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Canadian Arctic Rangers Are Leaping Out of the 1890s with a Contract for a New Rifle

The burgeoning battle for Arctic sovereignty will soon feature modern weaponry.

by Arthur White
Jun 23 2015, 8:20pm

Photo via 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group

Canadian reservists operating in the far north are set to stop using a World War 2–era rifle based on an 1895 design, due to a lack of spare parts.

Julian Fantino, the associate minister of national defence, announced Tuesday that the government has awarded a contract to replace the Lee-Enfield rifle, a vintage model still used by the Canadian Rangers, with 6,500 new weapons. The Rangers are a sub-unit of the Canadian Armed Forces reserves tasked with asserting Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and other remote areas.

According to a Defence Ministry press release, the Enfield is still a perfectly suitable rifle for harsh northern conditions. But the phase-out became necessary after the government learned that spare parts are likely to become unavailable by 2017.

Prized for its fast action, the Enfield was once the rifle of choice for Commonwealth countries. It was first produced in 1895 and saw service in the Boer War. Improved models were standard issue for the British army in the First World War and in the Second World War, when Canada equipped its own soldiers with Canadian-made Enfields.

The rifle was phased out by the British in the 1957. Today, it is still used by rural police in Pakistan and occasionally turns up in insurgent weapons caches in conflict zones, including in Afghanistan.

The Rangers' new rifle has not yet been designed. Colt Canada will oversee a competition for design proposals, and has already been selected to manufacture the winning model at its Kitchener plant. The government is aiming to have it ready for testing this summer. A ministry backgrounder on the contract said that the design would have to operate flawlessly under the sub-zero temperatures of the Canadian Arctic.

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