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Old April 1, 2013, 01:08 PM   #1
Scottish Highlander
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Why not a 303

Hi everyone, I've been reading a lot on here and had another thread about 308 etc. Everyone has there personal choice of most prefered caliber and brand and so on but there is very little on here about 303....?

As far as I can see no one would make it there number 1 gun, is there a reason for this. Its just a curious question and in reality I wouldn't personally chose it myself. I have shot before with a 303 and when I was about 12 I had my first shot of one and remember it had a fair kick to it.

I was stalking with the same guy and his gun and he shot 4 Red hinds with it in one sitting killing everyone out right. It was funny at the time because he was telling me to memorize the location of the deer he was shooting as he moved on to his next target. In all he got 4 and the furthest shot was a way out at about 400 yard and he was shooting down from an elevated position on the face of the hill firing at a 30 deg angle down hill. I was impressed at the 303s performance personally
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Old April 1, 2013, 03:18 PM   #2
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.303 British isn't super popular in the U.S. mainly because it isn't "Hot, in happening, now & sexy". These are very important things to U.S. Hunters & shooters who are far more into the quipment & far less into the skills in general. Its an equipment game here, & if its not the biggest, fastest coolest it becomes an also ran very quickly.

I know I'm going to get a huge raft of grief over that, but it's not all U.S. hunters & shooters, but it is a majority. I know of many who think they are under-powered unless they have a 7mm Rem Mag for deer hunting in deep woods, to me that's just huge overkill. I hear a lot about rim jams here, but lots of shooters never actually get taught how exactly to use a Charger to load without rim jams. I've been offered a rifle because "it jams all the time on round #6". Then I showed him how to load properly & now he won't even think of selling me the gun!

I've shot in both countries extensively & the biggest difference is how hunting is done. In Canada & I think Australia the .303 Brit is still thought of as a perfectly good round, but not so much here. There seems (in the East at least) to be a huge amount of tree stand hunting, instead of stalking, so ranges tend to be a bit longer as well.

There are a few practical consideratons as well. U.S. Made brass is a bit problematic, giving less reloads than some other cases. Somewhat restricted bullet variety is a factor as well. Here there are far less restrictions on bullet type & weight for deer hunting, compared to the U.K. so a wide range of bullets makes a caliber more popular, at least on paper here.

Me? I have both a .308 Winchester & a .303 British & in all honesty don't find them that much different with the right combination of reloading components. Many compare velocity only, ignoring weight, bu the truth of the matter is with the same weight bullet the 2 are only about 100 FPS different!
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Old April 1, 2013, 03:35 PM   #3
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Old April 1, 2013, 04:06 PM   #4
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I think the biggest reason is the rifles that are available for it. Most of the rifles are enfield actions and they really don't fit into the "sporting class" even the gibbs conversions really didn't take hold. The only American made rifle that I know of is the Winchester Model 95 lever action. That gun was moved into obsolescence by the bolt actions and 30-06.
I have a 95 in a 303 that used to be my Dad's deer rifle. It is a mighty fine rifle and has peep sights. I have plenty of other rifles also but when ir comes to hunting in the timber thats the one to carry.
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Old April 1, 2013, 04:14 PM   #5
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The 303 is an excellent round, anything that pushes a 174 grain bullet at 2500 fps will make an excellent game round.

However, very few rifles other than Lee Enfields have been chambered for that cartridge. The most popular cartridge in the US has been the 30-06, which is also a service round, and it is very easy to load a 175 grain bullet to 2700 fps in the 30-06, even faster.

Given that the rifles weigh about the same, given that lots of 30-06 surplus ammunition have been available, while there is nothing wrong with the 303, or 7.5 Swiss, 7.7 Jap, 8mm Mauser, or a number of older service cartridges that are in the same power class, none of them are going to be as wide spread or popular as the 30-06 is for Americans.
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Old April 1, 2013, 04:23 PM   #6
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It is kind of a circle. Rifles aren't made for the caliber because it is not popular, and because it is not popular, rifles are not made for it. Also, barrels are not made for it, brass and bullets are not easily found, milsurp ammo is corrosive, erosive, and fouls the bore. The rimmed case can present feeding problems.

It is an excellent hunting cartridge, but the fact is that American sportsmen have available a wide variety of cartridges that are as good or better and do not have the drawbacks.

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Old April 1, 2013, 06:00 PM   #7
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Why? Because most members here are American, and this is 30-06 and 308 country. They are our military round s.

The .303 is your military round. I bet 30-06 isn't particularly popular in Britain...
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Old April 1, 2013, 06:05 PM   #8
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it's not popular because there was only one family of firearms chambered in it and those had to be imported. there are a few limited runs made by companies like Ruger in select models but those are very much limited edition and fetch a pretty penny. over here the 30-06 and 308 are king when it comes to deer hunting, just like in europe the 7x57, 8x57 and 6.5x55 are kind for deer and in countries with strong english influence the 303 brit rules the roost.

I like 303 and I love my enfield but with if I can take my scoped, beaten up, Ruger M77 in 30-06 out hunting why would I take my cherished, collectable enfield out where it might get banged up and damaged?

If someone handed me a gun chambered in 303 brit and a handful of good soft points I wouldn't have any qualms going out and killing a deer or even a bear with it but since ammo availability is a bit limited in 303 brit, I take the ones that are easier to get a hold of.
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Old April 1, 2013, 06:12 PM   #9
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.303 British isn't super popular in the U.S. mainly because it isn't "Hot, in happening, now & sexy".
I disagree. I think that it is not popular in the U.S. because of the fact that almost all .303's we have ever seen have been S.M.L.E. service rifles. Elmer Keith really liked the round and he noted that lack of quality rifles for that cartridge. If we would have some good, strong, accurate sporters commercially available in that chambering, the .303 may have developed a larger following.
As it is, I only remember then non-S.M.L.E.'s that were available at one time were the .303 Ross rifle and the Ruger Number one.
Having had a couple .303 S.M.L.E.'s and a handloader, I observed (as many others did), that the case life was significantly shorter than other guns...which likely added to its unpopularity.
Nevertheless, the largest deer (176 lbs. hog hide, head, legs or hooves, meat hook through the neck), I ever took, was taken with a .303 S.M.L.E.
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Old April 1, 2013, 06:17 PM   #10
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Thank you Mr. Irwin for your spared me having to write it.

Edit: FWIW, my first deer hunting rifle, as a young kid living in Minnesota, was a .303. It was given to me as a gift by our pastor, who had spent time in Canada and wanted it to go to a good home. It was sporterized....I still have it.
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Old April 1, 2013, 07:48 PM   #11
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IMHO cartridges that are too heavily identified with a specific firearm-i.e 303 British/Lee Enfield, 7.62x 54R/Mosin Nagant, 8MM Mauser/ Kar98 or a variant thereof never escape "typecasting" for lack of a better term.
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Old April 1, 2013, 07:54 PM   #12
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.303 British, .30-06, 7x57 Mauser, 8x57 Mauser, etc are all fine big game cartridges. As others have said, the U.S. has just had a ton of the American military cartridges at hand, and therefore rifles chambered for them.
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Old April 2, 2013, 10:43 AM   #13
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Why is the 303 not popular? As mentioned in other posts, we have lots of other options, and commercial rifles are not made for it because it is rimmed, an odd head size, and an odd bore size. If sporting arms were still made in significant numbers in England or former Commonwealth countries, it might make the list, but I doubt it. A few strikes against it:
* There are too many rimless options, the name of the game in repeaters is to make it feed right.
* It has to be easy to mass produce, and repeaters for rimmed cartridges are not.
* It has to offer something a comparable cartridge does not, and it does not.
* It has to be attractive, and the Lee-Enfield rifle is not.

The 303 is from an era of transition from black powder to smokeless. We also had a service rifle from that same era, the 1898 Krag Jorgensen, chambered in a very similar cartridge, the 30 US Army (30-40 Krag). It is not very popular any more either, and occasionally someone will ask why not. The answer is the same.
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Old April 2, 2013, 11:57 AM   #14
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So its really down to availability of rounds, reliability which really it isn't compared to other examples. Popularity which has affected it all round to. Someone mentioned 30-06 isnt popular over here, no it isn't at all. 270, 243 and 308 are the main choice for game hunting and 222, 22 and .17 for vermin and pest control. 303 is a thing of the past in Britain also....I think. Haven't see one in years
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Old April 2, 2013, 12:09 PM   #15
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I agree with those who note that the lack of popularity stems not from the cartridge so much as from the available rifles for it.

The SMLE's have great handling qualities, but the design is hard on brass and is awkward to mount a scope on.
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Old April 2, 2013, 02:07 PM   #16
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There is the fact as well from a manufacturing standpoint rimmed cartridges can be a pita to use in magazines other than tubular. Sure you can make them work the Enfield, Mosin, and Krag rifles are fine examples of making a rimmed cartridge work. The rimless cartridges is just so much easier to make feed from all magazine types than the rimmed.

I love rimmed cartridges for my Encore, Springfield Krag, and my model 94 Winchester rifles, but give me a rimless in my bolt actions and semi-autos.
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Old April 2, 2013, 08:09 PM   #17
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taylorce1 pretty much nailed it. When I was a kid .303's were quite popular in the woods. Guys pulled the FMJ out and jammed in a soft point. To the average American shooter, cheap is good. Once ammo and guns are no longer cheap, a rimmed cartridge in a bolt gun -no good.
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Old April 2, 2013, 10:40 PM   #18
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My Dad was in the RAF when he was young. He talked about qualifying on the SMLE and how it kicked like a mule. Now let's be clear, Dad is not and never has been a gun guy. Having no experience with the cartridge/gun combo myself, a nine pound rifle with a non-magnum round doesn't seem like it should kick that way. I have heard that SMLE's kick out of proportion to the performance of the cartridge. Perhaps that is part of the reason.
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Old April 2, 2013, 11:47 PM   #19
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The .303 British is to Commonwealth nations what the .30-06 and the .30-30 are to the United states. Both the military round, and the one that the average hunter (not gun enthusiast) takes to the deer woods.

And the reason it is so popular in those nations (and anywhere else Great Britain had a significant influence) was because surplus rifles and most importantly, ammunition (surplus and sporting) was always available.

And, often available when nothing else was. It's a good round, proved for well over a century, and powerful enough for big game hunting within its effective range.

Much has been made of the difficulty getting a rimmed round to work in a bolt action, but that's hogwash. It just takes a little more effort, and with some designs it takes a little more care loading the magazine, but when done right, they work just fine. What is a bit more challenging is making a bolt gun for a rimmed round look like a 98 Mauser.

But that too can be done. I point to the one .303 not mentioned yet, the Pattern 14 Enfield.

When one says .303 British, everyone thinks of the SMLE. Its one of the iconic rifle and cartridge combinations. Now the SMLE is argueably the best bolt action battle rifle ever built in overall combination of features. And, once you shave some of the military wood off (to save weight) makes a completely servicable deer rifle for most hunting.

Its not pretty but gets the job done. Now, for a rifle enthusiast (other than a milsurp collector) its not a great gun. Not reloader friendly (headspacing on the rim, the body of the chamber is often "generous" to allow for reliable chambering under harsh battlefield conditions. This means cases stretch, and brass life is short, even at the moderate 45K pressures common.

Also, the "off standard" bore size (.311-.312 vs the US .308) means that bullet makers offer far fewer choices, which limits popularity, which limits choices, etc....(in the US market)

The .303 has a reputation as a "kicker" more becuase of the shape and size of the SMLE stock than the energy of the recoil. Its about felt recoil, not the actual energy. With a stock that fits the shooter properly its not that bad. Military stocks on the SMLE fit virtually everyone well enough to be used, but fit few people "properly".

And there is the market, with the newest generation of the buying public only knowing the .303 as the surplus round for SMLE rifles. Nice for a range toy, but for deer/big game, they want a scoped "all weaither" gun, and all to frequently a magnum.

Even the iconic American deer rifle, the .30-30 is not as popular as it once was.

The only new rifles made for the .303 Brit in decades have been aimed at the nostalgia cartridge market, and tis a rather small niche.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old April 2, 2013, 11:58 PM   #20
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The Ruger No. 1 in .303 British is a great shooter.

My favorite deer rifle is a sportered Lithgow SMLE, light, good in the brush, and accurate. Fast second shot on the occaison for it.
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Old April 3, 2013, 12:00 AM   #21
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It seems to be the fairly high price of reloadable ammo and bullets having "pull cuts", and the lack of reliable surplus -if found at all- at a much lower price, which keeps the price of #4/Mk. 1 rifles stable.

Due to the ammo situation I learned to reload, and now have four #4s, plus a pair of authentic #5 "Jungle Carbines".
If suplus ammo were super cheap and available, the "Jungle" would be my favorite gun, and its handiness seems preferable to my Garand.

If I had never handled an extremely rare AIA (imitation) Jungle in 7.62x39 at a Saginaw MI Gander Mountain in early '09, soon followed by watching "Croc. Dundee" using his commercial sport. version in movie Crocodile Dundee #2, the bug Might not have bitten me.
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Old April 3, 2013, 12:14 AM   #22
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I have a "sporterized" Lee Enfield that was my saddle rifle for years, until I switched to an SKS. My niece still shoots my fathers old Canadian Ross, straight pull bolt rifle.
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Old April 3, 2013, 06:55 PM   #23
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Owned two SMLEs, loved them both, shot targets out to 600 yards for the hell of it but never QUITE got around to taking them hunting, alas, before emigration forced their sale. Will quite happily buy another if I can find a good one.

If you handload, you have the option of 123gn, 150gn, 174/180gn and (if you're willing to pay a premium) 215gn, plus I believe Woodleigh of Australia are introducing (or have introduced) a 130gn and a very interesting 215 that's supposed to have enhanced terminal effects. There's your variety. Velocity may be down on the 308 or 06, but that depends on what you'd be hunting with it and over what distance. It has a good reputation as a moose rifle in Canada, so deer should be a breeze.

The cartridge/chamber combination was optimised for reliable chambering and easy extraction under godawful conditions, which seems like all a hunter could ask for. If you take care in the loading of the magazine you will NOT have feed issues, and cycling for a follow-up shot if necessary is VERY fast. I never tried the Mad Minute in full, but I have fired ten rounds rapid on two occasions, having loaded from milsurp stripper clips, without hanging one up on the next rim. Keep to milspec lengths (or seat Hornady bullets to the cannelure) and you're sweet. (The 215 grainers were, I admit, another matter - dummy rounds to milspec OAL would feed beautifully, but not the live ones for some reason. I never sorted out that problem before I had to sell the rifles, alas.)

I admit the brass issue, but I haven't had a problem yet and I bought myself a broken shell extractor against the day when I do. Also a Lee loader to play with regarding neck sizing for brass life prolongation.

Alas Ruger discontinued the #1 in .303 Brit before I got my licence post-move. So it's an SMLE or #4 for me. I may end up buying something else in another calibre until a decent-quality (and fully stocked!) Lee-Enfield turns up, but there's a certain nostalgia element that won't let me rest until what's on my dinner plate fell victim to the .303.
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Old April 5, 2013, 07:20 AM   #24
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Back when there was a supply of cheap Brit surplus .303 ammo the No1 and No4 was very popular in the USA. I saw more sportered LE's in the woods than any other mil surplus rifle.

Now that ammo is no longer available for .03 a round it is not as popular. The combloc rifles took that spot because they had cheap ammo. Now the combloc ammo is drying up.

I'll never give up any of my LE's.

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Old April 5, 2013, 08:15 AM   #25
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I have a 1943 Mk4 and love it. The only problem I have with the .303 cartridge is the fact that they cost two to three times as much as the 30.06 rounds. My Enfield is very accurate and fun to shoot, but it stays in the safe most of the time, because it's just to costly to shoot.
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