Canada To Destroy 11,000 Browning Hi-Power Pistols; Swiss Sig Sauer P320 To Replace WW-II Era Guns

The Canadian military plans to destroy 11,000 of its World War II-era pistols by the end of this year after receiving a new 9-mm pistol as a part of a $19.4-million replacement project. 

Small firearms are secondary weapons carried by soldiers and combatants alongside a primary weapon, usually an assault rifle. According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen, the new pistol, the Swiss Sig Sauer P320, will replace the Browning Hi-Power that “has been used by Canadian Forces for decades.” 

Canada’s Long-Awaited Pistol Replacement

According to National Defence spokesperson Cheryl Forrest, all military units would send their Browning handguns to Canadian Forces supply depots in Quebec and Alberta for disposal.

“The pistols have not yet been destroyed. We anticipate the pistols will be disposed of by the end of 2024,” she said in a statement. While roughly 150 Browning Hi-Power handguns would be kept for museums, “at this point, none had been distributed to those organizations.”

Additionally, the Canadian Army is also determining if a small amount of the Brownings should be kept for special purposes or specific training.

“The Canadian Army keeps a small stock of older small arms and small arms in service in other countries to assist with training for emergency situations and for recognition. The Browning may also retain some training value as a simulation/training tool,” she added. But she clarified that they were yet to arrive at a final decision on that front. 

Canadian soldier firing the Browning Hi-Power 9mm. Source: Canadian Army.

Since the Second World War, more than a million Browning Hi-Power pistols have been manufactured, and the gun has been used by dozens of militaries and police forces.

The Canadian Forces received the final deliveries of 16,500 P320s on March 6, which have been rechristened as C22 by the military. Another 3,200 new pistols, to be called the C24, were sent to military police units.

The federal government announced the awarding of the Sig Sauer P320 contract in October 2022 after years of attempts to replace the Browning Hi-Powers. The Canadian military was “running out of parts for the weapons.”

The Sig Sauer P320 is used by multiple militaries worldwide, including Denmark, France, and the United States. The Pentagon selected the P320 in 2017, and Sig Sauer is providing the U.S. military with 420,000 of those guns.

The acquisition “was stalled for years” after small arms firms rejected from participating in 2011. This was owing to the central government requirement that the new guns be built at Colt Canada in Kitchener, Ontario. Colt, another US-based firearms major, is seen as a competitor. Companies also disapproved of a clause requiring them to turn over proprietary firearms information to Colt.

Canada’s Canadian Rangers had also removed its Lee Enfield bolt-action rifle by transferring 9,500 of the British-made WW2-era weapon to military cadets. Here, they are used as non-functional rifles for drills or training. Approximately 5,000 of the rifles were also gifted to serving Canadian Rangers.

The Indian Ordnance Factories (IOF) Pistol Auto 9mm IA. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Another 50 rifles were offered to museums affiliated with the Canadian Forces or military units as display artifacts. The remaining 1,500 surpluses of Lee Enfields were destroyed as the military ruled out their sale to the general public.

India’s Favorite Pistol & Rifle Too

Interestingly, both the Browning Hi-Power and the Lee Enfield are ubiquitous in India as well. The Enfield was the standard infantry rifle used in the 1961 war with China. Users swear by the powerful rifle’s large .303 Winchester round, which offers tremendous range, stopping, and penetration power. 

Danish Air Force Decommissioned Its Entire F-16 Fighting Falcon Fleet To ‘Checkmate’ Russia & China

But the bolt-action configuration proved time-consuming when faced with AK-47s, making armed forces hopelessly outgunned. The Mumbai police personnel used older semi-automatic Self-Loading Rifles (SLR) and the British-era Lee Enfield .303 caliber. Both the Mumbai and Delhi police decided to retire their Lee Enfields after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. 

The Browning, meanwhile, has been a weapon of choice even among Indian agencies, including its police and military forces, as a ‘sidearm.’ The Maharashtra police, for instance, which used the Browning Hi-Power and Ruger revolvers, began receiving newer 9-mm pistols like the Austrian-made Glock 17 and the Smith & Wesson M&P40 in 2009, a year after 26/11 attacks.

But the actual weapon that Indian police and the Indian Army use is the Pistol Auto 9mm 1A, a licensed copy of the Browning Hi-Power. It is made by the Ishapore Rifle Factory Ishapore of the Ordnance Factory Board. 

‘Reliable, But Heavy & Outdated’

A retired Subhedar Major of the Indian Army’s Madras Regiment, who was also a Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI) and had trained officer cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), describes the Browning Hi-Power as an effective weapon that suits basic infantry roles. But during his time, it could not accept accessories like red dot sights aiming lasers under the barrel with Picatinny rails. 

“It also has a high recoil, while both the front and rear iron sights were not coloured that could make quick and easy aligning with the target,” he said. Modern pistols are partly made of high-strength polymer that reduces weight. 

Companies like Glock and the Italian Beretta have been trying to expand their presence in India. In 2020, the former even partnered with a firm in Tamil Nadu to manufacture weapons for the civilian market.

While the Indian Army did adopt newer assault rifles like the SIG716 by March 2020 to replace the older and problematic Indian National Small Arms System (INSAS), the status of procurement efforts to induct new pistols is not clear. 

Interestingly, IAF MiG-21 fighter pilot Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman (then a Wing Commander) carried a Glock 26 as his personal sidearm when he ejected after being shot down by Pakistan’s F-16 fighter in February 2019.