Any purchase of a type of firearms by a military will also include a stock of spare parts. Weapons get damaged and certain parts wear put so spares are needed to allow repairs to be undertaken by armourers. The range of spares and the quantities of each will be carefully set by experience. Some items are known to be more prone to breakage and so will be ordered in larger numbers- screws, springs, firing pins etc. Other items that are less likely to need replacement are acquired in lesser amounts. Regardless of the numbers of a spare part held in stock, when that weapon is dropped from service, huge quantities of spares will remain in stock and these are then disposed of on the surplus market.
Today we are looking at a spare butt plate for the Canadian version of the SLR/FAL, the C1 rifle. The C1 had been introduced in 1954 and would remain in service until 1984 when it started to be replaced with a locally produced version of the M16. The butt plate comes in a small cardboard box:
The box is labelled at one end with stores number and a date of 1971:
In order to prevent the butt plate from rusting whilst it is in store, it is carefully wrapped in a water resistant heavy duty paper:
Opening this up we can see that the butt plate itself is made of steel with a blackened finish and with a healthy coating of oil to protect it from corrosion:
As it is very likely that screws will break, strip or become lost when a rifle comes in for repair, a pair of the correct screws are also included in the package:
My gut feeling is that this is one of those spares that were only infrequently used on the C1 rifle. The butt plate does get some wear in rifle drill, but has few things to go wrong with it and is one of the most robust areas of the rifle due to the pounding the manufacturer knows it will receive. As such it is likely that few ever needed to be replaced and most spare plates such as this would have spent their life on the armourer’s shelf without being used. It is nice however to have this example, complete with all its packaging, in the collection.
You’d be surprised what can happen to a weapon once it’s issued out..
I was working in the small arms shop at one Base in the ’70’s and besides the service weapons for everyone there, including the MP’s and Base Defence Force, there were also several Militia units in the area that we were responsible for and that brought theirs in when they needed service, the nearest Army Base being about six hours away.
At one point I noticed we were going through forward sling swivel screws at a high rate, something that, pretty much like the butt plate, should never need to be replaced (although a dedicated soldier will find a way to screw one up in a heartbeat, usually by using the storage cover for a bottle opener or pry bar and bending it or using the butt to hammer in tent pegs).
It got to the point where at one point they brought in a station wagon with the back filled with ‘unserviceable’ rifles, most for missing sling swivel screws.
I finally figured out that instead of working the sling out of the swivel for cleaning, and why the Army insists on taking that off every time is beyond me, they were using the screwdriver bit on the combination tool and taking the screw out because it was faster and eventually loosening the ‘should never need to be removed’ screw to the point where it worked itself out.
Dented and bent buttplates were a regular occurance as were broken charging handles, ours folded in and it was common practice in these units for a hard extraction to just ram the handle against something to open the bolt, this only works so many times.
The FN was about as ‘squaddie proof’ as you could make something but the squaddies took that as a challenge.
As for the sling swivel screws, I epoxied them all in place 😉
I believe the buttplate is actually for an earlier Long Branch No.4 rifle, bearing the “C” with Broad Arrow mark. During the later run of C No4 MkI* rifles by Canadian Arsenals, Ltd., this mark would change to an “A” within the “C”.
Possibly, the box is marked 1971 but that’s not necessarily the date of manufacture of the part inside and we were still using No 4’s until quite recently while the FN was replaced somewhere around ’86 or so.
I maintained both and the more I think about it, the more I think you might be right, FN buttplates came with one screw or two, depending on the date of manufacture and length of butt; if I remember correctly, the ones with two screws the screws went into the wood while the ones with one were more like a bolt that threaded into a metal retainer pinned into the butt, that’s IF I remember correctly, that was 40 years ago and we’re not allowed to own FN’s anymore thanks to a lunatic gov’t trying to buy votes by making ‘army rifles’ illegal so people who don’t know any better will vote for them.
No. 4 plates were usually brass although there were some blackened ones as well. The flat on top seems to jog an ancient memory, but I’m not sure which one 🙂
I must have had several many thousand FN’s completely stripped and assembled in the time I was in SA shops as well as my own when I was issued one, but things like buttplates you just did and other than inspecting for looseness, stripped screws or a bad spring or broken storage well cover it wasn’t something you paid much attention to or remembered so my memory is a little foggy.
Speaking of ‘squaddie proof’, in my second life (after the military) I carried loaded weapons routinely, more often than I did in the service.
On one occasion, while inspecting the weapons in a patrol vehicle, I discovered a .38 revolver with a bent front sight and a CAR-9mm with a loose flash eliminator.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that the front sight blade fit nicely into the slots in the flash eliminator and some bored individual had gone to the trouble to do exactly that.
The person in charge of the Armouries wasn’t in the slightest bit interested and said to just handtighten the FE on the rifle and leave it for later, although he grudgingly changed the revolver out after I suggested that it might be his responsibility if someone were to use it with the sights drastically misaligned and strike a bystander instead of their intended target.
I spent a great deal of time teaching him his job over the years, unwillingly on his part, and as a result was subsequently passed over for consideration as a firearms instructor, a job I’d held for many years in the military, in favour of someone who neeed ‘assistance’ to qualify to even the loose standards of the day…but who was related to a senior manager as was the norm for both positions.