I wanted to do an FAQ on common gun questions for Canadians or for Americans who are curious about what it’s like in Canada. This is a quick guide that summarizes issues but does not go into detail and context. As such this article is not legal advice.
Non Restricted, Restricted, and Prohibited Firearms Classes
Firearms are divided into 3 categories in Canada: Non restricted, restricted, and prohibited.
Non restricted firearms can be purchased with a regular firearms license called a PAL (Possession and Acquisition License), and you can take them hunting or plinking at the gravel pit so long as you’re not stopped by any weird hunting regulations.
Restricted firearms require a leveled up license called an RPAL (Restricted PAL) and can only be brought to certified ranges and back home. These include pistols, AR15’s, and anything with a too-short barrel.
Prohibited firearms are something you had to own when licensing came into effect. You got “grandfathered in” to own your prohibited firearms and buy any of the same class.
Antique firearms are manufactured before 1898 and are considered a separate class with separate rules.
Are Assault Rifles Legal in Canada?
Using the Wikipedia definition of assault rifle, no. From Wikipedia: “An assault rifle is a selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine”. It’s an important delineation, because this was a whole new class of firearms that appeared towards the end of World War II. Within Canada, burst and fully automatic rifles (which can fire multiple times per trigger press) are prohibited, so they don’t meet this definition, but we are allowed to own semi-automatic rifles (rifles that need a trigger press for each shot).
Are Suppressors Legal in Canada?
Sadly, no. Even though they’re encouraged in much of Europe, they’re seen as a deadly assassins tool here instead of as a safety device to prevent hearing damage.
Are Assault Weapons Legal in Canada?
“Assault Weapon” is not a strict class of firearms, nor does it have a widely accepted definition because it’s primarily used by non-firearms owning people to describe guns they think are scary or too military-like. It’s a political term that doesn’t have a proper definition. Sometimes it’s used to describe firearms with detachable box magazines, pistol grips, adjustable stocks, and a mitt full of other features are considered. Sometimes people use it to describe black rifles. So it’s really impossible to answer that question, because it comes down to opinions and not a hard set of rules.
Are AR-15’s Legal in Canada?
AR-15’s are legal in Canada, but they are restricted by name. Many thousands of firearms owners in Canada own AR-15’s and use them for target practice and competition. Note that there are rifles in Canada that appear similar to the AR-15 that are non-restricted, such as the XCR, AR180B, Troy PAR, and others.
Are M14’s Legal in Canada?
The predecessor to the AR-15, the M14 was originally built as a selective-fire rifle and is prohibited in Canada. However, the semi-automatic model is available and quite popular in Canada.
Are AK47’s Legal in Canada?
AK47’s and variants are prohibited in Canada, but some Valmets are OK. There are many semi-automatic versions available in the US. Within Canada the SKS, predecessor to the AK47 that uses the same ammo, as well as the Norinco Type 81 and CZ858/VZ58 and WR762 rifles are legal and non restricted.
Are Uzis Legal in Canada?
No, but we do have BRS-99s, which are kind of a Polish Uzi.
Are Fully Automatic Rifles Legal in Canada?
Fully Automatic rifles are prohibited in Canada. There are a few legally licensed owners or gun ranges out there that still have full autos, but they’re pretty rare.
Are Sniper Rifles Legal in Canada?
Sniper rifles are accurate bolt action rifles, and Canadians can easily buy accurate bolt action rifles. Many hunting rifles would fit that description. In fact, the Remington 700, a popular hunting rifle, enjoyed a pretty long career as a sniper rifle. Canadians cannot own suppressors, but the rifle actions, barrels, stocks, and scopes are all without restriction. Many hunters armed with a 300 Winchester Magnum hunting rifle are using a much more powerful cartridge than police departments (who usually use the smaller 308 Winchester). Canadians can also own powerful 50 BMG and 338 Lapua rifles, or even outrageous anti-tank rifles like the Soviet PTRD. Please keep in mind that NO violent crime has been committed in Canada with a 50 BMG. They’re expensive and impractical rifles that aren’t really attractive to criminals.
Is the FN FAL Legal in Canada?
The FN FAL is prohibited so unfortunately, Canadians cannot simply go out and buy this piece of Canadian military history. Luckily, we can own the older Enfield rifles and can even buy AR15s from Colt Canada, Canada’s current military provider of rifles.
Are Handguns Legal in Canada?
Yes, handguns are restricted class firearms that need a license and are registered, but they are attainable. They generally can’t be short barrel pistols (must be > 4.2″) and they’re limited to 10 round mags. You also can’t have 25acp or 32acp pistols, but rifles in those are OK.
Are Bullpups Legal in Canada?
How Much Tannerite is Legal to Mix in Canada?
Tannerite or any other binary explosive should only be mixed in 1lb increments. You should also not confine the explosive in a container not intended for its use or add parts around it that could act as shrapnel.
Can you Mail Order Guns in Canada?
Yes. Unlike the US, where you have to send guns to your LGS (Local Gun Store), firearms and ammunition can be ordered online and delivered to your door in Canada. Because we have a licensing system (PAL), our ability to legally own firearms can be checked very quickly. Secure delivery methods are required so that the mailman doesn’t leave your parcel under the doormat.
Which Guns were Named as Prohibited?
In the mid to late 90’s, some firearms were railroaded straight to prohibited status. Legend has it, that the firearms were haphazardly selected by politicians from a particular gun magazine. Anything black and scary looking in that magazine made it to the list. This theory has some merit as some of the firearms described as prohibited by name would have been prohibited by their operating action and other firearms listed are extremely rare or prototypes (ie: the HK G11.)
A quick selection of prohibited firearms::
- AK47 and variants. Except Valmets. Those are OK.
- High Standard Model 10
- American 180 Auto Carbine
- Barrett 82A1
- Calico M900
- McMillan M87 (this is a weird one, many other bolt-action 50BMG rifles are non-restricted)
- Steyr Aug
- H&K G11 (these were prototypes, no one can buy them)
- Skorpion auto pistol
- Spectre auto pistol
- AR-180 (but not the AR-180B)
- Beretta BM-59
- Daewoo K1
- FN FNC
- HK G3 and variants
- HK MP5
- Thompson Sub Machine Gun and Variants
- SG-550, 551
What Other Weapons are Illegal in Canada?
This is not an exhaustive list, but you see that ninja stuff from the 90’s was a top priority for legislators of yesteryear.
- Spiked wrist bands
- Morning Star
- One handed cross bows
- Short barrel pistols (less than 105mm barrel length)
- Imitation or replica firearms (this one is really weird, because airsoft are fine)
- Brass knuckles made of metal (plastic or other materials are fine though)
- Tasers, but cattle prods or stun canes are fine.
- Push daggers, but Ulu are OK.
- Belt knives, comb knives and generally other novelly hidden knives.
You can be driving around with a baseball bat in your trunk and be OK but if you have a pair of nunchucks, your ass is going to jail. Mall ninjas beware. Oddly, intent is important in Canada. So you can’t say that your expandable baton is for defending against rapists because then it’s a weapon, but you’re fine to own it if you say it’s for smashing out your window in case you crash your car in water. Don’t forget, I’m not a lawyer and this article is for entertainment purposes only.
Did I get something wrong or forget a common question? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!