The Canadian military is looking to replace its Second World War-era handguns but it could take up to 10 years for all of the new pistols to be distributed to the troops.
Replacing the 1940s-era Browning handguns has been on the Department of National Defence’s procurement list for years.
But now the purchase of new guns appears to be moving ahead.
Still the Canadian Forces figures if the purchase is approved – and there are no delays – it won’t have all the new pistols in hand and being used until 2026.
The military plans to conduct a survey later this year to determine what the role of handguns might be in the future Canadian Forces.
Last year army procurement officers briefed industry representatives about their quest for a new pistol. Industry officials were told that between 15,000 and 25,000 handguns are needed and the military estimated the project would cost around $50 million, according to documents recently obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.
That price-tag would include extra parts and related equipment.
Canada’s general service pistol is currently the 9mm Browning Hi-Power, which came into service in the later part of the Second World War, according to the Canadian Army documents prepared for industry. The guns have been refurbished over the years.
A smaller number of SIG P225 pistols were acquired in 1991 and are in the hands of military police and Royal Canadian Navy boarding teams.
The wear and tear on the Brownings have whittled numbers down to 13,981; of those 1,243 are in the process of disassembled for spare parts, in order to keep the other guns going until a replacement can be found, army spokeswoman Capt. Valérie Lanouette explained to the Ottawa Citizen in an email in November.
“The operations in Afghanistan have only accelerated the rate of non-serviceable pistols,” she added.
Production on the SIG P225 ended in 2009 so some of those existing firearms will have to be cannibalized for parts as well, the army noted.
Later this year or sometime early next year a nation-wide survey will be conducted in the Canadian Forces about the future of pistols and “to define the general concept of employment,” the military says.
Sometime in 2019 or 2020 the requirements for a new gun will be defined and then by 2022 the military will seek approval from the federal government to proceed with a purchase of a new general service pistol or GSP.
“If the project timeline is not delayed, the delivery of the GSP could start in fiscal year 2022-2023 and full operational capability could be reached by 2026,” Lanouette pointed out.
Industry representatives have privately questioned why Canada would take so long to buy a new pistol, noting that the process could be completed in about a year or two at most.
The Browning Hi-Power is one of the most widely used military pistols and is still in service in other countries.
Civilian gun stores sell a new version of the gun for a little over $1,000 each. Some dealers who specialize in military collectibles are charging $4,200 for a 1940s-era Browning Hi-Power in excellent condition.
“The Canadian Army is committed to supporting an efficient, cost effective and transparent procurement process in order to have the right tools in the right hands at the right time,” Lanouette noted in her email.
Canadian special forces use another model of the Sig pistol but there are also problems with finding certain spare parts because those components are no longer being manufactured, according to the Canadian Forces.