The Canadian Rangers have guarded their homeland’s northernmost reaches since before the Second World War. These dedicated volunteers, sometimes known as the Arctic Rangers, once protected North America’s most remote regions from possible invasion, and now they serve as the Canadian military’s foremost scouts, guides, and wilderness survival experts.
Rangers are also expected to be self-reliant, which may explain why the force hadn’t started seeking a replacement for its storied and reliable service rifle, the bolt-action Lee-Enfield No. 4, until 2011. Last week the Canadian government announced that the search for a new rifle to fit the Rangers’ ever-evolving role had finally progressed to the field trial stage.
“Today there are approximately 5000 Canadian Rangers living in over 200 communities. Given the critical role the Canadian Rangers play in the safety and security of our Northern communities, and the sovereignty of our North, they require well-functioning reliable supplies and equipment,” stated a government press release. “Rifles are critical tools for the rangers’ work. The model currently used is the Lee Enfield. While the stock of rifles now in use are excellent tools for an Arctic environment, their replacement parts are becoming less available and may be completely unavailable after 2017. The Government of Canada is therefore replacing the Lee Enfields with modern rifles to meet the Canadian Rangers’ needs into the future.”
One of those rifles may is a customized SAKO T3 CTR chambered in .308 Winchester. Suitable against both aggressive wildlife and human threats, the new rifle is seen by some as a significant move up from the Lee-Enfield, which some consider outdated compared to modern firearms. The new rifles will be produced under license by Colt Canada. The Canadian government expects an order of more than 6,500 rifles after testing is complete, and the rifle will be phased into full use between 2016 and 2019.
“The New Canadian Ranger Rifle (NCRR) will be used by Canadian Rangers (CR) while patrolling some of the most remote regions of coastal, central and northern areas of Canada,” stated Colt Canada in a release. “The temperatures will reach as high as +39C with moderate to high humidity along coastal and forested regions and as low as -51C in arctic regions. For those CRs located in coastal areas, it is likely that the NCRR will be exposed to long term salt laden air and water. The NCRR will be transported by the CR on foot, wheeled commercial vehicles, skidoos, sleds, small boats and all-terrain vehicles. It must remain operable during and following exposure to these environments.”
It may be hard for some Rangers to part with their old rifles. First adopted by the British Army in 1895, the Lee-Enfield rifle is still in use by many military and police forces today, which makes it one of the longest serving bolt-action rifles in history. Its reliability in arctic conditions made it a favorite of the Canadian Rangers—so much so that the rifle is even included in the Rangers’ crest, seen below.