was badly scratched thanks to its considerable passage through the ground as if it had been rubbed down with a coarse abrasive or file.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Laurie View Post
    These mismatches are pretty common and seen a lot here - we have a lot of 303s in the UK (surprise!) and many are wartime spec / well worn (surprise!). However, 5 to 7-inch 100 yard groups are one thing, keyholing bullets quite another.

    When the OP said 'clipping the grass', I'm pretty sure he wasn't referring to bullets being deflected by intermediate blades of the green stuff. Since the shooting was from fire trenches that makes it an Mod or ex-MoD range and they all come with damn great mantlets in front of the butts, usually clad in good thick turf, the British Isles being a great (wet) place for cultivating grass. Sights set low will skim the mantlet and often go through the target - but sideways.
    I see. I was thinking blades.
    I collect Enfields and have a couple od dozen of them left; military and sporters.
    FWIW I have seen Enfields rifles punch keyholes. I've rebarreled at least two for that reason. A dual trumpet like bore combined with an undersized bullet were the culprit: Rifling worn almost smooth at the rear and wallowed badly at the muzzle. Combine that with an undersized bullet and you get almost nothing for stability. (Coincidentally, they were both Lithgow rifles.)
    Admittedly, most rifles in that condition never make it to the range- it's either been attended to or the rifle put up.~Muir

  8. #8
    I make and sell cast bullets .303 being my biggest seller, I ask my customers to get their barrels slugged so I can supply the correct size, so far I have never had one sized .312"
    most are .313" and bigger a couple were .317" in the throat and .314" at the muzzle, no way would they shoot with any sort of accuracy, and a lot of them need recrowning
    being worn with the use of pull throughs. Robert.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by shooternz View Post
    I make and sell cast bullets .303 being my biggest seller, I ask my customers to get their barrels slugged so I can supply the correct size, so far I have never had one sized .312"
    most are .313" and bigger a couple were .317" in the throat and .314" at the muzzle, no way would they shoot with any sort of accuracy, and a lot of them need recrowning
    being worn with the use of pull throughs. Robert.
    Dead on. I shoot cast bullets in 99% of my 303's and I recently had Lee make me a 6-cavity mold that is .317" x .307'"x 190 gains to accommodate the very worn battle veterans. Even my .310" groove #4, MkII rifles have a .315 throat for which I load a .314" bullet. Nice to have another cast bullet shooter in the crowd.~Muir

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Muir View Post
    Deflected by blades of grass?? Not likely.~Muir
    It happens. This is a 90g 6mm Scenar bullet hole in the 1,000 yard target at Stickledown. I was marking, and I took the photograph. This was one of a series that struck the (tall) grass 'upstream' of the mantlet. It doesn't take much to destabilize a bullet. And no, it was nothing to do with the twist rate - I know the rifle in question (I used to own it). As soon as the shooter added a little more elevation, he produced nice round holes - as you can see in the orange marker, that being the subsequent shot.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Unstable 243 bullets at Stickledown, Apr 2010.jpg 
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    Last edited by JMS906; 09-06-2015 at 12:25. Reason: typo

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