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General Douglas McArthur made famous an U.S. Army balled when he quoted the refrain, “Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away.” That certainly seems to hold true in regards to the Lee-Enfield.
For some time now, it has been known the venerable British bolt-action rifle was going to take another step in disappearing from military service completely. Canada has been discussing switching its Rangers over from the No. 4 Mk1 since 2011, but things have picked up in recent months.
Colt Canada was selected to design the new rifle last fall for the force and will have a batch of 125 ready to be tested at the 2015 Operation Nanook training exercises. After which, the new platform will be phased in from over the next few years. Here are the specifics about the move from The Globe and Mail:
After testing and tweaks, Colt Canada will then make more than 6,500 rifles, along with spare parts and accessories, which the Canadian Rangers will gradually start to use between the middle of next year (2015) and the end of 2019.
The new rifle is expected to be similar to the Lee-Enfield, especially in one particular design feature – it is reported to be a bolt-action. This is important, given the Rangers usual area of operation.
The Rangers are a Canadian Forces reserve whose main duties are sovereignty patrols and surveillance in the country’s sparsely populated northern regions. These volunteers – many Inuit – operate in and around the Artic Circle.
Bolt-action rifles provide the Rangers with a robust platform that functions no matter what in the sub-zero conditions. That’s a piece of mind for the reservists, whether the they have to face down potential invaders or a rogue polar bear.
The switch is being made from the Lee-Enfield, mainly due to the lack of replace parts and rifles. The .303 British chambered rifles were purchased in 1947, according to the Metro News, a few years after the Rangers were formed.
Amazingly, Rangers, up to this day, were outfitted from this batch. For any gun enthusiasts, the thought of pristine, unfired Lee-Enfields, in their original boxes is enough to send the mind reeling.
There is no word if there will be any surplus Lee-Enfield rifles available, but here's to hoping.