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1895 headspace issues
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March 22, 2024 - 7:35 pm
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Just bought an 1895 in 30-40. The .303 british no go gauge (which PTG says is that one to use for 30-40) allows the bolt to close. Seller is saying that it should not be a problem. I am a little hesitant to shoot this rifle to, as he put it, fireform the cases to the chamber. I have heard of people putting an o-ring on the case up next to the rim to hold the cartridge against the bolt and firing to make the case form to the chamber and basically making a case that headspaces on the shoulder instead of the rim. That sounds a little sketchy to me. While it may work, factory loads can never be shot and you would have to be careful that you did not “oversized” with the sizing die to reduce the cartridge to the point that there is excessive headspace again.

Any thoughts?

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March 23, 2024 - 6:18 pm
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First thing I would do is determine how much headspace you actually have

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March 23, 2024 - 7:18 pm
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If you have a micrometer, cut thin slices of stiff plastic (like the lid of a plastic food container) & glue them one by one to the case head, & when the bolt won’t close, scrape off your improvised shim & measure its thickness to estimate headspace.  If you had the measured shim stock sold by Brownell’s, you wouldn’t need the mike.  Were you informed of this problem BEFORE paying for the gun?

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March 23, 2024 - 10:16 pm
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You can also use scotch tape.  Stick it on and trim off the excess.  Add layers until the bolt won’t close.  Rule of thumb is the tape is about .002″ thick. 

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March 23, 2024 - 10:36 pm
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OK, here I go wading into the deep end again.  First, I have and have shot a number of 1895’s in .30 US/Army (30-40) and have never noted signs of excess headspace.  Nor have I in any other caliber except the .30-06 INCLUDING THE 30 Government of 1903.  Should you have one with excess headspace, I would be concerned the barrel has been swapped to create the excess headspace.  If that is the case I would say all bets are up in the air.  Second, I have an 1895 NRA musket in .30 Government of 1906 (.30-06 if you will).  That caliber can and does often create excess headspace with use as it is intense compared to other cartridges the 1895 was chambered in.  The “no go” gauge will chamber quite readily without pressing the lever with any extra effort.  I’ve not done as TR suggests to determine just how much excess headspace it has but I have shot it with US armory produced ammo without issues.  When I reload I neck size only and so far haven’t had any issues.  I have enough empty brass that is US armory made that I will only use it about 3 or 4 times then pitch it anyway.  This is what I DO MYSELF, so take it for advisement only.  Just saying……Tim

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March 23, 2024 - 10:48 pm
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Correction.  Scotch tape was suggested by Chuck, not by TR.  However it is a quick and readily used system that works.  Tim

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March 24, 2024 - 3:02 pm
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Thank you for your replies. I will try the tape thing when I go back to the the guy who has the no go gauge. I am wondering why though. Is it that if the headspace is excessive, but not TOO excessive, then it is still good to go?

And to answer the above question, no it was not reported as having excessive headspace. I have already called the seller first. He went back and forth between “I did not know” to “it does not make any difference”. While he is a “gun shop” he did not seem to have a grasp of head space for a rimmed cartridge as he kept asking if the rifling ahead of the chamber looked worn, if I had slugged the barrel etc. Supposedly, he called someone who is a Winchester “guru” who said it was shootable. Without having looked at the gun. 

It was specified that the barrel was “dirty”. Which usually on the seems to mean “ I am afraid to run a cleaning rod down the barrel because of what I might find.” So, I was assuming that the barrel will have to be replaced. But, I have seen some barrels that looked like sewer pipes that shot decently. I actually have one gun that looks like hell that shoots really well. So, I was going to shoot it first before ordering a barrel.

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March 24, 2024 - 3:17 pm
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Oranedward said
Thank you for your replies. I will try the tape thing when I go back to the the guy who has the no go gauge. I am wondering why though. Is it that if the headspace is excessive, but not TOO excessive, then it is still good to go?

And to answer the above question, no it was not reported as having excessive headspace. I have already called the seller first. He went back and forth between “I did not know” to “it does not make any difference”. While he is a “gun shop” he did not seem to have a grasp of head space for a rimmed cartridge as he kept asking if the rifling ahead of the chamber looked worn, if I had slugged the barrel etc. Supposedly, he called someone who is a Winchester “guru” who said it was shootable. Without having looked at the gun. 

It was specified that the barrel was “dirty”. Which usually on the seems to mean “ I am afraid to run a cleaning rod down the barrel because of what I might find.” So, I was assuming that the barrel will have to be replaced. But, I have seen some barrels that looked like sewer pipes that shot decently. I actually have one gun that looks like hell that shoots really well. So, I was going to shoot it first before ordering a barrel.

  

I don’t claim to understand all the variables here.  But, if you’re thinking about ordering a new barrel for it, the expense of that (and gunsmithing to have it fitted) surely is a fair level of nuisance.  Wouldn’t it be easier to simply return the rifle and find one that is satisfactory?  Chances are you wouldn’t have to pay much more than you paid for this one.  However, I will add that there is a fair chance had you never but a no-go gauge in the chamber, you might have shot and used the rifle, not noticing anything was amiss.  I’ve shot many of my 1895 .30-40’s and never put a gauge in any of them.  And they were all old 100+ year old rifles.

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March 24, 2024 - 3:38 pm
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steve004 said But, if you’re thinking about ordering a new barrel for it, the expense of that (and gunsmithing to have it fitted) surely is a fair level of nuisance.

Yes, doing that would be ridiculous.  I’ve never used a gauge, either.  What happens to a case shot when HS is excessive is that it begins to stretch just ahead of the head, 1/4″ or so, creating a circular groove after several firings that’s not hard to feel with a wire, & giving warning of the problem.

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March 24, 2024 - 4:30 pm
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Worn barrels and occasional headspace issues come with the territory when collecting old guns. Quite honestly I’ve only had one old Winchester that had obvious headspace issues and I’ve never checked any of them with a gauge, my only set is in 30-06. I would not expect a seller to check the headspace on every old Winchester he offers for sale, most don’t even bother to clean them. FWIW the rifling ahead of the chamber begins to wear quite early in life, most of my shooters exhibit wear there. If you don’t have a Field gauge measure the headspace if you feel you should. If you don’t feel it’s safe, don’t shoot it. Most of us probably would have cleaned it up and fired it without noticing.

 

Mike

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March 24, 2024 - 4:47 pm
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Oranedward said
Just bought an 1895 in 30-40. The .303 british no go gauge (which PTG says is that one to use for 30-40) allows the bolt to close. Seller is saying that it should not be a problem. I am a little hesitant to shoot this rifle to, as he put it, fireform the cases to the chamber. I have heard of people putting an o-ring on the case up next to the rim to hold the cartridge against the bolt and firing to make the case form to the chamber and basically making a case that headspaces on the shoulder instead of the rim. That sounds a little sketchy to me. While it may work, factory loads can never be shot and you would have to be careful that you did not “oversized” with the sizing die to reduce the cartridge to the point that there is excessive headspace again.

Any thoughts?

  

I have never done this but in theory it may work?  It is true if you could push the shoulder out enough you might be able to head space off the shoulder.  That is how all rimless cases headspace.  Most Winchesters have a max headspace of about .007″.  You need to see how much in excess this chamber has.  Shooting a gun with excess headspace at a minimum beats up the bolt.  If using hot loads, then the problem gets worse faster.  Over sizing would not be a problem in it’s self.  Just set your dies to only move the shoulder where you want it.  Don’t make it shorter, base to shoulder.  If you try this get a caliper and a comparator body and a shoulder comparator for the 30-40.  A generic 30 cal set up should work too.  Here is a picture of my caliper with a comparator body and a shoulder comparator.

Case-Comparator.jpgImage Enlarger

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March 25, 2024 - 8:41 pm
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Thanks to all. Returning it does not seem to be an option. I have also shot quite a few firearms in the past without checking headspace. Since the 30-40 is approaching being a high pressure cartridge, I decided to check this one. I will check the headspace with the tape method and make a decision. Thanks again to all.

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March 27, 2024 - 7:28 pm
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I have never checked any of my Winchesters for head space either.  But I do look at my fired brass.  Case head separation does show initially with a thin ring at about the .200″ line.  If you continue to use the brass it will eventually break at that line.

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