The SAL SLR: The Canadian .30 Cal. Self-Loader You Never Knew Existed

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MilArt blog has an excellent piece on experimental Canadian small arms. Included are very high resolution photos of the SAL SLR, the late war/post-war Canadian selfloading rifle effort. Be sure to follow the link and read the whole thing. Excerpt and photos below:

No further work was done on SLR development in Canada until late in the War. DND’s views were largely guided by the initial British General Staff belief that semi-automatic rifles were of little utility, given the great increase in the number of machine guns that were being issued. Nonetheless, in April 1944 SAL initiated its own development- as a private venture – in response to a 1943 British specification for a gas-operated SLR with a rotating bolt and using a rimless 7.92 mm round. Design work began in November 1943, with the first pilot being ready for trials in June 1944. It used a dropping bolt locking mechanism similar to the Bren. To work properly this required very heavy parts and the design was declared obsolescent in January 1945. Its redesign was begun in March 1945 and test shot in May.

First model SAL semi-automatic rifle. MilArt photo archives

Test firing SAL’s 7.92-mm self-loading rifle. MilArt photo archives

The revised SLR had a forward locking bolt, and while considerably lighter was deemed too complex and delicate. A more robust version was developed with a threaded sleeve and – to give a more positive firing mechanism – hammer firing. This version was test-fired in August 1945. By December, the EX1, as it came to be designated, had successfully fired 800 rounds, and DND became seriously interested in the weapon – particularly as British efforts at designing a 7.92mm SLR were meeting with little success – tending to jam when firing British made ammunition.

The EX1 before work was switched to a design based on the .30 calibre T65 round. MilArt photo archives

The Director of Artillery recommended that further development be funded. SAL set about refining the design to reduce its loaded weight from 10 lbs. to 9 lbs. (from 4.5 to 4 kg), and to simplify manufacture, assembly and stripping the weapon. SAL expected to begin work on the pilot in January 1946 and have it ready by April. Soon thereafter the British changed their requirement to conform to the US T65 .30-06 round. While Small Arms Ltd had, by then, been wound up, the ATDB agreed, in July 1946, to fund work at Canadian Arsenals on a revised design, the EX2, which would not only to accommodate the T65 round but further reduce weight – the goal being 7 lbs. (3.2 kg). The possibility of selective fire was also to be examined. Work on this weapon continued into 1950 – eventually, of course, it was the FN, firing 7.62 NATO that was selected.

Canadian Arsenals Ltd. EX2 prototype automatic rifle, chambered to the US T65 .30-06 round. MilArt photo archives

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The twin triggers indicate that this is the selective fire version that CAL investigated. MilArt photo archives

A lightweight version of CAL's EX2. MilArt photo archives

 

It’s always a treat to find something of which I’ve never heard before. The excellent high-res photos are icing on the cake!



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Torman

    Did they learn nothing from the Ross? Stick to maple syrup and annoying teen entertainers, and leave the gun designing to the more talented countries.

    • Tyler John Richards

      You do realize John (Jean) Garand was Canadian right?

      • Torman

        Yeah, but like many successful Canadians, he was an ex-Canadian.

        • Tyler John Richards

          Insulin, Open Heart Surgery, the Telephone, Time Zones, Electric Wheel Chair, Prosthetic Hand, the first widely used gas masks, Sonar, Electron Microscope, plexiglass, garbage bag, pacemakers, alkaline batteries, electric ovens, kerosene, pulped wood paper and the Robertson screw driver… And contributions to Atomic research in both the energy and weapons fields…

          • Torman

            Which one of those is a successful, original firearms design?

          • Tyler John Richards

            Your reply wasn’t about a firearms, it was about successful Canadians…

          • RocketScientist

            Landing on the moon. Not having a monarch. Being a superpower. 🙂 Just kidding, I love America’s Hat, my two favorite people in the world are from Canuckistan.

      • Torman

        Also, I had no idea the Garand was designed in Canada.

        • Tom

          I believe Garand was in America when he designed his rifle. On a side note James Paris Lee was for a period a Canadian also.

          And whilst we are (I hope) putting our keeping firmly in our tongues in our cheeks America may have gotten to the Moon first but the Soviets won on pretty much every other space milestone. And whilst part of the British Empire/Dominion the Canadians were a superpower – and it might be added gave the US quite the kicking in the War of 1812. Still we are all friends now :). Still you have them beat on the not having a Monarch thing but the Queens a very nice lady so its okay :).

          • “America may have gotten to the Moon first but the Soviets won on pretty much every other space milestone.”

            That is not really true. They grabbed a few flashy milestones of varying worth early on, but by 1965 the Americans had something like three times as many flight hours and way more experience doing things like docking and EVA. The Russians would not catch up until the ’80s.

          • Bruno Jerrusi’s chest hair

            The Sovs put a 23mm Nudelman / Richter (spelling) cannon in orbit with a 32 round drum, which they remotely test fired when the crew vacated that craft for their Soyuz taxi back to Kazakhstan. :p

            And what firearm did Uncle Sam put in orbit? :p

          • confused

            HER MAJESTY’S A PRETTY NICE GIRL BUT SHE DOESN’T HAVE A LOT TO SAY

            HER MAJESTY’S A PRETTY NICE GIRL BUT SHE CHANGES FROM DAY TO DAY

          • Andrew

            Don’t forget the Canadarm developed for NASA’s space shuttle program. Canada has done all the heavy lifting in space. You’re welcome. 😉

      • abecido

        And Charles Ross was Scottish.

    • wetcorps

      Countries don’t design things, people do.
      Also, people very seldom invent things out of the blue, especially firearms. Everyone is copying everyone all the time. That’s just the way technology develops.

    • Rogier Velting

      PGW Timberwolf, anyone?

      • ATman

        I am more of a Cadex person myself although the only thing Canadian I can afford is a lake-field.

        • wetcorps

          Well I love my Cooey 🙂

  • Zebra Dun

    Why make when you can simply buy a rifle that works next door?

    • There are a few reasons, but I think I agree that the C1A1 was the right choice for Canada.

    • Geodkyt

      One of the problems with the Garand was the en-bloc clip.

      They were hoping to have something superior to the Garand. Something with, for example, a higher capacity box magazine. Such as the Soviets and Germans were already fielding. But, hopefully, better than those rifles were, as well. . .

      Note that the United States was ALSO working on an improvement over the Garand at the time, including totally non-Garand designs. So, even the US who already had the Garand, thought there was room for improvement. . .

      • For whatever reason, it has been almost entirely forgotten in the common history that the reason for the M1 Garand’s en-bloc clip loading system was that replaceable box magazines were, at the time, too expensive for general issue to every single soldier in an armed force.

        Eventually, after the massive buildup in industrial capability that occurred in the ’40s and ’50s, detachable box magazine loading became much more affordable, and proliferated.

        It’s always worth keeping in mind that the history of small arms development is primarily one of production and logistics. If you can’t make a hundred thousand of it, with accessories and spares for each, you shouldn’t adopt it, no matter how good it is.

        • Geodkyt

          Replaceable box magazines were too expensive for general issue to every single soldier was one excuse.

          Far more prominently mentioned by US Ordnance officers at the time of the Garand being developed was that they didn’t trust troops with detatchable magazines (loss, damage), and they didn’t want ANY magazine (even an integral one) that protruded below the stock line because it would get in the way when doing Shoulder Arms in the 20th Century American style. Heck, the Ordnance guys didn’t even want semiautomatic rifles, because of “wastage”. (These attitudes are FAR from exclusive to US Ordnance officers.)

          Now, Canada and Great Britain already had decades of experience with detatchable box magazines in their standard issue rifles, even though they didn’t normally issue multiple magazines, so they knew the damage argument was bunk. And they do Slope Arms with the rifle lying on it’s port side (as they have for roughly 300 years). And they realized that the price of sheet metal magazines (say, 7 per rifle, which would have been more ammunition than the Garand’s “basic load”) compared to the price of the rifle itself was chump change in comparison with how fast the reloads would be.

          • Geodkyt

            However, at the time this UK/Canadian program began, the US Army was *already* looking at adapting the Garand to take a box magazine, *preferrably* a BAR based magazine. So, even the US Army Ordnance Corps had realized the advantages of the box magazine far outweighed the expense, and their other excuses were likewise unfounded or simply silly.

          • There was still a noisy faction favoring a semi-fixed magazine that persisted into the 1950s. At least one of the T44 models was designed on that basis. In addition, there were experiments with 10rd integral magazine Garands, one of which ironically used a Johnson rifle rotary magazine.

            The M14 was designed so it could be topped off by stripper clips through the receiver. Even the FAL was not immune, as the C1 and the T48 were ultimately designed with receiver covers that accepted chargers.

            HK kept the concept alive with their experimental 4.6x36mm HK36 rifle, where a chain would be pulled to retract the fixed magazine’s follower and then a pack of cartridges could be inserted via a side-opening door on the magazine.

          • Except the French very much wanted to issue detachable box magazines to their soldiers but the cost was too great. So it wasn’t an “excuse”, it was just reality. This is why some soldiers got weapons with detachable box magazines (Chauchat, BAR, Bren, etc), while some did not.

            There’s no conspiracy against infantrymen here, just the realities of the production capability of the time.

    • kgallerno

      Canada was a long time involved in WW2 before you Yanks jumped in. Garands were not even available to all your own soldiers before the island hoping campaign across the Pacific started. There were no Garands to sell to Canada as there were barely enough Garands for the American military at the time. When WW2 ended there was no use buying it then as it everyone was already one upping the design. In the end we went with the FAL. A far superior design.

  • Canadian Vet

    Please delete Torman’s and Zebra Dun’s ignorant bullshit. Or at least, someone more knowledgeable than me illuminate them with failed American firearm designs.

    • Cymond

      There are plenty of failed American firearm designs, but Zebra Dun raises a good point. I had a similar thought, and I have no complaints or ill feelings toward Canada.

      I can understand why countries want to develop their own weapons, but if you’re in a war, want a new rifle design, and you’re having trouble with your own design, then why not talk to your allies? It’s better to have a Garand in 1944 than a SLR in 1946.

      “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton

      • Paul Epstein

        Usually because, until they find out that they can’t get it to work, they thought they would have a vastly improved version of whatever it is that they could have licensed and manufactured. By the time they realize that they were designing and building the wrong thing in the first place, the money pit is nearly self sustaining.

        It is worth noting that after a lot of the bugs were worked out with the M16, Canada did adopt a very similar rifle from Colt’s Canadian counterpart instead of building their own from scratch.

    • Dan

      Did we get our feelers a tad bit hurt? Don’t show emotion trolls love feeding off emotion.

  • jamezb

    Oh no you trumped Ian…now you will suffer the wrath of the great mustache!

    • No Van Dyke can withstand the bristly power of an Awesome Full Beard such as mine.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Heretic! But thanks very much for introducing us to an excellent article about a truly “forgotten” weapon :). Really interesting, and it adds a lot to our collective knowledge about historical and prototype firearms.

  • MFirepower

    Looks like an SVT-40.

    • abecido

      It seems that “SVT-40 copy in .303” might have been a short path to a viable autoloader.

    • Chase Buchanan

      Which, I hear, are common and inexpensive in Canada.

  • Lance

    Well they got the L1A1 a better rifle anyway.

  • contary

    Is this about a rifle, or which country has the biggest pecker?

  • Please note that the Cal. .30 T65 is the forerunner to the 7.62 NATO, not the legacy .30-06.

    • I’m actually not sure which round they’re referring to, as they mention this after speaking about 7.92mm development, and there was definitely a .30-06 version made in between.

      • The lowest photo shown here is clearly marked as “.30 T65”.

        • Yes; I am given to understand that was the later, short-magazine version. Some of the earlier photographs show rifles in .30-06 caliber, so the author did get his wires crossed at some point.

  • Fred Johnson

    Aside from the pissin’ and bitchin’ in the comments . . . 😀

    I just wanted to say, “Thanks” for an interesting blog post and the link to that article over at MilArt. 🙂

  • Ken

    Did the rimless 7.92 round happen to be the German Mauser round? The British were using 7.92×57 in their Besa machine guns.

  • Blake

    I like the ported handguard. Looks a little like the one on our Ruger Mini-30.

    BTW speaking of Canada, anyone notice that a mentally unstable man started a gunfight at the Canadian parliament the other day with a .30-30 Winchester Model 94?

    &ltsarcasm&gt…maybe he painted it black or installed a bayonet lug or something beforehand…&lt/sarcasm&gt

    • merica

      did someone also notice that it was stopped by a gun wielding bystander?

      but thats none of my business, not canadian.

      but seriously, hat tip to our canadian friends, and hope you all are doing well. we are here for you guys.

      -sincerely, the americans.

      • Blaw-Knox

        There is a lot of mealy mouthed nonsense about having ceremonial guards armed with a full magazine for their service rifle. Really I am thinking, arming ceremonial guards? :confused: The whole thing is quite sad. The perpetrator was clearly completely insane, & we lost two great soldiers. Greetings my fellow Americans. We are cousins

  • Good read!

    • CBB canadian born british

      And our queen actually likes guns whereas your president?

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Quite so. I believe Queen Elizabeth has always been a very outdoors-orientated person with a keen interest in, at the very least, hunting firearms ( if not more ).

      • This one doesn’t but some of them did. Teddy R. owned numerous lever guns and at least one suppressor. Lincoln reportedly would shoot on White House grounds or nearby (DC was still swamp land then) and there’s a story where he got confronted by guardsmen or similar who didn’t know it was Lincoln shooting. He also liked to test out new weapons. Reportedly, Washington and Jefferson had sizable collections as well.

  • Roger V. Tranfaglia

    COOL!! Like I’ve said before I’m learning something new everyday!!!!!