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Colt C8 carbine.

Toronto police have purchased dozens of military-style assault rifles that will be made available to front-line officers along with less lethal firearms dubbed sock guns.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash says the Colt C8 patrol carbine, which is similar to an M-16, has been used for years by the Emergency Task Force, guns and gangs unit, and other specialized units.

He says the C8 is more accurate and easier to use than other high-powered firearms, and more effective against body armour, which police encounter increasingly often.

Pugash says the semi-automatic weapons will be distributed by the end of May to three scout cars in each of the city's 17 divisions – 51 in total, though some are part of the force's existing stock.

Each costs between $2,000 and $3,000.

Officers in the scout cars will also be given so-called sock guns, which fire rounds that do not penetrate the body.

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