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  #1  
Old 03-21-2010, 08:59 PM
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Default Determining the Caliber of a Rifle?

I bought, at a very attractive price, a rifle built on a Springfield 03 action. It has been rebarreled to what looks like a .25 caliber barrel. There are no markings anywhere on the gun indicating what caliber it is chambered in. I am thinking 25-06 since it uses a 30-06 case. At least that is my best guess. 22 caliber bullets are too small and 270 bullets are too large. I don't have anything in 24 or 25 caliber to try. I did cut the end off of a 30-06 case and it would chamber. Any ideas? Someone put a lot of work into this rifle. It is very well crafted. It should make a fine sporter, once I figure out what caliber it shoots.
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:04 PM
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Make a cerrosafe chamber cast and measure carefully is the only way I know.
Brownells Search : Search Results for "cerrosafe" - World's Largest Supplier of Firearm Accessories, Gun Parts and Gunsmithing Tools
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:07 PM
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You want to go carefully here. It may be a 6.5mm wildcat. You can not assume that it is 25-06.

A positive ID can be made using a chamber cast. You can also slug the bore to determine what bullet diameter it uses.

The fact that the barrel has no markings means that it was somebody's garage project, since federal law requires re-barreled rifles to carry caliber and cartridge markings on the barrel.
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:24 PM
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Maybe you already have done so,,but take the barreled action out of the wood and look over the underside of the barrel for any markings. Sometimes you'll find a caliber, date and even a gunsmiths name on the bottom.

Short of that,,the advise to make a chamber cast is the best. Then carefully compare to known data to determine what you have.

A chamber cast can reveal the throat dimentions and the bore/groove also all in one cast.

Even after determining caliber, make a careful check of headspace. Custom barreled guns were/are often barreled and then chambered using nothing but empty cases as headspace gauges.
Even with a bit of excess headspace, carefull reloading techniques can overcome that and taylor the brass perfectly to the chamber.

Make sure the '03 action you're dealing with is a later one and not a low#.

Last edited by 2152hq; 03-21-2010 at 09:26 PM.
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john traveler View Post
You want to go carefully here. It may be a 6.5mm wildcat. You can not assume that it is 25-06.

A positive ID can be made using a chamber cast. You can also slug the bore to determine what bullet diameter it uses.

The fact that the barrel has no markings means that it was somebody's garage project, since federal law requires re-barreled rifles to carry caliber and cartridge markings on the barrel.
This rifle looks to have been made in the 50s or 60s. I wonder if the law was in effect then? I have one other older rifle without barrel markings. Of course they could have both been home built.
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by 2152hq View Post
Maybe you already have done so,,but take the barreled action out of the wood and look over the underside of the barrel for any markings. Sometimes you'll find a caliber, date and even a gunsmiths name on the bottom.

Short of that,,the advise to make a chamber cast is the best. Then carefully compare to known data to determine what you have.

A chamber cast can reveal the throat dimentions and the bore/groove also all in one cast.

Even after determining caliber, make a careful check of headspace. Custom barreled guns were/are often barreled and then chambered using nothig but empty cases as headspace gauges.
Even with a bit of excess headspace, carefull reloading techniques can overcome that and taylor the brass perfectly to the chamber.

Make sure the '03 action you're dealing with is a later one and not a low#.
I hadn't thought of that. Fortunately it has a high number, well over 3 million.
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Old 03-22-2010, 04:47 PM
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It's not unusual for military barrels to be unmarked for caliber. Everyone involved knew what the caliber was, and the military establishment was the only source of cartridges, so no real issue.

That someone didn't mark your barrel causes some concern. This may well have been a back yard gunsmithing operation that lacked the proper stamps. The suggestion about cases used as gauges was unfortunately common post-world wars. Improved cartridges were supposed to be crush fits (-0.004 inches) on standard ammunition so that they could be used if the improved ammo wasn't available. Note: supposed to be, doesn't mean is.

Last edited by WR Moore; 03-22-2010 at 04:50 PM.
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:19 PM
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I took it to a gunsmith yesterday. He will make a chamber cast to determine the caliber. Once it is determined he will check the headspace to make sure it is safe to fire and finally will stamp the caliber on the barrel. It will be interesting to find out what caliber it turns out to be. I hope that it does not turn out to be a wildcat caliber.
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:52 PM
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If it is possible , could you please post details , even pics of the results ? I have never seen or even been around this casting process and it sounds like something some of us should have done , instead of what we did . I rooting for a 25-06 for you .
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Old 03-25-2010, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by borntoraisehogs View Post
If it is possible , could you please post details , even pics of the results ? I have never seen or even been around this casting process and it sounds like something some of us should have done , instead of what we did . I rooting for a 25-06 for you .
I will let everyone know when I get it back. He said 2-3 weeks. I am not sure if that is in regular time or gunsmith time. ;>) I just hope that is is not chambered for a wildcat caliber. That would make it a lot harder to load for. A 25-06 or 257 Roberts would be nice.
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Old 03-25-2010, 10:14 PM
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Good move on getting a chamber cast.

Here's a few recent ones I did on rifles that were of suspicious chamberings for various reasons.



Top one was a very nice German single shot that the owner wondered why 32-40 wouldn't chamber all the way. He bought it as a 32-40,,the guy at the show said it was!
It's in 8.14x46R caliber which was very popular target cartridge in Germany in the early 1900's. Beautifully cut scallop top lands on the rifling.
Cases can be made by shortening 32-40WCF. The bore dia is an uncommon .319 but is a lead bullet cartridge anyway so accomodations can be made. At least he didn't get a 32-40 reamer and have at it.

Second is from a beautiful Steyr 1902 Sporter. Kind of a rare rifle. Thought to originally have been a 9x57 and then rechambered to 35 Whelen. Makes sense since the bore diameter would be OK, just a bigger cartridge. Trouble was that the accuracy was almost non-existant.
The chamber and bore cast revealed a 35 Whelen chamber all right. But the original bore is .365. So the original chambering was probably 9.3x57,,not 9x57.
About the only possibility is to go to a 9.3x62 but thats going to stretch the limits of the magazine length with the heavier .366 bullets.

Number three...British Lee Speed Sporter in 303British,,maybe.
Crisp mirror like bore in a worn rifle. Chamber and bore cast shows a rebore to .358 caliber and the original neck of the 303 chamber opened accordingly. A 35-303 now. Not a bad cartridge but something nice to know before buying or shooting.

#3 cast came out about the best, nicely filled out and smooth, etc. I got #1 a bit too hot when I poured it and #2 ,,the barrel metal was a little cool so it didn't fill completely w/ some small inclusions.
All more than good enough to use for ID and measurements. They can really tell you the story.

All made with Cerrosafe metal and back into the pot they go when it gets low. The stuff melts at about 212F and is reusable indefinetly. This stuff is over 35 y/o.


Let us know what your gunsmith finds out on your rifle..!

Last edited by 2152hq; 03-25-2010 at 10:16 PM.
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Old 03-25-2010, 10:37 PM
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Two things. A lot of nice sporters were made from 03's by R.F. Sedgley. I have seen several with no caliber markings. And a buddy has some cerrosafe for sale on ReloadersAuction.com, item number 123725. You could do it yourself and have the results quicker than 2-3 weeks.
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Old 03-26-2010, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Galt View Post
Two things. A lot of nice sporters were made from 03's by R.F. Sedgley. I have seen several with no caliber markings. And a buddy has some cerrosafe for sale on ReloadersAuction.com, item number 123725. You could do it yourself and have the results quicker than 2-3 weeks.
I should have bought some cerrosafe and made the casts myself. It would have been a learning experience. I wish it was, but doubt that it is a Sedgley. It has a Weatherby style stock, as well as a low scope safety, a Timney trigger, and a steel tube K4 Weaver scope. The barrel is 22" sporter weight.
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary View Post
I will let everyone know when I get it back. He said 2-3 weeks. I am not sure if that is in regular time or gunsmith time. ;>) I just hope that is is not chambered for a wildcat caliber. That would make it a lot harder to load for. A 25-06 or 257 Roberts would be nice.
Don't worry if it is a wildcat. Unless it is something really exotic, wildcats are usually no more difficult to load for than factory cartridges. RCBS makes dies for most wildcats, and somebody on this forum will have loading data they can share.
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Old 03-27-2010, 11:34 AM
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It would have to be an extremely fine deal for me to buy a rifle whose caliber I did not know. If you have gotten caught with an uncommon wildcat, special order loading dies will cut into your savings.

A serial number over 3,000,000 indicates either a WW II era Remington made 1903 or a 1903A3. Are there any markings visible or are they covered by a scope base?
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
It would have to be an extremely fine deal for me to buy a rifle whose caliber I did not know. If you have gotten caught with an uncommon wildcat, special order loading dies will cut into your savings.

A serial number over 3,000,000 indicates either a WW II era Remington made 1903 or a 1903A3. Are there any markings visible or are they covered by a scope base?
It is a Remington 1903. I removed the scope base and read the markings. I know that I may end up with a wildcat but figured it was worth taking a risk for $225.00. I may end up suprized but I figure that there is a good chance that it ends up being a 25-06 since it would only require a barrel swap to get there. I should know in a couple of weeks.

Last edited by Gary; 04-01-2010 at 12:47 PM.
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Old 04-05-2010, 02:40 PM
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I picked up the rifle this afternoon. The gunsmith did a chamber cast, checked headspace, stamped the caliber on the barrel, and test fired it. It turned out to be chambered in 6mm Remington. I guess I will have to do a little research into this caliber. Interesting and somewhat unexpected.
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Old 04-05-2010, 03:30 PM
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That's a good number!
I think it was the 244 Remington early on but they had some complaints of accuracy problems with the popular use bullet weight. Rem changed the rifling pitch, extended the throat and all was well and they renamed it the 6mm Rem to note the change. Case is the same though. '06 case head.

Remington originally put the caliber up in a 'short action' rifle (model 721?). That made the longer and heavier bullets in that caliber unavailable to the users. IIRC they cut the throat extremely short too even for the light weight bullets.
The '03 is a long action and you can take full advantage of the cartridge.
Sometimes custom builders 'blocked' the magazine to shorten it's length when using cartridges shorter than the 30-06 it was designed for.
It can usually can be returned to it's original full length with little work. If the follower has been shortened, milsurp '03 followers (& springs)are still available and a quick fix for that 1/2 of the problem.

A Remington 1903 is a good action too. A WW2 mfg'd rifle so no worrys about the hi#/lo# thing. Some purist in the custom rifle world think they don't deserve a look for a sporter but they're great as far as every one else is concerned. I think the rear tang is a slight shape difference from the WW1 '03, but most everything else is the same. Some say tolerances are looser than the earlier production but certainly no more than 03A3s.

At $225,,you just about stole it IMHO..

Last edited by 2152hq; 04-05-2010 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 04-06-2010, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2152hq View Post
That's a good number!
I think it was the 244 Remington early on but they had some complaints of accuracy problems with the popular use bullet weight. Rem changed the rifling pitch, extended the throat and all was well and they renamed it the 6mm Rem to note the change. Case is the same though. '06 case head.

Remington originally put the caliber up in a 'short action' rifle (model 721?). That made the longer and heavier bullets in that caliber unavailable to the users. IIRC they cut the throat extremely short too even for the light weight bullets.
The '03 is a long action and you can take full advantage of the cartridge.
Sometimes custom builders 'blocked' the magazine to shorten it's length when using cartridges shorter than the 30-06 it was designed for.
It can usually can be returned to it's original full length with little work. If the follower has been shortened, milsurp '03 followers (& springs)are still available and a quick fix for that 1/2 of the problem.

A Remington 1903 is a good action too. A WW2 mfg'd rifle so no worrys about the hi#/lo# thing. Some purist in the custom rifle world think they don't deserve a look for a sporter but they're great as far as every one else is concerned. I think the rear tang is a slight shape difference from the WW1 '03, but most everything else is the same. Some say tolerances are looser than the earlier production but certainly no more than 03A3s.

At $225,,you just about stole it IMHO..
I am happy that it turned out to be a 6mm. There are a lot of 6mm bullets to choose from so I should have plenty of options when working up loads. The magazine is not blocked so I have flexibility with longer bullets as well. It will be interested to see how it shoots since both the action and barrel are glass bedded.
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