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TheOldPro

Is A Neck Sizing Die the Only Way to Go Here?

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I've been getting an old .303 ready to go, and may have made a mistake in buying reloading dies for it before I did my homework. I got the Full Length dies, but most of what I have since read indicates that with the .303, neck sizing only is the only way to go to save the brass because of the built-in extra headspace and generous chamber dimensions in the old military Lee Enfields which promotes rapid case stretching if full-length resizing is employed. If what they say is true, I can understand the rationale of neck sizing only so that the case fire-forms to my chamber and eliminates or reduces the stretching significantly. My question has to do with using the FL dies that I have to neck size only by backing off of the seating of the dies. I understand there are differences of opinions on the subject, as to whether it can work fine, work somewhat, or not work at all. I don't mind spending the extra $35 to get the Lee collet dies for neck sizing only (actually I do, but that sounds better), but if what I have can be usable, I had rather not. I will probably never reload the two boxes of shells I bought more than a 3 or 4 times total, as I don't foresee shooting the old thing all that much. But who knows? I might. We may all be reduced to shooting .303's after the election. If any of you have had experience, and by extension success or failure in neck sizing only in any caliber with full length dies, I would like to hear about it, and how you set the dies up if you do. Can it be done?

 

OP

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I had a GEM of an Enfield .303 for many years. It was from early in the production, and had 6 groove rifling (which apparently made it pretty unique, because they later went to 4 groove, and toward the end of the war I heard production used 2 groove, just to get them out the door). Mine was a tack driver with hand loads. NOT that easy to do, as it uses the odd .311 bullets, which there were not a lot of choices in at the time.

I always used full length sizing die no brass that was fire formed in my chamber. No issues, no real brass flow. I would reload them a couple of times, then before the 3rd try, check the case length for length. I don't remember ever having to trim one. Most of my brass supply at the time was from surplus .303 ammo, so maybe they used short brass to start with 'back in the day', but I never did trim any of them.

With hand loads, I had no problem hitting steel at 600 yards using the iron sights (well, hitting anything at 600 yards with iron sights isn't exactly easy, but I always felt like this gun shot better than I did on any given day). That rifle NEVER missed a shot. Every animal it was pointed at went down right where it stood. That rifle was my 'brush country' coyote gun for many years because I've never had a bolt gun that could cycle as fast as that thing. If I was in a hurry, that thing could lay down some led at multiple coyotes. My hunting buddy at the time used to joke about my semi-automatic bolt gun. It was FAST.

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I'd smoke the case and adjust the sizer down until you have half the neck resized and see if the case will chamber......if it will, I'd lock the die down and size away.

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I'd smoke the case and adjust the sizer down until you have half the neck resized and see if the case will chamber......if it will, I'd lock the die down and size away.

I've got 6 empties to play with, so I'll give it a try. I have no idea what to expect with this cartridge.

 

GH: I've got a pound of W748, and Lyman lists one load using the 150 gr. bullets with it, from about 39 gr. to about 43 gr. Hodgdon does not list it at all with the 150 gr. bullet. Think I am safe in trying it?

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I looked through some older Winchester data and found one 150 grain jacketed bullet / 748 load.....45.4 grains @ 37,700 psi. I would have no problem trying a starting load at 39-40 grains.

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Also, remember the .303 is a rimmed cartridge so it headspaces on the rim not the shoulder......or so I thought! Check out this really informative discussion on the .303 headspacing and reloading.

 

http://parallaxscurioandrelicfirearmsforums.yuku.com/topic/3361/t/Headspace-101-for-303-s.html#.V8L89tQrI1J

 

Ya' learn something new everyday!

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I always size for headspacing on the shoulder if possible, doesn't matter if it is rimmed, belted or rimless cartridge.....less case stretching that way.

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Also, remember the .303 is a rimmed cartridge so it headspaces on the rim not the shoulder......or so I thought!

 

 

That was a good article, I think, if the guy knows what he is talking about, and it appears he does. I think by combining that thing with the monofilament (I'll use O-rings) with Mark's method of partial neck-sizing, I should be able to get by with what I have, no more than I'm going to be reloading them, and I wind up with a fire formed case that fits my chamber, at least for awhile. I did some casual comparisons between the fired case and an unfired bullet, and the eye cannot really see a difference. But when I put the calipers on it, I can tell it has stretched ever so slightly, in the few thousandths of a millimeter variety. I suppose if I reload them enough, I'll have to get Mark to explain to me how to bump back the shoulder so that it will chamber and still headspace on the shoulder, if it's anything other than just screwing the die in a little more. Thanks for the info from all.

 

OP

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I had a GEM of an Enfield .303 for many years. ....... Most of my brass supply at the time was from surplus .303 ammo, so maybe they used short brass to start with 'back in the day', but I never did trim any of them.

 

My son-in-law yesterday showed me his Enfield no. 4 that he bought a couple of years ago at a garage sale around here. It is pristine, and the bluing, stock, etc., looked like new. He gave $25 for it. Was I jealous? I think yes. As to the brass you mention, it may have been of a sturdier make to start with. In my "back in the day", I had never heard of reloading, so I don't have anything to compare it to.

 

OP

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Next Question (s): (For GonHuntin or whoever else might know):

 

Okay. I set up the die, blackened the case neck, shoulder, and about 1/2" of the body below the shoulder, and worked my way down so that I had neck-sized about 1/2 of the neck. When I finished, the front 1/2 of the neck was clear of soot, the other half and the shoulder still had soot on it, but the 1/2" on the body below the shoulder was mostly cleaned off of soot. Does this sound about right for partial neck-sizing with the FL die?

Next, what I noticed, and they were this way before the resizing, was that the shoulder had moved forward maybe 1/16" compared to an unfired shell, and the angle of the shoulder was noticeably sharper than the factory cartridge, not as much slope to it. Is this also normal when "fire-forming" a case to a particular chamber?

 

Third, none of the fired cartridges would fully chamber by sticking them in by hand only either before or after resizing, but would with minor resistance, using the rifle bolt, before and after neck sizing. I think the distance they wouldn't chamber is about where the case had moved back to to contact the bolt face upon firing of the cartridge due to headspace, and that portion of the case right above the rim expanded slightly upon firing, and now basically I won't have to worry about headspace with that case anymore. That does worrry me a little, though, for from now on, that portion of the case, however minor, will not have any support from the chamber when the firing occurs. I am guessing, however, that since that occurred with a new cartridge, it never had any support anyhow, since it moved rearward to the bolt face and expanded like it did. Since it's so close to the rim, I doubt if full length resizing would touch it anyhow.

So, does anyone find anything abnormal with the results described above? My next step will be to finish the reloading process, but I would like to hear from you before I do that. Thanks in advance,

 

OP

 

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Next Question (s): (For GonHuntin or whoever else might know):

 

Okay. I set up the die, blackened the case neck, shoulder, and about 1/2" of the body below the shoulder, and worked my way down so that I had neck-sized about 1/2 of the neck. When I finished, the front 1/2 of the neck was clear of soot, the other half and the shoulder still had soot on it, but the 1/2" on the body below the shoulder was mostly cleaned off of soot. Does this sound about right for partial neck-sizing with the FL die?

 

Yep, that happens when you use a full length die to partially neck size a case from a rifle with a "generous" chamber.

 

 

Next, what I noticed, and they were this way before the resizing, was that the shoulder had moved forward maybe 1/16" compared to an unfired shell, and the angle of the shoulder was noticeably sharper than the factory cartridge, not as much slope to it. Is this also normal when "fire-forming" a case to a particular chamber?

 

Did the shoulder move forward, or did the neck to shoulder junction move forward? Again, sounds like a "generous" chamber......these rifles were weapons of war and they needed to work even in less than clean conditions. The sharpening of the shoulder isn't an issue, but if the case really stretched 1/16" at the shoulder, that could be worrisome. I don't worry much about a case that grows where the shoulder meets the neck, it is stretching in the web area just forward of the case head that leads to case head separation.

 

Third, none of the fired cartridges would fully chamber by sticking them in by hand only either before or after resizing, but would with minor resistance, using the rifle bolt, before and after neck sizing. I think the distance they wouldn't chamber is about where the case had moved back to to contact the bolt face upon firing of the cartridge due to headspace, and that portion of the case right above the rim expanded slightly upon firing, and now basically I won't have to worry about headspace with that case anymore. That does worrry me a little, though, for from now on, that portion of the case, however minor, will not have any support from the chamber when the firing occurs. I am guessing, however, that since that occurred with a new cartridge, it never had any support anyhow, since it moved rearward to the bolt face and expanded like it did. Since it's so close to the rim, I doubt if full length resizing would touch it anyhow.

 

Not unusual at all. The reason they won't chamber easily is because: 1) the enfield is a rear locking action that is somewhat "springy", 2)the new cases are made to minimum specification so they will fit in all .303 chambers and, 3) you set the die up so it WILL NOT resize the lower portion of the case. Minor resistance on bolt closing is not a problem, if it is too difficult, screw the sizer die down a little at a time to size more of the case. This is why I asked you to only size half the neck at first, now you can work the die down to size more of the case while watching that you don't push the shoulder back. I wouldn't worry too much about case expansion in the web unless it is grossly oversize.

 

 

So, does anyone find anything abnormal with the results described above? My next step will be to finish the reloading process, but I would like to hear from you before I do that. Thanks in advance,

 

OP

 

 

 

 

Maybe this will help:

 

RCBS-Precision-Mic-Cartridge-Measurement

 

 

Because you are trying to headspace off the shoulder instead of the rim of this case, it will headspace off of a point referred to as the datum line, NOT at the shoulder to neck or shoulder to body junctions. So, if your virgin case was formed with the shoulder neck junction either rounded, or shorter than your chamber (very common), the case will stretch and form to the shape and length of the chamber upon first firing. When you full length resize a case, you push the datum line back toward the case head which we are trying to avoid by partially neck sizing the case.

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If I understood your question correctly on the second point, it looks like the neck length of the fired shell and new shell are pretty close to the same. The point at which the shoulder begins its taper has definitely moved forward, resulting in a much sharper angle than originally, and a much shorter shoulder length.

Kind of hard to measure exactly because you can't get the calipers in exactly the same position on the fired and unfired case but the best I can measure is as follows:

 

OAL of case: 56.37mm fired, 56.08 unfired (gain of .29 mm)

 

Start of shoulder from back of rim to beginning of back shoulder taper: 47.52 fired, 45.64 unfired (forward movement of the beginning of the shoulder by about 1.88 mm.)

 

Neck length from end of shoulder to mouth: 7.68 fired, 7.67 unfired (virtually no change in neck length)

 

Rim to beginning of neck: 47.86 mm unfired, 47.99 fired (possible forward movement of where neck starts by about .13 mm, possibly due to case stretch between rim and shoulder? )

 

So it appears the shoulder "rolled" forward, changed the shoulder angle, but did not get into the neck length at all.

Based on what you can make out from the above measurements, is this acceptable? Again, this is based on my understanding of the question and/or points you made.

 

OP

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post-18103-0-02410200-1472571013.jpgI never realized how hard it was to take a good photo of a cartridge until now. And none of these are great. I'm going for preponderance of evidence here:

 

 

post-18103-0-87215000-1472571030.jpg

post-18103-0-70716500-1472571047.jpg

post-18103-0-76385400-1472571069.jpg

post-18103-0-46665100-1472571109.jpg

post-18103-0-56267900-1472571127.jpg

post-18103-0-27061700-1472571148.jpg

post-18103-0-49615800-1472571163.jpg

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Wow, that is quite a difference! Almost looks like an improved cartridge!!

 

I don't think you will have an issue as long as you don't full length resize the case.

 

Just for grins, I'd straighten out a paperclip, cut the end at an angle so you have a sharp point, bend the last 1/8th" into a right angle and use the point of this tool to feel the inside of the case for signs of thinning. Run the sharp point along the inside of the case and feel for a radial groove near the case head, if present, you should feel a "click" as the point crosses the groove. This groove, if present, would be an indication of an incipient case head separation.

 

From AccurateShooter.com:

http://www.accurateshooter.com/technical-articles/case-head-separation-cause-diagnosis/

 

casehead02.jpg

 

 

casehead03.jpg

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