A Tale Of Two Rifles
The wait is almost over for the replacement of the bolt-action Lee-Enfield No. 4 wielded by the Canadian Rangers since the reserve unit formed in 1947. Its successor is the C19, a .308 magazine-fed rifle designed to function in the extreme weather conditions faced by the Rangers patrolling Northern Canada. The C19 is more powerful and has a longer range (600 metres) than the Lee-Enfield. Ranger sergeant Allen Pogotak, a 23-year veteran based in Ulukhaktok, NWT, tested the C19 in Inuvik in 2015 ahead of its expected widespread distribution in 2019. “It’s smooth and very accurate,” he says. “It’ll make things easier.” Here’s how:
The Lee-Enfield’s cold weather durability is one reason it has remained in service for so long. Although the C19 stock is not solid wood (like the Lee-Enfield), it is made of wood laminate and not plastic. “A synthetic stock would not work,” says warrant officer Bruce Dowe, an instructor with 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in Yellowknife. “It’s too damn cold. It would break in no time.”
The larger trigger guard is a winter weather modification designed to make it easier for Rangers to shoot while wearing gloves—or, at least, wearing the liners in their gloves. “But some guys shoot with bare hands,” says Dowe. “They’re pretty tough.” The bolt-action C19 uses a two-stage trigger (this requires an extra pull to fire) to improve long-distance accuracy.
The C19, weighing about four kilograms, is shorter and lighter than the Lee-Enfield. “Any Ranger that touched it liked the size of it,” Dowe says. “It was tested for the ergonomics of how it’s carried while they’re on snowmobiles and quads and how it’s slung over the shoulder.” A bolt-action rifle has fewer moving parts, which improves reliability in the cold. (The C19’s range is -51 C to 39 C.) Stainless steel used for the barrel and other parts will slow down corrosion caused by humidity and saltwater climates.
The military is running out of spare parts to fix the Lee-Enfield—even cannibalizing older rifles for parts—and the wait for repairs can take months. “We had no weapons techs in the North so everything had to be sent down south. Now, every instructor, when they are trained, will be fully qualified (to repair the C19),” Dowe says.