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Canada signs deal to replace WWII-era army handguns

A deal with a Victoria, BC-based gunsmith will replace Canada’s old Browning Hi-Power pistols with 7,000 new Sig Sauer P320 modular handguns – with an option for another 9,500

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After a decade of dramatic procurement involving false starts and accusations of rigging, Canadian soldiers should expect their WWII-era handguns to be replaced by mid-year next.

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A Ministry of National Defense press release issued early Friday morning announced the signing of a US$3.2 million (C$4.3 million) contract with gunsmith MD Charlton of Victoria, British Columbia, for the purchase of handguns and Sig Sauer P320 holsters as part of their C22 Full Frame Modular Pistol Supply Program.

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The program will initially purchase 7,000 pistols for the Canadian Army, with options for up to 9,500 additional weapons for the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy and military police services.

If all options are exercised, the value of the contract will increase to $7.6 million.

  1. The pistol program is considered a priority by the Canadian Army because the number of working Browning Hi-Power handguns, shown in this file photo, has drastically decreased due to a lack of spare parts.

    Delivery of new pistols for the Canadian Army delayed until 2023

  2. An Area Security Force member practices firing the Browning 9mm pistol while kneeling at the firing range during Operation IMPACT on March 4, 2015. Photo: OP Impact, DND

    Sale of surplus Canadian Forces Browning pistols to public to be considered, DND says

Delivery is expected to begin in the middle of next year.

The new pistols will replace the current CAF sidearm – the WWII-era 9mm Browning Hi-Powers, a firearm whose number of working samples in CAF inventory is dwindling in due to lack of spare parts.

The new pistol will use the same ammo as the previous pistols.

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In 2018, Sig Sauer beat fellow firearms giant Glock by striking a deal with the United States government to supply nearly half a million P320s to replace their aging Beretta M9 pistols – the handgun military standard of the United States Armed Forces since 1984.

A week ago, Australia announced a 500 million Australian dollars (C$437.6 million) deal to upgrade small arms used by the Australian Defense Force (ADF), including handguns P320 and MCX rifles from Sig Sauer.

In 2013, Britain spent around C$14 million to replace its World War II-era 9mm Brownings with 25,000 brand new Glock pistols, a process that took less than three years.

Launched in 2011, Canada’s 11-year journey to replace the aging handgun has been fraught with pitfalls, intrigue and accusations of favoritism from potential sellers.

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David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen previously reported last year that the federal government had been ordered to restart its purchase of pistols from scratch by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) after allegations of bid-rigging by one of the competing suppliers.

Ottawa outfitter Rampart International, representing Austrian gunsmith Glock Inc., accused the federal government’s grand process of requiring “certain types of design that do not meet any legitimate operational requirement and favor certain bidders.”

The process spent several years in limbo after protests over requirements that the winning bidder must manufacture the firearms at Colt Canada’s factory in Kitchener, Ontario. – a process they said amounted to outsourcing proprietary manufacturing processes to a competitor.

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Defense analyst and Macdonald-Laurier Institute senior fellow Richard Shimooka said Canada’s defense procurement process is cluttered with layers of bureaucracy with no single point of control.

“There has been too much reliance on bureaucratization and process rather than good management techniques to undertake defense procurement,” he told the National Post.

The problem, he said, is magnified by the involvement of no less than six separate agencies and groups, all with a say in procurement.

“There’s no real single leader who can go butt heads, no single point of accountability,” he explained.

The Americans, Shimooka said, have a significant process in place to address similar issues with their supply system.

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“Congress has the ability to change budget laws and will often rescind budgets if it feels the United States government is not getting value for money,” Shimooka said.

“Canada doesn’t have that.

During the 2019 federal election campaign and subsequently referenced in the Prime Minister’s 2019 mandate letter to former defense minister Harjit Sajjan, the federal Liberals promised to streamline defense procurement by creating a dedicated agency.

Although Sajjan said in 2020 that much of the work on this front had already begunno such agency ever materialized.

“It’s long gone,” Shimooka said.

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.