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Having read the warnings about detonation and blown up rifles I was more than a little reluctant to experiment with fast burning propellants in rifle cartridges.

First I tried black powder loads. I simply put as much black powder as will fit in the casing with a 215 grain copper plated frontier bullet. The results were not satisfactory at all. Accuracy was inconsistent. Fowling excessive and the cleaning process after the shoot tedious. I’m not in the least surprised that the British army also gave up using black powder in favour of cordite in the Lee Metford.

After much research I decided to try 5gn of Somchem MS200 with a Dacron filler and a 175gn cast lead bullet that I made with a Lee C321-185 bullet mold. I don’t lube size the bullets but give them a coat of Lee liquid alox, that’s all.

The Dacron filler is essential to prevent detonation of the propellant which would lie spread out over the length of the cartridge case without it. The Dacron keeps the powder near the primer and also ensures consistency in the ignition of all the cartridges which promotes accuracy. The Dacron also keeps the hot gas away from the lead bullet making the use of gas checks redundant and keeps the cost down.

Dacron is the white filling that comes in pillows or Teddy bears. It is bought at cloth and material shops and does not cost much. Dacron is also used in some fish tank filters and can thus also be sourced from pet shops.

I use a Lee classic loader to reload for the .303 British. It is portable and produce accurate reloads. Because it only neck sizes the brass, it increases case life significantly. I try to avoid using the priming tool though, it does set off primers more frequently than I would like. Not really dangerous but unpleasant. The Lee hand priming tool works much more reliably.


The loads I tried are comparible to .38 special in performance but with the distinct benefit of being subsonic and with very low recoil. In fact the report from the shots are so soft that I do not need to wear ear plugs. It’s only a little louder than an air rifle, an angle grinder makes more noise than my .303 with these loads.

Shots from an off hand standing position, fired at 25 meters were remarkably accurate and consistent as seen in the photo above.

They would certainly be accurate enough and have sufficient knock down power to take small game at closer distances.

This load has put new life in Oupa’s old .303 sporter and I can shoot safely it at our suburban pistol range without waking up the neighborhood with loud bangs.



Very useful articles from Man MAGNUM magazine are found in the

May 2000 edition p. 27 “Reduced Rifle Loads” and 
December 1991 p. 61 “Plinking Loads for the .303”.

During a follow up shoot 2 weeks later with 4,5gn MS200 loads at 50m the results were also very satisfactory. With a bit of practise these results can definitely improve. Also consider that iron sights are being used.


Range 50m with sights set at 300 yards


That target is awfully small at 50 meters. One should perhaps also consider 50m the maximum effective range of these loads.


Near original BSA sporter model 4b complete with original French walnut stock.


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