Does anyone have any experience shooting cast bullets in a low number '03?
Low Number '03 Springfields
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- Last Post 24 April 2019
Yes, about 50 years worth. What would you like to know? Just remember I don't recommend it, not responsible for your rifle or loads, but I will tell you what I have done with them.
I have a friend with a low number Springfield who asked if I thought it would be safe to shoot with cast bullets. At first I was reluctant to recommend doing it but after looking in the latest Lyman Cast Bullet Hand Book, I found some loads with 170 gr. bullets that ran pressures of 13,000 to a low of 11,000 with IMR 4198 and IMR 3031. Somehow, I just don't see this as dangerous. I welcome your thoughts.
Of the hundreds of documented low number blow ups, all have begun with a case failure. Leading causes were WWI cases made by a lipstick tube maker, shooting 8mm Mauser ammo or a bore obstruction. If the headspace is good, AND THE BOLT IS GOOD, HAS BEEN MAGNUFLUXED, as long as the case holds together, I will shoot them. Bolts were casehardened and broke more often than receivers. I don't full length resize, but just neck size to keep the cases, dedicated to that one rifle, as long as possible. If pressure are too low, you can have gases creep back around the case. 11,000 psi is about the minimum pressure that will seal a brass case to the chamber.
My plinking, and match loads, are based on 16 grains of 2400, 18 grains of SR4759 or 21 grains of H4198. All are in the 20,000 to 24,000 psi range and I have not issues with shooting them in my rifles.
Low number Springfields were used by the First Marine Division at Guadalcanal, a very thorough test. These had the new bolts and safe ammunition, The rifles stayed in use by the Marines until replaced by the M-1 Garand.
I concur with Ric; loads above 11,000 pounds pressure and dedicated brass. I have a low number made in 1910 in issue configuration that I'll see if I can work up a load that will be competitive.
The URL below is an interesting article written by an epidemiologist who does a statistical analysis of early receivers with interesting observations.
Country boy from Illinois, living in the Magical Pacific Northwest
This is a subject that brings out passionate responses from both sides of the aisle. Bottom line, follow your conscience after analyzing all of the arguments pro and con.
Personally, the only low number '03 in my collection that I shoot is what I think is an early WWII USMC rebuild (Hatcher hole, stippled butt plate, pipe wrench marks on the 12/41 barrel, Type C stock). I don't fire high pressure loads in order to calm my lingering doubts, but if the chips were down and I needed to I would slam a clip of Ball M2 in it and sally forth.
Headspace is minimal, and the bolt is a late NS bolt.
The publication of a custom rifle makers group published a couple of articles about a "mysterious" Sedgley rifle blowing up in their 2018 issues. These were mostly annealed low number rifles sold as scrap in the 1930's. In the end, it was a double charge of 5744 (27 grains times two) that did the damage. There is no cure for carelessness or stupidity.
I would have the underside of the receiver scratch tested. Might not be as soft as some may think.
IMO, even loads of 25000 - 30000 cup will not harm even a "soft-er" Springfield.
Actually the receivers were too hard and called "burnt and brittle". The old "whack it with a hammer on the right rail" tale is worthless as there is little stress in that direction. Bolt forces are front to back, not vertical on the action rails. Sedgley just annealed everything back to dead soft and hoped it didn't get shot enough to set the bolt back into the action.
The military did a hardness test every time they re-barreled. It was done on the front receiver right over when the extractor slides, and / or, the right rail. All of those old actions survived a 72,000 CUP proof shot when new, and every time it was re-barreled. So in the end, it is always up to the owner to decide if he wants to shoot his rifle or not.
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