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Frequently Asked Questions - General

Canadian Firearms Program

Q1. What laws control firearms in Canada?

A1. At the federal level, firearms are regulated primarily by the Firearms Act and by Part III of the Criminal Code. The Firearms Act and its supporting regulations set out the rules for possessing a firearm. The Criminal Code and its supporting regulations identify the various firearms, weapons and devices regulated by the Firearms Act.

Both the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act contain offences and penalties for illegal possession or misuse of a firearm. For example, a person who has failed to register a restricted or prohibited firearm or who has used a firearm to commit a crime could be charged under the Criminal Code.

Provinces, territories or municipalities may have additional laws and regulations that apply in their jurisdiction. For example, provinces are responsible for regulating hunting. They may put restrictions on where hunting can take place and on the caliber or gauge of firearms that may be used for hunting particular game.

Q2. What is the difference between licensing and registration?

A2. Licensing and registration under the Firearms Act can be compared to a driver's licence and the registration of a vehicle. A firearms licence shows that the licence holder has met certain public-safety criteria and is allowed to possess and use firearms. A registration certificate, required for restricted and prohibited firearms, identifies a firearm and links the firearm to its owner to provide a means of tracking the firearm.

Q3. What are the different classes of firearms?

A3. There are three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited.

Non-restricted firearms are ordinary rifles and shotguns, other than those referred to below.

Restricted firearms include:

  • handguns that are not prohibited;
  • semi-automatic, centre-fire rifles and shotguns with a barrel shorter than 470 mm;
  • rifles and shotguns that can be fired when their overall length has been reduced by folding, telescoping or other means to less than 660 mm; and
  • firearms restricted by Criminal Code Regulations.

Prohibited firearms include:

  • handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm or less and handguns that discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition, except for a few specific ones used in International Shooting Union competitions;
  • rifles and shotguns that have been altered by sawing or other means so that their barrel length is less than 457 mm or their overall length is less than 660 mm;
  • full automatics;
  • converted automatics, namely full automatics that have been altered so that they fire only one projectile when the trigger is squeezed; and
  • firearms prohibited by Criminal Code Regulations.

Q4. What is considered to be a firearm for purposes of the Firearms Act and for offences related to the Firearms Act in the Criminal Code?

A4. As set out in section 2 of the Criminal Code, "firearm" means:

  • a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person, and includes
  • any frame or receiver of such a barrelled weapon, as well as
  • anything that can be adapted for use as a firearm.

Following are some weapons and devices that meet the definition of a firearm but that are deemed not to be firearms for purposes of the Firearms Act and related offences in the Criminal Code. Some of these items are exempted from the definition only if they were designed exclusively for a specific purpose and are intended to be used exclusively for that purpose by the person who possesses it. However, all of the items listed below are considered to be firearms if used in a criminal or negligent manner.

  • Antique firearms;
  • Devices designed exclusively for signalling, for notifying of distress, for firing blank cartridges or for firing stud cartridges, explosive-driven rivets or other industrial projectiles;
  • Shooting devices designed exclusively for slaughtering domestic animals, tranquilizing animals, or discharging projectiles with lines attached to them;
  • Air guns and other barreled weapons designed to have:
    • A muzzle velocity of 152.4 meters per second or less and/or
    • A muzzle energy of 5.7 joules or less.

Q5. Do the licensing and registration requirements apply to bows?

A5. Crossbows that can be aimed and fired with one hand and crossbows with an overall length of 500 mm or less are prohibited. You cannot lawfully possess or acquire a prohibited crossbow.

You do not need a valid licence or registration certificate to possess any other type of bow, including a crossbow that is longer than 500 mm and that requires the use of both hands. Criminal Code provisions making it an offence to acquire a crossbow without a valid licence were never brought into force.

If you plan to use a bow to hunt, please check provincial hunting regulations for information on hunting licence requirements and restrictions that may apply to the use of bows. For example, some provinces do not allow crossbows for hunting.

Q6. I own firearms but I do not have a licence and I have not registered them. Can I still apply, and if so, will there be any penalties?

A6. Yes, you may still apply. We are making every effort to help firearm owners comply with the law. If you need assistance, call 1-800-731-4000.

You risk penalties if a peace officer finds you in possession of a firearm without a valid licence. To minimize that risk, we urge you to apply as quickly as possible.

You need a firearms licence to be able to register your restricted and prohibited firearms. The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) (CAFC 921) is the only licence currently available to new applicants. If you have a licence, you can apply to register your restricted and prohibited firearms online for free through our Website or by submitting a paper application (CAFC 998).

Restricted and prohibited firearms being registered for the first time in Canada need to be verified by an approved verifier. Call 1-800-731-4000 for help verifying your firearms.

If you have prohibited firearms, please call 1-800-731-4000 to find out your options.

Q7. What is the maximum number of cartridges that a firearm magazine can legally hold?

A7. As set out in Criminal Code Regulations, some large-capacity magazines are prohibited regardless of the class of firearm to which the magazines are attached. As a general rule, the maximum magazine capacity is:

  • 5 cartridges for most magazines designed for a semi-automatic centre-fire long gun; or
  • 10 cartridges for most handgun magazines

A large-capacity magazine is not prohibited if it has been permanently altered so that it cannot hold more than the number of cartridges allowed by law. Acceptable ways to alter a magazine are set out in the regulations.

There is no limit to the magazine capacity for semi-automatic rim-fire long guns, or for other long guns that are not semi-automatics, with some exceptions. See also Special Bulletin for Businesses No. 72, Maximum Permitted Magazine Capacity.

Q8. I recently received a cheque from you. Why did you send it to me? Does it affect the status of my firearms licence or registration certificate?

A8. It is possible that the cheque was sent to reimburse you for an overpayment for something you applied for under the Firearms Act.

This payment does not affect the status of your licence or registration certificate. The privileges shown on the back of your licence will remain valid until your licence expires or is revoked. Your registration certificates remain valid unless your licence expires or is revoked, you alter the firearm in a way that will change its description (for example if you alter the calibre or gauge), or you sell or give the firearm to someone else.