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Reloading the .303 british

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My first experience with the British .303 was on a recent to trip to South Africa, where the ranch we were hunting on had one with a problem. The "problem" they said, was that it didn’t pattern so well anymore. I always figured rifles grouped, and shotguns patterned.

So, we took this rifle to the range and they were right, it did indeed pattern. So back at the house, I went to work on it. First, I soaked the bore in bore cleaner for a while, and then I tried to get a bore brush down it. "Tried" is the correct word, as I had to resort to a worn out .30 cal brush for the first few passes, followed by a new .303 brush.

I can see already that the biggest problem was a dirty and fouled barrel. After a couple more hours of soaking and brushing, things were going much better. Now, I gave it 50 strokes of Remington 40X bore cleaner which has a mild abrasive in it.

By golly, there really is rifling in the bore and it does not look too bad! Next, I took a good look at the muzzle’s crown, and decided that needed fixing too. I always carry my Brownell’s crowning tools with me, as there always seems to be a rifle that needs work. If a rifle won’t group well, quite often it is just the crown that needs repair.

The next step was to replace the old scope that was on there. It looked like something left over from the Boer War had ended up on this rifle.

After a bit of undoing, we finally got the scope rings loose and replaced it with a 4X Leupold that I had brought along as a spare. We might as well know if the scope is also contributing to the poor performance.

Finally, we are ready to take our newly fixed up .303 to the range. All we had for ammo was some military FMJ, and a few PMP 150 gr. Soft Points. We used the FMJ to get the scope on the paper, and then tweaked it in with the PMP’s.

Finally we are ready to really check out our work. Glory be, it now shot those 150 gr. PMP soft point into nice 3 shot 1½ groups. This a far cry from what it was doing, so we surely have improved something.

I like the nostalgia of the .303, as the Boers shot everything in sight with it back in the old days. When I got home I set about finding a .303 I could play with. I wanted to use the .303 next year hunting plains game, and I wanted to have some proper bullets and loads.

The gun I rounded up came with a very nice Weaver style one piece base on it, and I attached a Leupold 3-9X compact scope to it. The scope fit perfectly and I had high hopes of making a deer rifle out of it for this fall.

The first time I took it out to the range, it ran out of windage adjustment. I shimmed it and tried it again. My little shims did the trick, and I got the rifle zeroed in perfectly. Had I been using a standard size scope, rather than a compact, I suspect I would have had enough windage adjustment.

First, I tried some more handloads all with 180 gr .311 dia Remington RN Core Lokts. The results were as follows:

All were in R-P cases with CCI 200:

48 gr of AA 4350

= 2458 fps ¾ " group at 50 yards

22 fps ES

42 gr Rel 15

= 2408 fps 1"

9 fps ES

43 gr IMR 4064

= 2486 fps ¾"

"24 fps ES

42 gr Ball "C"

= 2451 fps ¾"

47 fps ES

I then tried some factory loads:

WW 180 Power Points

= 2409 fps ¾"

"33 fps ES

Federal 180 gr SP

= 2441 fps 1"

"38 fps ES

It sure looks to me like the .303 will nicely do 2400 fps with 180 gr. bullets and will be a fine deer rifle.

The .303 British is very close to the 30-40 Krag, and a lot closer to the .308 Winchester than I thought, except it doesn’t operate at as high a pressure as the .308 does.

I took one case of each caliber and filled it with Ball C powder, and weighed it to see what the capacity difference was. The .303 Case held 58.0 gr., the 30-40 Krag held 59.5, and the .308 Win case held 58 gr. just like the .303 did. This tells me, that I can use 30-40 data as .303 data is a bit hard to come by.

The next "trick" I had up my sleeve, was to rethroat the barrel, as it has surely seen a lot of use. I secured a .303 throater from Dave Manson Reamers, and the results were great. Simply put, I now can shoot the same size groups at 100 yards, which I was shooting at 50 yard before rethroating it. I only pushed the throat forward about .025, which was just enough to clean up the lands.

I had occasion to harvest a nice whitetail deer with this gun so far, and used a .311 dia 180 gr. Remington RN Core Lokt bullet at 2440 fps.

Terry Blauwkamp is a lifelong hunter and a veteran of many African safaris. His reloading expertise extends beyond the standard American calibers to metric and classic African calibers.

The deer was facing me at about 75 yards, and the bullet struck him squarely in the brisket, and went right thru the heart and lodged somewhere behind that. The buck dropped right where he stood like he had been hit with a .300 Weatherby.

He never knew the difference. The heart had a huge hole through it, and internal damage was extensive. Maybe Remington’s ad is correct when it says their Core Lokts are the "Deadliest mushroom in the woods".

If you would care to share any of your experiences with the .303 or have questions, feel free to write anytime to

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