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A gunsmithing question

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  • A gunsmithing question

    To the gunsmiths,

    my head mechanic was ranting today about the price a gunsmith was giong to charge to make new threads in a barrel to mount the sights on an old army 303. I beleive they were also called a 303 British?

    Now correct me if i am wrong, but the barrels are case-hardened are they not? Steve, my head mechanic, was saying a special bit, diamond tipped, would be needed.

    how would one do this? Just for the record it will not be me doing this.


  • #2
    NO IT IS AS EASY AS any normal threads though i believe they are acme.


    • #3
      I don’t think that any “barrelsâ€‌ were ever case hardened. Barrels are
      NOT hard. You just need a good bit, and drill it in the right place, the right
      depth. Paying the gunsmith to drill and tap a hole is cheaper that paying him
      to replace the barrel.

      Good luck
      Happy holidays
      Be safe


      • #4
        Barrels no, receivers yes as far as hardening is concerned. A diamond tipped drill is not required in either case, as the receiver can be spot annealed to drill & tap if necessary.

        Brownell's lists a range of $15.00-$35.00 per hole to drill & tap. This is from gunsmith survey.
        Jim H.


        • #5
          They are not hardened. The drilling and tapping is basic but care goes without saying. Go for the $35.00 per hole if you have never done this work before. Practice of this type should be done on old pipe not on rifles. If you mess up on the clip retainer (rear hole location)the gunsmith cost of $35. will seam cheap compared to the repair cost. Also note that unless you are very lucky you will not find a base plate for this rifle. It can be made from other model base plates but the front of the plate has to be raised to match the rear on the bridge or clup retainer.


          • #6
            these old .303 British rifles (Lee Enfield...some variant of the SMLE no doubt) are/were pretty popular up here in Canada as you used to be able to buy 'em surplus for as little as $15.00. That was for a pretty well-built rifle (though a bit bulky if not "sporterized")that would last you a lifetime and take alot of abuse! I assume you're meaning he's having holes drilled for a scope mount? I've done this myself on one of these same guns...There is a mount available that will accomodate the "bridge height"...forget who makes it now but its a fairly common/popular brandname. Good 'Smith should be able to order one...maybe Brownells has 'em. If not try some Canadian gun shops...It is pretty tricky to get the rifle "jigged up & level" but its dead easy to drill & tap the receiver....just like an everyday piece of big deal...good luck!!



            • #7
              forgot to common modification that many guys undertook when cleaning up these rifles and making them into "sporters"...was to cut away the bridge over the that case, I think you will have to modify some kind of baseplate to mount your scope rings onto, hopefully your pals rifle hasn't had this done...again, good luck...


              • #8
                Drilling the holes is cheap, knowing where to drill and how deep is expensive.

                We had a jig for drilling the old mauser large ring 98's.

                Never worked on a 303 enfield thou. Shot a few, some were barreled in 30/06.

                Heck of a rifle.



                • #9

                  You're not kidding there Dave, I was a bit worried about sinking one into the chamber but i just took it easy and measured and locked off the depth on the drill press.

                  Would be better to have a jig, some gunsmiths up here no doubt have one....I've never tried a Mauser. The 303 isnt too bad but its awfully heavy to carry all day and it really "whips your head back" when you take a shot...I always found. Sold mine, I'm sticking to the Winchester'94 30-30. Man I like that rifle !!

                  The scope mount I had for the Lee-Enfield was made by B-Square by the way....

                  Take care,


                  • #10
                    If you like the Winchester 30-30 you'll love the Marlin 30-30. I have one of each.

                    The Winchester was my dad's rifle. My brother has one just like it. I didn't like the way it ejected the casings into my forehead. They hit me right between the eyes. A scope would have to be side-mounted. And the guts are exposed every time you use the lever so seeds and bits of grass cling to it if you're out in the field.

                    The Marlin 30-30 is a much better thought out rifle, IMHO.

                    A cousin of mine has the same Marlin chambered in a .444 caliber. I don't know much about that cartridge but just looking at it I was impressed by its size. Seems like a bit much for Mr. Whitetail.

                    [This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 12-10-2004).]


                    • #11
                      If a diamond tipped drill is recommended, then a diamond tap is also needed I presume. The barrel is slightly harder then the receiver but regular tools will do the job. The barrel thread is a standard 1â€‌-14 btw, but trying to get that barrel off requires a pipe wrench with a 6’ extension and usually twists the receiver, a relieve cut is usually required to remove the barrel.
                      I converted a couple to a one-piece stock at one time by removing all the rear metal and welding an extension on the receiver and the trigger guard. Bishop use to sell one-piece stocks to do this conversion and Elwood Eppes had a drawing on how to do it, it made for a much better looking gun.


                      • #12
                        I have great respect for your mechanic and feel sure he has tapped a hole or two in his carreer. No puns intended. I don't know what the gunsmith quoted him for doing the job. My question is the barrel being threaded (single point lathe tool)or drilled and tapped for sight screws. This would require a barrel vice and action wrench ($100.00). If the barrel is being threaded that means the barrel must be removed from the action set up in a lathe (good lathe cost $5000.00). This would take at least 20-30 minutes. The threading would take another 20-30 minutes(threading tool bits and holder ($100.00). My shop time is $60.00 per hour. Re-installing the barrel and checking the headspacing would take another 10-15 minutes (headspacing guages $30.00). If the job is just drilling and tapping a couple of holes I would set the job up in either the drill press($drill press $500.00) or mill (Mill cost $4,000.00). the tooling bits/endmills and taps individually cost about $7.00-$15.00 each. If I use a jig that takes time and or money too ($jig cost $50.00). The big if is if I break a bit or tap in the action it will take me maybe an hour or two to get the broken bit or tap out. I might even have to have it EDMed at a cost of $50.00 If all goes right the job cost me a couple of dollars and I make a couple of dollars. If the job goes south I loose money and most likely a customer. Drilling old actions is a gamble to whether you will come out on the winning end or the loosing end. Many highend gunsmiths want work on old military actions. They say is it worth putting acouple of hundred dollas of time and accessories into a $30.00 action. I suggest your mechanic drill and tap his own holes. When he screws up (again no puns) the job and it cost a couple of hundred bucks to make the repairs he will not think twice about the gunsmiths fees as being out of line. On jobs I see the potential of there being problems with I turn them down and or explain to the customer the risk and cost involved. I have lost more money on working on junk than anything else. Your mechanic may be lucky to find a gunsmith to work on his action at all. This may explain why the cost seem high.


                        • #13
                          Most normal shops/non gunsmithing shops can work on this classic rifle. You can do all of the work with basic tools, Brownells has tools that will help.

                          Knowing drill depth and that stuff can be gotten from a book.


                          Ohio and Quebec


                          • #14
                            Hey guys,

                            Thanks for the responses. I really thought the barrel of a gun was case hardened. I guess it is just the chamber that is? Can you tell i am not a gunsmith

                            To be totally honest i thought it was a new sight they wanted to put on but now they have me all confused. When Steve read your posts, that i printed out, he said yeah it is around the chamber?

                            Isn't it fun when a simple task like tapping holes becomes way more confusing then it ever should be? Oops i just described things at work! haha