A 21st Century Update: The 30-303

Copyright 2020 – Stephen Redgwell

A rebarreled No 4

Are you interested in rebuilding a worn out Lee Enfield? Check The 30-303 Book on the home page at the bottom.

The 303 British is a great cartridge, but your rifle needs a makeover. Don’t hunt for a used replacement barrel, get a new one!

Sometimes, simple is best. Why not leave everything the same, but use a 308 diameter barrel instead? It’s a great way to revitalize an old, beat up Lee Enfield and make it new again. You can use easy to find, less expensive 308 bullets too, instead of 311/312.

You can use standard 303 British dies, with one, inexpensive change. Use a 308 expander rather than the 313 expander that comes with 303 British dies. Replacement expander assemblies are about $15, and available from your local gun shop, Brownells and others.

It’s also a great idea for a single shot rifle! There is no doubt that rimmed cartridges are preferred in single shots. I called Match Grade Machine and asked if they could chamber a barrel in 303 British, but use a 308 diameter barrel. They said sure!

If you have a beat up Lee Enfield, or a Thompson Center Encore, you’re halfway there.

Here are more target groups, shot from my No 4.

180 grain Remington Core Lokts

Four powders and the 180 gr. Remington Core Lokt bullet. Group sizes ranged from 0.8 to 1.45 Inches at 100 yd.

Muzzle velocities with the 150 grain bullets were 2600 to 2700 fps. With the 180s, 2400 to 2500 fps. 303 British cases are easy to find, unlike the 30-40 Krag, to which the 30-303 is often compared. Recoil is mild. 13 ft/lb with the 150s. 15 ft/lb with the 180s. It’s win-win!

Ten 150 grain 30-303 cartridges, ready to go!

They look like standard 303 British cartridges, don’t they? The No 4 rifle was brought into the 21st century by replacing the old, worn barrel with a new 30-303 Shilen barrel. The Thompson Center rifle is almost four inches shorter overall than the Lee Enfield, but the barrel is two inches longer!

TC Pro Hunter (top) — No 4 (bottom)

The latest 30-303 test rifle is a TC Pro Hunter with a 26 inch long, 1 inch diameter bull barrel. The scope is a Bushnell 10×40.

I tried six powders, and provided pictures because people like that. The test was to determine if there was any difference in Remington and Prvi brass, and how it would affect groups. Just 50 cartridges. More testing soon. Results – Prvi beat Remington. I’ll see if I can fine tune it by playing with the seating depth.

Thompson Center Pro Hunter

Top three powders. Prvi Partizan brass performed the best, but had a smaller case capacity than Remington. That’s why there was an accuracy difference. Remington group sizes are in brackets.

IMR 4064 – 0.526″ – Prvi (1.935″ Rem)
IMR 3031 – 0.720″ – Prvi (1.45″ Rem)
Re 15 – 0.810″ – Prvi (1.26″ Rem)

IMR 4064

And now, in the category of most accurate load in any case, the winner is IMR 4064! All groups were tighter with Prvi cases, but that has a lot to do with the case capacity. Prvi has less internal volume than Remington.

For my international friends, that coin is a 25 cent piece. It measures about .940 inches (24mm) across, give or take a few thou.

IMR 3031

Reloder 15 slid into third place, but there are more powders to test. This test day was great! I had the range to myself – what luck! It was a sunny, cool spring day.

TC Pro Hunter with a barrel cooler in the breech
Re 15

Are you interested in rebuilding a worn out Lee Enfield? Check the 30-303 Book on the home page at the bottom.