P-17 Enfield build
I was going to post an update on the P-17 build, but I guess I forgot to mention it here...
This is the oldest gunsmithing project I have - I acquired the rifle in 1986, got run over by a DWI, spent a bunch of time in rehab, and just put the gun stuff aside (major life-changing experience there) until a couple of years ago when the bug hit again.
My original plan was to build a heavy bull barrel sniper rifle in .300 Holland & Holland Magnum. When I resumed the project I decided .45-70 might be more useful, and I started searching ".45-70 Enfield". Google urped up hcpookie's .45-70 AK build. Heck, the Web didn't even exist when I leaned the P-17 in the corner to collect dust... I smurfed through Gunco, got turned on to the whole AK thing, and the gun bug returned in full force. The .45-70 P-17 morphed into the Beowulf AK build.
The new P-17 plan is to retain the original .30-06 barrel, which is in perfect condition, reshape the bubba'd stock into something more pleasing, and rechamber into something a little different - .30 Gibbs.
I've finished the receiver wrench, which is a bit more complex than the others I've done recently. And I've acquired some .30-06 dies and a #8-40 threading die.
The .30 Gibbs is basically what you get if you take a .30-06 Ackley Improved, and then "improve" that. Short neck, steep shoulder, straight case. Gibbs claimed it was a "Magnum without a belt" and loaded them up to pressures that, by modern standards, are unsafe - if the primer didn't back out and ooze a ridge into the firing pin hole, you weren't loading it right. I don't plan to load it like Gibbs recommended, which probably makes me a pussy.
Gibbs also had two variants of his .30. One was just an ordinary cartridge; the other used what he called "front ignition." You had to drill and tap the primer hole and run a brass tube up through the case, so the primer flash was directed up to the top third of the powder charge. He claimed all sorts of benefits for this. Few people followed his path, though some cannon shells use a similar system. Personally, I think it was a crutch to deal with really slow burning powder, which he was probably using to keep from extruding cartridge brass out the vent holes in the receiver...
I have the brass for the tubes and a die to thread them. Prices for 8-40 taps vary radically, the tap purchase is waiting until I order some tooling from a place that has them for a more reasonable price. ($28 for an 8-40 from the last vendor I ordered from, or $3.48 from a place online, except they wanted $12.95 shipping...)
I have the O-1 steel to make the chamber and die reamers from, and some .30-06 dies to modify. Rocky Gibbs' little pamphlet on the cartridge shows pictures of his hydraulic case forming setup; the Gibbs is apparently too extreme to form by shooting a .30-06 in a Gibbs chamber; you have to blow the case out and the neck forward with a special die and oil, load that, and then fireform to finish it.
Online searching found a couple of other people who'd experimented with Gibbs' forward ignition system. Neither thought it gave any real improvement over an ordinary rear-mounted primer, at least with modern powders. So I'm going to try it just from curiosity. I'd really need a chronograph and pressure sensor to have any real data - Gibbs had only a chronograph - but I can track accuracy closely enough.
I *like* the P-17's peep sight, and I guess I got used to the batwing sight ears. The dogleg bolt handle still looks strange, but the ball is right where it needs to be, which was probably the whole point. I'll probably eventually put a scope on it, but I might bypass the usual sight bridge milling and grinding - and mine has the bothersome lightening hole in the bridge - and make up an AK-style sidemount scope bracket. So I'll skip most of the usual P-17 "sporterizing" gunsmithing. Seems almost indecent, considering some of the other projects...
I saw an M1917 or a P-14 at a gun show in 458 Lott or it may have been 458 Win Mag but I think it 458 Lott. I guess the 303 bolt face lends itself better to magnum belted cartridges but I'm not sure which bolt this one had. I did find a US M1917 (or was it the 1903?) armorer's manual on the internet which I think included barrel replacement. Not that it's much different from any other though. The receiver is big but I keep reading all these things about how brittle they are.The British used only the Winchester P-14's as sniper rifles, because they found them the highest quality and the most accurate.
The P-13 was basically a stretched, beefed-up, improved version of the '98 Mauser. It was designed in Canada, and was supposed to take a fairly hot .276 cartridge. It was intended to replace the SMLE. The .276 was more powerful than the .303, but the P-13 was bigger and heavier than the SMLE, had only a 5-round capacity, and could only be loaded with stripper clips. The SMLE carried ten rounds - twice the capacity of any other nation's main battle rifle - and had a quick-change magazine, though as far as I know the Brits never issued spare mags, just strippers.
Though the P-13 had been officially adopted by the British Empire, production hadn't ramped up by the time they entered WWI, and changing horses (or rifles) in the middle of a major conflict is a bad idea. So they stayed with the SMLE, and contracted with the US to manufacture the P-13, except in .303 British, to keep from having to support two different types of ammunition. That was the P-14. The P-14 shared enough common features with the 1903 Springfield to make it practical to make on modified Springfield tooling. We shipped P-14s over by the boatload.
When the US entered the war in 1917, the P-14 was rechambered to the US standard ".30 US" cartridge, otherwise known as the .30-06. This required a different bolt face, ejector, extractor, magazine, and some other bits. The P-17s were issued to rear-echelon troops, mostly. The reason for the US supporting two rifles was that production of the Springfield had never been ramped up, mostly because the new equipment had been diverted to making P-17s. So instead of changing everything back over to Springfields, they just kept on cranking out P-17s.
The P-14's bolt, extractor, and magazine, being designed for the rimmed .303 cartridge, are much closer to fitting modern belted Magnum cartridges than the '06-sized P-17 bits. I have a P-14 bolt and magazine I bought when I was planning to rebuild the rifle in .300 H&H, but the Gibbs will work fine with the original P-17 bits.
The Eddystone factory had troubles with the heat treat on some of the P-17 receivers. (there were similar problems with the heat treat on some Springfields). My rifle is an Eddystone, but its serial number is well below the range of the ones with the "improved" heat treat. As far as I know none of the P-14s had any problems in that area.
Loved my P-17 30'06 Winchester. It was like new with gorgeous figured walnut. Also had a number of P-14 .303 DP rifles years later with which to experiment. I discovered that the '06 bolts fit both actions. However the P-14 bolts stuck in the '06 P-17 actions. I recall that this was due to different extractors.
Both US General Pershing and Sgt Alvin York preferred the P-17 to the US Springfield in WW-I. General Persing could not convince US Ordnance to make the P-17 the standard US service rifle.
Well reportedly all of them have fairly brittle receivers. The other additional issue with the Eddystones is the barrels were usually torqued tighter or required more torque to remove if the barrel shoulder wasn't relieved first. This high torque resulted in more cracked Eddystone receivers. A lot of them were rebuilt during WWII. They usually have 2 groove barrels 9sometimes 4 groove) and for some reason replacement bolts that were contracted during WWII. I don't know what happened to the original bolts or why so many required replacement. Maybe they were separated and later lost. They made other small parts during WWII too, almost everything but receivers. The original barrels have Enfield type 5 groove rifling, but sized for 30-06.
Someone gave me an old loading press that had been in a fire. It had a pair of .30-06 dies in it. They were pretty grotty on the outside, but the insides were still smooth and shiny. I used chemical stripper and the wire wheel to clean up the outsides. Later I'll make a Gibbs D-reamer to recut them before re-heat-treating them.
Last edited by TRX; 12-26-2010 at 12:52 AM.
A tiny bit of progress: a friend talked me into pulling the barrel from his P-14, so I finally got around to turning the chunk of 1-3/4" aluminum round bar into a pair of barrel bushings to fit the Enfield barrels. Fortunately the P-14 and P-17 appear to have the same taper.
My barrel wrench is three feet long, 1" solid square bar. The P-14 barrel popped loose with a good tug. Guess-O-Meter says 200-250 ft-lb.
The P-17 has been soaked in penetrating oil regularly for over a year. I wasn't expecting any problem... yeah, right. After a couple of rounds of shimming and torquing to get enough bite on the barrel to keep it from turning, I got out a four foot piece of 2" square tubing and slid it over the wrench.
Figure an overall wrench length of five feet. I weigh 363 pounds, and was lifting my feet off the floor before the receiver turned off the barrel. Yow, when they say "tight", they mean "TIGHT!" Way, way tighter than a "tight" Mosin barrel...
Since I started with a complete, shootable rifle in good condition, albeit with a crudely sporterized stock, all I have to do is rechamber the barrel and put it all back together. So the next step is reamers - chambering reamer, case forming die reamer, reloading die reamer.
Okay, after laying out all the parts and looking at them... for now, I think it's going to stay .30-06. The .30-06 Ackley Improved and .30 Gibbs just don't provide that much more zap than the basic '06, at least when the '06 is loaded to its original specification.
Down the road... just minutes after I decided to stay with .30-06, I saw a picture of an 11.2x72 Schuler case. I recognized it instantly, despite it being an antique oddball - it's the parent case for the .50 Beowulf. The Schuler has the same case head size as the .30-06, and takes a .439" bullet. That's an oddball, but if I'm making my own reamer and loading die anyway, there's no reason not to neck it down slightly to take a normal .429" ".44" bullet, and maybe shorten it a hair if needed to fit in the P-17 magazine...
Or I could just open it up to take a .500 bullet, and have a Bigger Beowulf. Hmm...
Now that I've got the gun all the way apart I guess I'll just put it back together, round up some '06 brass, and start shooting it. Meanwhile I'll keep an eye out for a sale on a .500" barrel blank of appropriate length... cutting square threads and tapering the barrel will keep me out of trouble for quite a while.
11.2x72 Schuler brass is available from Graf, but it's about $4 per case, so I can figure all the money I save staying with .30-06 for now will count toward a .50 barrel and some brass, right?
I believe you can get a new barrel from the CMP..at a good price.. if you wanted a tube to re chamber/ play around with,,and keep the original. I just picked up a Eddystone receiver barrel and bolt.. in sporter stock I may be fooling around with it.. I need the magazine follower and spring..
Numrich ought to have them in stock.
There are some nice sporter stocks for the P17. Unless you intend to remilitarize it, it's worth taking a look at what's out there.