The 303 Epps
(Dressed as a No 4 Lee Enfield)
Members of my gun club are used to seeing me with milsurps of various makes and calibres. It was completely normal then,
to observe me at the firing line, hugging up to a No 4 cradled in its rest. Now let me say that a No 4 is nothing special,
although there is something to be said for any rifle with unique lines and a full wrapped wooden stock.
Most shooters don't have a chronograph, so when one appears, you can be guaranteed an audience. The little numbers flashing
on the screen mesmerize and titillate everyone that's standing around. It's a lot like a tennis match, with the spectator's
heads bobbing back and forth from the target to the chrono with every shot.
The results displayed generate their fair share of comments. "Ballistic experts" invariably appear, rendering
performance explanations, load judgments and suggestions for improvements.
This is one of the things I enjoy, because the chronograph can be a great leveler. Often, it knocks the wind out of shooters
whose ammunition, whether home made or store bought, doesn't live up to published performance velocities. When this happens,
the chrono comes under suspicion. Most people will question the serviceability of the machine, suggesting that it should
be sent back to the manufacturer for inspection. The reloading manuals (or company spec sheets) can't be wrong!
On the first day of the max loads Epps tests, the silly part of me was working overtime. Here's a rifle that looks like
a standard No 4. Along side it are a couple of other "303s" that will be fired later on for other stages of the
test. First however, I must ensure that the chrono is functioning properly. Grab rifle No 2, load up a few control rounds
whose velocities are known, and fire them over the chrono. 2450 fps times five (+ or - a few fps) on the display means success
and on to the fun.
"Princess Elizabeth" is the No 4 conversion that will provide the entertainment. Out of my green cartridge
box I casually take five rounds and load them into the magazine. No one notices that fact that they look funny. To be fair,
they're really not expecting anything out of the ordinary. I explain to the onlookers that I've loaded up some Hornady 150
grainers with a different powder load. Here's where the fun begins. Settle over the rest, make a bit of small talk, aim
There's an odd crack to the rifle on discharge. Slightly different to my ears than standard 303 British loads. The crowd
doesn't notice though. As heads bounce back from the target to the display, some confusion reigns - 2834 fps.
"I thought you said that 150 grain 303 British bullets are rated at about 2700 fps", says one confused observer.
"Yes, that's true", I calmly reply and extract the first case. It is placed in plain view on the bench. No
one seems to notice its strange shape.
"Isn't 2834 fps a little high?", " I think you screwed up" and "I wouldn't fire anymore if I
was you" are the first verbal feedback.
Into battery with the second round. The people move back a bit. My "silly" man knows what they're thinking.
"You don't want to be close to him when the rifle disintegrates!"
Bang! And off goes another round down range. You can almost hear the bones cracking as the heads whip around to view
the chrono. 2849 fps! Ouch!
This time, no one says anything. It is that situation where brain impulses have been scrambled. The crowd is feeling
uncomfortable and disperses. No point hanging around a guy that's out to kill himself. As they wander away, I start to laugh.
The rest of the day is going to be a hoot!
The first few shots were teasers. I really enjoyed the day, and yes, I did inform the others about the different cartridge.
I showed them I was working up loads for the 303 Epps and explained what was expected. Even after all that, a couple of
guys were unsure of the cartridge's safety. So, before you actually get to the recipes, a few observations.
1. Converted to 303 Epps, the No 4 kicks the same as when firing a commercially loaded 303 British cartridge.
2. Pressures conform to 49,000 PSI or less in the No 4, 58,000 PSI or less in the P-14 - so as not to put any undue stress
on the actions (or me!)
3. Case stretch is less with the Epps improved than with a full power 303 British case.
4. Accuracy with some loads was good, others not so good. This is fully in line with any other cartridge or calibre,
that may prefer one powder over another.
5. It's a rush to launch a 150 grainer at over 2900 fps out of a No 4!
The load data presented here was safe in the test rifles
and is presented for informational purposes only.
Use extreme caution, working up in small increments.
If in doubt as to the load's integrity, STOP!
I can assume no responsibility for improper or careless use.
150 Grain Hornady Spire Points
No 4 Rifle
Winchester Primers, Winchester Cases
25.2 inch Barrel
Muzzle Velocity (max load)
50.0 to 54.0 grains
46.5 to 50.5 grains
53.5 to 57.5 grains