When the Canadian Rangers patrol the remote Arctic tundra, they’ve long done so with the .303 Lee-Enfield rifle. But soon the historic weapons will finally be phased out.
“The Lee-Enfield isn’t the only piece of World War Two-era hardware that’s still in use around the world in 2015. Here are some other examples.”
A British soldier with a Lee-Enfield rifle, 1944.
AFTER 120 YEARS IN SERVICE, the venerable Lee-Enfield .303 rifle’s days may finally be numbered.
The mainstay of British and Commonwealth armies from 1895 up to and beyond the Second World War, the beloved bolt-action rifle eventually gave way to newer semi-automatic assault weapons. Yet despite its obsolescence, a number of militaries maintained the antiquated long-arm long well into the Post War period — and some even into the 21st Century!
The Canadian Rangers, a civilian militia force that patrols the remote Arctic, has been equipping its volunteers with surplus Enfield No. 4 model rifles since 1947, largely because the weapons were cheap, plentiful and (above all) reliable — particularly in the brutal climate of the far north.
But according to a 2014 Globe and Mail article, the Rangers will finally be retiring the vintage rifle in the coming year – a shortage of replacement parts has sealed the Enfield’s fate.
“While Rangers are given rifles in pristine condition (new from the box), Canada’s stock is diminishing and a replacement needs to be identified,” says a government memo quoted by the newspaper.
When the Rangers finally do mothball their ancient .303s, the only remaining users, aside from sport shooters and collectors, will be a handful of police forces in Bangladesh and India.
Amazingly, the Lee-Enfield isn’t the only piece of World War Two-era hardware that’s still in use around the world in 2015. Here are some other examples:
In 1942, the United States Marine Corps adopted now-iconic the seven-inch Ka-Bar utility knife. It continued to issue them well into the 21st Century. The weapon is also popular with civilian hunters, hikers and sportsmen. Here, a U.S. Marine in Iraq probes the sand with a Ka-Bar. (Image source: Dept. of Defense)
Once the scourge of GIs fighting in the Normandy Bocage country, the German MG-42 machine gun was upgraded in the 1950s and reissued as under the designation M3. Still in use in the German and Austrian armies, the well-known general-purpose machine gun (GPMG) is manufactured under license in Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey. Pakistan and Iran are also among the present-day users of the M3. Here, Austrians troops train with an M3 during a NATO exercise. (Image source: U.S. Army)
Sweden’s AB Bofors manufacturing company flooded the world with its famous rapid-fire 40-mm anti-aircraft gun prior to the Second World War; it was widely used throughout the conflict by both the Allies and the Axis. Production continued after the war and since 2005, modernized derivatives of the Bofors gun have been manufactured by BAE Systems. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
The M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun was adopted by the United States in 1933; 82 years later, it’s still going strong. In total, more than three million have been manufactured. At least 20 different firms have produced the 80-lb. “Ma Deuce” on contract over the years for the U.S. and its allies, including Colt Arms, General Motors and the Springfield Armory. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Conceived in the early 1920s by American gunsmith John Browning, the 9-mm Hi-Power 13-shot, semi-automatic pistol was manufactured by Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal (FN) in 1935 and later under license by other firms. A popular weapon among the Allied armies during World War Two, FN began producing the pistol for the Axis as well after the Nazi occupation. Following the war, it was adopted by the armed forces of more than 93 nations and is still widely used to this day. Here, Canadian troops train with the Browning Hi-Power. (Image source: Canadian Forces)
Originally designed to carry 12-man rifle squads into battle, modified versions of the M3 half-track also served as self-propelled howitzers, anti-aircraft vehicles and mobile command and control units. Dozens of countries used the M3 in the Post War period including West Germany, Portugal, South Korea, Pakistan and Israel, while surplus M3s are still in service with the armies of both Peru and Senegal. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
The ubiquitous Colt M1911 .45-caliber pistol has seen action everywhere the U.S. military has fought for the past century — from the trenches of the Western Front to the mountains of Afghanistan. Although eclipsed in recent years by more modern side-arms, upgraded variants are still widely used by in the American military. In 2012, the U.S. Marines ordered 12,000 brand-new pistols based on the classic Model 1911. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
More than 25,000 M3 and M5 Stuart or “Honey” tanks were built in the U.S. between 1941 and 1944. The thin-skinned fighting vehicle carried a modest 37-mm main gun and two .30-caliber machine guns (which incidentally are also still in use in a number of armies). Although largely obsolete from the very day production began, the Stuart served in a number of armies of the developing world well into the Post War period. Surplus tanks were sold off to a number of Latin American powers. As recently as 2012, the Paraguayan Army maintained a handful of models. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Russian armouries produced a staggering 37 million Mosin Nagant bolt-action rifles since the model was first introduced in 1891. The weapon was standard issue for infantrymen in the Red Army during World War Two and was later exported to Soviet client states and communist guerrilla movements for much of the Cold War. Millions are still in circulation. Most recently, the antiquated rifles have shown up in news footage coming out of both Syria and Ukraine. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Although initially developed by the Soviets to hammer Nazis on the Eastern Front, modern derivatives of the famous Katyusha can still be seen in the news. In 2006, Hezbollah units in Lebanon fired 4,000 M-21 Katyusha-style rockets into Israel. Palestinian militants in Gaza fired salvo after salvo into the Jewish state as recently as 2014. The IDF retaliated last summer by bombarding the small territory. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Perhaps one of the finest tanks of the Second World War, the Soviet T-34 was distributed far and wide by Moscow during the Cold War and is still in the inventories of a number of powers. Current operators include North Korea, Namibia, Mozambique, Yemen and Bulgaria. Here, a restored T-34 takes part in a World War Two reenactment. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
The American-made M114 155-mm howitzer first saw action in 1942 and continued to serve through Korea and Vietnam. The gun was widely exported to U.S. allies and still remains in use in Pakistan, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Taiwan, South Korean, Philippines and Brazil. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)