Val Kilmer and a Lee Speed sporter in the movie "The Ghost And The Darkness".

BSA Lee Speed

Detail of Lee Speed sporter
Detail of Lee Speed sporter

Q: I have a like-new BSA Lee Speed in 8mm BSA, a cartridge I believe is also known as the 8x50R Austrian Mannlicher. I haveread that cases for the 8x50R can be formed by running 7.62x54R cases into a full length 8x50R die and trimming. Will that work? Could you supply a starting and maximum load using ADI powder with cast bullets from a Hornady #3235 mould, also case trim length. What game is this calibre suited for with these components? I have two Lithgow No. 1 MK 3 rifles with Sportco stamped on the barrels which are in excellent condition. Is the one marked “LE 250/3” likely to be a .303-25? I don’t have a cartridge to check. If not, any ideas? An ex-military .303 cartridge won’t chamber and the bore diameter at the muzzle is smaller than a regular SMLE. The other SMLE is marked “LE303/1T. but won’t chamber the same two calibres of ammo with the bolt head and about 1/2″ of the case visible at the point of lock-up.

The muzzle appears to be .30 calibre compared to my other SMLEs. I thought it might be a 7.7×54, that old Aussie conversion, but that’s not it, nor is it a 7.62x39mm. My friend just obtained a Brno ZKK 601 in .243 in very good condition, but there’s a problem because the previous owner had used a lot of old Super Brand ammo with weak primers which cut a groove around the firing pin hole through piercing them. Before he had the bolt repaired and even after, the bolt was hard to close. We have given the chamber a polish with a steel brush and methylated spirits. It is smooth and shiny. If it wasn’t tight to lock before bolt surgery, I would say there wasn’t enough weld removed from the bolt face. Any ideas? It has the original barrel. Thanks for your time and effort. You have helped me before and your columns are what I always read first. Laurie Stock

A: The 8mm BSA cartridge which was introduced in 1907 fired a bullet some .315″ in diameter whereas the 8x50R Austrian military cartridge used a standard .323″ bullet. There is no way you can form cases from 7.62x54mm

Val Kilmer and a Lee Speed sporter in the movie
Val Kilmer and a Lee Speed sporter in the movie “The Ghost And The Darkness”.

Russian brass which has smaller dimensions. And can’t fire .323″ bullets through the .315″ bore either as there is .008″ thou difference in bullet diameter which would be dangerous. You’d have to swage the bullets down to .315″Trim length for the Austrian cartridge is 1.95″. It may be the same for the .315 BSA? I have no data for loads using ADI powders. Nor have I any idea what a .25/3″ cartridge is. Case length for the .303-25 is 2.21″ (56mm). Surely you wouldn’t expect a .303 cartridge to enter the chamber of a .303-25? Again, I have no idea what your second Lee Enfield is chambered for.

Evidently it is not a 7.7x54mm which is only 2mm shorter than the standard .303. A 7.62x39mm would fall into the chamber out of sight. The only way to identify the cartridges for your rifle is to get a gunsmith to make moulds of the chambers and measure their dimensions. Super brand ammo never had weak primers and if the firing pin pierced primers then it is too long (has excessive protrusion ). Another job for a gunsmith. Also, you don’t polish chambers with a steel brush and metho. Steel bristles will score the surface of the chamber and make extraction difficult. Weld from the bolt face! What blacksmith welded up the bolt face? You need to get a gunsmith to polish the chamber and adjust the headspace, if it is possible after being welded. If your Lee Speed BSA in 8mm BSA is as new, then it is a collector’s piece and I’d advise you not to mess with it.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.


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