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Old November 27, 2022, 01:50 PM   #1
divil
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Some noob questions

I'm just about to start handloading for the first time and I wonder if someone could help me with these questions:

The RCBS set up I have came with a Speer reloading manual. Naturally all the loading data is for their bullets. There's a note that says something like other manufacturers bullets are not interchangeable. It used to be like that but with modern design there can be differences. (paraphrased).

Is that really true? I'm planning to reload .303 and given how hard it is to find components, I'll have to take whatever brand of bullets I can get. Do I really need to then get a reloading manual from the same manufacturer as the bullets, or is that overkill?

Also, I see that people seem to go back and forth on .311 vs .312 bullets for .303. The Speer manual says 0.311. Assuming I'll have to experiment to get the best accuracy, does that difference in diameter make a difference in terms of safety? My Lee Enfield rifle was unissued and is in mint shape so the bore is probably towards the smaller end. Can you safely experiment with that much variation in bullet diameter without changing anything else?

Thanks!
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Old November 27, 2022, 02:50 PM   #2
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That’s not a newb question! Welcome!

Bullets of similar length are relatively interchangeable until you get close to the lands or the bullet gets much closer to the powder column. That is true until materials change. All copper bullets are so long for weight that they need their own data. They are also much harder. Cast are much softer, making their data different…slightly.

Without knowing how your bore slugs, I cannot guess about 0.311 vs 0.312. I would start small and see how it shoots.
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Old November 27, 2022, 03:36 PM   #3
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Buy the latest edition of the Lyman manual. It has many generic loads based on bullet weight and style.
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Old November 27, 2022, 05:04 PM   #4
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There are lots of great manuals. You can also find lots of great data on powder and bullet makers sites. Hodgdon generally has lots of good info. https://www.hodgdonreloading.com/

What bullet and powder are you using. That would help us a lot in giving good advice.
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Old November 27, 2022, 05:25 PM   #5
divil
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Thanks for the input everyone.

Quote:
What bullet and powder are you using. That would help us a lot in giving good advice.
I don't have any idea, that's why I'm asking. I can't buy the bullets recommended in my Speer manual because no one has them. So I have to buy something else. There are some Hornady .312 and some Prvi .311 available, but I don't know which ones to choose, or whether my choice of bullet diameter (or manufacturer) means that I can't use the Speer loading data. If I can't, then I don't have the faintest idea what kind of powder to buy until I buy another manual. I see the Lyman manual for sale but the blurb text lists the bullets they have data for and it doesn't include Prvi.

It might include info for Hornady bullets, but I've got no way of knowing if that will include Hornady .312 which is the only size I can find from that brand, nor do I even know if it's safe to use .312 bullets in this rifle.

So far I know what brass to use (the stuff I already fired) and what primers to use, and that's it!
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Old November 27, 2022, 05:47 PM   #6
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you can download the Hornady app for your phone or tablet. You can buy individual cartridges by caliber for $0.99 whole digital manual is $20 if I remember right. You do need internet connection to use it. but its a straight purchase, not a subscription. but that would be a quick and easy way to get to hornady data if your looking at hornady bullets.

guns can vary. the only way to know for sure is to slug the barrel. basically shove and over sized pure lead bullet down the barrel and measure with a micrometer. I have done it before, but I also cast my own bullets. If hornady is making and recommending the bullets for the 303 id just go with it.

Data from Hornady 11th edition

Bullet Diameter listed 0.310

Bullet weights and powders listed

123 (2 bullets, interlock SP, SST)
accurate 2015
IMR 3031
Accurate 2460
H4895
Viht N-135

150 (1 bullet, SP interlock)
IMR 3031
Accurate 2495
H4895
IMR 4320
Varget
Accurate 2520
IMR 4064
Alliant RL-15
Viht N140
Win 748

174g (2 bullets FMJ-BT, SP Interlock RN)
H4895
Accurate 2520
IMR 4320
Varget
IMR 4064
Win 748
Alliant RL-15
Vit N140
IMR 4350
H414
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Last edited by Shadow9mm; November 27, 2022 at 05:57 PM.
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Old November 27, 2022, 07:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
you can download the Hornady app for your phone or tablet. You can buy individual cartridges by caliber for $0.99 whole digital manual is $20 if I remember right. You do need internet connection to use it. but its a straight purchase, not a subscription. but that would be a quick and easy way to get to hornady data if your looking at hornady bullets.
Thanks, I downloaded the app. The summary it shows me for .303 says that it uses a .310" bullet. But the only Hornady bullets I can find listed for .303 are 0.312". There's not much point in buying the manual or even one cartridge data if I can't buy the bullets.

If I take the part # of the bullet I can buy (3120) and search for it on Hornady's website, it lists it as "303 Cal .312". But it doesn't look like the app is going to give me the data for it.

How do people do this?
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Old November 27, 2022, 10:04 PM   #8
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The " new " condition of your barrel will have nothing to do with it's bore size . As stated you will have to slug your barrel to know what size land and groove barrel you have as they will vary greatly . The Hornady manual has data for their bullet . As long as you keep your loads in the middle of the data to start , a .310 or .312 will not make much difference for safety , but it can for accuracy .
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Old November 27, 2022, 10:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
The " new " condition of your barrel will have nothing to do with it's bore size . As stated you will have to slug your barrel to know what size land and groove barrel you have as they will vary greatly . The Hornady manual has data for their bullet . As long as you keep your loads in the middle of the data to start , a .310 or .312 will not make much difference for safety , but it can for accuracy .
I thought I was supposed to start at the lower end. Why is that not safe?
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Old November 27, 2022, 10:46 PM   #10
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Meaning moving your max to the middle of the normal start and max.

Typically start is around 10% of the charge weight below max. So find your max from the manual and figure out start. Go half way in between and that will be your new max with the larger bullets. Then you can work out your new start from there.

Or you can try to track down data for the larger bullets.
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Last edited by Shadow9mm; November 27, 2022 at 11:33 PM.
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Old November 28, 2022, 08:31 AM   #11
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Thanks. I have the Hornady data for the bullet sizes that are available.

In the app, the .310" size appears on the summary but in the loading data that size appears only for the 123gr bullet.

The The 150gr are shown as .312" and the 174gr are listed as .311"-.312". But that exact 174gr bullet is only listed as .312" on Hornady's website. So I don't know why the app shows a range like that.

This is even more confusing. I thought diameter was a separate variable from weight, but apparently not. So if I discover that .311 is too big, the only option from Hornady is the 123gr .310 bullet. Otherwise I need a different bullet manufacturer, and hence different manual and different powder. So I can't really buy anything until I know what bullet diameter I need.
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Old November 28, 2022, 08:44 AM   #12
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First step, as already recommended, is slug your bore. I like to use the football shaped fishing weights for this. I just find whatever size weight is slightly bigger in diameter than the bore and run it through the barrel, then measure. I position the slug in the barrel, put a hardwood block on top and hammer it in the bore. The hardwood protects the barrel from getting messed up. Then I first use a hardwood dowel about 4” long to start the slug down the bore. At this point it’s pretty much sized so a longer dowel should be strong enough to tap it through the rest of the barrel as long as you don’t go too heavy on the hammer. As an extra precaution I drill a hole through the hardwood block and slip it around the dowels to protect the barrel while tapping on the dowels.
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Old November 28, 2022, 09:01 AM   #13
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I will slug the barrel then. Would measuring the ammo I already use tell me anything? I have been shooting Prvi and I'm really happy with the results. I could pull one of the bullets and check what diameter it is.

Speaking of Prvi, is there any way I can safely use their bullets for reloading, assuming they are the right diameter? They are one of the few brands available, but they don't seem to publish loading data. I mean, why else does anyone buy them if there's no data?
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Old November 28, 2022, 12:30 PM   #14
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Different brands of bullet are the reason for all that fine print about "starting load" and "working up." The manual is for instructions on operating the equipment. Load data is all over the place, cheap to free, just don't look at the big numbers first.
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Old November 28, 2022, 02:47 PM   #15
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Welcome to the wonderful world of reloading!

The .303 British round has more "quirks" than many so it will be a little more complicated but it is entirely possible, practical and SAFE, if done right.

Current shortages of components are going to complicate things.

First off, if you're not confident in slugging your barrel, have a gunsmith do it!!

The wrong /false reading is worse than no reading, and a few $ spent to have it done right is worth it.

The base problem with the bore/bullet diameter is that despite the specs, military rifles, even unissued, unused ones CAN have bores different from the official spec diameter, and there are bullets made for the slightly different sizes commonly found. (also note that "CAN" is not "WILL" and you need to get you bore slugged to see exactly what you have)

Next point, correct bullet size is important, but not USUALLY safety critical. This has been proven over and over, slightly oversize bullets will safely squeeze through a bore a few thousandths smaller. Yes, this will raise the pressure of a given load a bit, but until/unless you are already working at the ragged edge of the rifle's safety margin, the change won't be dangerous.

Remember what you are going to be working with here, the .303 British is a (approx) 45,000psi round at full working pressures, and the rifles will safely take a bit more than that.

The biggest issues with the .303 British are the rifles and the cartridge, and the chamber "Fit".

The .303 is a rimmed round, headspaces on the case rim, and as long as that dimension is in spec and the rest of the chamber is big enough to allow the round to enter, it will and it will fire. Fired brass will form to the chamber.

The chambers of the SMLE rifles are often described as "generous" and what that means is they are often essentially oversized which is NOT a problem for military, who expect the round to go in, fire, and extract, ONCE.

Sizing dies are made to squeeze the case back down to minimum specs (or a bit below) so the combination of firing in a "large" chamber and sizing in a "tight" die works the brass a lot, and it seldom lasts long.

You MIGHT be one of the lucky ones who has a rifle with a "tight" chamber, you might not be. Again, the rifle's condition isn't a solid clue which way it is.

The powders best suited for the .303 British are medium burn rate rifle powders, and while the faster and slower ones can be made to work, they are not the best suited. IMR 3031, 4064, 4320, and 4895 or equivalents give good results for me. Duplicating the factory ball ammo with IMR 4895 is most of what I do with my .303s.

GENERALLY SPEAKING, with that round and the usual bullets, the differences between different maker's bullets in the same weight group are not significant enough to be dangerous.

I'd say get some of whatever bullet you can GET, be it .311" or .312", and then look for a suitable load in a powder that you can get. Once you have something to actually load, we're here to help with any questions you will have.

DO be aware of information overload, and watch out for the "well meant" advice telling you what the benchrest shooters do. You're not doing what they do, and all of their tips and tricks don't apply to your gun and ammo.

Good Luck, get your hands on something to shoot and we'll help with whatever we can.
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Old November 28, 2022, 03:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
watch out for the "well meant" advice telling you what the benchrest shooters do. You're not doing what they do, and all of their tips and tricks don't apply to your gun and ammo.
At the entry level, right on.

I did read an old article by a guy who studied up on the Bisley prep, built out a .303 and loaded first class ammo for it. He said it would really make the guys with their scoped commercial rifles do a double take.
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Old November 28, 2022, 04:33 PM   #17
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Also look at the construction of the bullet you wish to load and make sure the data is for like constructed bullet . The solid Monolithic bullets have different data than old school cup and core constructed bullets .

When I started reloading in 1967 I bought a Speer Manual and a Hornady Manual and used Speer and Hornady bullets with their respective data .
That's still not a bad thing to do as between the two companies you can find just about whatever bullet you need . Those manuals are still my first go to manuals for data ... new manuals not the 1967 manuals .
For no particular reason I have come to prefer Hornady Bullets ... but these days you must use whatever make you can get and search for the correct data !
I reload for a 303 British BSA No.4 MK1 1942 Enfield . I was expecting to need a .316 bullet but slugs were driven and measurments showed a .311 bore so the Lee C312-185-1R (303 British) cast bullet sized at .312" would be just right ... I'm a cast bullet shooter.
For jacketed bullets both .311 or .312 can be used , there is no difference in loading . I will tell you the 303 British Lee-Enfield isn't the easiest rifle to get accuracy from ...it has it's quirks . But don't give up on it .
Good Luck and don't be afraid to ask a question !
Gary

Last edited by gwpercle; November 28, 2022 at 04:47 PM.
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Old November 28, 2022, 06:02 PM   #18
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Great info everyone!

Quote:
First off, if you're not confident in slugging your barrel, have a gunsmith do it!!

The wrong /false reading is worse than no reading, and a few $ spent to have it done right is worth it.
Is this a question of how you slug the bore, or how you measure the slug afterwards? I've watched a few videos on this and it didn't look like there was that much to it. I do want to learn how to do this because it won't be the only rifle I want to do this for. Any tips on how to make sure I'm doing it right?

Regarding bullet size and accuracy etc. - I do want to get the most accurate loads I can, but I'd be happy enough if I could replicate the results I'm getting now from the Prvi ammo I've been using. I literally can't buy any .303 anywhere now so being able to reload to the same accuracy would be a good start.
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Old November 28, 2022, 06:13 PM   #19
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Slug the barrel is way down the priority list. If the Privi ammo shoots ok and you can get Privi bullets, LOAD Privi.
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Old November 28, 2022, 06:50 PM   #20
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Slugging the barrel will create a reverse impression of the rifling. Making the grooves high and the lands low. You want soft lead and a micrometer, not calipers. You can get a properly sized bullet. Tap it on the point with a hammer a few times and it will widen the bullet out. Then use a cheap cleaning rod or dowel to pound it down the barrel. Then measure the grooves. But you do need soft lead so it will conform to the barrel easily.
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Last edited by Unclenick; November 28, 2022 at 09:48 PM. Reason: Typo fix
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Old November 28, 2022, 10:09 PM   #21
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That is correct. Missouri Bullet's sells slugging kits by caliber online, and you might prefer one of those for your first try at the practice. An OD thimble micrometer will measure more accurately than calipers (which some YouTube video authors use) and also usually have a vernier scale to resolve tenths of a thousandth of an inch, which let's you compare slugs to spot a constricted places in the bore other issues.

Bullet data is usually interchangeable as long as you stay with the same weight and general shape and, most importantly, type of construction. But ignoring any of those can result in up to 30% difference in pressure.

Military rifles, especially those made in wartime, can have more generous tolerances than we expect. The US 30 Cal bores during WWII had a tolerance span of three thousandths, with bore diameters from 0.2985" to 0.3015", and groove diameters from 0.3075" to 0.3095". Most are closer to the middle of the range, but you do have to slug to be sure of what you've got.
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Old November 28, 2022, 10:11 PM   #22
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Another point about slugging the bore, is the "feel" of driving the slug through the barrel. Sometimes barrels have "loose spots" or "tight spots" which an experienced person can feel but a new one might not recognize.

And, of course, the slug will only tell you the tightest diameter of the barrel, which, of course, is worth knowing, but so is knowing if the entire barrel is uniform, or not.

Knowing the exact diameter of your bore is a "nice to know" thing, but not a "must know" thing it may save you a little $ by keeping you from buying stuff that isn't likely to be a good fit. But that's about it. And, sometimes, the "wrong" stuff still works acceptably well.
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Old November 29, 2022, 06:30 AM   #23
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Here’s another entirely different thought. Since your a new reloader, why not just start with something easier to load for? The British .303 rifles are a bit tricky, but a newer commercial rifle might be a simpler place to start until you gain some experience. A good place to start would be something in a bolt action common caliber such as a .308 or a .223, plenty of supplies to choose from and pretty straight forward loading wise to start out with.
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Old November 29, 2022, 06:57 PM   #24
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I would assume the OP wants to reload .303 British in order to be able to shoot his .303 British. No mention of other guns was made, so perhaps he doesn't have any, and the .303 he has is where he is going to start.

The .303 has more "quirks" than many other rounds, but it is something one can learn to do easily enough.
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Old November 29, 2022, 10:01 PM   #25
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Quote:
I would assume the OP wants to reload .303 British in order to be able to shoot his .303 British. No mention of other guns was made, so perhaps he doesn't have any, and the .303 he has is where he is going to start.
I've been thinking about this. I do have other stuff. This caliber was the main motivation to get started, since ammo is hard to get for it. But then I thought, given how hard it is to get, I don't want to waste any brass learning the basics. So I am going to try some other caliber until I get the hang of it. I think 223 will be a good start. Long term, I'd rather buy 223 than spend my time reloading it, but at least I can practice using the basic reloading tools without fear of running out of brass.
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