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Old October 12, 2013, 04:37 PM   #1
pathdoc
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.303 British extraction problem with handloads

The cases are neck-sized (Lee Loader) Prvi Partizan with WLR primers. The load is a minimum charge of Varget (weighed out) as advised in the Lee Loader insert chart, over a 174gn Hornady FMJBT, seated to the Cannelure.

Before starting, I had fired 28 minimum loads with similar features, except 150gn Hornady SP's, likewise seated to cannelure. I then started on the 174's.

At about the 10th round into the string of 19, I started getting failures to extract. No sticky bolt lift, no hard tugging, the bolt just came straight back and the cartridge stayed in the chamber. Passing a clearing rod down the barrel got them out with practically zero effort. The primers looked fine. After each one of these, it would load, fire, extract a few more without an issue and then the problem would repeat itself. Reclosing the bolt on the empty case and attempting re-extraction did not solve the problem.

Suggested causes:

1) Extractor is stuffed (most of these cases have seen three or four reloads already).

2) Brass is stuffed & extractor is not binding.

3) Chamber is overheated and binding on the brass; extractor claw is slipping off.

I understand from speaking to the gunsmith who built the rifle that the barrel was "donated" from a P14 and then fitted in some Frankenstein fashion to the Lithgow SMLE receiver. I shot 40 rounds from it a couple of weeks ago without a hassle, though there was quite a bit of time between shots on that occasion. Looking at the fired primers and judging from the rounds that extracted and ejected cleanly (no sticky bolt lift, extraction smooth and effortless when it worked), I do not think I have pressure problems.

Maybe it's time to just invest in a huge quantity of new unfired .303 Brit brass and take the hammer to all this stuff?
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Old October 12, 2013, 11:00 PM   #2
tangolima
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Check the extractor claw. Make sure it has proper spring-out and positive engagement angle. It doesn't hurt to take a looksee at the casing's rims either. Make sure they are worn. They rarely are.

I just let go of a batch of PPU .303 brass. They started to have head separations after some 20 firings. Never have extraction problem. None of the rims were worn.

-TL
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Old October 13, 2013, 02:38 AM   #3
Been there
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Good advise , I also load for .303 but use projectiles from the 7.62x39 ( 123gr .311) I bought 5,000 of these for 5 cents each some years ago, when my sons were 13 & 11 yrs old respectively. Their grandfather had gifted them 2 Longbranch No4 mk1 rifles, still in their original grease & I worked up a load that gave the equivalent recoil of a .243. This proved so effective on goats, pigs & deer that I have never changed the load. They have since grown up & brought their own modern rifles but I still load & use the .303 to this day.
After hollow pointing these, I get a 119gr hpbt doing 2650fps.
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Old October 13, 2013, 07:45 AM   #4
wogpotter
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99% of the time its the extractor spring is either weak, broken or "bunged up" with crud.
Because it started suddenly I'm thinking a broken extractor spring.
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Old October 13, 2013, 04:41 PM   #5
pathdoc
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Thanks for the input, all.

Got a chance to go out to the range again today and run 20 rounds through the rifle. I now suspect it may have been due to a feed issue when the magazine was close to capacity, with the extractor not riding over the rims and picking them up properly - today, ten single-loaded rounds fed, fired and extracted perfectly; two lots of five loaded from the magazine, likewise.

I was a bad boy and did no cleaning last night, so any "crud" from yesterday was still there today.

Because I never expect to need more than five in the magazine, I'm going to let things sit as they are unless the problem repeats itself. If something were permanently broken, I'd have expected to get the same problem at least once in the box I shot today, but no; nothing bad happened.
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Old October 13, 2013, 07:40 PM   #6
Mobuck
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I'm not all that familiar with the Brit Enfield BUT, if the round chambers and fires, how does the extractor not engage the rim?
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Old October 14, 2013, 08:32 AM   #7
wogpotter
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Quote:
the barrel was "donated" from a P14 and then fitted in some Frankenstein fashion to the Lithgow SMLE receiver.
Its some modified barrel, not an original factory Lee-Enfield one. That may be allowing more wiggle room than normal as the Mauser copy P14 extractor is wider than the Enfields.

Another possibility is the spring might snap over the rim, but have a lack of tension on the claw to keep it engaged during primary extraction.
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