Educational Zone #97 – Handloading the .303 British

I enjoy shooting my .303 Enfields, but mostly shoot military surplus ammo I them. It is corrosive, but it shoots well enough to entertain me at 50 yards. smilie wink

I recently decided to try some Prvi Partizan factory loads and compare the accuracy to the milsurp.

Here’s the Prvi on the left, and some milsurp on the right:


Here is a typical 10 shot group at 50 yards with some Paki .303 surplus.

Not too bad, but not exactly target grade.


Here’s a 5 shot group of the new Prvi ammo.

Pretty nice.

But it isn’t exactly cheap to shoot.

I wonder if I can handload some that will shoot as well?


Handloading for the .303 can be a challenge. The Brits cut the chambers on these old rifles “generously”, with lots of extra room in the chamber. They did this so that soldiers could load dirty or muddy ammo in the chamber with little trouble, as trench warfare had taught them that ammo often gets dirty.

This is no problem on the battlefield, as the empty brass is left on the battlefield, and if it is stretched too much, who cares?

But if a reloader wants to reload this brass, it can cause problems. If you take this much-enlarged brass and size it down to original specs, it “works” the brass too much, and can lead to incipient head separations. In fact, if you full-length resize .303 brass, it will often separate on the second firing, leaving half of the cartridge case stuck in the rifle’s chamber.

The solution is to only size the neck part way down, and do not resize the body of the case at all. Just leave it stretched out to fit the chamber tightly, and you can reload it several times.

I took the empty Prvi brass from last week and neck sized it only.

Here’s what it looks like after it is neck sized, only half way down the neck, just enough to hold the new bullet.


I also got some high-quality bullets.

I had some .311, 150 gr Speer SP bullets that have a Ballistic Coefficient of .358, but wanted a better bullet.

I bought some Sierra .311, 174 gr HPBT Matchkings, that have a Ballistic Coefficient of .499.

That’s a mighty nice BC for these old rifles.

Here’s the two bullets for comparison.


I loaded some up and we headed to the range this morning.

I shot my “U.S.Property” No.4, Mark 1.


And also the No.1, Mark 3 that I got from my friend UH_SALT_RIFLE (Pronounced “Assault Rifle”) on


I will be comparing my handloads on the right to the milsurp on the left.


Here’s a 5 shot group of the military surplus ammo today.


And here’s a typical 5 shot group of the handloads.

That flier was my fault, not the ammo’s.

That’s some mighty fine groups for these old rifles.

But I want to try them at 200 yards, as I bet that’s where these bullets with the high BC of .499 will really shine.


Handloading for these old rifles can sure shrink the groups and make them shoot like target rifles.

3 Comments on Educational Zone #97 – Handloading the .303 British

  1. Jonathan Michelin // January 26, 2016 at 4:20 am // Reply

    I was wondering why no one handloaded, thanks for the tips, I just got a sportarized number 1 mark 4, wanted to try to load, gonna get a neck sizer die

  2. MIKE SELSOR // June 22, 2016 at 4:25 pm // Reply

    I was depriming some 303 infield marked GB 54 7 in a Lee universal depriming die and broke the deprime punch. when I looked inside case it had 2 holes but none in center prime hole. does all 303 have 2 holes or is this type of ammo

    • Mr. Selsor: it sounds like that case was Berdan primed.

      Basically, almost all centerfire ammunition made in the US is Boxer primed, with a single flash hole in the center. Boxer primers are manufactured with an “anvil” inside them–usually a tiny bit of wire or sheet metal–against which the firing pin crushes the priming compound in order to cause it to detonate and set off the powder.

      Berdan cases have a little projecting knob of material in the primer pocket that serves as the “anvil,” and Berdan primers, not needing an “anvil” inside each one, are therefore a bit less expensive to mass-produce. Most European centerfire ammunition is Berdan primed.

      Some people say that Berdan primed cases cannot be reloaded. This is an oversimplification and it’s not necessarily universally true, but it is true that it is much more difficult to get the old primers out of Berdan primed cases (some people fill the case with water and use a wooden dowel that is a tight fit for the case mouth, and beat on it with a mallet to dislodge the old primer by hydraulic pressure; it’s a slow and messy process and it doesn’t always work). And in the US, it isn’t always easy to obtain Berdan primers–and Boxer primers, even if you use tweezers to pick the tiny “anvil” out of them, still aren’t exactly the same diameter as Berdan primers and will usually be a loose fit in a Berdan case, though I have heard of people trying to shim them in place with bits of sheet metal, or even fixing them in place with superglue. I do not endorse these methods, I’m merely passing on information that I’ve heard about.

      You may therefore wish to try to avoid trying to reload British military surplus .303 cases in the future, as I believe all that were ever produced were Berdan primed. All US commercial .303 brass has always been Boxer-primed, as well as the Greek surplus with the “HXP” headstamp you sometimes find.

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