Canadian American Strategic Review







Background – NCRR Project – Bolt-action New Canadian Ranger Rifle

Update: 27 Aug 2014 – MND Rob Nicholson has announced that the Canadian Rangers will begin receiving replacements for Lee Enfield rifles in 2016. According to David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen, deliveries of the 'New Canadian Ranger Rifle' are to be finished by 2021, not 2019 as listed in DND's Defence Acquisition Guide. (Testing of NCRR candidates was to begin in 2015 for deliveries to begin in 2016.)

In Aug 2013, PM Harper had announced the same 2016 NCRR delivery date – just after the NCRR Statement of  Operational Requirements was released. But that SOR was amended in Nov 2013 and there has been no mention of the planned 2015 trials for NCRR candidate rifles. Despite NCRR Project delays (such as the Oct 2011 Price & Availability request for New Canadian Ranger Rifles cancellation), we are told that there will be no effect upon deliveries of these New Canadian Rangers Rifle. Has Colt Canada found someone to sell them the rights?

Previously it had been reported that potential suppliers objected to a requirement to supply proprietary details to DND's preferred weapon supplier, Colt Canada – holders of proprietary rights to suitable bolt-action rifles seeing little profit in surrendering their industrial secrets.

Canadian Rangers Rifle – Replacing the Rangers' .303" Lee Enfield No4 MkI*
Despite now being 65-70 years old, the Lee-Enfield rifle is extremely popular with Canadian Rangers. The Enfields [1] were issued to the Rangers because this rifle was numerous in the post-War years, its bolt-action was simple to teach, and the actual weapons all but indestructable. But nothing lasts forever. When surveyed about potential replacement, Rangers said  they'd be happy with new-production Enfields. But Toronto's Long Branch Arsenal which produced the Enfield for the Canadian Army, is long gone.  So too are most  Canadian civilian rifle-makers. [2] But there is a derivative of  the Enfield in production today:  the AIA M10 series.

Lee-Enfield No4 MkI* Specifications
  Maker:   Long Branch Arsenal [3]
  Calibre:   7.7 56mmR (.303 British)
  Range:   500 meters (effective)
  Action:   Manual Lee turn bolt
  Mag.:   10-round detachable box
  Weight.:   4.11 kg  ( 9 lbs ) approx.

Problem solved, right? Militarize the M10 and issue it to the Rangers. Is procurement ever that simple? Chambered for .308" Winchester  (a common hunting round compatible with 7.62mm NATO) the AIA rifle also has a heavy teak stock. The No4 MkI* is also fully-stocked in wood but Rangers now want the capabilities of the Enfield in a lighter .308" rifle with a sight rail.  They also want  more stable composite stocks.

Specifically, the new Canadian Ranger Rifle is to have a composite stock in a camouflage colour [4] with a 'Monte Carlo' profile and  raised cheekpiece. That stock must absorb recoil and adjust for Rangers of  different statures. Of course, any rifle can be fitted with such a stock. But  the .308" AIA was rejected before DND even issued a requirement. [5]  Here, the CRR process seems to go awry. DND wants an off-the-shelf buy from a military supplier yet the only bolt-action rifles bought by modern armies are highly-expensive sniper weapons. Regardless of which design is selected, 10,000+ NCRR will be licenced-built by DND munitions supplier, Colt Canada. This arrangement follows the pattern of  the new General Service Pistol, a Military-off-the-Shelf purchase.

The odds of a Canadian-built NCRR had seemed remote and any  'Can-Con' is a relief.  Licence-production raises questions though. Why insist on a  Commercial-off-the- Shelf buy with minimal mods? Colt Canada will produce the magazines, stocks, etc. of choice anyway. Part problem solved. So why pay a third party for the rights to a hunting rifle design? The Canadian Rangers have stated their preference for a modernized and improved  Lee Enfield.  Why not have Colt Canada give it to them?

[1] Lee-Enfield rifles first entered Canadian service in 1916. That No1 MkIII SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield) was eclipsed by the Long Branch-built No4 MkI* which served the regular Canadian Army from 1943-1955. Later, DCRA 7.62mm conversions served as target rifles. A reserve force formally established in 1947,  the Canadian Rangers have been issued with the Lee-Enfield No4 MkI* rifle ever since then.
[2] Long Branch Arsenal (also known as Canadian Small Arms Factory Ltd) was itself privatized as Canadian Arsenals Ltd. before closing down for good. Another example is civilian rifle-maker Cooey.  Best known for small-bore rifles, Cooey was bought by US  Olin to become Winchester Canada. The Cooey .308" Model 71 was a copy of Winchester's Model 70 – which has an outside chance in this CRR contest.
[3] Canadian Small Arms Ltd (SAL) aka Long Branch Arsenal was located in the village of Long Branch, ON  (now a part of  Mississauga).
[4] The New Canadian Ranger Rifle P&A makes clear that 'camouflage' does not refer to a disruptive pattern but rather a single (and as yet unspecified) colour for the synthentic stock. The option of engraved and/or coloured Ranger emblems on the stock is also being weighed.
[5] The DRDC report, Canadian Ranger Rifle: Human Factors Requirements Validation, excerpts an unnamed document on DND's Small Arms Replacement Project II (SARP 2): "The CF technical authority for small arms, DSSPM 5, ... concluded that [M10s] would not meet ... requirement without significant modification and re-engineering because it is cheaply made ... [the AIA rifle not being ] a military product.