Fix for excessive headspace on No1MkIII?


March 6, 2011, 12:26 PM
Does a fix exist? I've got a pretty bad one, I think; flattened primers, signs of imminent case head separation and what looks like peening at the rear of the receiver that the bolt locks against. (The ruined case is the only one I've shot [with a string to pull the trigger:)] out of the rifle).

Do I have a wallhanger?:(

If you enjoyed reading about "Fix for excessive headspace on No1MkIII?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
March 6, 2011, 01:24 PM
Try the forum on Lee Enfields and They may have people who have one or know of a place to buy one.

March 6, 2011, 01:26 PM
Enfields have replaceable bolt heads. Find the number on yours, they go from 0 to 3, I believe. If you have less than 3 you might be in luck.

March 6, 2011, 09:27 PM
The #1mkIII MIGHT be fixable with a different bolt head, but that feature is exclusive for the #4mk1 and #5mk1's. The head of a #1mkIII was ground for that specific rifle and are not interchangable. I would doubt the possibility of fixing your rifle. Pics of the fired cases would help in determining your issue. Can you post pics?

Headspace on these rifles is also determined by the case rim. I have found .010 variations in case rim thickness from various manufacturers, so a different manufacturer's ammo might not show the same signs. The signs you described are indicative of a head space issue, but all of my Enfields stretch the cses, and my lower velocity load show flattened primers, but no overpressure.

Here are some of my reloads. Note the neck sizing only. I also only shoot this ammo in one rifle. Some cases have 9+ reloads.

March 6, 2011, 09:50 PM
Cases don't live long in Lee Enfields.

This action is a rear locker and it stretches. Stretches badly. Then add in full length resized cases with shoulders pushed too far back, and cases don't last long.

I am aware of guys who put O rings ahead of the case rims, so the case will be held against the bolt face, thus reducing stretch due to headspace.

March 6, 2011, 10:19 PM
The No 4's had numbered bolt heads. The No 1's were adjusted the same way, but the bolt heads were fitted to the gun and not numbered. You can still find used bolt heads, but you need to have a measurement of yours, and know what you want to do with it size wise to take up headspace. Even with headspace in spec, the chambers are loose, and cases bulge and stretch. Neck sizing only makes a big diference in case life. There really isnt a good reason to full length size the cases if you shoot them in the same gun, so long as they will go back in the chamber. Still, just sizing enough to get them to chamber will make them last longer than full sizing.

Any decent gunsmith can set the barrel back a turn and rechamber to tighten up the headspace if it truly needs it, but most of the Enfields still look like they have headspace problems when they don't.

If your receiver is peened where it locks, it may in fact be worn out. Get a good gunsmith to look at it before making any decisions, or get good clear pictures of what you're concerned about and post them.

Take a good picture of the case also, what you're calling immenent case separation may in fact be they way most Enfield brass looks, a bulge ahead of the rim, and somewhat egg shaped. The British military didn't care what the brass looked like after they were fired or if they could be reloaded, they cared about reliabilty in the field. Loose chambers were part of the plan, even if headspace was in spec.

March 8, 2011, 02:17 PM
Finally got some pics (see attached)... Hope they're clear enough. Thanks for the help, guys.:)

As you can see, there's actually a crack starting near the head, and the rim's a bit dinged from rough extraction. And the primer is flat flat flat...

March 8, 2011, 07:05 PM
Good thing you used a string.

March 8, 2011, 08:42 PM
Agree with Sicari. That looks bad. Does the bolt match the reciever?

That is classic Enfield headspace issues.

March 9, 2011, 10:04 AM
Does the bolt match the reciever?Yes.

After giving it a more thorough inspection, I'm not sure I should shoot it anyway... it appears to be VERY old. The last two digits of the manufacturing date are pretty much rubbed out, but the crown is marked E.R., and Edward was only king until 1910.:what:

There's also an RFI 1928 mark on the left side of the butt socket (rebuild, I guess) and a small RFI 1949 stamped on the receiver just above the chamber.

And it's of Enfield manufacture.

fireman 9731
March 9, 2011, 10:28 AM
What kind, and how old was the ammo you used? Heck, you might be shooting stuff loaded with Cordite.

I wouldn't shoot it anymore just by looking at the pics. On the upside, you have a pretty good looking stock though!

March 9, 2011, 12:19 PM
Old isn't the issue. I know people that regularly shoot original trapdoor Springfields form the 1870's, condition is the thing to be concerned about. I've had several Lee Enfields from the teens period that were fine for shooting.

I agree the action looks like it's had some peening at the locking lug, but it's hard to tell from the pics. The bolt lug should be in contact with the receiver. Look at the other bolt locking recess inside the reciever with the bolt taken out.

I'd say the ammo was a major part of the problem. It looks like Pakistani stuff. I shot one box and gave up on it. Hangfires were common, and it wouldnt surprise me if the brass was poor. The flattened primers may be the powder degrading, or soft primers, or could be loose headspace as well. A combination of things can make it look worse. I'd try a newer commercial round and see how it looks, after checking the locking recess in the receiver. if it's battered and peened, I wouldnt shoot it until a real gunsmith looks at it.

If you like your rifle, and have any attachment to it, you could do a project. A 22 conversion. Should be safe even in a worn action. Very light cast loads may be a possibilty also. I shoot round balls for small game with 3 grs Unique in the 30-30.

March 9, 2011, 12:25 PM
It looks like Pakistani stuff.Yeah, I was just researching the headstamps on it; it's POF.

March 9, 2011, 12:27 PM
Pakistan Ordnance Factory. It was probaby fine stuff 40 or 50 years ago.

March 9, 2011, 12:35 PM
"RFI" probably indicates "Rifle Factory, Ishapore", the Indian arsenal. Seems like your rifle has been around!

I really don't like the upsetting of the steel at the locking shoulder of the action. It may be time to give the old warrior an honorable retirement (nice pics, by the way).

The value of the rifle is not sufficient to make extensive gunsmithing worthwhile.

March 9, 2011, 12:58 PM
I really don't like the upsetting of the steel at the locking shoulder of the action. It may be time to give the old warrior an honorable retirement (nice pics, by the way). Thanks; I should really get a good set of pics of her... it's not a bad looking rifle (need a sling and bayonet first, though). I should've checked it out more thoroughly before buying, but I looooove the looks of the No1, and this one popped up at the local gunshop when I happened to have some disposable cash.:)

I probably wouldn't put many rounds through it in any case, but I hate the idea of an unusable firearm. :(

March 9, 2011, 09:12 PM
It is possible to replace the bolt head with another IF you can find one that will give you a tighter headspace. But they're not numbered for the No.1 MkIII the way they are for the No.4 so you'd need to take measurments and know that what you were buying would actually fix your problem.

I'm not advocating shooting an unsafe gun, but you might check out the idea of shooting reduced power reloads. My brother loads them up for his 7.62x39 with 85 grain FMJ and JHP's and has a lot of fun at the range. If you judge it safe you could at least maybe still plink with it or knock off the occasional squirrel.

March 9, 2011, 09:58 PM
You might try some Remington factory ammo. Lower pressure loading, it may not be as bad as it appears. The POF ammo is not a good test.

March 9, 2011, 10:06 PM
I say trade it for a Mauser or Mosin.


March 10, 2011, 01:06 AM
WIth known difficulty in finding the right bolthead nowadays, if it were me i 'll sell the gun. Have some loss but not completely.

If you enjoyed reading about "Fix for excessive headspace on No1MkIII?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!