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Mike's Monthly Monologue About Shooting
Volume 3, Issue 3 - April 1, 2014  -  Other Issues  -  Articles/Downloads

THE BRITISH .303 - AN ENGLISH BULLDOG
by Mike Price
Easy-access URL (Copy & paste into emails, forums, etc. - no login required):
http://ammoguide.com/?article=pricescorner/140401

 

The English Bulldog's appearance can be somewhat intimidating. They are stout, strong, and handsome depending on perspective. Like my .303 SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield) No. 1 Mk III, that was manufactured in 1919 in Ligthgow Australia. It is one of my favorite hunting rifles in thick cover and black timber when using open sights. It is a great rifle to keep handy around camp, when spending days in the wilderness. It is stout, strong, good looking, deadly and well built.


My English Bull dog Rex, will send off any intruder, and few would risk a close encounter with a dog brave enough to bait a bull. The same is true of a close encounter with the .303 SMLE No. 1 Mk III in combat. Encountering the SMLE meant a hail of bullets from the fastest bolt action rifle in the field. With the outbreak of World War I, British troops were giving the Germans a hard time. In fact, the SMLE No. 1 Mk III was a good battle rifle, accurate, reliable and suitable for rapid firing. British soldiers were trained for both individual and volley fire marksmanship. They were capable of firing 15-30 rounds a minute depending on the soldier doing the shooting. They were able to keep their shots on target at 200 yards with a fast rate of fire for a non automatic rifle. A Scottish Sergeant holds the record of 38 fired rounds in one minute while hitting a 12" steal target with each round at 300 yards with a No. 1 Mk III SMLE.


There were times when advancing Germans were convinced that they were under machine gun fire. This was especially true when the British commonwealth troops initiated their salvo-firing techniques. The Germans were impressed with the speed in which 10 rounds could be fired from a SMLE. Also, how quick one could load a SMLE. Some say during the first World War, the Americans made the best target rifle, the 1903/03A3. The Germans made the best hunting rifle, the K98k. And the British made the best battle rifle, the .303 SMLE.


The first rifle I bought for myself when in high school was a British .303 SMLE No. 1 Mk III. I remember trying it out for the first time. Using Winchester ammo and shooting an old fence post that was no longer in use. It tore the top 2/3's of that post off! Being young and not that knowledgable about rifles, I thought I had the most powerful rifle in my part of the country. Convinced I could kill anything on the planet! I took deer, hogs, coyote and a beaver with the .303 SMLE in northeast Louisiana, my first year in College.


The English Bulldog is tough, dependable and determined to stay by your side. They are persistent and one feels confident having a bulldog around when taking a stroll. I feel the same way with my .303 No. 1 Mk III Lithgow when I am in the woods walking around or scouting. This is due to my experience taking game with my SMLE and knowing with open gun sights I can make accurate shots. With my fixed 6x Weaver scope, you would be surprised at the accuracy I am able to obtain, whether handloads or factory ammunition.


The .303 British cartridge chambered in the SMLE were in service with the British Commonwealth for a long time, a testament to their usefulness. The SMLE was used in two world wars. They are still used in combat by small armies and insurgents in some parts of the world to this day. They have served hunters for over a century and still are getting the job done taking a variety of game. I am one of those hunters that takes the .303 SMLE into the field. I use open sights for close work and a scope for 200 - 300 yards and beyond. The cartridge is easy to develop handloads for and find good accuracy. I would like to own a .303 British in a Ruger # 1 Standard Single Shot rifle.


The .303 rimmed cartridge has a gentle angle to its bottleneck case. This allows it to be easily fed from the magazine into the chamber. It also makes the cartridge easier to extract from the chamber after the round has been fired. It was used with black powder, Cordite smokeless powder and now modern smokeless powder. It is a capable hunting cartridge when using the 150gr, 174gr, or the 180gr bullet. I can move a 150gr at 2550fps to 2660fps, but I prefer the heavier bullets, they just seem to work better on big game. Both

the 174gr and 180gr are accurate and velocities and bullet weight match the settings of my open sight graduations. I am able to move the 174gr at 2450fps and 180gr factory loads at 2402fps out of a 25.25" barrel.

With the .303 through the years I have dispatched coyote, deer and hogs. The .303 works like many modern cartridges I have used and better than some. I have also developed a load using the 215gr Woodleigh Round Nose, moving 2090fps to 2110fps for thick cover when searching for a wounded animal. The .303 British is an excellent cartridge for big game. That said, I would not use it on an elephant like the one I walked upon in Tanzania. Nor would I us it on the great bears. That said, the . 303 has been used many times in taking elephants and big bears.


After the Boer War, the British government sold great quantities of military rifles with ammunition to the African settlers. This cartridge became the most widely used cartridge in Africa. Every kind of game in Africa has been killed with the .303 British including thousands, not hundreds, of elephants and buffalo. The .303 British rifle has seen a lot of sporting use not only in Africa, but in Australia, Canada, and too a lesser extent in the United States. It is still used with the Canadian Ranger reserve units until 2015. Canadian Rangers are issued the .303 British calibre Lee Enfield No 4 rifle, with each user being provided with 200 rounds of ammunition every year. The bolt action Lee-Enfield has been out of general service in the Canadian military since the 1950s, but it has proven to be reliable in the Arctic environment. In fact, the Lee-Enfield action has proved itself in all kinds of conditions all over the world. To bad the action and the SMLE is not manufacture today. I love the action and the rifle as well as the .303 cartridge.


My friend Collin Duncan, during is teenage years grew up in the friendly Bush-Veld town of Rustenburg. He then migrated to Johannesburg to study design after which he served in the military as an NCO combat instructor and a while later as an officer commanding several dozen combat soldiers and as a result he is no stranger to extreme duress under very taxing and sometimes dangerous situations.

Collin Duncan wrote me saying, "I too have hunted with the .303 and in fact it was the first rifle I used when I was a lad, every farmer in the country had to have one as standard issue especially on South African farms bordering neighboring countries... where Elephant and Buffalo herds would raid crops and of course hot on the Buffalo herds heels were prides of large toothy felines that had to be permanently tamed and turned into compost from time to time."


Collin continued to write, "After the end of the second world war firearm laws relaxed a bit and a flood of military surplus rifles were made available to those who could make legal tender and purchase a permit and anyhow, by then the .303 was entrenched as the South African army's and Police force as the standard issue rifle. As a kid, on competition shooting days at the 1000 meter commando range the doc would come and collect me and take me with him to be his gofer (go for this and go for that, pour me a beer and clean my gear), but I loved every moment of it, he was a superb long distance shot (but a terrible game hunter??? go figure??). On lying in the prone shooting position not a short time then touching off his first round he would often cry out BULL half a second before the bullet slapped into the target, shortly after which the target pointer would indicate he was plumb on the money. I think the fact that he won so many events was due to him unnerving the competition with his frequent broadcasting of BULL propaganda. The .303 has probably been responsible for taking more game on the African continent than any other caliber since the turn of the 20th century and I would say the AK47 takes top honors for wounding the most game in Africa.

"In the book 'The Ivory Trail' written by the author T V Bullpin the central character, a certain mister Barnard also known by the Shangaan

speaking tribes of Mozambique as 'Bavekenya' (translated means the man that swaggers when he walks) his primary weapon of for taking elephant and buffalo was a German built Mauser in 9.3 caliber and his primary backup gun to his 9.3 was his trusty old .303 British."
As Collin points out, the .303 British was heavily used by many in Africa for a long time and some still do use it to this day for hunting and self-defense.

When hand loading I like these powders: IMR4007, H4895, IMR 4320, RL-19, W748, AA2495 and W760. My favorite powders for my SMLE using 174gr and 180gr bullets, due to velocities and accuracy are AA2495 and W760. I have also tried RL-17 getting good velocities, but my accuracy was not good. I also prefer the .312" diameter bullets with my .303 SMLE, with a COL of 3.075" and case length of 2.222." When using factory ammo my favorite is Herter's 180gr Soft Point.


Never start with max loads for the .303 SMLE or for that matter with any cartridge or rife. It does not matter what the condition of the rifle! Case in point my No. 1 Mk III was made in 1919 in Lithgow Australia and according to armory records was never issued. My rifle is in pristine condition. I use my .303 for hunting and not as a collectors gun. I took it out of it's original furniture to spare the furniture from damage while in the field and put it in a synthetic sporter stock. Some

think I should have just kept it as a collectors rifle. I am not into pleasing all the opinions of those in the gun world - that would be impossible! I buy guns to hunt with no matter what their cost or value - not to collect! Even though my rifle is in perfect condition, having a tight chamber, I have never found the need to reach publish maximum loads or go over a max load. My .303 SMLE reaches acceptable velocities at near maximum loads while not abusing the rifle.

I find the .303 cartridge very practical and efficient, finding the perfect place between a 30-30 and 30-06. More powerful than a 30-30 and kicks much less than a 30-06. I prefer using my .303 with open sights on big game inside 200 yards where 80 to 90 percent of all game is taken by most hunters. Using the Hornady 174gr round nose are a 180gr soft point, you would be surprised how it quickly

dispatches big game. First time I used the Hornady 174gr bullet on game I was very impressed with the quick kills. The Herter's 180gr soft point performs pretty much like the Hornady 174gr round nose.

On large too medium game the .303 achieves outstanding results with muzzle velocities that minimize the risk of bullets coming apart when using the 174-180 grain bullets. This allows them the benefit of giving better than adequate penetration. The velocities are high enough to give good wound channels on large bodied deer species out to moderate ranges of around 300 yards for clean kills. Hunting game that approach 200 pounds the 174 round nose and 180 grain soft point really come into their own, working well on body weights of 700 - 800pounds while still dispatching small game in quick fashion.

RECOIL STATS - .30-30 / .30-06 / .303 British
 
Cartridge:   30-30 Winchester
Firearm:  Marlin
Load and Firearm Info:  
Bullet Dia (in):  0.308
Case Length (in):  2.039
Case Volume (gr H2O):  44.4
Muzzle velocity (ft/sec):  2390
Bullet Wt (gr):  150
Charge Weight (gr):  34
Barrel Length (in):  20
Firearm Weight (lb):  7.00
Free recoil energy:   11 ft-lb. (14.9 Joule)
FACTOIDS:
Free recoil velocity is estimated to be 10 ft/sec. (3.1 m/sec)
(This is equivalent to dropping the 7.00 lb gun from a height of 2 feet.)
The free recoil velocity is gained in only 0.08 in (2 mm) of travel
Recoil impulse is 2.2 lbf-sec (9.7 Newton-sec)
Powder gases generate about 27 percent of the total recoil impulse & velocity
 
Cartridge:   30-06
Firearm:   Marlin XL7
Load and Firearm Info:  
Bullet Dia (in):   0.308
Case Length (in):   2.494
Case Volume (gr H2O):   67.1
Muzzle velocity (ft/sec):   2798
Bullet Wt (gr):   180
Charge Weight (gr):   57.5
Barrel Length (in):   22
Firearm Weight (lb):   7.80
Free recoil energy:   23.4 ft-lb. (31.7 Joule)
FACTOIDS:
Free recoil velocity is estimated to be 14 ft/sec. (4.2 m/sec)
(This is equivalent to dropping the 7.80 lb gun from a height of 3 feet.)
The free recoil velocity is gained in only 0.11 in (2.8 mm) of travel
Recoil impulse is 3.4 lbf-sec (15 Newton-sec)
Powder gases generate about 34 percent of the total recoil impulse & velocity
 
Cartridge:   .303 British
Firearm:   SMLE No. 1 Mk III
Load and Firearm Info:  
Bullet Dia (in):   0.303
Case Length (in):   2.222
Case Volume (gr H2O):   54.4
Muzzle velocity (ft/sec):   2467
Bullet Wt (gr):   174
Charge Weight (gr):   41.5
Barrel Length (in):   25.25
Firearm Weight (lb):   7.50
Free recoil energy:   14.9 ft-lb. (20.2 Joule)
FACTOIDS:
Free recoil velocity is estimated to be 11 ft/sec. (3.4 m/sec)
(This is equivalent to dropping the 7.50 lb gun from a height of 2 feet.)
The free recoil velocity is gained in only 0.12 in (3 mm) of travel
Recoil impulse is 2.6 lbf-sec (11.7 Newton-sec)
Powder gases generate about 28 percent of the total recoil impulse & velocity

I have been satisfied through the years with my SMLE .303 No. 1 Mk III Lithgow. In fact I am really attached to it as a hunting rifle and companion in thick cover or ranges where most big game are taken with open sights. I like the idea of putting a scope on it for longer shots on special occasions. I hope I am hunting with my .303 in 2019 when my rifle turns 100 years old. This would be a testament to the usefulness and toughness of the .303 No. 1 Mk III Lithgow - MY SMLE!


Mike Price is a lifelong shooter, hunter and reloading enthusiast. He has been published at AmmoGuide.com, Guns & Ammo and Nosler. His article "Green Boxes", available at AmmoGuide.com, is posted in the bullet production area at Sierra. Mike has traveled to Africa, Europe, Asia, parts of Central America. His favorite two hobbies are spending time with grand children and taking them hunting. Mike holds a Ph.D in Philosophy and Psychology, is a licensed clinical therapist, adjunct professor and Minister in the Church of Christ. To read more by Mike, CLICK HERE.

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