When I had the funds available, I set out to find a good quality No.4 Lee-Enfield. After doing some research, it seemed like No4 Mk1* Canadian “Long Branch” models demonstrated the best accuracy overall, due to better receiver steel and bedding techniques. I finally found one while traveling, and acquired it after inspection. Though the exterior finish and wood is not in the best condition, the bore and rifling were in extremely good condition.
For some time, I used a combination of surplus ammunition and newer, yet still budget priced ball ammunition to feed this rifle. The Long Branch No4. Mk1* rifles are generally regarded as some of the most accurate models. Groups with surplus ammunition were in the 2-3MOA range. This is certainly not bad for an old-beat-up rifle which had seen hard use, but I never regarded it as a supremely accurate gun.
Surplus rifles, Primo Ammo
After using up most of my old surplus ammo, I happened upon a case of Hornady Vintage Match .303 while looking for a resupply. This line of ammunition is designed to give old surplus rifles in .30-06, .303, or 8×57 “JS” (7.92×57) better match capability with commercial ammunition. Per Hornady:
Vintage Match™ ammunition is built to replicate the original military performance specifications unique to many vintage rifles. With the advent of the CMP Vintage rifle and Vintage Sniper Matches, Vintage Match™ ammunition was developed with the match shooter in mind and is meant to provide superior quality, off-the-shelf ammunition for the shooter who is looking for a match grade alternative to surplus or hand-loaded ammunition.
Vintage Match™ offers exceptional accuracy for classic service rifles such as the Mauser, Lee-Enfield, Swedish Mauser or any other rifles chambered for these storied cartridges…
All Hornady® Match™ bullets feature revolutionary AMP®(Advanced Manufacturing Process) bullet jackets. Developed by Hornady® engineers, these bullet jackets are a technological advancement in design, tooling and manufacturing that combine to produce the most consistently concentric bullet jackets available. These proven AMP® jackets are the foundation for exceptional bullet accuracy and have virtually zero runout and near zero wall thickness variation. Coupled with precision swaged cores and manufactured to the tightest standards in the industry, all Hornady® Match™ bullets provide superior consistency, high ballistic coefficients and unprecedented levels of accuracy.
Performance with Hornady
What good is feeding your surplus rifle expensive match ammunition if it doesn’t perform? I had high hopes for the vintage match ammunition, and I was not disappointed. My velocities, measured via Magnetospeed V3, were on average 60fps faster than stated on the box. This could have to due with the hot and very dry conditions of my range area. Velocities were extremely consistent, with SD’s over multiple range sessions all being less than 10fps. This is a good indicator of high quality control during manufacturing.
Most importantly, the Vintage Match ammunition took my rifle to a whole new level of accuracy. Versus the surplus or budget ammunition I was previously feeding it, there was a marked difference. At a range of 100 yards, I took 3 sight-in shots using the 300m aperture on the MkII flip sight typical of the No.4 Mk1*. I was astounded to see a group that later measured .252″ center-center! Average groups with this ammunition have run .758″. It should be noted that these groups are fired about 1 round a minute, as after three rapid shots my groups will widen up considerably.
(Besides previously recorded group sizes, groups fired for the purpose of the article were measured edge-edge with a micrometer, then deleting the diameter of the bullet. These groups were also fired using front and rear support from seated and prone positions at a distance of 100y).
Longer ranges, final impressions
The ultimate test of this ammunition was trying to hit steel plates at 300 and 500 yards. The Hornady Vintage Match ammunition did its job admirably, yielding first round hits at both ranges. Overall, this author has found this ammunition to be of extremely high quality. It enabled an old surplus rifle to achieve its full potential. Though expensive, one receives quality for the price (Average price per box of 20 as of writing was $25.00 for the .303). For those of our readers who don’t reload or have the time to develop custom loads for their surplus rifles, yet want to realize the true accuracy potential of these historical firearms, give Hornady Vintage Match Ammunition a try.
For more information, please visit Hornady.