The first new rifles in the prototype batch made by Sako in Finland have been issued to Canadian Rangers, and initial reports are positive. The rifle, which has been designated “C-19”, will replace the venerable but aging .303-caliber Lee-Enfield rifles that have served the Rangers since 1947. The Canadian Armed Forces website reports:
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories — The Canadian Rangers are bidding adieu to the hunting rifle that has served them well for nearly 70 years and reactions to its replacement are positive.
The new prototype rifle, the C-19, was designed by Finland’s Sako, based on its Tikka T3 CTR model. Manufacturing will be done by Colt Canada.
As a hunter with a gunsmith background myself, I was pretty impressed,says Warrant Officer Luke Foster, who was part of the process through which the Canadian Army selected the C-19, which will start initial deliveries in 2016.
I visited the factory,WO Foster adds.Their quality assurance is outstanding. I have no doubt Colt Canada will be able to match the standards that were set by this rifle.
The Canadian Rangers are a sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserve Force. The mission of the Rangers is to provide lightly equipped, self-sufficient, mobile forces in support of the CAF’s sovereignty and domestic operation tasks in Canada. They act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the CAF in remote locations and share their expertise and guidance during operations and exercises with Primary Reserve and Regular Force soldiers.
There is also a Junior Canadian Rangers program, which offers youth aged 12 to 18 the opportunity to acquire a wide range of skills and learn under Canadian Rangers’ supervision. Their activities help to preserve the culture, traditions and customs of their communities and foster good citizenship, community responsibility, personal health and welfare and increased self-esteem. Although Junior Canadian Rangers are taught the basics of marksmanship, they do not carry weapons.
Canadian Rangers have been equipped with the Canadian-manufactured Lee Enfield .303 since 1947 and WO Foster explains that its replacement includes many of the same features; an indication of the old warhorse’s enduring qualities.
Nonetheless, its advanced age means replacement parts are increasingly difficult to find and may even be altogether unavailable by 2017. Because of that, damaged rifles have had to be replaced entirely rather than repaired in recent years and stocks are near depletion.
[The Lee Enfield] proved its worth but it’s time for that rifle to retire,says WO Foster.It was an absolute necessity.
The .308 C-19 improves on the Lee Enfield in pure power, which is an important factor in the Rangers’ operational areas where the most present threat is from dangerous wild animals.
We really took that worst-case scenario into account in our testing,says WO Foster.We’ve tested the bullets with a surrogate target to make sure they’re going to have the stopping power. We wanted to make sure it’s more than enough to stop an angry polar bear. We’re confident the bullet will outperform the current .303.
The C-19’s quick acquisition sight, which was built by Sako specifically to meet Canadian Armed Forces requirements, will also help in this regard, allowing them to identify such threats early and quickly from up to 600 metres away.
It has a circular front sight housing that perfectly matches the aperture in the rear,WO Foster explains.When you bring the rifle to your shoulder, your eyes just automatically align to those circles. So you can take that sight picture very quickly.
The C-19 is also lighter, shorter and, says WO Foster,considerably more accurate.Itsrobustbarrel is thicker and more durable. Durability was, of course, a key consideration: The C-19 rifle was fired 8,000 times in testing without significant failures.And it continued to keep its high precision throughout those 8,000 rounds,he notes.
Parts that would be plastic on other hunting rifles are aluminum alloy on the C-19 because of cold temperature requirements. The rear sight, WO Foster says, isheavy-duty machined steel.
Testing was NATO standard for military rifles and also included salt water immersion, and heat, extreme cold and humidity testing.This is normal testing you would do for any military rifle, but this is a hunting rifle. It’s a far more robust hunting rifle than you would ever buy on the civilian market, that’s for sure,WOFoster says.
The Canadian Armed Forces’ Small Arms Modernization Project has been underway for the past five years. Rangers were surveyed to determine what they would like to see from a new weapon. More trials are planned and further feedback will be sought from Canadian Rangers to determine if more can be done to improve upon the prototype.
Overall, the feedback has been extremely positive,WO Foster says.[Canadian Rangers] were very happy with the rifle. We’re very comfortable issuing this rifle to the Canadian Rangers knowing we’ve done our due diligence to make sure it’s going to perform when it’s needed the most.
Fort Smith Ranger Sergeant Brenda Johnson, a member of the 1st Canadian Rangers Patrol Group for over 20 years, agrees that the C-19 is a welcome addition.
I actually really like it so far. I think it’s going to be a great rifle for us.
In addition to reduced recoil, Sgt Johnson says she appreciates the C-19’s oversized bolt handle, which makes the rifle easier to operate while wearing warm gloves. Its stock, she adds, can be adjusted to suit the user’s arm length.
While Sgt Johnson says she’d like to see some minor changes to the quick acquisition sight, she adds she finds the C-19a lot handier, more convenient.
I think, overall, the general opinion is that it is a very nice rifle; a nice addition, that’s for sure.
The Lee-Enfield pattern is one of the most sound and tried and true firearms in history. The basic action that would become the Lee-Enfield rifle was designed initially in the late 1870s by James Paris Lee, a Scotsman who emigrated to Canada, and later the United States as a grown man, and subsequently adopted in various forms by the US Navy and tested by the US Army. In 1888, a variant of this design, in a smallbore .303 caliber smokeless cartridge, and with an 8-round single stack magazine, was adopted as the Lee-Metford. Less than ten years later, the Lee-Metford would be replaced by the newer Lee-Enfield pattern, which had the 10-round double column magazine first implemented in the Mk. II Lee-Metford, and a new rifling pattern more well-adapted to smokeless ammunition*. The Lee-Enfield, going through virtually countless variations and changes would be produced into the 1950s, and continues to serve today, most significantly with the Canadian Rangers. Once the Rangers fully implement the C-19, the Lee-Enfield will remain an option for those Rangers wishing to stick to the old, venerable standby. With nearly 150 years of use, the Lee pattern continues to go strong.
The new Colt Canada C-19, however, looks to be a worth successor.
*According to Rob of britishmuzzleloaders, the Lee-Metford was designed for smokeless ammunition from the first, and the blackpowder .303 British ammunition was only an interim measure until it was soon replaced by the cordite-loaded round. Rob calls the blackpowder .303 ammunition “a red herring”, as many assume that since the initial ammunition was loaded with blackpowder, that the caliber and rifle were designed for that propellant, which is not the case.