The Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, better known as the B.C. Rangers was a Militia Group formed in 1942 to defend the Pacific West Coast of Canada. The core group were comprised of members of the Victoria Rod and Gun Club to protect the Victoria watershed. Made up mainly of Trappers, Fishermen, Loggers and Native Indians. Who better than those that lived and worked the coastline! It eventually grew to 14,849 men and 115 companies. Ranged from the Queen Charlotte Islands to the American Border under the command of the Victoria and Esquimalt Forces. There were no age restrictions like the regular military, so a lot of teen agers belonged. Many eventually transferred to the regular army when they were old enough. When hostilities with the Japanese ceased it was disbanded, and they were allowed to buy the rifles for $5. Five thousand rifles were issued and some records exist as to who kept them..
The regular militia of the time was using weapons designed for military use, so it is indeed fortunate in the history of firearms that it was decided to give them a choice of two rifles, one of which was the Winchester model 94 lever action. A rifle with a history going all the way back to the early days of N. American. Literally the "Gun That Won The West". I doubt that it was however the weapon of immediate choice for the men! But, conversation with the surviving members will confirm that personal thought. There were indeed much more sophisticated firearms being issued to the regulars.
Until the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbour the Rangers were a rather poorly funded and armed group. But, the invasion changed all that. Cabins were built in the woods, arms were acquired, even to the extent of light machine guns. But, the ammunition issued was still restricted. I have heard that they were issued less than 6 rounds. Specially marked dummy rounds were issued for practise. The rest was kept in local bank vaults
Generally the Rangers were a very well organized group. Newsletters were published and a great deal of mapping and documentation was done. A magazine called "The Ranger" was published from September 1942 till 1945. E.A. Harris drew cartoons about Slim, Shorty and The Sarg till 1944 when he was transfered overseas. They were a parody on the training activities that were held. The clubhouse in Victoria still preserves a lot of the original PCMR material.
That brings up the subject of post war activities...
After the war the Rangers stood down at a ceremony in Victoria's MacDonald Park. But, they generally stayed in touch. As there was no organized emergency group they were frequently called out to do search and rescue and track down escaped prisoners. This actually led to the formation of the group we now call the BC Rangers.
Fortunately there are still surviving members of the regiment, and an active club in Victoria British Columbia. They have preserved the unique history and artifacts. As well, the rifles themselves are a valued collector item. At left is a close up of the identification stamp on the author's Winchester 94.
I originally acquired the rifle as a companion in my collection to the model 1873 I have. But am now researching the use of it in the Second World War. I find it interesting that a rifle that fought Indians on the North American Plains was used to defend that same coast line some 70 years later.
Shown below are the Winchester Model 1873 (top) in 32-20 caliber and the Model 94 (bottom) in 30-30 caliber.
The BC Rangers version had an interesting mount for the sling. The rear sling was a conventional swivel, but the front was a simple iron strap and swivel held in place with a bolt. The original "fitting" is missing. And I must say, not sadly missing! The rifles were stamped in 3 places with the insignia. The one on the frame is still visible, but the two other ones on the wood can only be seen when the light is perfect. The serial number indicates that it was manufactured in 1943. The back sight is bent, but the action and rifling are in excellent shape. It is still an accurate shooting rifle.
I have been promised some original ammunition and some practise dummy rounds. Once these have arrived I will put them on this page. I will be updating the information here as research progresses. In the meantime if you have any information or photographs I would really like to hear from you.
I have already been contacted by a number of collectors from all over N. America. As our stupid gun laws have made ownership of any firearm an undesireable activity many of the artifacts are being offered up for public sale.
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