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

    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


    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]