Articles

This was the world's longest-serving modern military rifle in active service

In 2015, the standard issue service rifle for the Canadian Rangers got a much-needed upgrade. They were finally able to put away their well-worn Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifles, which were first issued in 1941.


A Canadian Ranger protecting mining facilities. (Department of National Defence photo)

Canada's Rangers are a reserve unit that operates in the Canadian Arctic. It's made up of 5,000 of Canada's finest outdoorsmen and features a roster of heavily Inuit and other First Nations peoples. They conduct sovereignty patrols and maintain early warning system sites, giving Canada a military presence in the increasingly militarized (but still desolate) Arctic areas.

Star Marualik, a Canadian Ranger with 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group coaches a soldier from the Arctic Response Company Group's 2 Platoon during range day in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for Operation Nanook 10 on Aug. 15, 2010. Operation NANOOK is one of three major recurring sovereignty operations conducted annually by the Canadian Forces (CF) in Canada's Arctic. (Department of National Defence photo)

Related: How the US is losing the war in the Arctic before it even begins >

Naturally, the wilderness areas of the frozen north aren't the safest places in which to be casually hiking around. That's why the Canadian Rangers exist.

In their day-to-day mission, they need a service weapon that can handle temperatures below -58 degrees, resist saltwater corrosion, and still take down a polar bear from 300 meters.

(Radio Canada photo by Levon Sevunts)

That's why it took 68 years to replace their Lee-Enfields.

First formed in 1947, the Canadian Rangers' intimate knowledge of their home turf allows them to act as guides and trainers for special forces units. During World War II, the Lee-Enfield was the standard issue rifle for British and Commonwealth troops. After the war, the abundance of the rifles made it easy to equip new units with the rifle.

Other firearms can make similar claims. The U.S. Marines still use the M1911 pistol. Taliban weapons caches have been found to contain Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles from 1915. Mosin-Nagant rifles used by insurgents from Chechnya to Syria to Iraq were made by the Tsarist Russian Empire in 1882. But the Lee-Enfield No. 4 was the longest-serving modern military rifle issued by a government for its armed forces.

See Also: Rebels in Syria fought with rare, expensive Nazi-made rifles >

Now that the Lee-Enfield No.4 has been replaced, they will be offered to the public for sale, donated to museums, and individual Rangers will even be allowed to purchase their service rifle.

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