Educational Zone #28 – Refinishing a US Savage Enfield Mk1 #4 SMLE

I recently obtained a US Savage Enfield Mk1 #4 SMLE from Phoenix Distributors for the good price of $124.00, through my C&R License.

It arrived on the Brown Truck of Happiness.

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I opened the package like a kid on Christmas morning and removed my next project.

Here it is.

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It was a little rough, but looked like it would clean up just fine.

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We had read that these rifles had been used in Turkey and it had about the ugliest rifle strap on it that I’ve ever seen. I removed it with a razor knife and threw it away.

I told my lovely wife, “I just hope it has good rifling”. I went into the garage and removed the bolt and looked down the barrel. I said, “Oh, no”! She asked, “What’s the matter?” I said, “There isn’t a sign of rifling in the barrel.” 

But then I sprayed some WD-40 down the barrel and ran a patch down the barrel. I then scrubbed the bore with Shooter’s Choice and Kroil, and patched it again.

I looked down the barrel and smiled. The rifling was deep and perfect, just like it had never been shot. It had only been cosmoline covering the rifling in the barrel.

The rifle had most of the bluing worn completely off.

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But the receiver was clearly marked, “U.S. Property.”

I understand that these rifles were so marked to be used in the “Lend Lease” program in the early part of WWII to get around the United States being a non-combatant at that time.

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The stock had a few gouges, but the metal looked fine, although worn.

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My old buddy Tman and I decided that we could make this ugly duckling look pretty again.

We started by completely disassembling it to see what we had.

Just a word of clarification… We were not “restoring” this rifle.

This was not a “restoration” project. Instead, it was a “refinishing” project.

It was not our goal to make it look like it had the day it was born.

We wanted it to look “better” than it ever had.

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It was not a pretty sight under the wood.

There was rust everywhere, and even a few cobwebs from spiders.

Here’s what it looked like under the wood.

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I then washed all parts in Mineral Spirits to remove any Cosmoline or oil on the parts.

I had to remove than deep rust.

The best way is with a soft steel brush.

Here’s the same parts after the cleaning.

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We looked at the steel and decided to paint the metal parts with a flat black automotive paint that is baked on.

This would prevent future rust problems.

Tman would also completely strip the wood and re-stain it and refinish it.

Here’s the finished project.

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We cold blued the bolt, but painted the receiver.

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Here’s the front sight assembly.

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There were a few gouges in the wood that we just left there.

It gives this old rifle a little character.

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You can still clearly see the “U.S. Property” marking.

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Took it to the range the next morning and tried some of my handloads.

Here I am shooting a group.

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The British designed the rifle to have a large over-sized chamber. This was so it would easily chamber rounds that had mud and corrosion on them. It worked as designed, and it is no big problem with military ammo that is only shot once.

But for us reloaders, it presents a big problem. If you full-length resize the fired brass, it stretches it a lot.

After only one or two loadings, you will start having head separations, which means the case breaks into two pieces, usually about 1/2 inch from the base. The front part will get stuck in the chamber and requires a tool called a “split case extractor” to pull it out.

I keep one in the butt stock oiler hole in my rifle, just in case. 

The solution is to only particially neck-size the brass. I neck-size mine about 1/3 of the way down the neck. This is enough to hold the bullet on the reloaded round, but leaves the body of the case expanded to its maximum size. 

By doing this, I have gotten many reloads on some brass. Others get incipient case separation indications after a few reloadings and must be discarded.

A fascinating hobby.

But, as we mentioned, there is always a chance of a case separation with reloaded brass in a .303.

I had one this morning.

I was prepared by having a broken shell extractor on hand.

Here it is.

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ou just place it in the chamber and close the bolt.

Then, when you open the bolt, it will pull out the broken case.

You can see the case head on the bench.

This is very typical of the types of head separations you see with .303s.

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But, when I shot a couple of 5 shot groups at 50 yards, I was pleased with the potential accuracy.

Here’s a couple of groups with 180 and 150 grain bullets.

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They are high, but that is normal with a battle sighted rifle.

They are also to the right a bit, but we will drift the sight and fix that problem.

All in all, I’m very happy with this “new” old rifle.

Conclusion:
Refinishing these old rifles is a great hobby.

It makes shooting them even more enjoyable if they also look nice.

Thanks to Tman for doing his magic on this project.

1 Comment on Educational Zone #28 – Refinishing a US Savage Enfield Mk1 #4 SMLE

  1. Scott Williamson // April 6, 2017 at 2:17 pm // Reply

    Lovely old rifle and it looks great with that refinish.

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