Canadian Rangers Compete with Historic .303 Rifle for Last Time

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Master Corporal Donny Sutherland, right, runs from one shooting position to another in a competition.
Master Corporal Donny Sutherland, right, runs from one shooting position to another in a competition.

by Sgt. Peter Moon
OTTAWA – An eight-member team of Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario shot against some of the best military marksmen in Canada and “did well using their .303 Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles, which were being used in a national shooting competition for the last time,” according to their team captain.

The team competed in the two-week-long Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration (CAFSAC) at the historic Connaught Ranges, near Ottawa. The annual competition attracted 450 shooters and support staff from the Canadian Armed Forces and teams from Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Master Corporal Donny Sutherland, right, runs from one shooting position to another in a competition.
Master Corporal Donny Sutherland, right, runs from one shooting position to another in a competition.

“A lot of the Rangers from across Canada were happy to show off their .303 Ranger rifles for the last time to members of the Canadian Armed Forces and members of the teams representing other nations,” said Warrant Officer Ben Kirke. “It’s the last year the rifles will be used at CAFSAC. Next year all the Rangers will be competing with the new C-19 Ranger rifle.”

Corporal Jordan Ayearst fires the Australian army's Steyre AUG assault rifle.
Corporal Jordan Ayearst fires the Australian army’s Steyre AUG assault rifle.

The Lee-Enfield has been used by the Rangers since 1947 and is in the process of being replaced by the C-19, a specially designed, .308 bolt action rifle.

The Rangers allowed soldiers at the competition an opportunity to fire their .303 rifles and were allowed to shoot the soldiers’ weapons.

“There was tremendous interest in our rifles from both the Canadian troops and members of the teams from other countries,” said Corporal Jordan Ayearst, a Ranger and hunter from Moose Factory, a small Cree community on James Bay. “But we were as excited to see their modern technology in the way of their weapons as they were to see our Lee-Enfields. A lot of them were familiar with automatic weapons but they’d never fired a bolt action rifle before.”

Corporal Jordan Ayearst holds an Australian Steyr AUG assault rifle while Sergeant Tom Squires of the Australian Defence Force holds a Canadian Ranger .303 bolt action rifle.
Corporal Jordan Ayearst holds an Australian Steyr AUG assault rifle while Sergeant Tom Squires of the Australian Defence Force holds a Canadian Ranger .303 bolt action rifle.

He had read about the Steyr AUG assault rifle used by the Australian Defence Force and had always wanted to fire one. “(Sergeant) Tom Squires of the Australian team let me shoot with his and I let him shoot with my Lee-Enfield,” he said. 

The Rangers had opportunities during the meet to shoot with pistols, sniper rifles, assault rifles, and light machine guns. 

 “CAFSAC was everything I hoped it would be,” Corporal Ayearst said. “It was a great experience. “I learned from the training we did before we got here and I learned from being here. I go home a better shot.”

The team members from Northern Ontario were Ranger Hondy Atlookan from Eabametoong, Corporal Jordan Ayearst from Moose Factory, Ranger Leonard Beaver from Webequie, Ranger Zedekiah Brisket from Wunnumin, Ranger Kyle Linklater from Peawanuck, Ranger Jerome Mack, from Peawanuck, Ranger Cindy Suganaqueb from Webequie, and Master Corporal Donny Sutherland from Constance Lake.

Corporal Jordan Ayearst of Moose Factory fires his .303 Lee-Enfield Ranger rifle in a competition shoot.
Corporal Jordan Ayearst of Moose Factory fires his .303 Lee-Enfield Ranger rifle in a competition shoot.
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Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. Canadian Rangers are army reservists who provide a military presence in Canada's remote and isolated regions, including Northern Ontario. They provide skilled assistance in emergencies such as searches, plane crashes, forest fires, and floods. They also operate the Junior Canadian Rangers, a youth programme for boys and girls aged 12 to 18.