.303??

mudman

Well-Known Member
I have always wondered why the .303 never took off as a sporting calibre, after all several other military rounds have well established sporting variants, the .223, 30-06, 7.62 etc.

So my question basically is why is the .303 not a popular stalking calibre?
 

swampy

Account Suspended
.303

rich,
the .303 has taken loads and loads and loads and loads and loads of stuff over the years. it has killed plains game like billyo in africa and big game in india.

one of the problems with the calibre was the lee enfield rifles lock at the rear of the bolt not at the front so it is not quite as happy with the higher pressures of more modern loads. I suppose one of the reasons it did't take off is becuase in america they were using .30-06 so american rifles were made for that cartridge which is a better round. the europeans used the fantastic mauser action which was used on a variety of rounds, the 7.92 mauser (8x57 i think) and the 7 x 57 mauser. The mauser action is still made by most makers.

I think that as propellants have got better and pressures higher the .303 has become more obsolete.

steve
 

Thar

Well-Known Member
The British military knew the 303 was obsolete in 1913, they wanted to change to a 270 cal’ then (.276) bore. Then again in 1955 the Military wanted a 7mm cal, weapon. But the yanks want a 30 cal,(308).

The above said the old 303 will get the job done, about 3 years ago my mate took one red deer stalking it was Enfield that had been sportised by J Rigby in the 1930s it was a lovely rifle, open sights only on it.

Best rgds

Tahr
 

zaitsev

Well-Known Member
I shot a rigby .303 recently on Mauser 98 action. very lightweight and a low power scope. With factory loads it was doing about an inch at 100 which I thought was reasonable for something approaching its 9oth birthday! Quite a gentle calibre to shoot too. I wonder what the .303 would do in a modern rifle? A Thompson would be a great action to have one on or a Ruger No 1. Hmmmmmm
 

Jagare

Well-Known Member
One reason that the .303 never became popular is that its a rimmed rounded . Its a nice round and as others have said it has shot a lot of game in the old British empire. It shoots a .311 bullet .
 

Beowulf

Well-Known Member
Sikamalc has a very nice 303 sniper rifle (without the scope). He showed me what it could do when I was last in Scotland with him. Yep it does what it says on the box! ;)
 

sikamalc

Administrator
Site Staff
As Mr B mentioned I have a 303 1954 model light beech wood, and as luck would have it I managed to get one of the last sporterised stocks for it in Birmingham a few years back for the princly sum of £35 :D result.

I have a tube Burris scope on it, and have loaded ammo for it using modern powders, never had a problem. I have used it in Africa on Blesbuck and Wildebeest, no problem downed then in one. Although a heavy rifle it is a joy to shoot, and I also take it stalking on odd occassions and have taken Red, Sika and Fallow with it.

Its a bit like owning a classic car, it only gets let out when the sun shines, but its fun to own and shoot. And it is a very accurate rifle, which believe it or not I had given to me by an American friend from brand new, it was still in the grease paper when I got it, never been fired :D
 

swampy

Account Suspended
lock it up

Malc,
is it one of the later models which locks up at the front mauser style? is it called a P14 action?

steve
 

stag1933

Well-Known Member
The P14 was a Mauser action .303 also made in America in .30-06 cal. as the P17.
I was County full-bore rifle champion at 500 yards in 1956 using a borrowed P14 .303 rifle and County full-bore rapid fire champion at 300 yards the following year.
Oh to be young again !!

HWH.
 

charadam

Well-Known Member
It's a well-worn phrase - but the .303 British has take more head of game than any other cartridge in the history of firearms - and possibly more human lives also.

The other well-worn phrase, we had the SMLE, the best battle rifle ever used in war and the Americans had the best target rifle (P14) ever used in war ..................

The Americans were always more prepared to use "marketing" than us reserved Brits, hence the prejudice against rear-locking actions.

The pressure in a round is limited by the strength of the cartridge case, not the action.

Rimmed case - worked extremely well to the extent that the Vickers and Lewis guns were used as scythes of men between 1914 and 18. The fact that cartridge length is not very significant in a rimmed round allowed the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield to be the premier battle rifle of all time.

The Vickers and Lewis (and the LE No4, and the Bren gun) also went through WW2 in .303 and IIRC, we won!

In battle situations, the duty of the rifle is to accept dirty, tarnished, corroded rounds and still make them go bang.

The SMLE's "cock on closing" action, again villified by our Colonial Cousins, is vastly superior to the "cock on opening" systems (Mauser, et al) IN A BATTLE RIFLE where extraction of the fired case is the significant factor. If you can't get the case out of the chamber, you can't reload! A lesson learned from Mk1 - 3 Martini Henry days.

Rant over.

I'll fetch my coat.
 

mudman

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all of your excellent replies guys.

So the unpopularity of the .303 for modern stalking is almost purely due to fashion, and not because the the calibre was ballistically deficient in any regard.

I remember reading Lea MacNally's articles in Shooting Times and I think he used a .303 to shoot alot of deer after the war.
 

swampy

Account Suspended
charadam said:
The other well-worn phrase, we had the SMLE, the best battle rifle ever used in war and the Americans had the best target rifle (P14) ever used in war ..................

The Americans were always more prepared to use "marketing" than us reserved Brits, hence the prejudice against rear-locking actions.

The pressure in a round is limited by the strength of the cartridge case, not the action.

Rimmed case - worked extremely well to the extent that the Vickers and Lewis guns were used as scythes of men between 1914 and 18. The fact that cartridge length is not very significant in a rimmed round allowed the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield to be the premier battle rifle of all time.

The Vickers and Lewis (and the LE No4, and the Bren gun) also went through WW2 in .303 and IIRC, we won!
Charadam,
Thats a good post, thanks for that. The action locking at the rear is described as being "springy" in my speer book.
With the round being rimmed does it headspace on the rim or on the rim and shoulder? if it spaces on the rim is wear on the boltface or the piece of the chamber that holds the rim a problem?

steve
 

charadam

Well-Known Member
Swampy,
The Lee Enfield .303 headspace is simply the gap between the rear face of the chamber and the face of the bolt.
The round headspaces on the rim.
There is also a tad (about 2 smidgins) of extra clearance to allow for ammunition and individual rifle tolerances.
When headspace goes out of limits, the bolt head is unscrewed and replaced by one a few thou "longer". I seem to recall that 4 or 5 sizes in .002" increments were available as spare parts.
The "springy" action reference goes back, I believe to the target shooters of yesteryear.
They were trying to work out why the SMLE was capable of better performance at 1000 yards than at 300-600 (or vice versa - God, my memory!). The rear-locking action was represented as "springy" and not capable of precisely returning to battery identically every shot.
This may or may not be true - and it shows the futility of trying to apply target rifle parameters to a battle rifle.
The SMLE was the benefactor of a great deal of superb design and originality of thought.
Mine's a London Small Arms No1 Mk3 of 1909 and shoots superbly.
Charles
 

john.d.m

Well-Known Member
The amount of 303`s over here is staggering !.
Everyone seems to have one for kicking about the bush.
A mate of mine has got a few, I seen about 10 different ones he`s got, and I`m pretty sure he`s got a few more kicking about;but he does have a couple of rather nice ones.
He`s got the last one he used in the N.Z army, (himself, his father and his grandfather were all snipers, pc term is marksman in the army) thats a nice little rifle.
He`s got 2 with high class makers names on them, Churcill and Rigby, they have been sporterized and I have to say, they are beautiful rifles !
He`s got another one too, I will have to get the full info off it, but it was sporterized for someone a few yrs ago, and it is a beauty, original pecar scope, quick release mounts etc etc.He`s been trying to do some research on it on this `net thing, and one was sold in U.S.A for $10,000,but the bloke wont sell his, as a grt mate of his gave it to him a few yrs ago, as he knew he like the 303.
You can buy one here in a gunshop for about $nz 100.
I was doing a job with excavator in a river the other day, and the week before the cops pulled 3 x303`s out of the river. I did ask them if they found a Marlin or a Heym give me a call :lol:
 

Bandit Country

Well-Known Member
charadam said:
The "springy" action reference goes back, I believe to the target shooters of yesteryear.
They were trying to work out why the SMLE was capable of better performance at 1000 yards than at 300-600 (or vice versa - God, my memory!). The rear-locking action was represented as "springy" and not capable of precisely returning to battery identically every shot.
This may or may not be true ....Charles
I believe that the steel of a rear locking bolt compresses microscopically along its length when the round is fired, whereas a front locking bolt doesn't. Hence rear locking bolts being described as 'springy'. This apparently has an effect on barrel harmonics which in turn results in front locking rifle being inherently more accurate at ranges under 600 yards and rear locking rifles better at 600 - 1000 yards. There was a whole load of plausible physics to support this explanation, but I can't remember all that. The real worry is that I also can't find the book that described it all.....

Don't know the truth of the matter, but I used the whole range of .303 service rifles during the 60's and early 70's. Best shooting I ever had was using an SMLE with a match barrel and Parker Hale bridge sight. Then I became a grown up, got given an SLR for the day job and my shooting has gone down hill ever since! :cry:
 

Bandit Country

Well-Known Member
Bandit Country said:
The real worry is that I also can't find the book that described it all.....
Yes I can.....I know that WSM300 likes to go by the book :) so here it is....... "The Book of Shooting for Sport and Skill" 1980. ISBN 0 584 97064 1. Chapter 11 - Fullbore Rifle Shooting by Kenneth Brechin. Mr B was the Scottish National Fullbore Rifle Coach, so I'm guessing he knew what he was on about! Anyway, it is all in there with an entirely understandable explanation of positive and negative compensation.
 

charadam

Well-Known Member
Thanks Bandit!

The book is on its way from a seller.

If anyone is wishes, I will scan & photobucket the part we are interested in.

Charles
 

TONY M

Well-Known Member
What a fascinating and informative set of posts,I really did find that interesting. Thanks, Tony M.
 

Muir

Well-Known Member
I have always thought the US was a little lazy in their turn bolt designs.

When England adopted the Lee Magazine rifle the US was still largely outfitted with Trapdoor Springfield single shots firing black powder cartridges. In 1892 they adopted the single-locking-lugged Krag Jorgensen bolt action for which they paid a manufacturing royalty of $1 per rifle to the Norwegian government. In 1903 they adopted the 1903 Springfield and the rimless 30-03 US cartridge. (Later to be slightly modified to the 30 Caliber of 1906 Cartridge)

Mauser sued the US for a patent infringement and won, causing the US to pay royalties through WWI and beyond. The US Model1917 Remington service rifle (30-06) design was borrowed from England when the National Arsenal in Springfield couldn’t produce enough rifles. Three companies in the US were already contracted to produce the Pattern 14 Enfield rifle so the US simply remade them into 30-06. AS stated previously, the P-14 was originally to be delivered in the .276 Rimless for the UK but the Great War stopped cartridge development and forced then to re-engineer the P-14 to work with the .303 service round.

During the 1930’s, when the US was in the midst of the Great Depression, Remington added a bolt guide to the basic P-14/M-17 action and produced the Model 30 Express. This was considered a top-line sporter and came in many calibers and configurations. From there, they redesigned the stock and made the Remington Model 725 which still bore a distinctly P-14 look. This design gave way to the Model 721 and 722 which begot the Model 700 we all know.

Tucked in there was the Model 600, a racy looking item that still maintained the P-14 “dog-leg” bolt, and in 1967 the Model 788; one of the most popular sporters ever produced by Remington which featured, by the way, rear locking lugs.

So you see? Marketing had nothing to do with it; The US just cabbaged their best bolt gun designs from other countries.


The 303, like many fine military and sporting cartridges may be on the shadowy side of its days in the sun, but it is far from gone. It is one of my favorite calibers, for sure. It is both inherently accurate and powerful enough for the mule deer I shoot out to 200 yards and better depending on the bullet weight. I have several Lee and P-14 stalking rifles in 303 as well as about a dozen military offerings, including the Canadian Ross. I like using custom fitted lead alloy bullets for my shooting.

You may be surprised to learn that thousands of sporterized 303’s still find their way into US and Canadian forests every year to harvest deer. ~Muir
 

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