Canada Stalls on New Ranger Rifles

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The frozen far north of the continent, most of it above the Arctic Circle, is patrolled by a group of part time soldiers known as the Canadian Rangers. This force of some 5,000 volunteer locals are armed with rifles that in some cases date to the First World War. Canada is now crawfishing on buying them new guns for budgetary reasons.

Who are the Rangers?

Most of the land mass of Canada, that sparsely inhabited region away from the population centers near the US northern border, has very little military presence. There, the country is protected by the Rangers. A small, scarcely funded sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve founded in 1942, they are spread out in 160 small units known as 'patrols' in 200 of the most remote villages in the world. Like the US National Guard, these part-time soldiers serve a few weekends a year in thier community. They conduct armed patrols of their area, report suspicious activities, and help with search and rescue. Their job is huge and their equipment is scarce.

The Enfield

Rangers are issued some basic landnav tools like a compass and radio, some uniforms (including a bright red sweatshirt), and a rifle that they keep at home. This rifle is a Short Magazine Lee Enfield.

First introduced in 1907, the SMLE is a bolt-action .303-caliber rifle that is fed from a 10-shot detachable magazine. Many Americans are well aware of the old Enfield, as it's been popular on the milsurp market since the 1960s and makes a good deer rifle. Since thier introduction, the Rangers have carried the No. 4 Mk I version of this gun, which was made by Long Branch Arsenal in Canada.

Well the problem was that the Enfield stopped production in Canada in 1945 and was replaced by the C1A1 (the Canadian version of the FN FAL) in 1955. Then the C1A1 itself was replaced by the M16 (called the C7/C8) starting in 1984. Today, the 5000 or so Enfields left in Canadian service are only maintained by cannibalizing other rifles, some older models dating back to the Great War, for parts. As the Rangers are given 200 rounds of .303 ball each year and expected to practice with it, these guns are fast wearing out and need replacement.

Possible replacements

The Canadian Defense Forces released this problem with their Ranger force rifles and over the past few years have been looking for replacements. Since the Rangers do not get a lot of training (10-days), and most are already familiar with bolt-action large caliber rifles, which is the requirement. Planning on doubling the size of this command in the next few years due to increasing visitation from foreign ships coming through the Northwest Passage (global warming), they need 10,000 of them.

(The Ruger Scout concept would make a great Ranger rifle replacement)

This is not rocket science as there are basically dozens of proven models out there on the commercial market that would fill the bill. The Remington 700, Ruger M77, Winchester Model 70, and Savage 110 all come to mind. A nice version of these chambered in a modern caliber (perhaps NATO standard 7.62x51mm which Canada already buys for its machine guns) would be effective both against polar bears, rouge lumberjacks, and the occasional Russian spy. Make sure it's in a fiberglass stock, possibly in high-viz orange, and make it a detachable magazine model and you have Ranger gold.

The thing is, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen, the government is having a hard time coughing up the cash. The article cites issues with Colt in Canada and others as problems but the real story is that its a money issue and the Rangers just aren't sexy enough to spend it on them.
Let's do the math. The Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, the chopped-down M77 chambered for .308Win with a detachable mag, stainless steel and a black laminate stock is $1099 MSRP. This gun would seem to be tailor-made for the Rangers. If ordered in the quantity to equip a force twice the size of the current one, the total cost (at full MSRP!) is just under $11-million US.

Yes, that sounds like a lot, but when you consider that the Canadians are looking at buying 65 F-35 jet fighters at some $95-million apiece, it's a drop in a Maple leaf defense bucket. And again, if they were to buy 10,000 of the rifles and open the big companies to a bid process, odds are the price would drop far under $1100 per gun.

Until then, stay safe rangers, and keep your powder dry.

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April 6, 2014  •  04:18 AM
You would replace a tried and trusted battle proven rifle with a commercial hunting rifle?
I know which Id rather have over my shoulder.