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Rob’s Reloading Ramblings - Ye Olde and Ye Not So Olde...

By Rob Bedingfield

I do not think that there can be anything dirtier than a neglected .303 barrel. Probably all Enfield .303’s have, at some stage, been fired with early military ammo containing corrosive primers.


The fulminate of mercury priming compound left salt deposits in the barrel and being hygroscopic these salts attracted water which rusted within five hours. Standard procedure was to boil a jug of water and pour it down the barrel after a day at the range (or a day shooting the enemy). The hot barrel was then cleaned and oiled.


My mate Don was going to hand in his SMLE for destruction, but I prevailed on him and after a whiskey or ten it was mine. It is the usual sporterised type with some of the wood removed, the bolt serial number does not match that of the action. No worries, it has worked like this for many years.


There is visible rifling and it passed the test of shoving a round in the muzzle which did not go past the ogive. If the projectile disappears up to the cartridge neck, use it for a pea stick.


Rob appreciated the visual appeal of the walnut stock.


A trip to the range with some Greek surplus ammo produced a group which could only be described as ‘minute of barn’, a 3-foot group with some going through sideways. Bugger, replacement barrel needed.


Righto, lets pull the wood off. After cleaning all the crap off I felt a bit more optimistic. It looked like quite a nicely grained walnut apart from the dings and honourable battle scars. After days of filling and sanding it was smooth enough to rub in a little boiled linseed.


“My mate Don was going to hand in his SMLE for destruction, but I prevailed on him and after a whiskey or ten it was mine.”


I love refinishing walnut stocks; it is a rewarding labour of love. The butt stock had some nice figuring and the fore end was quite strikingly marked. This will now be my A.N.Z.A.C. rifle for our club shoots.


Cobis Calitz, the gunsmith in Gore, had a suitable barrel but upon examining the bore, he declared that it may only need recrowning. He was right and this was good news for the back pocket.


At the range, a 14” vertical string confirmed the barrel was OK. “What!”, you say. What indeed, but all that was needed was to free float the barrel and cut off the forearm band.


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With this done it managed a 4” group which I was quite chuffed about as I had only just got used to being able to again see the foresight with the help of glasses. A vertical string is a sure sign of the barrel vibrating and bouncing off the forearm.


Now that Cobis had shown the barrel to be useable it was time to clean it, a mammoth task. As the bore was badly worn, I did not bother using the standard .312” brushes which barely touched the sides. Instead, I used an 8mm bronze brush and next time it will probably need a 9mm.


Cleaning the barrel required a substantial amount of elbow grease!


After pouring boiling water down the bore I set about scrubbing with carbon remover (KG and Helmar are excellent cleaners). The barrel was clamped in my padded vice and given about twenty back and forth scrubs.


Next step is to let the cleaner soak for about ten minutes. This is a good time to cut up an old flannelette sheet into cleaning patches and you cannot have too many. I pass through a dry patch then repeat with as many as needed sprayed with degreaser until the patches come clean.


“When load testing, I like to set up six A4 targets so that I can stay seated between groups. Being relaxed is important and is something I learnt when range shooting as a teenager (a long time ago).”


Switch to a nylon bristle brush using copper solvent and go through the performance again. With this barrel I had to repeat the whole performance three times, right from boiling the jug.


During the cleaning I did notice a slight slip whilst patching about half an inch before the crown. This indicates a bulge which I will not lose any sleep about as long as the groups remain acceptable. Cutting off the bulge may be required later.


Rob's mobile target set up.


When load testing, I like to set up six A4 targets so that I can stay seated between groups. Being relaxed is important and is something I learnt when range shooting as a teenager (a long time ago).


To this end I sketched a plan for a steel angled frame which could be easily pushed into the ground. I attach a sheet of craft cardboard to which are stapled the targets. The frames were made by Engineering Services Te Anau Ltd who donated two to the firearms club. Nice people these Southlanders.

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Recently I set up four targets to compare grouping of two loads that I had settled on. Using my Tikka T3 chambered in .270 Winchester I trialed both loads with and without an over barrel moderator.


This rifle/scope combination seems to improve with age like a good wine and I have taken many animals with it. The scope is a cheap Nikko Stirling Night Eater 3-9x attached with the original aluminium rings. I have no desire to fit a more expensive scope.


The results speak for themselves. Shooting 130gr Speers with 56gr of 2213SC for 2962fps and, my recent change to 54gr of RE16 for 3033fps, I found that both grouped better with the moderator fitted. A .23” group using the Alliant powder really made my day. My only gripe is that I find the balance of the Tikka is compromised with the device fitted.


Results speaks for themselves with the 130gr Speer projectiles clearly preferring the RE16 powder (see text above).


The moderator is an over barrel New Zealand made DPT Modular unit which more than does the job and I would encourage all, particularly young, shooters to use one. I have classic “shooters ear”. The left ear cops the blast and is now way down on volume.


I use Walker Hunters hearing enhancers with volume controls. Young shooters note, when one ear is down on volume you lose stereo sound, which means that you cannot tell where sounds are coming from.


You will hear a stag roaring but will not know where it is coming from. I kid you not.


In the U.S. of A, a bunch of old gun writers were at a conference. A guess at the most used word? “What?!”...




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