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Classes of firearms

All firearms in Canada fall into one of three classes - non-restricted, restricted or prohibited. 

Non-restricted firearm:  any rifle or shotgun that is neither restricted nor prohibited. Most common long guns are non-restricted, but there are exceptions.

Restricted firearm* means:

  1. a handgun that is not a prohibited firearm,
  2. a firearm that
    • is not a prohibited firearm,
    • has a barrel less than 470 mm in length, and
    • is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic  manner,
  3. a firearm that is designed or adapted to be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660 mm by folding, telescoping or otherwise, or
  4. a firearm of any other kind that is prescribed to be a restricted firearm in the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted.

Prohibited firearm* means:

  1. a handgun that
    • has a barrel equal to or less than 105 mm in length, or
    • is designed or adapted to discharge a 25 or 32 calibre cartridge, but does not include any such handgun that is prescribed, where the handgun is for use in international sporting competitions governed by the rules of the International Shooting Union,
  2. a firearm that is adapted from a rifle or shotgun, whether by sawing, cutting or any other alteration, and that, as so adapted,
    • is less than 660 mm in length, or
    • is 660 mm or greater in length and has a barrel less than 457 mm in length,
  3. an automatic firearm, whether or not it has been altered to discharge only one projectile with one pressure of the trigger, or
  4. any firearm that is prescribed to be a prohibited firearm in the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted.

*Criminal Code definitions

How a firearm’s class is determined

The class of a firearm is determined based on criteria set out in subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Codeand corresponding regulations made by Orders in Council. Accordingly, changes to the classification criteria can only be made by Parliament and the Governor in Council.

Can a firearm be “re-classified”?

It may occasionally appear that a firearm has been “re-classified”. However, this term is not accurate.

The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) applies criteria set out in the Criminal Code and corresponding regulations. A firearm’s class depends on the attributes of the firearm and the definitions in the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code defines “restricted firearm” and “prohibited firearm”. In some cases, information may arise that influences the outcome of this determination, and subsequently, the firearm’s class. For example, authorities may evaluate an imported firearm based on information provided by a firearm manufacturer or importer, prior to importation. Upon inspection, however, it may be determined that the information initially provided was inaccurate or incomplete. 
Similarly, if it is determined that a firearm can easily be modified (e.g., reduced in length or converted from semi-automatic to full automatic), this new information will determine the firearm’s class. Also, the design of an imported firearm may change over time from that of the initial shipment. The newer variant may fit into a different class than the original model. 

Verifying the class of a firearm

Verification is the process of identifying a firearm and confirming its class.

The CFP coordinates a nation-wide network of trained and certified verifiers who can assist businesses and individuals. For verification information and assistance please call 1-800-731-4000 (ext. 1052) or email verifiers.network@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

The Canadian Firearms Program has developed a comprehensive firearms identification tool called the Firearms Reference Table (FRT). Authorized users of the FRT, including domestic and international law enforcement, can access this firearms identification information through various interfaces.

Information

For more information, contact the CFP.

This fact sheet is intended to provide general information only. For legal references, please refer to the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act and their corresponding regulations. Provincial, territorial and municipal laws, regulations and policies may also apply.

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