The Hay River Canadian Ranger Patrol has received its long-awaited new rifles.
The C-19 Ranger Rifles were presented during training and shooting practice from May 2-6.
The new rifles will replace the .303-calibre Lee-Enfield Mark 4 Rifle, which Canadian Rangers have used since 1947.
The C-19 is a specially-designed .308-calibre, bolt-action rifle that is more robust and can perform reliably in temperatures below freezing, which is essential to members of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group who work and live in Canada’s North.
Master Corporal Kevin Lafferty likes the new rifle.
“It’s smooth. It’s updated. It’s well-balanced,” he said. “It’s well thought out for the purposes of the Ranger.”
Lafferty even said Canadian Rangers are happy that it’s taken so long to get the new rifle because it has gone through so many hands to make it right.
The master corporal has been a member of the Hay River Ranger Patrol since it was formed almost 10 years ago.
Lafferty will be keeping his Lee-Enfield, under a program that will allow Rangers to retain the rifle if they meet a number of strict licensing, safety and security conditions.
“I use it all the time hunting,” he noted.
Corporal Kayla Hoff also hopes to be able to keep her Lee-Enfield rifle, noting it would be a piece of history.
“I mean it’s old, but it works,” she said of her rifle, which is from the 1950s.
Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Halfkenny of Yellowknife, the commanding officer of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group across Canada’s North, said the new rifle has been designed specifically for Canadian Rangers.
“You can tell from the red stock, and the Ranger crest on it,” he said.
The C-19 Rifle – built by Colt Canada – underwent rigourous cold-weather testing in the development and design phase, and was field tested by Canadian Rangers.
Among other things, the bolt handle is bigger and it has a large trigger guard which can be used while a Ranger is wearing gloves.
Halfkenny was on hand for the introduction of the new rifles in Hay River.
“I’m very happy that the rifle is getting issued,” he said.
“We’re just starting the process,” he added. “April was the first month that we started actually issuing. So it’s about six communities that are done so far.”
That means the Hay River Canadian Ranger Patrol, which includes 32 members in the town and on the Hay River Reserve, is among the first in the North to receive the new rifles.
“This is going to be a long process,” said Halfkenny. “It’s probably going to take almost three years to issue across the territories.”
It’s not just a simple matter of handing out the new rifles to members of a patrol.
There are safety, reliability and training requirements, along with background checks, that have to be completed for each Canada Ranger to receive a new rifle.
“The C-19 is also used by other elements in the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Halfkenny. “While it is a hunting rifle for the purposes of Rangers, it is still a Canadian Armed Forces weapon system. So they’ve established gateways. So this training that they’re undergoing is part of that gateway. They have to learn safe handling from a Canadian Armed Forces safety perspective and complete a personal weapons test on a range before we’ll issue them the rifle.”
Search and rescue personnel will also be issued the rifle, and it will be used to train snipers.
Halfkenny noted the rifles are not being issued to the Canadian Rangers for any military purpose in the North.
“They’re all there as the community link and a Canadian Armed Forces presence – call it an early-warning presence,” he said. “The Rangers are the best ones who know when something is out of place in the Arctic, absolutely the best people. They know the land.”
Halfkenny added Canadian Rangers also assist civil authorities with such things as ground search and rescue.