Ross Rifle

During the South African War, Canada requested that Great Britain supply the Canadian force with the British Lee-Enfield rifle but Britain refused. Since no manufacturer could be persuaded to establish a Canadian production facility, Canada would have to produce its own. Sir Charles Ross, a British aristocrat and inventor, offered to build a plant in Canada. He developed a 5-clip rifle model for the Canadian militia trials during August 1901 and this rifle became the Mark 1 Ross rifle which began production in 1903. In Mar 1903 the Canadian government signed a contract with Ross for 12 000 rifles to be supplied by the end of 1903.

Sir Sam Hughes, the future minister of militia and member of the 1901 militia committee, was a supporter of the Ross rifle. The Mark 1 Ross rifle was not delivered until 1905 and 1000 units were supplied to the RNWMP but various problems plagued this model of rifle and it was eventually recalled in 1906. Changes were made to the production model until 1910 when the various models of the Mark 2 were produced. Great Britain at that time was strongly urging Canada to adopt the Lee-Enfield rifle for its armed forces so as to have consistency within the Empire regarding weaponry, and because Canada refused to halt production of the Ross rifle, strains developed over imperial defence. The Mark 2 rifle was adopted by the Canadian armed forces in 1911, and in that year work was begun on the Mark 3, although few were produced before 1914. In the first years of the First World War, the Ross rifle received a bad reputation. It was seen as unsuitable for the "trench-and-charge" tactics employed during that war because of its weight, 9 lbs 14 ozs (c 4.5 kg), its overall length, 60½ inches (c 1.5 m) with bayonet fixed, and the continual jamming problem plus the occasional "blowback." The cause of the jamming was eventually corrected but came too late for the rifle to maintain its use. In the summer of 1916 the rifle was withdrawn from service and by mid-Sept Canadian troops had been rearmed with the British-made Lee-Enfield. The Canadian government expropriated the Ross Rifle Co in March 1917 after paying Ross $2 million. The total production of the Ross rifle was approximately 420,000 with 342,040 units being purchased by the British. During the Second World War, the Mark 3 Ross rifle was given to the Royal Canadian Navy, the Veteran's Guard of Canada, coastal units, training depôts, the British Home Guard and the Soviets.