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Thread: SMLE in 7.62x54R

  1. #21
    Gunco Veteran Frogman's Avatar
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    Just for info, several years ago I read where a guy took a British 303 barrel and cut it down to make it 7.62x39 and put it into an AK rifle.

  2. #22
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    Soo... I gave the Lithgow to a friend, as reported earlier. Then a guy here on gunco made me "an offer I couldn't refuse" on a Longbranch barreled action. And I found that Sarco has Navy Arms .45-70 Enfield barrels for $85, and... a quick phone call, and one is on the way.

    Apparently (possibly?) Navy Arms used both No1 and No4 actions; different reviews said No1 and No4, anyway. Some other sources claim the tenon threads are different, some say all SMLE threads are the same... looks like I'll find out for sure soon.

    Looks like two switchbarrel Enfields will be built in parallel. I have a spare barrel, so it looks like I'll be starting with .303 Epps (basically .303 Ackley Improved; I can rent the reamer for $35), 7.62x54R, and .45-70. Bob wants .410, .45-70, and 7.52x54R to start with, though I'll lean on him to pick up a spare barrel so I can chamber it for Epps while I have the reamer here.

    I keep looking at the Beowulf reamer sitting by the keyboard, but that's outside the safe range for an SMLE action. On the other hand, .50-110 would be doable...

    The Enfield's unusual flat bolt face and generous extractor travel means it will feed various different rims without need for modification. I've even found a few reports of people who converted their SMLEs to 7mm Mauser, and there's a company out there right now doing conversions to 7.62x39.

  3. #23
    Gunco Veteran Viper Dude's Avatar
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    Hello TRX,
    The SMLE's use a 14 TPI V-thread barrel shank which would be handy for an interchangeable system. The old trick is to use a catch to lock the barrel once snugged in place. The catch precludes further tightening or loosening. Thus each new caliber can be set up with this same catch and headspaced !!!

    The 45-70 conversion is an oldie. The brass is a bit spendy these days. A buddy showed me some 45-70 brass he dug up at the range. The headstamp was dated 1873. The range was at Ft Apache.

    VD

  4. #24
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    The benchrest guys seem to go with a strap wrench to remove and replace the barrels. That's what I'm planning to do. The old leverguns and Arisakas used various cams or levers to keep the barrels from wiggling around in short or interrupted threads.

    .45-70 brass has gone up a lot. Believe it or not, it's more expensive than .50 Beowulf! But you can actually buy .45-70, and I've been back-ordered on Beowulf for nine months now...

    There are a lot of ways to go about headspacing. The one I'm planning to do is cut the barrel back a bit so I can use a thick washer between the barrel and breech. Cut the barrel back some random distance, screw it in until it is against the no-go guage, back it off a hair, measure, and then face off the washer to the correct thickness. It would be hard to hide the washer, so I'll probably make it out of stainless steel or something and make it stand out.

    Using a washer would also let me correct for thread wear, should any occur. Just make new washers as needed. Thread wear is not supposed to be an issue according to the benchrest guys, though.

  5. #25
    Citizen, Patriot, Ranger bellson's Avatar
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    Default Here is some additional info

    Hello All,

    Having done both the 7.62x54R and 7.62x39 conversions on Enfields, I can tell you the it is maddeningly easy! The best way to do the 7.62x54R that I have found is to convert to a Savage style nut. The hardest part of the conversion (if you have to set the barrel back) is re-cutting the extractor relief on the breech end of the barrel.

    7.62x39 if pathetically simple. If your rifle is in good shape, and the chamber and throat are not too out of spec, use a chamber insert.

    Here are the links:

    7.62x54R conversion
    JPFO's Life Preserver Buoyancy Testing

    Chamber inserts:
    MCA Sports: Chamber Adapters, Inserts and Cast Bullets, Our Home Page!


    Enjoy!!!

    And here is the story:


    WHY CONVERT .303 "SMLE" TO 7.62 X 54R
    by
    J.B. Hohlfeld
    NOTE - it would appear that information referred to below regarding Bill Black and Sante Fe
    Gunsmithing is outdated or unavailable. If we find replacement data we will update this page.


    Upon hearing about the conversion of the British .303 SMLE rifle to the 7.62x54R Chicom/Russian cartridge, most people have two basic reactions:
    • (1) Hey, that sounds interesting. Followed by,
      (2) Why do you want to do that?
    We will assume that you already have a .303 SMLE, and that you have been watching the size of your shot groups getting bigger with the passage of time. Is your barrel "shot out"? Highly doubtful, but you are seeing serious indicators of chamber "throat erosion". The greater the throat erosion, the lower your accuracy potential, ergo, your shot groups continue to get bigger, with more "wild" shots. If you decide to rebarrel, you are looking at about $300.00 for a new barrel and installation. However, if you decide to have your existing rifle rechambered to "54R, you are looking at about $160.00.
    Since we were discussing accuracy, and the fall-off of accuracy, let's look at a real life example. A few months ago, Aaron Zelman sent us his personal No. 4, MK-1, .303SMLE for rechambering to the "54R" cartridge. During our pre-rechambering bench testing of his .303 SMLE, our best shooter, Lawrence Lucero, was able to produce a 1 1/2 inch group at 100-yards, using an unknown type of .303 FMJ ball ammunition. This test confirmed that the rifle's bore was in good condition, and Aaron had lucked out on his $70.00 surplus rifle. After rechambering Aaron's rifle to the "54R" cartridge, we ran another bench test using surplus Chicom and an unknown european type of 180gr FMJ ball. Again Lawrence was the shooter, and the final test group using the 180gr FMJ ball produced a 3/4-inch group at 100-yards, which is outstanding for a $70.00 surplus rifle! It has been our experience, that you can expect at least a 25% reduction in your shot group size, with a 50% reduction, as seen with Aaron's rifle, not being uncommon.
    I should mention that we have executed the "54R" conversion on several SMLE's for ongoing field testing of the concept and of the surplus ammo, available. Example: Our first No.4 MK-1 now has about 500-rounds fired through it, while or "tanker" No. 4, MK-1 only has 200-rounds fired through it. Speaking of our "Tanker", it is a very nice rifle, with excellent balance and carry weight, which should translate well in a field environment.
    With regard to surplus ammunition, .303 British ammo is available, but much of it will get you duds and hang-fires. The better quality .303 ammo is about $163.00 per 500-rounds of FMJ ball. Whereas, $100.00 can get you 880-rounds of "54R" FMJ ball ammo.
    Thus far, we have tested Russian, Chicom, and Bulgarian 7.62x54R in projectile loadings of 147gr to 180gr. With the exception of any of the lacquered type cartridge cases, we have had few problems with this surplus ammo, and have been surprised by the accuracy of much of it. To date, we have not tested the 7.62x54R, 204gr soft point hunting loads, but we assume they will work well since they are 1997 production. (NOTE: With regard to lacquered cases, and in particular lacquered-steel cases, we discovered the hard way, that they have a tendency to really hang-up in the chamber after firing, due to "lacquer Flow")
    For those interested in ballistics, the following will give you a brief overview:
    (Cartridges of the World) .303 Chamber Pressures; 45,000-48,000 PSI "54R" Chamber Pressures; 45,000 PSI
    (Sieria/Speer Reloading Manuals)
    ***********************************
    .303: .311Dia, RNSP, 180gr, 2,600FPS
    -----------------------------------------------------
    100yd 200yd 300yd 400yd 500yd 600yd
    0.0" -4.9" -17.9" -41.0" -77.2" -123.6"
    ***********************************
    "54R": .311Dia, SPT, 180gr, 2,600FPS
    ----------------------------------------------------
    100yd 200yd 300yd 400yd 500yd 600yd
    0.0" -4.6" -16.4" -37.0" -68.3" -122.4"
    ***********************************
    So, after reading all of the above, are you begining to rethink the original question? Good. By the way, did I mention that the Chicom's and Russian's are still using the 7.62x54R cartridge in their belt-fed general purpose machineguns, and their SVD sniper rifles?
    If you prefer seeing what I have been discussing, we have made a 58 minute video (VHS), which demonstrates the entire conversion process of a No. 4, MK-1 SMLE to "54R". Send check or money order for $29.95 to Ranger Outreach Center, Box 1164, Pecos, NM 87552.
    For those interested in having their .303 SMLE convered to 7.62x54R, Contact Bill Black at: Santa Fe Gunsmithing, Inc., 509 Airport Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505 505.438.4174 The base charge of $160.00 includes the following: Pre/Post conversion test firing; Rechambering; Magazine modification; Muzzle recrowning; Return shipping via UPS standard ground. For an additonal $60.00, Bill will refinish your rifle in a dull bead-blasted gray/black parkerizing, a matte bluing, or moly-resin coating.
    J.B.Hohlfeld,
    Instructor Ranger Outreach Center
    R*O*C
    Box 1164
    Pecos, NM 87552-1164
    Imagine whirled peas

    Peace, Love, And Superior Firepower






    Bellson

  6. #26
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    I always liked the Savage barrel nut system. I may use that for one of the other barrels later.

    The idea of a curved x39 AK magazine hanging underneath an SMLE is almost as weird as the idea of an AK in 12 gauge...

  7. #27
    Gunco Member Smokehouse69's Avatar
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    I didn't read through all of the posts but there shouldn't be any worry with the strength of the action when using 7.62x54R ammo. The SMLE was a very strong action.

  8. #28
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    The bad thing about forums is, I get involved with a thread one day, then forget where it was a few days later. Somewhere in the multiverse I was following a thread about rebarreling Enfields, and someone said Sarco had Navy Arms .45-70 barrels for $85. I checked Sarco's web site and couldn't find them, so I called. The guy had to go look for them, but yeah, they had them. Navy / Gibbs / Parker made a couple of runs of SMLEs in .45-70 a few years ago. You can find the 3-shot magazines for the outrageous price of $75 in various places, but this was the barrel, "chambered and threaded", 22" long. Hell, yes!

    It came in today. It's 1.1" at the breech for 5", steps abruptly down to 1", and a straight taper to 3/4" at the muzzle. I didn't even notice the taper at first; my first thought was "bull barrel?" The .458 hole is impressively large. There is no extractor cut and no index mark, which is fine. It won't screw into the No.1 receiver I have handy, but the starting thread on the barrel looks munged, like it was dropped. I'll hit it with the thread file and try again. The receiver I got from Longbranch is primo, but I haven't removed the barrel yet.

    This barrel is brand new, but it's from Sarco. The bore is nice and bright, but the outside had been pretty rusty. Looks like someone put it on a lathe and tried to sandpaper the rust off, but there are still pits and blotches. I was planning to Parkerize the receiver and all the barrels so everything would match, so no big deal, but if someone wanted to blue a barrel, it'd be worth telling the salesman explicitly that you wanted a nice one. Still, for $85, ($96 to my door) I'm not complaining.

  9. #29
    TRX
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    Okay, a member on another forum was kind enough to let me borrow his Gibbs Frontier for a while. It was a Lithgow Mk1 virtually identical to one of the receivers I have, which made the comparison much easier than it might otherwise have been.

    Basically, the magic is in the magazine.

    The Gibbs magazine has very short lips on the top. It's also single stack. The magazine presents the rim of the cartridge to the "thumbnail" cutouts on the underside of the receiver. These grab the rim and force the whole cartridge up into line with the breech as it moves forward for the first half inch or so.

    It sounds complex, but if you look at an SMLE from the magazine well opening you can see how it works.

    Where I was getting fixated was, all of the rifles and pistols I've dealt with before stripped their cartridges straight out of the magazine, which was sometimes notched for bolt clearance, or the cartridges slipped off the magazine at an angle, with the nose entering the breech and the base being levered up as the cartridge went in. I thought the Enfield did that, too. Of course I have a receiver, barrel, and bolt so far, with no magazine yet...

    The .45-70 still won't fit into the .45-70 barrel screwed into the Enfield receiver; the rim wedges into the rails about 3/4 inch from the breech ring. It looks like the Gibbs people used a Dremel with a 1/2" sanding drum and reached in and took off .010 to .015" of the sharp corners at the bottom, not much more than just rounding the corners off. That's all it takes for the cartridge to slide forward.

    There's a bulkhead in the receiver ring; the rim must pass through, and it's too big. Gibbs probably used a lathe to open it up. I thought the rifle's owner might not appreciate wrench marks, so I didn't pull the barrel for a look. Opening up the ring would be simple enough with a grinder if you didn't have a lathe; it's just clearance for the rim.

    That's it for the receiver mods!

    Like I said earlier, the magic is in the magazine. The magic consists of the short feed lips, which are 1-1/16" long, with the front edges cut back about 45 degrees.

    The lips are so short that if you hold the magazine upside down, a cartridge will hang down at a 45 degree angle. The lips just hold the rim for long enough to get it started into the "fingernail mark" guide cuts in the receiver.

    It's a single-stack magazine. There's a rib stamped into the front that guides the front of the cartridge. In back, they spot welded some L-shaped pieces of sheet metal. These are way back and close to the cartridge, and keep the rims lined up neatly. The rims can't pass forward and let the cartridges slam back and forth in the magazine, and they hold them in position to present to the fingernail marks. If the cartridge slid forward in the magazine when the bolt picked up the rim, it'd jam in the receiver rails.

    I don't see any particular reason you couldn't modify a standard SMLE magazine to work the same way.

    The magazine holds three rounds. As advertised, you can put four in there, but you get a big wedgie when you try to work the bolt. Five cartridges will fit, same problem.

    I played with this for a couple of hours. My best guess is that A) the magazine spring is too weak and B) the follower gets tilted as the cartridges feed, letting things wedge up. I think it should be possible to tweak the magazine to feed four or five cartridges reliably, and I don't see any big reason they can't be double-stacked like the standard Enfield layout.

    What it looks like is, Gibbs allocated a certain amount of time or money to the magazine work, then ran out of time (or money) and said, "to heck with it, just tell them not to put more than three in there."


    Working the bolt took a bit of authority. The blunt front of the .45-70 bumps against inside bits the pointy .303 slides right past. After an evening's experimentation, I had a bunch of .45-70s with noticeably battered noses. You don't have to be abusive, but if you try to flick the bolt back and forth like you can with a .303, it's likely the cartridge will get a wedgie and you'll have to either force it or open the bolt and straighten it out.

    It looks like you could safely grind clearances into the receiver to fix this. I'm guessing Gibbs didn't do it due to expense - it worked, and it was in inexpensive hunting rifle on a war-surplus action, what do you want for $299?

    That would also explain the ejection problem. The Gibbs flings empty brass just fine. Trying to clear a loaded round will usually give you another wedgie.

    If you look at an Enfield receiver ring, you'll see a notch up at the right side front just about the side to hold a pencil. The notch is to clear the point of a .303 bullet. The ,45-70 bullet is much bigger, and the notch needs to be bigger too. Again, opening it up should be safe and simple.

    You might wonder why the cartridge wouldn't eject properly when it's short enough to slide entirely back from the breech. The cutout shouldn't be necessary. The reason is the rim gets caught on some of the edges near the back, and it gets stuck. A tiny amount of grinding or polishing might well fix the problem; it might be preferable to clearancing the ring.

    I wound up clearing loaded rounds by dropping the magazine, opening the bolt, and letting the chambered round drop out.

    Now, we're talking about very small amounts of interference here; with normal production tolerances, it's likely that not all the Gibbs guns do this. It's a bit quirky, but again, how much custom gunsmithing do you expect for the price?

    Frankly, I don't see how they could justify the blueing job, which (in my opinion) was freakin' gorgeous. They'd done some polishing on the surplus bits, and the barrel was slick. I'm used to phosphated military stuff, and I felt like a vandal every time I put a greasy fingerprint on the Gibbs.

    The bolt is a matte silver color; various articles say it's chromed, and it does indeed look like industrial matte chrome. The fit is snug and the movement is smooth. I'll probably send mine off somewhere to have it done; the couple of thousandths of plating really snugs up the fit.

  10. #30
    Gunco Member unclemonkey's Avatar
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    could the smle action handle 458 socom? its just a bit more powerful than 45-70, cheaper, more compact.. i've got this sporter enfield that i was thinking of converting to 7.62x39, but .458? that would be something else..

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