303 Reloading. Steel Jackets

#1
Now that the heady days of cheap HXP ammo at 20p a bang are over and even the South African and Yugoslavian stuff's been used up, I turn to reloadong. I have a nice supply of once fired HXP cases, so off we go! I've got the primers, the powder but it seems the S&B bullets I bought are steel jacketed. I only discovered this by accident.

The question is, do i want to fire these in my nice (and valuable) SMLE and No4? What are the bore wear considerations? Do they generate higher breech pressures due to the harder surface when engaging in the rifling. Is it a case of 'penny wise, pound foolish?' Or does the copper wash make it alright?

You thoughts greatly appreciated.
 
#4
You are better off with some Sierra .311 diameter copper jacketed bullets, than that steel shite.
 
#5
Now that the heady days of cheap HXP ammo at 20p a bang are over and even the South African and Yugoslavian stuff's been used up, I turn to reloadong. I have a nice supply of once fired HXP cases, so off we go! I've got the primers, the powder but it seems the S&B bullets I bought are steel jacketed. I only discovered this by accident.

The question is, do i want to fire these in my nice (and valuable) SMLE and No4? What are the bore wear considerations? Do they generate higher breech pressures due to the harder surface when engaging in the rifling. Is it a case of 'penny wise, pound foolish?' Or does the copper wash make it alright?

You thoughts greatly appreciated.
Not having any expertise in this topic, can I suggest an alternative for you to consider, just as a bit of a guess...

Rather than fire steel jacketed bullets through your precious barrel, would it be feasible to cast bullets (heads?) without a jacket, purely of lead? Would this work ok? Or does it raise new problems?
 
#6
There are a lot of steel jacketed rounds out there, mostly copper plated so you don't notice it. Almost all the rounds designed for really big game have steel jackets. Are your rounds magnetic? There' also a version of brass called Tombak in German, it looks like steel, and Nickel or Nickel plated jackets are also out there.

Some of the oldest and most sucessfull rounds made in German are made of "Flussstahl". I'm talking the Brenneke "TIG" & "TUG". They fly really well with very consistent results on impact. I use them without concern, the steel used is very soft, Nickel plated and lubricated. They've been a sucess story for about a century now so I suspect that high barrel wear would have rung the alarm bells by now. On the plus side you get no copper build up in your bore. Now if some Polish bloke were to offer me a bag full on a street corner, I'd probably give him both barrels. I prefer the quality end of the market and since I'm shooting mostly big game and not punching holes in cardboard, it's affordable.
 
#7
Steel jacketed bullets (some coated with copper/cupro-nickel) have been commonly used and trialled for over a century. UK experience (vide Text Book of Small Arms) indicates that steel jackets cause no different bore wear to copper alloys, and that in fact steel jackets are the best method of minimising metal fouling. The only reason steel jackets are/were not commonly used was because cupro-nickel jackets were easier to mass-manufacture. I think EGB Reynolds also notes in one of his books that steel jackets do not reduce the service life of Enfield barrels.
 
#8
Thanks everyone. I had loaded up 40 rounds (4 batches of 10) for load develpment before I noticed the bullets were steel jacketed. Yes they are magnetic, that's how I found out. I have not yet fired them. My loading data is all US (Speer) and assumes copper (?) jacketed bullets. I am loading to well below max pressures for copper jackets and presume steel jackets must perform in a similar manner, pressure wise.

BTW have you noticed how much Lee Enfield stuff there is on fleabay at the moment? And what it's fetching!
 
#9
BTW have you noticed how much Lee Enfield stuff there is on fleabay at the moment? And what it's fetching!
I think much of it is the sell-off of the stuff that was in AJ Parker when they finally collapsed. I'm not sure how AJ Parker eventually got sold off, but its a shame that the stock wasn't offered to the UK gun trade at tender. Now you have individuals buying up boxes of, say, 30x No1 safety levers, when they perhaps only need one. Thus all of these precious parts are being dispersed to be lost forever in the back of someone's shed, meaning that in a few years there'll be no spares available to anyone....
 
#10
I think much of it is the sell-off of the stuff that was in AJ Parker when they finally collapsed. I'm not sure how AJ Parker eventually got sold off, but its a shame that the stock wasn't offered to the UK gun trade at tender. Now you have individuals buying up boxes of, say, 30x No1 safety levers, when they perhaps only need one. Thus all of these precious parts are being dispersed to be lost forever in the back of someone's shed, meaning that in a few years there'll be no spares available to anyone....
Pretty much what I was thinking. I was hoping LERA were on the case. Not sure if they have a remit to hold spares at a club level. Might bring it up at the AGM.
 
#11
Not having any expertise in this topic, can I suggest an alternative for you to consider, just as a bit of a guess...

Rather than fire steel jacketed bullets through your precious barrel, would it be feasible to cast bullets (heads?) without a jacket, purely of lead? Would this work ok? Or does it raise new problems?

Good point Troy.

I do reload with lead bullets now. There was an artical in Target Gun some years back. I use Custom Bullet's 200grn gas checked bullet and a pretty fast magnum pistol powder, in small quantities! This is fine out to about 200 yrds. Velocity with the lead bullet is limited to under 2000 fps or you get stripping in the rifling. I really want to duplicate the MkIIV round so jacketed it is! I think with the limited amount of shooting I do, I'll shell out (ho ho) and buy some good Sierra bullets.
 
#12
Good point Troy.

I do reload with lead bullets now. There was an artical in Target Gun some years back. I use Custom Bullet's 200grn gas checked bullet and a pretty fast magnum pistol powder, in small quantities! This is fine out to about 200 yrds. Velocity with the lead bullet is limited to under 2000 fps or you get stripping in the rifling. I really want to duplicate the MkIIV round so jacketed it is! I think with the limited amount of shooting I do, I'll shell out (ho ho) and buy some good Sierra bullets.
Traditionally mutton fat is used to reduce lead stripping, dip the finished rounds in fat which has been well heated to boil off any water. It's worked well enough with my Webley MK IV revolver in .455Brit. I wouldn't recommend it for anything much faster.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#13
Selling off at the auctions old boxes of parts was common enough 20 years ago. Nowadays you tend to get unfinished hobby jobs selling their parts bins. The old trick used to be to sell 10 different lots of 10 foresight blades. All the lot would be the same size so I used to buy as many as I could, make up sets and sell them to mates in clubs.
I sold loads of spares in the early 2000's to a mate in germany who was into restoring Lee Enfields.
 
#14
Good point Troy.

I do reload with lead bullets now. There was an artical in Target Gun some years back. I use Custom Bullet's 200grn gas checked bullet and a pretty fast magnum pistol powder, in small quantities! This is fine out to about 200 yrds. Velocity with the lead bullet is limited to under 2000 fps or you get stripping in the rifling. I really want to duplicate the MkIIV round so jacketed it is! I think with the limited amount of shooting I do, I'll shell out (ho ho) and buy some good Sierra bullets.
If you can't break 2000 ft./s one of several things is wrong:

1. Your lubricant is kak.
2. Your bullet diameter is too small.
3. Your alloy is seriously too soft.

For the record, I occasionally shoot 55 grain .225" diameter bullets out of .223 Remington at 2400 ft./s with absolutely no leading.

The problem is that cast shooting is such a black art that it requires dedication and time input to get it going properly. Mark 7 ballistics at short range is achievable -- forget it at long range because of the reduced ballistic coefficient.

But, to achieve it you will need at least the following:

1. A bullet that fits the throat of your particular rifle, which could easily be .315” or even larger.
2. An alloy somewhere around 15 BHN: don't go too hard since you need a degree of setup, and don't go too soft.
3. A decent lube, such as NRA formula, BAC, Carnuba Red or similar. These guys do some great stuff: White Label Lube
4. Hand weighing every bullet and batching by weight and inspecting for flaws visually.

Expect to try quite a few loads before finding one that works. Ultimately something tiny will change and screw it up. You never know, you might get lucky.

Do not under any circumstances muck around with mutton fat, that is for eggy-smelling, bearded blackpowder types.
 
#15
Do not under any circumstances muck around with mutton fat, that is for eggy-smelling, bearded blackpowder types.
I resemble that remark. But to be honest, if I had hill billy turn-ups in the legs of my sweat stained sears roebuck union suit, you wouldn't find either black powder, napped flint, or even chewing tobacco in them. My Webley was nitro proofed long before you were born.

Mutton tallow is still used in industry in metalwork applications, steelrolling, non ferrous cutting lubes, jewellers lathes etc. It burns without a residue which is why it turns up in expensive smokeless candles as stearate. It is also a solder flux, i.e. it helps molten lead alloys to flow.

In other words you can stick your shoddy coloured palm oil based products right up your hoop.

One thing puzzles me, I cast .455 British because the commercially available varieties are fully jacketed and therefore unsuitable (and in Germany illegal) for giving reticent pigs and reds the option of a third eye. Why do you bother to cast billy-bob-mary-sue-jim-ellen homesteader bullets for a varmint calibre which has really high quality commercial rounds available in any colour you like, for next to **** all?
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#16
Because he is an inveterant fiddler not really tight but it all helps!
 
#17
I resemble that remark. But to be honest, if I had hill billy turn-ups in the legs of my sweat stained sears roebuck union suit, you wouldn't find either black powder, napped flint, or even chewing tobacco in them. My Webley was nitro proofed long before you were born.

Mutton tallow is still used in industry in metalwork applications, steelrolling, non ferrous cutting lubes, jewellers lathes etc. It burns without a residue which is why it turns up in expensive smokeless candles as stearate. It is also a solder flux, i.e. it helps molten lead alloys to flow.

In other words you can stick your shoddy coloured palm oil based products right up your hoop.

One thing puzzles me, I cast .455 British because the commercially available varieties are fully jacketed and therefore unsuitable (and in Germany illegal) for giving reticent pigs and reds the option of a third eye. Why do you bother to cast billy-bob-mary-sue-jim-ellen homesteader bullets for a varmint calibre which has really high quality commercial rounds available in any colour you like, for next to **** all?
As ugly says, I am an inveterate fiddler. I try not to think about the money I have spent on casting tools and equipment -- I see it as an extension of the hobby and fascinating, if frustrating, to muck around with.

I also, when I have time, effort, and inclination, cast for 9 mm... just because I can.

As for the mutton fat, the fact that it is used in solder flux tells you exactly why you don't want to use it with cast Nitro loads: one of the roles of the lubricant is to prevent plating of lead to the bore. I've also never seen it in a Nitro lubricant recipe. Blackpowder, yes, because that runs under completely different constraints and the prime concern is to keep the powder fouling soft.

If I get some time later in the year (unlikely) I am going to try some cast loads intended to cycle the Garand... just for fun!
 
#18
Steel jackets are not really "steel" in the popular sense, they are usually made from drawn mild steel, which is nearly pure iron and dead soft. Many western countries have stuck with cupro nickel and guilding metal for jackets not so much because of the hardness problem, but to avoid the corrosion problem. I also suspect that having invested in non ferrous bullet manufacturing plants, they have stuck with it. Drawn MS production needs some pretty good metalurgy which was not really developed until the late 40s. I think it was the Germans that first developed it, and it was take up by the eastern bloc.

Plating is the solution to the corrosion problem, and is OK provided it does not get abraded off.

As to jackets in general, the main purpose of the jacket is to stop bullet metal deposition in the barrel. Initially this was lead in the "small bore" .45 rifles of the 1870s. The solution than was to wrap paper around the bullet as in the Martini Henry .577/.450. This works by forming a barrier around the base of the bullet, stopping metal being washed off during the initial gas flow as the bullet seated. It is this mixture of hot gas and metal particles that causes most of the wear in a rifled gun, not the friction of the bullet! The metal particles then get deposited further up the barrel where they get ironed in by the projectile on the way out. Paper patching was always physically delicate and was never really suitable for military conditions, so was replaced by drawn metal in the 1890s when the metullargy and tooling had developed to the point where this was possible.

To return to the question of steel jackets. My understanding is that, provided the bullets have been properly heat treated in manufacture and the plating is of sufficient quality, they should not wear any more than cupro nickel or guilding bullets. The temperature of the propellent is probably a more significant factor - so stick to single base powders like N140.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#19
Sounds like good advice there, also to those who are starting out reloading, please remember not every bullet/powder combination works the same way in similar rifles.
 
#20
Steel jackets are not really "steel" in the popular sense, they are usually made from drawn mild steel, which is nearly pure iron and dead soft. Many western countries have stuck with cupro nickel and guilding metal for jackets not so much because of the hardness problem, but to avoid the corrosion problem. I also suspect that having invested in non ferrous bullet manufacturing plants, they have stuck with it. Drawn MS production needs some pretty good metalurgy which was not really developed until the late 40s. I think it was the Germans that first developed it, and it was take up by the eastern bloc.

Plating is the solution to the corrosion problem, and is OK provided it does not get abraded off.

As to jackets in general, the main purpose of the jacket is to stop bullet metal deposition in the barrel. Initially this was lead in the "small bore" .45 rifles of the 1870s. The solution than was to wrap paper around the bullet as in the Martini Henry .577/.450. This works by forming a barrier around the base of the bullet, stopping metal being washed off during the initial gas flow as the bullet seated. It is this mixture of hot gas and metal particles that causes most of the wear in a rifled gun, not the friction of the bullet! The metal particles then get deposited further up the barrel where they get ironed in by the projectile on the way out. Paper patching was always physically delicate and was never really suitable for military conditions, so was replaced by drawn metal in the 1890s when the metullargy and tooling had developed to the point where this was possible.

To return to the question of steel jackets. My understanding is that, provided the bullets have been properly heat treated in manufacture and the plating is of sufficient quality, they should not wear any more than cupro nickel or guilding bullets. The temperature of the propellent is probably a more significant factor - so stick to single base powders like N140.
I seem to remember that the BHN hardness of the steel jackets is only about 10% greater than that of the nonferrous, don't quote me on that and I can't for the life of me remember where I read it -- probably textbook of small arms.

In any case, you're right that propellant temperature seems to be the main factor, with cleaning rod wear a close 2nd.

You can essentially eliminate rifle barrel wear by only shooting cast at around 1600 feet per sec, which works out at essentially, for full power military cartridges, about 150-180 grain of gas checked bullet with approximately 16 grains of N110, 2400 or similar behind it.
 

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