Timeline: Weapons

1860 – The Enfield, as issued to the regiment in 1860, was of .577 calibre, muzzle loading, and with a three-groove barrel. It weighed almost nine pounds and a long sword could be fitted. The charge was fired by means of a percussion cap placed on a projection fitted with an ignition chamber leading to the powder. The ball or bullet, which was rammed down the muzzle, had a little iron cup in the hollowed base. On firing, the gases forced the cup into the bullet, thus giving a gas-tight fit which helped to give both range and accuracy. At best, though, its accuracy was limited. [2] p354

21 February 1867 – Old Enfield rifles and bayonets were returned to provincial stores at Toronto [1] p71

26 February 1867 – Battalion receives 600 Spencer repeating rifles. As the issue was only a temporary measure pending receipt of breech-loaders, the Imperial Government didn’t sanction the marking of the arms. [1] p71

One company of The Queen’s Own had used these rifles at Ridgeway in 1866. The Spencer was an American rifle, of .560 bore, and much used in the American Civil War. This weapon had a tube magazine placed in the butt. The trigger guard lever operated it falling block which loaded the cartridge into the breach. It had one bad defect. The heavy recoil drove the cartridges in the tube magazine back on one another. Sometimes the point of one cartridge fired the cap of the cartridge ahead and an explosion resulted. The box magazine, a later development, laid the cartridges, slightly staggered, one on top of the other. [2] p354

Spencer Repeating Rifle used (with limited ammunition) by Company No. 5 during the Fenian Raid of 1866 and issued to the whole battalion 16 March 1867.

6 March 1867 – “Spencers” issued to companies and the men instructed in their use [1] p71

14 June 1867 – General Orders stated that arrangements had been made for the exchange of the Spencer rifles for Snider Enfield breech-loading rifles. The order continued “The exchange will be made with the least possible delay, to effect which depots of these rifles and of ammunition for the same will be formed at Quebec, Montreal, Prescott, Kingston, Toronto and London, from whence district staff officers may draw to supply the corps in their several districts.” [1] p72

9 October 1867 – Weekly drill commenced for the year 1867-68 when the long Snider-Enfield rifles received the preceding month were issued. [1] p72

This became the standard rifle for many years. Many of these were Enfields adapted by cutting out a section of the barrel and fitting in a breech block which lifted and swung to the right. The percussion cup holder and ignition hole were part of the cover. The rifle was loaded by ramming the ball down the muzzle. The paper powder case was then opened and the charge positioned. The breech was closed; the cap placed; and the rifle was ready to fire. Later, a brass body cartridge was introduced; and an obliquely placed striker took the place of the ignition chamber and cap holder. The bore was still .577 inch; the bullet weighed 480 grains; the powder 70 grains. This gave a muzzle velocity of 1,240 feet per second. The lead bullet had a clay plug to give expansion. In 1877, the five grooved Short Snider-Enfield was introduced. [2] p354

1871 – In 1871 the British adopted the Martini-Henry rifle. The Martini-Henry was issued to The Royal Canadian Regiment but was not a general issue to the Militia. The bore was .450 inches and, in general, it was a more accurate rifle than the Snider-Enfield. The North-West Rebellion, 1885, brought out clearly that the Winchesters used by the rebels were better rifles than the Snider-Enfields used by the Militia. Ceaseless pressure was kept on Ottawa to bring about an improvement.

1897 – In England modifications continued with the box magazine, and the needle and bolt action of the Lee-Metford. Further modification produced the Lee-Enfield. The Queen’s Own were issued the long Lee-Enfield and the Maxim single barreled machine gun in 1897. The Maxim held the field until the Vickers and Lewis took over just before World War I. [2] p354

1902 – The short Lee-Enfield was adopted in 1902. The Lee-Enfield had the new .303 calibre; fired a 215-grain cupro-nickel covered bullet; and used only 30.5 grains of the new cordite. The muzzle velocity was 2,000 feet per second. Thus the rifle had less weight, less recoil, greater penetration and a flatter trajectory than the previous model. The increased accuracy was very marked. [2] p355

1910 – During 1910 the Canadian government equipped the Army with the Ross rifle. The Ross was a finely-machined target rifle but it could not stand service conditions. Rapid firing usually caused the extractors to fail. The troops, together with public opinion during World War I, forced the withdrawal of the Ross and the adoption of the short Lee-Enfield. [2] p355

1939 – The short Lee-Enfield was supplanted in 1939 by the No. 4 Mark 1*. This  too was .303 calibre, used a rim-fire cartridge and had a manually-operated bolt. The magazine was of the bolt type and held ten staggered rounds. It was claimed that the chief reason for replacing the S.M.L.E. was that it was not built for fine shooting. Bedding was required to stop barrel vibration. This statement is disputed by some, particularly the Australians. Australian marksmen still use [in 1960] the S.M.L.E. but equipped with a heavier barrel bedded in wood. It is true, however, that the No. 4 performed satisfactorily throughout World War II. [2] p355

1958 – By 1958 the Militia was using the Fabrique Nationale (FN) Browning. It was a light auto-rifle (LAR) of 7.62 mm or .300 calibre. It fired accurately as a single shot weapon and could be used as a semi-automatic. The FN was made in Canada and called the Cl. Eventually the C2, a fully automatic weapon, replaced the Bren. [2] p355

See also:

2 thoughts on “Timeline: Weapons”

  1. There are some errors in the description of the Spencer rifle. The .56-.50 Spencer was actually .50 calibre, not “.560 bore” as stated … Spencer cartridges were named in an unusual way – the first number (.56) actually refers to the decimal inch diameter of the cartridge case just ahead of the rim, the second (.50) refers to the actual calibre. (There was, in fact, a .56-.56 Spencer cartridge, but the rifles and carbines acquired by Canada in 1866 were all chambered for the .56-.50 cartridge.) The other significant error is the statement: “Sometimes the point of one cartridge fired the cap of the cartridge ahead and an explosion resulted.” This is, in fact, an impossibility with the rimfire cartridges used in the Spencer – they were NOT centerfire and thus did not have a “cap”(primer) that could be detonated by the bullet nose of a following cartridge. (This hazard IS a possibility in tube-magazine firearms using centerfire cartridges with pointed bullets, but was NOT a problem for the Spencer.)

  2. 1958 – The proper name of the weapon was the FNC1A1. 7.62mm translates to .308 caliber. The term LAR (light automatic rifle) refers to the FNC2A1, not the C1.

We welcome your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"