The term Service Rifle is used to refer to the main battle implement used by the Canadian Army in the 20th Century; all soldiers regardless of trade or function received initial training in the use of the service rifle.
Any discussion of Service Rifles used by the Canadian Army in the 20th Century must recognize the following:
Lee Enfield Mark I
Canada entered the 20th Century with the first of the Lee Enfield series of rifles with which it would be armed for the next 60 years (and with which the Canadian Rangers would remain armed well beyond that time). Canada purchased some 40,000 of the Mark I in the late 1800s and used them in South Africa during the Boer War. This weapon replaced the Lee Metfords beginning in about 1896. The new Lee Enfield had been adopted due to advances in bullet technology; the new cordite rounds developed by the British, which replaced the older black powder rounds that gave off much smoke when fired, also caused excessive wear of the Lee Metford's rifled barrel.
Clive Law of Service Publications offers an interesting piece of trivia from his files; soldiers of the first contingent to go to South Africa were permitted to keep their rifles when they returned. Later contingents - recruited in Canada but paid by the British War Office - were not so permitted.
According to John Cameron, numbers of Snider Enfields and Martini Henrys remained on inventory in Militia units until at least 1901. Mark I and Mark I* Carbines were also obtained and used in South Africa by Canadian units.
Ross Mark I and Ross Mark II
In November 1911, the first orders had been placed for the new Mark III, but by the end of July 1914 only 3,863 of the initial 10,000 gun order had been delivered. Some 20,000 more rifles had been ordered in April 1914 and May 1914. When war began in August, the Militia ordered 30,000 more Ross Mark III rifles to equip the 1st Canadian Division.
While the Ross went on to be a good target shooting weapon, given the proper ammunition and the ability to keep the weapon clean, it had significant failings as a standard service rifle. The bolt of the Mark III Ross could be inserted into the weapon incorrectly, causing it to blow back into the firer's face, and jamming was a frequent problem when the weapon became dirty or used British made ammunition. In the hands of a sniper, the Ross was deadly, and was often used in this role. Infantrymen as early as the 2nd Battle of Ypres in April 1915 (the first divisional commitment of Canadian troops to battle) abandoned the Ross on an individual basis and acquired British Lee Enfields to replace them. In June 1915 the 1st Division officially replaced the rifle with British-made SMLEs.
The 1910 model of the Ross, the Mark III, can be identified by its serrated locking lugs, a protruding magazine forward of the trigger guard, and a receiver mounted sight very similar to the rear sight later used on the Number 4 Lee-Enfield. This rifle was also the first Ross to have a charger bridge, enabling the use of stripper clips.
The rifle could also be fitted with a barbed wire cutter.
Large numbers of SMLEs entered Canadian service "unofficially" when troops in France and Flanders salvaged weapons from British casualties. The Number III Mark I became the official rifle of the CEF in 1916; these rifles were made in England. The 1st Division had already made this change in June 1915.
The MkIII* rifles lacked the volley sights, magazine cutoffs, and windage adjustable rear sights that the earlier Mk III rifle had. Some may have been equipped with barbed wire cutters.
In 1928, the additional designation "Number 1" was added to the weapon, now becoming known as the Number 1 Mark III. The weapon remained in use until 1943, being used in action in Hong Kong and at Dieppe. Troops landing in Sicily in July 1943 were equipped with the newer No. 4 Mk. I.
Canadian troops in Canada and England also trained with the P14 Enfield, with some P17 Enfields also being used in Canada.
Canadian troops took the No. 4 Mk I into action for the first time on Sicily in July 1943, and the weapon remained in service in all theatres throughout the war. The weapon was once again taken into action in Korea, officially, between 1951 and 1953. During both of these conflicts, Canada also used a variety of American weapons; in World War Two US Springfield rifles were used in Canada for training purposes alongside various other weapons. In Korea, some infantry battalions unofficially replaced up to half of their small arms complements with US weapons such as the M-1 carbine, because of the serious firepower discrepancies between SMG armed Chinese infantry units and Canadian units still using the Second World War organization of a ten man infantry section armed primarily with the bolt action Lee Enfield.
The Lee Enfield Number 4 Mark I* was produced in Canada by Long Branch.
The Lee Enfield Number 4 MkI* had a simplified rear sight.
The Lee Enfield Number 4 Mk I remained in service as the primary weapon of the Canadian Rangers right through to the end of the 20th Century and beyond.
A Number 5 Lee Enfield (known as the Jungle Carbine) was also produced in limited numbers and saw equally limited use by Canadian troops.
The FN was the first semi-automatic weapon to be adopted by the Canadian Army, who was also the first NATO country to adopt this robust Belgian weapon which later saw service in militaries around the world. Heavy and firing a large (7.62mm) cartridge, the FN was much liked and respected by many soldiers who used it, and its replacement in the 1980s by the C7 (with its much smaller round) was a point of contention among many "old soldiers" who preferred the heavy FN.
A fully automatic version called the C1D was used by naval boarding parties. These weapons were fitted with a change lever and trigger plunger from the automatic C2 version, though without the C2's heavy barrel and bipod. The rifle was identified with a large A on the side of the butt near the rear sight, painted in either red or white. Some C1Ds were eventual placed in service with land force units.
The FN was produced by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium, and the Canadian FN was produced under license by Canadian Arsenals Limited (CAL) (Long Branch). An "Arctic trigger" on Canadian weapons allowed the trigger guard to be removed so the weapon could be fired with heavy mitts on.
In the centre, Private Shane Goodman of The North Saskatchewan Regiment photographed during Exercise On Guard 90, held in Wainwright, Alberta, in a photo originally published in The Prairie Fire (Magazine of Prairie Militia Area) May 1991. At right Sergeant Ed Storey of the Canadian Military Engineers poses with an early C7 rifle in Croatia in 1994. Photo at far left also from the Ed Storey collection.
The C7 was the first fully automatic weapon issued to Canadians as a standard service rifle. The C7 offered many distinct improvements over the American M16 on which it was modeled and was produced in Canada by Diemaco of Kitchener, Ontario.
Some of the major changes to the American weapon were full automatic capability as opposed to 3 round burst, one extra twist to the rifling for improved accuracy, and plastic better able to withstand arctic conditions. The C7 was originally equipped with plastic "disposable" magazines, but since they were not produced in quantities high enough to allow them to be truly disposable (and reusing them caused wear to the easily broken plastic lips) the plastic magazines were eventually disposed of and replaced with a metal US-designed 30 round magazine.
The C7A1 was the first major change to the basic production model, most notably replacing the iron sight/carrying handle with a C79 3x optical sight manufactured by Elcan as shown at right. The weapon could also mount an AN PAQ 4 laser pointer or Night Image Intensification Sight (Kite Sight).
A carbine version of the C7 modeled after similar American weapons like the Colt Commando and the M4 was known as the C8, and featured a shortened barrel/fore stock and collapsing butt.
A variety of other rifles were employed in the Second World War, such as older Ross rifles as well as American P17s and even Springfield 1903 rifles.
Canadian troops serving under American command in the Second World War - such as the 13th Canadian Brigade in the Aleutians, the members of the First Special Service Force, or the Canadian Army Pacific Force - all trained with and carried US Army weapons. In Korea again, some Canadian battalions equipped themselves to a large degree with US weapons, the M1 carbine being especially popular among Canadians.
At right is a photo of a Canadian coming ashore on Kiska carrying an M1 carbine. Note also the US steel helmet - Canadians were outfitted to a large part by the Americans for this operation. The uniform is Canadian.
|Lee Enfield Mk I||Ross||SMLE||No. 4 Mk I||FN C1/C1A1||C7/C7A1|
|Magazine||10 rd box a.||5 rd box b.||10 rd box c.||10 rd box c.||20 round detachable box||30 round detachable box|
|Action and operation||Bolt||Bolt, straight pull||Bolt||Bolt||Semi-auto, gas||Semi and full auto, gas|
|Weight||4.3kg/9.48lbs||4.48kg/9.875lbs||3.92kg/8.625lbs||4.99kg/11lbs w bayonet and full mag||4.66kg/10.25lbs loaded|
|Barrel length||766 mm/30.15 in||640 mm/25.2 in||640 mm/25.2 in||530 mm/20.87 in|
|Rifle length||128.3 cm/50.5 in||113.2 cm/44.57 in||113.2 cm/44.57 in||
|Grenade launcher||none||none||cup discharger||Inerga launcher||grenade launcher||external M203 under forestock|
|Rate of Fire||12 - 15 aimed rpm||12 - 15 aimed rpm||700 - 940 rpm|
|Muzzle Velocity||2600 fps/792 m/s||2440 fps||2440 fps|
a. reloaded singly as no chargers existed
b. Mark III was charger fed
c. charger fed