Monday, 20 May 2013


 The Department of National Defence recently released an ACAN for a new light machine gun. (1) An Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN) is a public notice indicating that a department or agency intends to award a contract to a pre-identified supplier, believed to be the only one capable of performing the work. Other suppliers may signal their interest in bidding by submitting a statement of capabilities. (2)

This contract is for 7.62mm Minimi light machine guns from FN Herstal in Belgium. This weapon is similar the Canadian Forces' in-service 5.56MM C9A2 light machinegun. Although common in 5.56mm, this machine gun was designed from the outset to also be chambered for 7.62mm rounds.

It has been suggested by CASR (3) that;” Canada wants to order only 185 ‘7.62 MM Light Machine Guns’ with an option on a further 45. It's possible that these are trial weapons. More likely, these 7.62mm LMGs are to equip CSOR and JTF2. It has been known for some time that the 5.56mm rifle round lacked 'stopping power'. Australia has addressed this by sending 7.62mm LMGs (which they call their F89 'Maximi') to Afghanistan. It remains to be seen whether CF section support gunners will ultimately move to a 7.62mm as well.”

The issue of ‘stopping power’ has been addressed before in these pages. (4) Having destroyed their stocks of 7.62mm weapons (5)  the DND had nothing in reserve ( they apparently don’t keep reserve weapons ) with which to quickly equip our forces in Afghanistan when complaints about the lack of range and stopping power of the standard 5.56mm caliber ammunition were first raised.

It is not clear why it was not done earlier but now that our forces are no longer engaged in active combat that deficiency could be addressed with this new purchase.  It may be that the Canadian Army is simply following the lead of other armed forces that have purchased this weapon. (6) Never underestimate the power of fashion in the field of military procurement

Canadian Forces once operated an automatic variant of the 7.62mm FN C1 rifle, the C2A1, as a section support weapon.(7) It was similar to the C1, but with wooden attachments to the bipod legs that work as a hand guard when the legs were folded. The C2A1 used a tangent rear sight attached to the receiver cover with ranges from 200 to 1000 meters. It was equipped with a 30-round magazine.

The C2A1 itself was a replacement for the legendary Bren gun. The Bren gun was adopted by the British Army in 1930 and was used in every conflict with them right up until 1991. Considered was one of the best light machine guns of World War Two, it was powerful and very accurate, up to and beyond six hundred meters. 

The Bren gun was modified in the 1950's to accept the new 7.62mm NATO cartridge.  The magazine feed was also altered to accept the same magazine as was used in the British army's FN FAL self loading rifle. This is essentially the same weapon as the Canadian C1. Interestingly enough this weapon is still available from the Ordnance Factory Board of India. (8)

In their ACAN the DND stated that the justification for the pre-selected supplier was that, “The FN Minimi 7.62 T.R. Light Machine Gun manufactured by FN Herstal S A, Belgium, is the only known weapon that can meet DND's essential requirements.” Given that other suppliers may signal their interest in bidding if they think their product can meet the specifications perhaps it is just as well that the Ordnance Factory Board appears to be unaware of the ACAN. As the graphic below, which compares the technical specifications on the manufacturers web-sites, suggests, they might have a case for offering their “Gun Machine 7.62 MM '1B”.

FN Minimi 7.62 Cal.
 T.R. Light Machine Gun
Gun Machine 7.62 MM '1B'
(Bren 7.62 Cal L4A4)
7.62x51mm NATO
7.62x51mm NATO
Operating Principle
Gas operated, open breech
Gas Operated, Positive Locking
Overall Length
1,015mm (39.96")
1130.30 mm (48.5”)
Weapon Weight
8.4 kg (18.51 lb)
9 kg (19.84 lb)
Cyclic rate of fire
680 to 800 RPM
500 RPM
Belt or 100-round pouch
30-round detachable box magazine
Firing mode
Full automatic
Full Automatic
Maximum effective range
Light Machine Gun
Light Machine Gun

In many ways the Bren gun is well suited for modern warfare with its emphasis on accuracy and discrimination as opposed to area fire. One could also assume that a weapon purchase from India might be substantially less expensive then one procured in Belgium. This being the case the Canadian Armed Forces would be in a position to purchase more of them, enough to equip the entire army rather then a token purchase of what may become an unsupportable number of boutique weapons systems.

The truth is that no matter how suitable or affordable, the Canadian Armed Forces are not going to buy Bren guns from India. It is as much a question of style as it is of need. The other armies aren’t buying Bren guns, they seem “old fashioned”, (never mind that the operating principals of the Minimi are as old as those of the Bren) and nobody wants to be accused of equipping the army for the last war. Mind you, we seldom seem to equip our army for the next war either. In the end you can never underestimate the power of fashion in the field of military procurement.


(2) Advance Contract Award Notice

(3) Light Machine Gun    ACAN for a 7.62mm version of the C9A2 LMG


(5) Disposal of Surplus Stocks

(6) UK & NZ Adopting FN MINIMI 7.62mm

(7) C2 Light Machine Gun

(8) Gun Machine 7.62 MM '1B'