How can I legally buy a gun in Canada?
The short answer is, you need a license.
Legally buying firearms in Canada isn't complicated, or expensive.
Around 2 Million Canadians already have firearms licenses. That's roughly 1 in 15 of those who are old enough to qualify.
This site is designed to tell you in just 4 minutes what you need to know about Canadian firearms laws to get started towards buying a firearm in Canada.
This simple site has received over a million unique visits from people all across Canada; and "they" say Canadians aren't interested in guns!
There is a section further down this page to ask any questions about firearms you have which the page doesn't answer.
Basically you just need to pass a short, and fairly easy (though very important) safety course, and then mail away for a licence. If you're approved you'll get it in the mail and you can go shopping.
The course you will take is called the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, (CFSC for short) and the license you'll get is called a Possession and Acquisition Licence, but everyone just calls it a PAL. It's generally pronounced "pal", like the word for a friend, not "Pee Eh Ell".
Quebec Residents: Your government has additional requirements and procedures not included below, such as in-person applications, and requirements under Bill 9 "Anastasia's Law" (PDF file) which further restrict target shooting, and other aspects of firearms ownership. Please consult a local source such as the Quebec Shooting Federation for additional information. I have little to no other specific information to offer you.
The PAL is a pink card that looks similar to this:
The PAL is the license that lets you buy firearms.
Detailed steps to get your PAL (Canadian Firearms Licence)
- Using the "Where can I take the CFSC?" section later on this page find an instructor and sign up for the course.
- Pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Courses (CFSC). It's fun and easy, very few people have any trouble. There are no trick questions, or difficult concepts. There's more on this later.
- Fill out, and mail in the application form with the required supporting papers (like your photograph.) Be sure to print out the latest version of the form before you apply.
- Wait a few weeks.
- Receive your license and go shopping!
See, it isn't really that complicated.
What about handguns?
Yes, handguns are legal in Canada. If you want to own a handgun, (or other "restricted" firearms such as AR-15 rifles) in Canada you will additionally need to to pass a second course called the CRFSC (the R is for Restricted,) and pay a bit more on the application to get a license which allows you to buy restricted firearms.
An RPAL is absolutely not a concealed weapons permit and does not authorize you to carry a handgun. Carrying a handgun in Canada without authorization is very illegal and there is virtually no way for you to get authorization to do so without having a job which requires it.
If you can afford the extra couple of bucks, get the restricted licence. It's well worth it. Especially if you want to target shoot, or collect guns, both of which are a lot of fun!
There is a section at the very end of this article on handguns, but don't worry about it until you get there, the rest of the information before then applies.
What's the safety course like?
The course is fun and easy, and is designed to be sufficient safety instruction for people who have no prior experience with firearms.
Most people simply take a one day class (usually a Saturday), that includes watching a video, listening to an instructor, and going over a book. You know, typical classroom sort of stuff. It's pretty low key, and most people have a lot of fun. It's usually around $125, although the price can certainly vary, particularly from province to province. I think my wife paid only $20.
The course comes with a great book. It's an easy read, with lots of pictures and diagrams to help you learn the details.
Is the test hard?
No, it's not. At the end of the course there is a test based only on what is covered in the course. Don't worry, it's pretty easy. You'll have to answer a few questions and demonstrate some knowledge of what was covered. The vast majority of people pass. Don't let the word "test" make you so nervous that you make silly mistakes.
Can I take the CFSC online?
No. As far as I know it's not possible to take the CFSC or CRFSC on-line anymore, even if you live in the middle of nowhere.
NOTICE There are websites out there selling practice tests and study material, don't mistake these for taking the course, or the test. You can buy them if you want to, but just be sure of what you're buying.
Where Can I take the CFSC?
There are many instructors who run the classes all over the country, but province and territory can be a bit different. In order to find a class near you select your location and call the phone number, or visit the website provided.
I know, nobody likes calling phones anymore, but I'm sorry this whole process is a bit out-dated. You might have to call a real person on the phone. For some locations there's no decent website that's going to do this part of it for you.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Where Do I Get The Application Form?
Your instructor will usually give you one, but I recommend you print off the latest version from the RCMP CFP website in case the form changes between when you take the class and go to fill out the form.
At the time of writing it's called a "CAFC 921E / RCMP 5592" form, but you should check and be sure you're downloading the correct form on that page to apply for a new individual license.
I recommend you print off a couple of copies. You'll want to make sure you send in one that's really neatly filled out so that messy writing doesn't delay or block your license.
Will They Deny My Application?
I can't tell you if you'll be denied Very few applications are denied. In 2014 there were around 412,992 licences issued (including renewals), and 810 refusals, about 0.2% or 1 in 510
If you think you might be denied, you can call the RCMP CFP at +1 (800) 731-4000 and ask.
Please do not contact me to ask if you'll be denied.
You do not need to be a citizen, or resident of Canada to hold a Canadian firearms licence. However, holding a licence does not grant you automatic authorization to visit with, import, or export firearms.
How Much Does a Canadian Firearms License Cost?
It's really not that expensive. It only works out to a couple of bucks a month if you look at it in terms of a the cost over the time it's good for.
Generally speaking, shooting is pretty inexpensive; and hunting can be an excellent source of inexpensive high quality meat.
Here is a rough guide to the costs. However prices will vary widely. My wife and I both paid a lot less than this, and I've had people tell me they paid a lot more.
Estimated PAL Costs
|One day CFSC class||$125|
|Photo from a store||$15|
|Licence application fee||$60|
Estimated RPAL Costs
|One day CFSC class||$125|
|One day CRFSC class||$125|
|Photo from a store||$15|
|Licence application fee||$80|
Approximately every five years you will have to renew your license. There is a fee to renew, however it may, or may not be waived for some renewals.
Now go do it!
Additional Notes on handguns, other restricted firearms, and registration
Note: The Trudeau Liberals have promised to repeal much of the important gun control modernization efforts undertaken in Bill C-42, which was passed in 2015. At the time of writing they are moving to swiftly enact their new Bill C-71 which places even more restrictions on lawful gun owners rather than drug dealers, gangs, and other criminals. The new bill massively expands the power of unelected bureaucrats at the to make regulations with the force of law as they see fit – without the consent of parliament. It is likely going to be impossible to stay on top of the forthcoming capricious and arbitrary rule making. As such those regulations may not always be reflected on this website.
This section is only applicable to those discerning connoisseurs of firearms who are interested in owning handguns, or other restricted firearms such as certain "scary looking" rifles. You will learn this stuff (and more) in the CRFSC. You don't need to know this before you take the class, but it's nice to know things in advance.
All restricted firearms must be registered. Licensing and registration are not the same thing. Even without a "long gun registry" all restricted and prohibited firearms must be registered. That means handguns, and even some kinds of long guns must still be registered.
Registration is a process that amounts to letting the RCMP CFP know who owns particular firearms and where they keep them. It happens automatically when you purchase an applicable firearm at a store. With a private sales the buyer and seller must call the RCMP CFP and initiate the transfer themselves. I find the calls tend to take about 10 minutes, they can answer any questions not covered in the CRFSC at that time too.
Neither an RPAL or an ATT (more on that in a minute) is an authorization to carry a handgun, or any other firearm, either concealed or visible, in public or private.
In order to do that you need an Authorization To Carry (ATC, not to be confused with ATT). Generally you will not be able to get an ATC, unless you have a job which requires it, such as guarding money.
Being worried that you'll be a victim of crime is not sufficient cause for the RCMP to issue you an ATC.
Generally speaking it is not legal to shoot restricted firearms on your own property or other private property such as a farm or acreage, unless that property has an RCMP approved firing range.
As I said, you can't just carry your restricted firearms around with you, so how do you take them from your home to an approved shooting range or other lawful place? You'll need what's called and Authorization To Transport (ATT.) Notice the difference in "Carry" and "Transport" there.
Transporting means you're taking a restricted firearm directly from the place it's registered at (eg. your house) to a location indicated on the ATT, such as an RCMP approved shooting range, gunsmith, the border, or somewhere to sell it. You'll need to do so in accordance with the terms of the ATT you're issued, and with the general transportation requirements.
Basically that means the firearm must be unloaded, secured with a trigger lock (or similar), be inside a locked container, which is then (if possible) in a locked trunk, with the ammunition also locked up. You must then proceed by the most direct reasonable means. So don't get any ideas about leaving your handgun in the trunk "just in case."
You will probably also need to belong to a gun club. It's my understanding that all Chief Firearms Officers (CFO) require you to be a member of a gun club in order to issue an ATT or transfer the registration of a restricted firearm to you.
Since you can't shoot a restricted firearm pretty much anywhere except at an approved range they may require you be a member of one. Prices for gun club memberships range from very cheap to insanely expensive, so shop around.
Under Bill C-42 as amended by C-71 you may be automatically granted an ATT to transport your restricted firearm from the place which is it registered to an RCMP approved shooting range in your province. Or from the place of purchase (or pickup) to the place it is registered. However you will not be automatically be issued an ATT covering transport to gunsmiths, gun shows, points of sale, other provinces, the border, or other locations.