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.303 Barrel Life

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britrifles View Drop Down
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    Posted: April 24 2021 at 4:23pm
I’m not looking forward to the day when my No. 4 shooter, a Long Branch Mk 1/3 with BSA 5 groove barrel, will no longer shoot satisfactorily for vintage military rifle matches.  I know the days are numbered and could happen at any time. 

This rifle has performed exceptionally well for me over the past 5 years of competition shooting.  I really don’t know how many rounds I have put through this barrel, but I estimate 6,000 to 7,000 rounds.  There is not much left of the throat, that 174 gr SMK is out of the case before it contacts the lands.  It’s surprising it shoots as good as it does.  

Does anyone here on the forum know what the “accuracy life” of a .303 barrel might be?  I realize there are many factors involved here, and the answer is indeterminate. Enfield rifling supports the bullet well, with relatively wide lands, and bullet velocities are relatively low (as compared to other .30 calibre rifles).  My hand loads are moderate pressures to preserve barrel life at the low to mid range of published reloading data, about 2350 to 2400 fps MV.  I now really regret blasting 1000 or more rounds off the bench with loads near the max...in search of precision bench rest accuracy. 

I have a new criterion barrel ready to install and two fairly good looking Faz 5 groove barrels I got from Sarco (advertised as “very good to excellent”), the bore gages at .3025.  

Just rambling thoughts on a Saturday evening...

 





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Goosic View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goosic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2021 at 5:55pm
There was a thread that discussed this very question. The Armourer/Alan De Enfield had replied with a very lengthy diatribe and quoting ancient British Ministry of Defense texts regarding barrel life. Whereas it was mentioned that accuracy starts to diminish after 5000 - 6000 rounds through it with throat erosion becoming noticeable.  Barrel replacement was done if the rifle had between 8000 - 10,000 rounds through it due to excessive throat erosion and it was at the end of its usable service life.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2021 at 6:16pm
I’d be interested to hear what our members have actually experienced.  Has anyone shot more than 6,000 rounds thru their Lee Enfields?  Ancient MOD documents might be interesting, but I wonder what the actual experience is. 

Armourers used gages, but that is not definitive, the target will tell you when the barrel is shot out.  

I’m now tracking round counts thru my new Krieger barrel on my M1 and Bartlein barrel on my AR.  I’m not expecting much more than 2500 to 3000 rounds before accuracy falls off. I’ll know soon enough.  That barrel on my No. 4 has far exceeded my expectations.  


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pukka Bundook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2021 at 5:58am
No idea really, as the old cordite wore out throats a lot faster than many modern powders.
 
Think they Used to say about 10,000 rounds, but cordite would create a lot more havoc..
Sorry, no experience on this first hand.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2021 at 6:12am
Thanks Richard, it it is upwards to 10,000 rounds, I still should have some life left in the barrel.  I measured the throat length recently (distance for the bullet to touch the lands) and found that the bullet base is outside the case mouth at that point.  When the barrel was new, the cartridge length was about 3.15 inches. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2021 at 3:36pm
10,000 with service ammunition (Cordite & corrosive Mk VII ball) is the figure I've always heard quoted. That included the MOD approved cleaning method of the day as well.
2 pints of boiling water.
3 oiled patches, 3 dry patches, oil, done!
If pampered the bores of the day got actual P-H "Youngs 3-in1" & water for the oil!

BUT it has some variables.
Rapid fire heats & lowers the number.
Silver (CuNi) bullets are he!! on a bore even with modern cleaners.
Regular cleaning & good maintenance increase the life, & so on.

This may help you though.
L-E .303 chambers & bores are "long throated" even as they leave the factory, so don't let a long throat concern you overly.
When I got my "UnFired" mummy one thing I did was to use a Hornady bullet seating comparitor. I like the Hornady because its your actual bullet profile in your chamber to the ogive & so very accurate. I use a Sierrra Matchking .303 bullet & the case was one of mine fired in that actual rifle.
The bullet left the case mouth before the ogive contacted the barrel lands!
So much for "Seating off the lands."

Hopefully that helps some. Nowadays with better maintenance, better jacket materials & not so much rapid fire you pee down the barrel in an emergency & so on, I'd probably go to 15,000?

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2021 at 4:45pm
Thanks Sham, this is very useful info. 

 This rifle had a new barrel when I got it.  I know that to be a fact.  I shot probably 1000 rounds of a Canadian Mk VII service ammunition before I started reloading. About 50 rounds of that was Cordite, all the rest was 7z.  I have some cupronickel Mk 7 but won’t shoot that because of the jacket fouling issues. 

I have done a fair bit of rapid fire, but no more than 10 rounds at a time.

I am very surprised (and happy to hear) that a 10,000 round barrel life is possible. For my purposes, I would probably call the barrel “done” once it can not longer hold the 10 ring on the SR target.  That’s 3.5 MOA, quite a large group.  

Since I’ve started logging the round count on the new barrels on my M1 and AR, I’m a bit shocked how quickly the round count is adding up.  So, I may have underestimated how many rounds I’ve put thru the barrel on my No. 4.  





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 26 2021 at 9:15am
Its scary how they do that isn't it.
My No4 Mk2 "unfired" has had 2212 rounds from brand new.
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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