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Thread: 1903 Winchester Reline

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    1903 Winchester Reline

    A while back I got a Winchester 1903 semi auto rifle in exchange for some work I did. This is the gun that shot a special 22 shell the Winchester Auto. A smokless round with a 45 grain bullet and a case just shorter than a 22 L/R and a little fatter. The barrel was ringed and rough but I never figured to shoot it although the action worked fine. Then a friend who worked at Cabela's came up with a few boxes of ammo for it...

    Well as is it wasn't a shooter the groups at 25 yards were on the foot size but the gun functioned fine. Because of the odd shell dimensions there was no way to convert it to either short or L/R like I did with the Remington auto. I had a spare liner and the bore diameter for the Auto round is the same as a 22 LR so I thought I might give it a try.

    The problems mounted up right at the start as the 20" barrel of the Winchester would not reach the spider on the lathe, so I had to turn a centering guide from scrap to center the end not in the chuck. The barrel was lined and then another snag, no one has a reamer for Winchester auto. I ended up using a 22 Lr reamer for a roughing reamer and then had to turn a D reamer to finish the chamber. The barrel is counterbored for the rim and a 5/16 milling cutter was just right to cut the counterbore. The chamber was finished the same as the factory chamber a .251+ with the d reamer and a brass lap was used to polish the forcing cone.

    Well now I have a shooting gun to hang on the wall. Sighted in it will hang right around an inch at 25 yards with iron sights. I still have three whole boxes of ammo hid away so I guess I will have to go for some tree rats this fall.

    This is what happens when you get too much time on your hands, I would guess I have $200 dollars of parts and work in a free gun that will cost me 10 cents every time I pull the trigger.

    But I done it!!!!

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    John 242's Avatar
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    Man, that's a lot of smart thinking. Pretty crafty the way you figured all that out to get that gun up and running. Making that D-reamer was pretty "hi speed."

    I'm not familiar with the .22 Winchester Auto at all, but I'll have to log this into my notes for future reference. Do you think this gun would run with the barrel lined to .22LR, or would the gun not work mechanically (feed, extract, eject, etc) with the LR?

    Quote Originally Posted by KCSO View Post
    the Winchester would not reach the spider on the lathe, so I had to turn a centering guide from scrap to center the end not in the chuck.
    We sometimes use what we call a "tape bushing," which is masking tape wrapped around the barrel, over and over again, until it builds up to the point where the bushing is snug in the spindle and supports the barrel. Some people that feel that tape bushings are a the mark of the beast and all that use them will burn in hell, but they do work. Gordy Gritters probably wouldn't approve. They also waste a heck of a lot of tape.

    Lately we've started to turn bushings out of Delrin, which placates those that believe tape bushings are evil.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    You did good. I have converted a few to 22 LR and ran into lots of fun. The magazine stop has to be built up and there need to be a little weld or maybe a screw put just above the chamber to help guide the cartridge in which means the top of the bolt needs to be taken down a bit to clear. I have two 1903s in my safe, one in very good shape and the other made up from several guns, both with stock barrels.
    John Taylor, Taylor Machine, gunsmith

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Wasn't there another issue with converting M1903's to .22LR in that the breechblock weight and recoil spring tension were carefully calibrated for the .22 Winchester Auto cartridge and not deemed suitable for the .22LR? I remember reading that was the main reason they dropped it and brought out the new improved Model 63, or are my grey cells slipping away?

    John- did your converted '03's cycle ok after your modifications? I have a derelict '03 that I threaten to revive- someday...

  5. #5
    Boolit Master leftiye's Avatar
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    J&G sales has some of them there .22 auto ctgs in stock richt now! With that flat point they ott to kill purty well.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by gnoahhh View Post
    Wasn't there another issue with converting M1903's to .22LR in that the breechblock weight and recoil spring tension were carefully calibrated for the .22 Winchester Auto cartridge and not deemed suitable for the .22LR? I remember reading that was the main reason they dropped it and brought out the new improved Model 63, or are my grey cells slipping away?

    John- did your converted '03's cycle ok after your modifications? I have a derelict '03 that I threaten to revive- someday...

    I would have tried it as a .22LR. The bullet diameter difference is very small. But you have put the finger on the potential problem. Numrich have a .22 bolt, which I think means .22LR, but at $85.95 it is even further from a free gun. If you felt brave you could have tried lightening the .22 WRF bolt, and springs are easy enough to substitute.

    https://www.gunpartscorp.com/Manufac...1903-40295.htm

    By the spider do you mean a fixed steady on the lathe? I wouldn't consider that accurate enough for chambering, and certainly not the tape idea. You could drive or epoxy a brass bushing onto the barrel, and turn it truly concentric with the bore between centres. You could also drill an engineer's reamer with carbide drills to accept a pilot, and there is a good chance a 7/32in. rod would be a good fit in a .22 bore. You ought to drill a little at a time with two drill sizes alternately, as carbide very easily seizes and breaks with expansion and contraction.

    Anyway, you have your .22 WRF rifle now, and ammunition is likely to be the only snag. I always thought it is a great pity it didn't become the standard .22 rimfire round. It was said never to have quite achieved the accuracy of the heel-bullet LR, but with the same amount of development work I don't see why it couldn't have exceeded it.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    The spider is a centering device on the back end of the spindle. I used a turned bushing as when I cut the chamber on the lathe I wanted the barrel centered as much as possible due to stacking tolerance. Every 1/2 thou that the barrel was out would cut the chamber that much bigger as I didn't make a floating reamer. As to changing to 22 LR I thought it over and tried it for feeding but decided that if I wanted that much work I should just buy a 63 and be done with it, I also had the ammo and wanted to try the Winchester Auto just to see what it could do.

    Another learning experience.

    The bullet diameter for the auto is listed in COTW as 222-223 same as the 22LR and the 45 grain bullet seems to work all right in the LR twist liner.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master ammohead's Avatar
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    I just turned a bushing for the muzzle of my H&R conversion from 17 hmr to 17 Hornet. I made mine from white nylon, or is it teflon, no matter. The muzzle is a nice tight fit and the bushing is drilled to allow chips to be blown clean through. I got my reamer in the mail yesterday so I will be finishing this up in the next day or two.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    If you can get it remshape material makes good bushings and also makes excellent barrel vice inserts.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by KCSO View Post
    The spider is a centering device on the back end of the spindle. I used a turned bushing as when I cut the chamber on the lathe I wanted the barrel centered as much as possible due to stacking tolerance. Every 1/2 thou that the barrel was out would cut the chamber that much bigger as I didn't make a floating reamer. As to changing to 22 LR I thought it over and tried it for feeding but decided that if I wanted that much work I should just buy a 63 and be done with it, I also had the ammo and wanted to try the Winchester Auto just to see what it could do.

    Another learning experience.

    The bullet diameter for the auto is listed in COTW as 222-223 same as the 22LR and the 45 grain bullet seems to work all right in the LR twist liner.
    Ah yes, I know now what you mean, and that method should be fine. The tape bushing should be fine at that end of the headstock too. The bushing turned concentrically for a fixed steady should work too.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Why not just clamp the barrel in the chuck and employ a steady rest? Dialing it in for concentricity could be frustrating but do-able.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by gnoahhh View Post
    Wasn't there another issue with converting M1903's to .22LR in that the breechblock weight and recoil spring tension were carefully calibrated for the .22 Winchester Auto cartridge and not deemed suitable for the .22LR? I remember reading that was the main reason they dropped it and brought out the new improved Model 63, or are my grey cells slipping away?

    John- did your converted '03's cycle ok after your modifications? I have a derelict '03 that I threaten to revive- someday...
    I did not have any problems with the bolt weight or spring,Gun functioned fine.
    John Taylor, Taylor Machine, gunsmith

  13. #13
    Numrich certainly mention two different bolts, but that might only have been needed for the .22LR of 1903.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    If I were using my old South Bend that is how I did most of my barrels with the steady rest working outboard. Now I have this new GUNSMITH lathe and I haven't had time to set up the steady and check it out for accuracy. The tape idea works for most purposes but I wanted to get this as accurate as possible When I got the lathe I actually stripped off the chuck and ran a boring bar down the spindle to smooth it up and make sure it was true. Truth be told I was really just darn curious as to how the Winchester Auto cartridge stacked up.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Good deal all around! I love hearing stories of getting neat older iron working again. Sure wish I knew what you guys know but I can live thru you all!
    Look twice, shoot once.

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BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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