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Enfield extraction problems

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Kotaix, Jun 26, 2019.

  1. Kotaix

    Kotaix Member

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    Hi guys, maybe you can help me with a slight problem I've been having

    I bought a savage-made No4 rifle at a gun show, so no returns available. The bolt and the receiver numbers do not match, but I marked up the lugs and they look like they have pretty decent contact on both sides. One side is slightly better than the other (the long lug contacts slightly better)

    I did some shooting with it the other day, and for the first time since I bought it, and I have problems on primary extraction. I'm using MEN-83-8 surplus ammo which goes into the chamber with no problems whatsoever, and I have no problems extracting unfired rounds. When the round is fired however, I have problems getting the bolt to open. I have to smack it upwards to get it to turn all the way open, after which I can always get the case out.

    Fired brass does not go into the chamber easily, although some cases do go in easier than others, but it's a tight fit or requires a bit of a smack on the bolt. I assume the chamber needs to be polished, but I'm hesitant to do so without using the right tool to start with. Do you have any recommendations for honing tools? Am I on the right track here or is there something else at play?
     
  2. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I have written extensively on the problems of old ammunition:

    Old Ammo

    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/old-ammo.842597/page-2#post-10948598

    Oldest Ammunition you'd carry

    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/oldest-ammo-youd-carry.830197/page-3#post-10721487

    Ammo storage

    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/ammo-storage.826681/#post-10655071

    If you are like many posters in these threads, you will not be happy to find out that your ammunition was surplused because it had reached the end of its service life. It was so old that it was becoming unsafe to issue and unsafe to store. Most of the posters on forums at this point will dismiss this and ignore any evidence that ammunition does not last forever. Humans have an infinite capacity for self deceit. We only see what we want to see. And no one wants to believe that they and their ammunition won't last forever.

    One of the problems with old gunpowder is that combustion pressures rise with age. You can see the number of blown up firearms in the referenced threads due to old ammunition. This is most likely what is going on with your ammunition. To test this, pull bullets on about 20 rounds, dump the powder, and examine and compare to some of the pictures in the referenced threads. See any corrosion in the case? Corrosion is 100% evidence of very old deteriorated gunpowder. When it gets real bad, and powder is in bulk, such as with these old cans of powder

    SONQaMa.jpg

    the stuff will auto ignite and burn your house down.

    If you don't see any corrosion, that's good. The cases can be salvaged. Now to test this, use the 20 cases which you dumped the powder and reload them with nice new gunpowder, with a reasonable load, and go fire the stuff. If you do not experience pressure problems, bingo!, you are a winner. Pull all the bullets from all that old ammunition, dump all the powder, and set the cases and bullets aside. Examine cases for evidence of corrosion

    x87GugF.jpg

    Uv5MGSv.jpg

    cFSGfXA.jpg

    JJsh6Tk.jpg

    I absolutely would not monkey with the rifle, I would not polish the chamber, etc. I think you have an ammunition problem, one that could blow up your rifle.

    And the reason you have not even considered this as a cause is due to something called Agnotology. Agnotology is the study of culturally induced ignorance. It is an interesting topic area by itself, but in this instance, no one makes money teaching the shooting community that gunpowder deteriorates. What you are taught in the popular press is what you need to know to buy. They don't spend space teaching you what you need to know on what not to buy. And given the natural biases of the shooting community to deny that ammunition has a shelf life, it wouldn't take anyway.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
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  3. Kotaix

    Kotaix Member

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    Thanks for the kick in the ass. That does makes sense. The ammo isn't consistent with how much the brass expands. Some used cases are easier to extract than others. Of course the reviews on sgammo for this stuff are exclusively good, hence why I bought 500 rounds like a dumbass... I'll try running some new production ammo thru there and see if there's any big difference.

    But that aside, the reason I asked about polishing is because the chamber doesn't exactly look like a spring chicken. There isn't any rust, but the metal isn't shiny or smooth and the cases look a bit scratched upon extraction. Any concerns there?
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
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  4. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    WWII era firearms often demonstrate issues as the need for something often resulted in skimping on quality fit and finish. One of the biggest issues is using machine tooling a bit longer than would be advisable. On No. 4 wartime rifles, rough chambers are fairly common and corrosive ammo/cleaning practices might also have contributed a bit as a rougher chamber to begin with is harder to clean.

    You might also want to pay attention a bit to the extractor as it is not uncommon for rifles of this age to need a new extractor and/or spring. Fortunately these are available in new old stock for not much but it is a bit of a PITA to replace. Check the extractor claw for chipping and the spring tension by pushing outward.

    Oh, and one last thing, a chronograph can often capture when something is wrong with the cartridge as you have very inconsistent velocities from shot to shot. It is an advisable tool for reloads and/or if you want to risk firing old milsurp ammo. The std. velocities for the issue cartridges on a particular rifle are known and disseminated pretty widely and so you can compare your ammo with that std. and either too fast or too slow velocity is cause for concern.
     
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  5. GunnyUSMC

    GunnyUSMC Member

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    The MEN Surplus 303 ammo is some of the best 303 surplus ammo to come to the market in years. It was manufactured in Germany in the 80's and was stored very well until it was surplussed out just a year or two ago. I have over 1000 rounds of this ammo and it fictions fine in the rifles I've fired it in.
    Check your brass. I would bet that you will find some shinny spots where it is rubbing and hanging up in the chamber.
    The chamber on your rifle is most likely a little dirty. You can use a 410 brush to scrub the chamber.
     
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  6. Kotaix

    Kotaix Member

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    I am indeed finding shiny spots about a quarter inch up from the rim and also particularly right before/at the shoulder of the neck (going from rim to bullet). The brass bulges slightly ahead of the rim, I assume that had to do with thickness of the brass at the rim.

    What should be the ideal appearance of the metal within the chamber? It doesn't look dirty but its definitely matte and not shiny. I'm having trouble clearly seeing the shoulder of the neck in the chamber, which seems to be the worst. I've gone at the chamber with a 9mm brush so far, but to little effect.

    If I oil the case lightly before firing, it'll extract with no problems
     
  7. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    You have been with holding information. The fact you can extract the ammunition after you lubricate it does not necessarily mean you don't have over pressure ammunition, the lubrication could be sufficient to break the friction between case and chamber. I am still suspicious about the ammunition, I posted enough information in previous threads which show that thousands of US WW2 ammunition being disposed when it was 30 years old. You need to fire some nice new factory ammunition, or pull some bullets, inspect for corrosion, and reload with new gunpowder.

    As for your chamber. I have a Savage built Lee Enfield:

    L5E4b4W.jpg

    XaYGNiY.jpg

    ej5lMv2.jpg

    it was in like new condition when I got it from the dealer. It is one of those Lee Enfields that went to Canada and came back in the 1990's. I was surprised by the number of new Lee Enfields that were on the rack, and this was one. The interior of the barrel is gray. It is my recollection that all of the WW2 era Lee Enfields I have show rough, circular, reamer marks in the throat, and the chambers are huge. It does not have a shiny, bright barrel, and never had a shiny bright barrel. It should be perfectly safe and functional, but yours has gone through a rebuild, if the bolt and receiver don't match. Still, it ought to be safe and functional. But, these were war time guns, and they were slapped together rather quickly. If you make a cerrosafe casting of your chamber, or if you have a bore scope, maybe you will see something.

    But first, try some new ammunition.
     
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  8. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    I agree with the trying factory new ammunition issue with Slamfire. Try the Prvi Partisan which makes for pretty good brass to reload, I do not advise using the S&B due to brass life. Like Slamfire, I have several WWII era No. 4 Enfields from different arsenals and some WWI era No. 1's. Most have large chambers, (except for a recent No. 1 rebuild using a NOS stock barrel probably from India) and the chambers are indeed not really shiny but a dull matte in the best of them and I have an early Maltby that you can see the rings left by a dull chamber reamer. All of them shoot fine and I do not have extraction problems with them using factory ammo nor reloads.

    One thing to also watch is whether you have overtiming on the bolt head or a headspace issue. Ideally, the bolt head should not over rotate 5% or less when the bolt is locked for firing, otherwise, the threads on the bolt head absorb the shock. Overtiming the bolt head shouldn't cause an extraction problem unless the bolt head overclocks so much that is it loose when the bolt is locked for firing. You can find a fair number of NOS replacement bolt bodies and bolt heads as the rear locking Enfield design is not the kindest from a wear perspective on bolts and bolt heads. I did not see whether or not you checked headspace on the rifle with proper gauges and that can also lead to some extraction problems along with other problems.

    Fortunately, there is a some pretty good information on fitting new bolt bodies and bolt heads floating around and it is a handtool job if you are so inclined so unless your receiver lug recesses are bollixed, then you can restore one that has a bolt problem fairly easily. Milsurp.com has a bunch of stickies on how to do so in their Lee Enfield section along with retired armorer Peter Laidler to ask on difficult issues.
     
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  9. Kotaix

    Kotaix Member

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    I haven't checked headspace because of advice from english and aussie enfield experts who say it doesn't matter unless the primers are backing out, which they aren't. I could probably replace the bolt head with a 1 because it currently has a 0 on it. I don't have the headspace gauge. The bolt head over-rotates about 10-15 degrees past lockup. I can see how this could be causing the problem though. I've only shot this rifle once since I got it, so this is part of the troubleshooting.
     
  10. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I purchased American made hadspace gauges and all of my Lee Enfields were way over the No Go, even though the bolts were serialized to the receiver! And I picked out new FTR or new production rifles. I did correct that on one Austrialian No 1 MKIII found a larger bolt head, and I can say, it made no difference in function as far as I was able to observe.

    One of these days I will make a better picture of cartridge case protrusion, this came from Chinn's series The Machine Gun. And it is conceptual. Residual breech pressures are around 650 psia for automatic weapons, don't let your protrusion look like this with bolt fully in battery. You will have the sidewalls blow!

    2xGBYpt.jpg

    This is how much case head sticks out of a Mauser barrel

    eUXibtK.jpg

    Headspace for a rimmed cartridge is basically the case head protrusion. The risk of too much case head protrusion is that the sidewalls blow. You can look at old Glock blowups where the case head was insufficiently supported, the feed ramp had to be changed. I think 303 British cartridges must have pretty thick case head webs and sidewalls, and there must be a difference between American headspace gauges and British.

    I know this will sound sloppy, but if my Lee Enfield feeds, fires, extracts, I have stopped worrying about cartridge headspace and no longer try to adjust the headspace with different bolt heads.
     
  11. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Headspace is a tricky subject at best and in regards to Lee Enfields, has some widely disputed points.

    The first point is that if you reload only for that rifle and neck size only and check your brass after each reloading-scrapping unserviceable brass, then you will be able to get the maximum life out of reloads.

    The second point is that some folks feel that the rear locking action and the bolt body flex of a Lee Enfield makes reloading for them a dubious proposition.

    Since the bolt is not original to the gun and a fair amount of parts rifles are floating around out there, I would probably have it checked because grossly out of headspace firearms are there where the risk of case head separation comes about. If you are shooting this rifle, be sure to wear good eye protection.

    For example, the whole numbered bolt head system is not a sure fire guide as some 0 bolt heads are longer than some 1 bolt heads, and so on. These bolt head numbers are ranges on the no. 4 and the No. 1 rifle does not use numbers so you must measure each bolt head when fitting.

    If you are fitting a new bolt head, you will need to find out the existing headspace so that you can buy the bolt head as measured by a caliper or micrometer. The varying bolt heads were used in manufacturing to make up the imprecision of the manufacturing process using various vendors in setting the chamber headspace.

    FWIW, the British std. was .064 go and the .074 no-go using CHS military headspace gages. This is via Peter Laidler's article on Cartridge Headspace
    https://www.milsurps.com/showthread.php?t=16948

    Commercial U.S. gages are usually SAAMI compliant. For example,
    Forsters, .064 go, .067 no go, and .070 field which I believe is SAAMI compliant.

    He also has an article on fitting new bolts in that same set that might be useful to you to check yours out.

    http://www.milsurps.com/content.php?r=296-Headspace-101-for-.303-s

    And you might find this useful as it is a gunboards survey of bolt heads for the Lee Enfield and includes the problem of bolt head rotation. It is by Alan DeEnfield who is the gunboards forum guru on Lee Enfields just as Peter Laidler and Brian Dick are on milsurps.com forum.

    https://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?318777-No4-Bolt-Head-Survey-and-Instructions
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
  12. Duster340

    Duster340 Member

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    /\ /\ what boom boom said.
     
  13. Jackrabbit1957

    Jackrabbit1957 Member

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    I keep coming back to the chamber, I bought a 95 Mauser a few years ago with the same problem with extraction. Turned out to be a slightly burred chamber. I also have to full length resize the brass when I load for it. I know it's not an Enfield but the problem is still close to the same.
     
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  14. MihiT

    MihiT Member

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    A "too-smooth" chamber will cause hangups more than a rougher one. I think this has been well covered elsewhere and a search should find it.

    Your 100% fix here is to have the barrel set back and the chamber re-cut. This will take care of headspace and chamber finish.
     
  15. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Some of the major differences between the Mauser military rifles and the Lee Enfield is the extractor, rotating bolt head, and where the bolt locks into the receiver. The Enfield's tiny claw compared to the Mauser requires a very strong spring whereas the Mauser extractor itself is the spring--to get the same extraction force, that the much larger Mauser claw has, the tiny spring in the Lee Enfield extractor is really strong for its size. To increase the likelihood of extraction using bad ammo and horrible field conditions, the Lee Enfield's chambers are cut oversize when compared with a in spec Mauser, but the Lee Enfield headspaces on the rim versus a datum point on the Mauser cartridge shoulder. In a Mauser firing, variances in chambers can spell big problems in extraction while in a Lee Enfield, it simply means that the brass may expand too much to reuse or the fired round will not fit in another Lee Enfield's chamber due to shoulder differences. I do not believe in all of the Lee Enfields that I have played around with that any have tight chambers. Which is probably why I would take an issued Ross over a Lee Enfield in .303 if the goal was target shooting.

    Where the bolt locks into the receiver and the bolt heads also play a part. Mauser originally used separate bolt heads through his 71/84 series and the Germans through the GEW 88 Commission Rifle, Mannlichers to the best of my recollection including the derivative French models also used separate bolt heads. Part of the practice derived from cleaning repeating blackpowder rifles from fouling, but then probably from a combination of manufacturing ease and expense. But from a military point of view, separate bolt heads can be a problem as if they are lost, the rifle is kaput and there are quite a few stories about particular rifles with separate bolt heads being reassembled in the wrong fashion to the user's detriment.

    Mauser concluded that a monolithic bolt body and head was preferable and gave a stronger lockup. For whatever reason, the British concluded, probably due to its cartridge used, the classic mild .303 British, that the rear locking of the rifle was not an issue. Furthermore, the Brits moved to using nickel steel quite early with the No. 1 series versus the Mauser's regular carbon steel due to cordite burning really hot. That probably also made a difference in choice of rifles although the P14 series soon to be also used nickel steel.

    The Brits were all set to move to a Mauser type action before WWI but then switching to both a higher speed and pressure cartridge that had some teething issues and new rifles/training in the middle of a war was too much for the Brits. They dusted off the design when they needed rifles in late 1915 and had the Americans make the P14 in a .303 chambering for the war as an alternative standard. Production issues with the P14 and training issues coupled with the Brits figuring out how to produce more SMLE's meant that the P14 was underutilized by the Brits during the war. After the war, like the Americans with their 1917 rifles, they found themselves with two bolt action rifles when it was clear that semi-autos and select fire were the future. Thus, the Brits kept their old Lee Enfield and the Americans their Springfield versus the newer P14/1917 design rifles.

    Thus, the British kept their rotating bolt heads until the end of the Lee Enfield series with its virtues and problems. The virtue is thriftiness as bolt bodies could be made cheaper without the bolt head and the bolt heads could as well due to the heat treatment requirements of separate components versus the monolithic Mauser bolt body and bolt head. The Brit system also allowed adjustment of headspace, replacement of a pitted bolt face, and use of cheaper materials (for a long while, the Brits used a special case hardened cast iron (mild steel) bolt head in their No. 1 rifles until the std. was changed just before WWII). I believe that these are marked U or M--S marked are supposedly replacement bolt heads that are overlong to adjust headspace in particular rifles). That particularly combination of materials would have never been possible in mass Mauser production. I believe that the British also have or had a very different system of expert military armorers who did repairs and fitting of rifles while I don't believe has a comparison in other military organizations.

    One of the reasons that I believe that the Lee Enfield has stood the test of time as an excellent battle rifle is while its component systems mean that it is a real PITA to get sniper grade accuracy out of one, it is relatively cheap to rebuild because of those same components and it used superior materials such as nickel steel when compared with Germans. The magazine size did not hurt nor did the quicker bolt action of the Lee Enfield than its Mauser based competitors. Mausers on the other hand are a bit easier to accurize, the controlled feeding with that giant claw extractor makes them reliable in the field, and German mass production methods and subsequent production processes in Mauser factories made them cheap to produce and remarkably close in tolerances despite being manufactured throughout the globe.

    The old saying is that the Mauser is the best sporting rifle, the Springfield made the best target rifle, and the Enfield became the best battle rifle.
     
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  16. fguffey

    fguffey Member

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    I am the fan of 100% contact between the chamber and case. I understand there are the 'cross hatch guys', I am not one of them. If the OP is a reloader he should be able to off set the length of the chamber with the length of the case from the shoulder/datum to the case head.

    F. Guffey
     
  17. Kotaix

    Kotaix Member

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    ok reporting back now. I cleaned the chamber pretty aggressively with a 30-06 chamber brush, a 9mm swab and Hoppe's gun cleaner. I got a bit of crap out but nothing too egregious. I also bought 20 rounds of Prvi Partisan and hit the range.

    The rifle ran much better, although extraction on some cases of the MEN 83-8 are still a bit sticky. It's now troublesome about one in eight or so vs one good one every 8 or so when it was dirty. Prvi Partisan ammo ran like butter in comparison. I could try the middle finger shooting technique with confidence, knowing I wouldn't have to unshoulder the rifle. The brass on the MEN 83-8 stretches outwatds a bit in front of the rim, the Prvi Partisan does not at all.

    I would absolutely not recommend reloading the MEN ammo. Prvi Partisan looked ready for round 2.
     
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