New rifles for Canadian Rangers will be phased in starting in 2017

In Whitehorse, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced more details about new rifles for the Canadian Rangers that will replace the aging Lee-Enfields.

Ottawa signs $32.8 million contract with Colt Canada to manufacture 6,820 rifles

Defence minister Harjit Sajjan addressed a group of Rangers and soldiers at Rotary Park in Whitehorse Friday. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The military "got it right" choosing a new rifle for the Canadian Rangers, according to Carcross, Yukon, patrol commander Sgt. Steve Hahn.

Hahn was one of several dozen Rangers and army soldiers at a news conference with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in Whitehorse Friday. 

The summer, the government signed a $32.8 million contract with Colt Canada to manufacture 6,820 rifles. The guns will be distributed to the Rangers starting in early 2017 and phased in over three years, until they are fully equipped in 2019.

The new rifle for the Canadian Rangers, the C-19, has red markings that will make it highly visible. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The guns were designed by Finnish gunmaker, Sako Tikka Rifle, but will be made at a plant in Kitchener, Ont., which is expected to hire an additional 30 people for the job. 

The design was modified after testing in the field, said Hahn.

"It has been tweaked to our needs and has been thoroughly tested both in the lab, in colder environs, as well as out on the land," he said. "It performs very well after being in the back of a sled or qamutik, and fires every time you pull the trigger."

The new rifle has a number of advantages over the aging Lee-Enfield rifles it will replace, Hahn said.

"It's lighter, easier to handle, and for me as a left-handed shooter, I'm able to manipulate the bolt a lot easier than with the older rifle."

Hahn added, the new guns are adjustable which will allow each gun to be adjusted for the Rangers' physical dimensions. That had become a problem with the Lee-Enfield rifles, he said.

"The parts are not made any more, haven't been made since 1954, and as a result you know some of the shorter-statured Rangers had trouble with the longer stocked rifles," said Hahn.

Carcross Ranger Patrol Commander Sgt. Steve Hahn says the military 'got it right' in the choice of a new rifle. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The main role of the rifles is for protection from predators, he said, and the new guns will do that more efficiently and more reliably, he added.

The gun stocks also have distinctive red markings, which makes them highly visible to other soldiers and police officers, said Minister Sajjan, who also paid tribute to the Rangers.

"When you see the Rangers in action and how they connect with the local community and how important they are as our eyes and ears on the ground, you can't help but feel tremendous pride."

Hahn said the bolt action magazine-fed rifle is called a C-19 by the Canadian military and fires a 7.62 x 51 mm round or a civilian .308 Winchester cartridge.

The minister was in the territory for the wrap-up of the annual Operation Nanook military exercise.