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The future of infantry arms is at Colt Canada.

I have seen the future, and it is good. I found it at Colt Canada.

About two years ago, Colt USA (yes, of cowboy pistol fame) purchased the 44,000 square-foot Diemaco operation where Canada's C7s are made. Diemaco, now Colt Canada, is, by Order-in-Council, Canada's small arms center of excellence. Colt Canada is one of five companies designated as vital to Canada's national interest, according to company spokesman Francis Bleeker. Presently, Colt Canada has approximately 100 employees and does about $25 million in annual sales. Colt is Canada's one-stop shop for infantry small arms and accessories.

Besides Canada's military, Colt Canada is allowed to sell its products and services to Canadian police forces and to the national governments of countries on a "white list" given Colt by the Canadian government, according to Mr. Bleeker. Arms merchants and private individuals (like myself) are out of luck.

Colt Canada prides itself on the quality of firearm it turns out. Its hammer-forged barrels are match-grade quality right off the line. After chroming, the barrels have a life of at least 20,000 rounds. In an exceptional test, a weapon ran for 60,000 rounds. Between superior metallurgy and machining processes, and with a dash of Canadian engineering,

the Colt Canada factory turns out an M-16 style of firearm that is more tolerant of ammunition variances, and is more accurate and more reliable than one made anywhere else, according to spokesmen.

Presently, Colt is embarking on an upgrade program for Canada's basic infantry arm. The infantryman's personal weapon, the C7A1, is about to undergo a midlife upgrade into the C7A2. The changes are all about making the rifle more tactically practical.

The forestock, pistol grip, and buttstock are going to be replaced with green-coloured furniture. (Desert tan and Arctic white are optional.) Where the C7A1 sported a full buttstock, the C7A2 upgrade is going to have a skeletonized four-position extendible buttstock with a rubber butt pad, similar to the C8. The rear sling swivel is being deleted from the extendible butt and replaced with a sling attachment where the buffer tube enters the lower receiver. Two other attachment slots are located on the moveable butt piece.

The ELCAN rubberized weapon sight will be retained, though the colour of new ones will be matched to that of the new furniture. A TRI-AD 1 MIL-STD-1913 rail type accessory mount is going to be put at the forward end of the forestock, just under the iron foresight. This new part will enable flashlights, laser pointers, and other rail-mountable accessories to be fitted to the personal weapon. The charging handle is going to be made quite a bit larger so the weapon can be cocked easily with heavy Arctic gloves on. The fire selector lever and the magazine release will be made ambidextrous, meaning that the control function can be operated from either side of the receiver. Not visible will be a new, heavy-duty return spring.

Colt has some ideas on the next generation of C7, in that the rifle could see a fully integrated upper receiver and a free floated barrel, which would make the rifle inherently more accurate. The "full integration" part means that four accessory rails attached to the upper receiver would be extended over where the forestock is now. The upper rail would run all the way to the iron foresight and could hold any manner of sighting systems. Side rails would replace the TRI-AD rail, and a rail on the bottom would fit various handgrips or the EAGLE grenade launcher. The integrated upper receiver is just now available.

An altogether new generation of infantry rifle that would replace the M-16 system is on the drawing board. It would have a piston rod driven action in a package that looks very tight and compact, almost like an SMG. This is assuming that a brass-cased percussion-fired cartridge is still the primary agent in an infantryman's repertoire 40 years from now.

Colt is working on other interesting developments besides the C7. One of them is a possible replacement for the M-203 grenade launcher, which Colt calls the Enhanced Ambidextrous Grenade Launcher, or EAGLE for short.

Firing the same 40-mm grenade as the M-79/M-203, the EAGLE looks something like an overgrown Very flare pistol. The launcher has a pistol grip and an ambidextrous break action that opens sideways, either side in fact. Colt plans for the weapon to be mounted on a rail underneath the barrel of a C7 similar to the M-203, or on its own extendible buttstock. The separate buttstock is the soon-to-be familiar extendible buttstock of the new C7A2, but with a mounting rail for the launcher. The launcher is held in place on the rail with two takedown pins, and the mounting and dismounting of the EAGLE is slick on both the C7 and its own stock. The sighting system for the EAGLE can be either an iron ramp sight or a fast acquisition EoTech Holographic GL sight, both of which are mounted on a rail above the launcher.

The EAGLE looks like a big improvement over the M-203, which is neither fish nor fowl. The M-203 makes the C7 too heavy forward for accurate shooting as a rifle, and is bulky and awkward as a grenade launcher. Like a short-barrelled shotgun, the old M-79 was light and handy; a grenadier could carry lots of grenades, and had one clearly defined job in the fire support role. For really close personal protection, the grenadier carried a pistol. The M-203 is a plain awkward combination.

The EAGLE creates options for grenadiers where none now exist, and the whole system is light and compact enough that the launcher and extendible buttstock can be stuffed in a backpack when the supply of grenades is exhausted.

The sniper community will also be interested in the goings on at Colt. As Canada's small arms center of excellence, Colt Canada is proving out a new sniper rifle in .338 Lapua calibre. The .338 Lapua is more powerful than the .300 Winchester Magnum and spans the gap between the 7.62-mm NATO and the .50-cal BMG round that is used in the Barrett M-82.

Made by PGW Defense Technologies Inc., the rifle is bolt action and sports a 5-round box magazine. The rifle comes equipped with Harris bipod, a heavy, match-grade, helical-fluted barrel and integral muzzle brake. The stock is camo-coloured McMillan fiberglass, and a telescopic sight is mounted on a rail above the action. A TRI-AD rail is mounted on the stock above the bipod. I'm guessing the rifle weighs around 15 lbs. Based on the calibre, this weapon should be effective in the anti-personnel role out to 1,500 metres. Colt does not actually make the rifle, but tests the limits of the weapon and is responsible for sales and service.

Colt Canada is a top quality and responsible small arms supplier. The people who work at Colt are aware that their real customers are men and women whose lives may depend upon the accuracy and reliability of the products they turn out. Management is keenly aware of the responsibilities it bears as a consequence of being a military arms supplier.
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Title Annotation:EYE ON INDUSTRY
Author:Curtis, Vincent J.
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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