Classes of firearms

Firearms in Canada fall into three different classes:

Non-restricted

This class includes any rifle or shotgun that is neither restricted nor prohibited. Most common long guns are non-restricted, but there are exceptions.

Restricted

What's included in this class

  • Handguns that are not prohibited firearms
  • Firearms that:
    • are not prohibited firearms
    • have a barrel less than 470 mm in length
    • are capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner
  • Firearms designed or adapted to be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660 mm by folding, telescoping or otherwise
  • Firearms of any other kind prescribed to be restricted firearms in the Regulations

Permitted purposes for ownership

There are a few purposes for which you may be licensed to acquire or possess a restricted firearm:

  • target practice or target shooting competitions
  • as part of a collection
  • in limited circumstances, use in connection with one's lawful profession or occupation, or to protect life

Target shooting practice and competition

To be authorized to have restricted firearms for target shooting purposes, you must provide proof that you practice or compete at an approved shooting club or range.

For more information about approved shooting clubs and ranges, contact the appropriate provincial or territorial Chief Firearms Officer by calling the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) at 1-800-731-4000.

Collectors

To be authorized to have restricted firearms as part of a collection, you may be asked to: :

  • know the historical, technical or scientific features of such firearms in your collection
  • consent to occasional inspections of the place where your collection is stored
  • comply with regulations dealing with safe storage, record-keeping and other matters related to restricted firearms

Employment purposes and protection of life

In limited circumstances, an individual may be authorized to possess or acquire a restricted firearm for employment purposes or for protection of life.

Note

If you have a firearm registered to you as a "relic" under the former legislation, you may continue to possess it for that purpose. However, you cannot pass that designation on to the next owner. The next owner can acquire the firearm only for one of the purposes above. A relic firearm is one that is of value as a curiosity or rarity, or that is valued as a memento, remembrance, or souvenir. Depending on which purpose is claimed, there are specific criteria that must be met.

If you lend a prohibited firearm, you must lend the registration certificate as well.

Prohibited

What's included in this class

  • Handguns with barrels equal to or less than 105 mm in length
  • Handguns designed or adapted to discharge a 25 or 32 calibre cartridge
    • This does not include handguns for use in international sporting competitions governed by the rules of the International Shooting Union and where the handgun is prescribed to be restricted
  • Firearms adapted from a rifle or shotgun, whether by sawing, cutting or any other alteration, and that, as so adapted are:
    • less than 660 mm in length
    • 660 mm or greater in length and has a barrel less than 457 mm in length
  • Automatic firearms, whether or not altered to discharge only one projectile with one pressure of the trigger
  • Firearms prescribed to be prohibited firearms in the Regulations

Acquiring prohibited firearms

A Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) allows you to acquire prohibited firearms only in the same categories as the ones currently registered to you, and only if the firearms you wish to acquire were registered in Canada prior to the specific dates set out in the Firearms Act.

As a general rule, a PAL will indicate what categories of prohibited firearms the licence holder is licensed to acquire by showing the section of the Firearms Act that grandfathers them, as follows:

  • s.12(2): full automatics
  • s.12(3): converted automatics
  • s.12(4): firearms prohibited by former prohibition order No. 12
  • s.12(5): firearms prohibited by former prohibition order No. 13
  • s.12(6.1): handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm or less or that discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition.
  • s.12(7): relics

Eligibility to acquire a particular prohibited firearm will be confirmed during the transfer process. Grandfathered status allows the possession and acquisition of prohibited firearms that are already registered in Canada, but not the new importation of prohibited firearms into Canada.

Grandfathering

Generally, you may have prohibited firearms only if you have been "grandfathered" under section 12 of the Firearms Act. Being grandfathered means that you can keep certain prohibited firearms that were registered to you on specific dates set out in the Act.

You can possess certain prohibited firearms if you had one registered in your name when it became prohibited, and you have continuously held a valid registration certificate for that type of prohibited firearm from December 1, 1998, onward.

It is important to note that both the owner and the firearm must be grandfathered for the same category.

To be able to hold a registration certificate for a firearm, you need a licence allowing you to possess that class of firearm. It is essential that firearms licences are renewed before they expire.

All registration certificates issued under the former law (prior to December 1, 1998) expired on December 31, 2002, so it was important to have re-registered the firearm(s) under the Firearms Act before the old certificate expired.

Exception

You do not need to be grandfathered to acquire a prohibited handgun if all of the following apply:

  • the handgun was made before 1946
  • the handgun is currently registered in Canada (under s.12(6.1))
  • you are the child, grandchild, brother, sister, or spouse / common-law partner of the lawful owner

Anyone who acquires a prohibited handgun under these circumstances will have 12(7) printed on their firearms licence. This means that you can lawfully possess a pre-1946 handgun passed on by a direct relative, but you are not authorized to acquire other prohibited handguns.

Any prohibited firearms that you acquire must have been registered in Canada on December 1, 1998. This means that even if a licence holder has grandfathered status, you cannot bring a prohibited firearm into Canada as a new import and you cannot acquire a prohibited firearm that has never been registered.

Selling, giving or lending prohibited firearms

You can lend a prohibited firearm to anyone with a valid PAL that authorizes them to possess that particular category of prohibited firearm.

Note

If you lend a prohibited firearm, you must lend the registration certificate as well.

You can sell or give a prohibited firearm only to someone with a PAL valid for that category of firearm. When the prohibited firearm changes owners, it must be registered to the new owner. See Buying and selling (transferring) firearms.

Refer to the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited, Restricted or Non-Restricted for more information.

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