How much does an LE bolt head number affect reloading cycles?

Discussion in 'Curio & Relic Discussion' started by Laufer, Sep 13, 2009.

  1. Laufer

    Laufer New Member

    Have never reloaded, or helped, and so far only have bullets, 200 rds. of unfired .303 Prvi ammo and lots of once/twice-fired HXP, Greek and S&B cases from a deal. These Hornady Interlock 174 grain bullets were the cheapest I could find on the Net.
    Cost is my primary objective, for the grim days when my surplus runs low. The targets are mostly bricks, juice jugs etc, as we seem to have no active Taliban near Memphis.

    With a Jungle Carbine #5 bolthead (#1) and the #4 (under bolt: #2) and reduced powder charges, can people sometimes use cases four or five times? Have read that headspace influences the need to resize cases, esp in LEs.

    To clarify, have only watched a little reloading One time and sometimes read about it, but lots of micro technical trivia is impressive, but meaningless.
    A friend (retired from a military rifle team) will give some OJT in the near future.
    This is the entire story and am still a gun novice, despite my age.:eek:
  2. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

    The headspace on a Lee Enfield affects far more than how many times a cartridge can be reloaded- if affects whether a rifle can be fired safely. At all.

    The design of the LE locks the bolt from the rear of the bolt- Mauser, Springfield etc, lock at the FRONT of the bolt. The longer distance of lock to length allows the bolt to flex, increasing headspace with wear. Eventually, headspace becomes too great, and fired rounds develop a "stretch mark" around the case, usually about a half inch above the rim. Don't fix, keep shooting, a ruptured cartridge case is in your future.

    The fix was to go to a higher number on the bolt head. Each number being a smidgen longer. Works for a while, then you go to a higher number- or have a smith set the barrel back a thread. But eventually, you run out of bolt head numbers, and threads. Just a flaw in that design.

    Now, after that rambling discussion, which you may have already known- the .303 Brit is a FAIRLY mid powered cartridge. Keep your loads towards to low to mid levels, and IF the headspace is good, you should be able to get 4-5 (or more) reloads from a cartridge case. What is the headspace on YOUR rifles? dang- my crystal ball is in the shop for oil change, can't tell. Takes a gunsmith with a set of go/ no go gauges. DO get yours checked- have seen some #1 Mk 3s out there that are so badly worn they should have been retired. Eventually, they are going to hurt someone.

    BTW, has some great info on the SMLE.


    WILDCATT New Member


    bolt heads are sold by several dealers Numrich being one and Sarco another.
    one of mine had that problem.better than any thing is to reload with Lead bullets.and charge of 13.5 GRs Red Dot.with 150 or 180 gr bullet.lee sells molds that work well and inexpensive.
    get midsouthshooters cat.and get a couple reloading books Lees and Lyman.
  4. Laufer

    Laufer New Member

    Thanks very much.
    The #4 LE has a '3' in the long groove under the bolt, and
    the #5 has a '1' on the bolt head. Am only in early stages of reading about the process.
    Have 200 rds. of Prvi, plus 200 Hornady bullets and nothing else, except 2,300 rds. of '43 British and '67 POF to last a while.

    For simple plinking, would certainly keep reduced powder load, as my main goal is for economics, to back up the modest ammo supply here.
    Some people claim that a '3' bolt will wear brass quicker than a '1'. The bolt numbers match the actions on both rifles.

    Want to learn reloading by this winter and will save at least half of that ammo (the British) for long-term "reserve fuel".
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2009