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Hello! I actually just created an account here to get my question answered, as this has been quite a big headache for me. About a year ago, I bought an 1886 Lebel a while back off of RTI (I know, mistake #1), and took it out with 3 boxes of PPU ammo prior to getting it headspaced (mistake #2). It performed fine, with no issues I saw or felt. Fast forward 2 weeks and the smith comes back to me telling me its out of headspace. Now I was both upset and frustrated when hearing this, as I foolishly shot it prior to getting it checked. However, after seeing a few different forum posts on here with some people describing the same issue of their Lebels getting mislabeled as out of headspaced, I was wondering if mine might be in the same camp. I have attached a few pictures of a casing from my shoot. The casing the gunsmith used had the primer noticeably poking out of the pocket just a bit, which was why he said it was out of headspace, but that cartridge was the only one in which I saw the primer poking out like that. I don't know, what do y'all think?
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That case looks fine to me. As a military rifle that uses a cartridge that headspaces on the rim there is, shall we say, a lot of "generosity" built into the system. Frankly these guns rarely have egregious headspace issues that actually enter the realm of being unsafe.

Lots of factors can cause primers to shift, tolerances of the primer pocket and/or primer, pressure of the cartridge, etc. As long as it is not piercing a primer every shot you are probably going to fine.

Just my opinons, I am not a gun designer, gunsmith or engineer.
 

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From what I can see it looks like a typical fired cartridge case, as pointed above, it headspace of the rim of the cartridge itself and they do have a generous chamber to allow a cartridge to chamber in combat when it was dirty, you wanted it to fire when needed too.
One thing I noticed is the cartridge case is dirty and that could be the chamber is not all that clean, scrubbing it down might help with that.

Patrick


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I dont know how your gunsmith determined it has a headspace issue, but as mentioned above, 8mm Lebel headspaces on the rim and that case does not show any obvious signs of a problem. A simple way to check headspace on a rimmed case is to measure the depth of the case rim and then add thin pieces of shim stock between the case head and bolt face until it will no longer close, then add up the total and compare it to the headspace specs.
 

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It’ll be fine, the 8mm lebel headspaces off the rim, same as the 303 and 30-40. Once the brass is fired you’re good to go for reloading (just neck size).

My 1879 French Gras would probably be “out of Headspace” but with neck sizing the brass every time the shoulder stays put and is has effectively “perfect headspace” now due to the ammo being made to the chamber and not some Saami or CIP spec.
 

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Not that I'm an expert, but I concur with the posters above.I see nothing in the pictures that would make me nervous. Mine does the same thing and swells the case to the point that one would wonder so when I reload them I neck size only
 

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Beyond the generous chambers to deal with dirt, PPU cartridges in 8 mm Lebel (Rifle) are also slightly too small, compared to vintage cartridges and documents.
And the CIP has based the minimal chamber and max cartridge dimensions on what PPU was selling nowadays, not on the dimensions defined by French Army in a remote past.
After a close exam of vintage documents and real, original cartridges, the original dimensions have been compilated in this document (with the max dimensions of the chambers as defined by the French Army) :
 

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Another way to check headspace, is to seat a fired primer in a fired case and close the bolt. Use the tail end of a dial caliper and the tail goes on the case and gently close the dial caliper. Will stop when the rest of the tail end contacts the head of the primer. Did this on my Parker Hale #4 sporter to see where I was in regards to the headspace. Could have used my depth guage but too much junk on top of the tool chest. Frank
 

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I would ask what gauge he used. Did it fail on a FIELD REJECT gauge or a NO GO? A Sammi or military spec gauge? And some cartridges have different thickness rims. Enfields can be a real mess. Very few actually have Lebel headspace gauges. It is very expensive to order and have special made. I do not own a Lebel, but play with nine Berthiers all with matching bolts. I got a $129 special order military spec FIELD gauge and not a one of the old dogs fail a FIELD gauge. Like Mosins, few seem to fail a Field gauge. So how much space is there 0.10 thousands, 0.20 thousands or 30-50 thousands gap? Did the gs tell you the spec he measured? Me thinkest it's time to find a gunsmith familiar with surplus military rifles....:rolleyes: Berthier brass also expands due to generous chambers. Best read up on headspacing. did you see this old post:

Unfortunately years of heaspace info was lost when SRF went down. also see

Read your brass. Is the primer backing out or really crushed flat? The case expansion is common on French Berthiers. On your case shown, the primer hit looks good and I see no signs of the primer backing out. Realize RTI Ethopian specimens are basically worn out dogs best for parts rifles at 10 times their value.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I would ask what gauge he used. Did it fail on a FIELD REJECT gauge or a NO GO? A Sammi or military spec gauge? And some cartridges have different thickness rims. Enfields can be a real mess. Very few actually have Lebel headspace gauges. It is very expensive to order and have special made. I do not own a Lebel, but play with nine Berthiers all with matching bolts. I got a $129 special order military spec FIELD gauge and not a one of the old dogs fail a FIELD gauge. Like Mosins, few seem to fail a Field gauge. So how much space is there 0.10 thousands, 0.20 thousands or 30-50 thousands gap? Did the gs tell you the spec he measured? Me thinkest it's time to find a gunsmith familiar with surplus military rifles....:rolleyes: Berthier brass also expands due to generous chambers. Best read up on headspacing. did you see this old post:

Unfortunately years of heaspace info was lost when SRF went down. also see

Read your brass. Is the primer backing out or really crushed flat? The case expansion is common on French Berthiers. On your case shown, the primer hit looks good and I see no signs of the primer backing out. Realize RTI Ethopian specimens are basically worn out dogs best for parts rifles at 10 times their value.

The smith shot a round and then inspected the casing. He used the same PPU ammo I did, and the primer was noticeably popped out a tiny bit. That is why he said it was out of headspace. Sadly don't have the brass he fired though. My confusion comes with the fact that only his brass had the primers poked out, none of the 60 rounds I fired had the primer poking out.
 

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Here is what I would do, please do not take this the wrong way, do not go back to that gunsmith at all, he has no idea what he is talking about regarding this particular rifle's headspace. Do not worry about the one primer backing out a small bit, I have had several do that in my last weekend shooting session, not a big deal at all, if it happens all the time, yeah look into it but one, forget it.
Go out and shoot it more, enjoy it, it is working just fine,ove on, say bye bye gunsmith, he has no idea on surplus rifles like this one what headspace is supposed to be.

Patrick
 

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Re reloading...Neck sizing was mentioned...is there a special "8mm" die for this?. Or just not screwing the die down all the way. Not in hand, but looks like a fairly normal case to me. Shot up many rem-umc red and green box, cant comment on ppu. Really scrub out chamber. Correction, mine were berthier's, not lebels. Curious, did they "n" chamber lebels?.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Here is what I would do, please do not take this the wrong way, do not go back to that gunsmith at all, he has no idea what he is talking about regarding this particular rifle's headspace. Do not worry about the one primer backing out a small bit, I have had several do that in my last weekend shooting session, not a big deal at all, if it happens all the time, yeah look into it but one, forget it.
Go out and shoot it more, enjoy it, it is working just fine,ove on, say bye bye gunsmith, he has no idea on surplus rifles like this one what headspace is supposed to be.

Patrick
Alright, thanks for your advice! Same goes for all of y'all as well! Really appreciate it! When I get around to it, gonna take it out again and see if the primers are being weird consistently! Thanks again!
 

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From SRF old notes:
Poor boy Method of Headspaceing
Now you can use the Poor boys headspace test
page1image1819968

It only provides a general idea. You go to Hobby Lobby or Ace and buy some thin craft solder. Not the thick normal solder.1) Clean the bolt, chamber, and barrel of the rifle. Keep the bolt assembled.
2) Obtain or make a .303 Dummy round. Make sure is a new cartridge and OAL is the same as the live ammo. Mark the tip and pull it, dump powder, and drill primer. Replace the bullet tip to the mark and measure OAL. Is it the same? Do not use a live round in the house. Or use a new live round at the range DANGER
3) Take the dummy cartridge and place it in the chamber
4) Point the rifle down with the open bolt to the rear
5) Take a length of craft solder and carefully place it over the back of the cartridge. It must lay across the entire cartridge back. It can be half moon shaped so it touches both ends of the cartridge.
6) Slowly close the bolt down onto the craft solder and the bolt face will smash flat the section of solder against the back of the cartridge case. 7) Slowly open the bolt in order to save and remove the flattened piece of craft solder. Measure the thin crushed down ends and see what the measurement of the crush is. Do not measure where the primer space is, just the nicely crushed ends that show the gap between the cartridge and the bolt face.
8) Do this process three times with a new section of thin, craft solder and get an average of the headspace gap between the bolt and cartridge. Are your measurements around .011- .015 or less? You most likely are OK. You are within hand grenade range for a half as... sample attempt at headspace. If your measurements exceed .015 and are something like .025-.045 you best buy a real headspace gauge and do a correct headspace test on a field gauge and see if the bolt closes on a REAL FIELD reject gauge.
Now this is a poor boys test, not really accurate, but it will give you a general, crude idea of where the rifle falls. Below .011 you are good.
Another method that gets a rough idea:
Some take a new case and just set a primer in the back, but do not press it in. Measure the OAL from the extended primer to the top of the case. Put that cartridge in the chamber and close the bolt down onto the cartridge chambering the empty case. Open the chamber, extract the case and remeasure the OAL from the pushed in primer and see how far the primer was pushed in. The difference between the two OALs is the gap or headspace in rough terms.
Both of these methods work on bolt actions. I do not own a costly original Lebel and am unsure how the action functions. The above methods may not work depending how the bolt works. I am a Mas 36 and Berthier nut, Also the .32 French long pistols 1935A & S series pistols. And I would go with what Patrick says. A French expert way beyond most . (y)
 
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