Specific types of firearms

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Air guns

There are two general types of air guns (also known as BB guns, pellet guns, spring guns or air soft guns):

  • air (pneumatic system)
  • spring (spring-air)

A third type, gas (CO2/nitrogen), even though they are not "air guns," are subject to the same rules set out below.

For purposes of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, air guns can be further divided into four categories.

Air guns that are firearms for purposes of both the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code

These are air guns with both a high muzzle velocity (greater than 152.4 metres or 500 feet per second) and a high muzzle energy (greater than 5.7 joules or 4.2 foot-pounds). Air guns need to exceed both thresholds to be classified as firearms for purposes of the Firearms Act.

These high-powered air guns are subject to the same licence and registration requirements as a conventional firearm. Owners and users must store, transport, display and handle them safely in accordance with the regulations supporting the Firearms Act.

The manufacturer's specifications are usually used to determine what muzzle velocity and muzzle energy an air gun was designed to have. The user's manual or the manufacturer's website may provide this information. If the information is not available, you should contact the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) and ask to speak to a firearm technician to find out if the air gun is considered to be a firearm for purposes of the Firearms Act.

High-powered air rifles are generally classified as non-restricted firearms. However, the classification depends on the exact design of the air gun. Air rifles manufactured to resemble an assault rifle could be non-restricted, restricted or prohibited depending on the exact model imitated. High-powered air rifles would also be prohibited firearms if fully automatic or if they have a sawed-off barrel. They could also be restricted firearms if they have a folding stock that reduces the overall length to less than 660mm.

Air guns that meet the Criminal Code definition of a firearm, but are deemed not to be firearms for certain purposes of the Firearms Act and Criminal Code

These are air guns with a maximum muzzle velocity of 152.4 metres or 500 feet per second and/or a maximum muzzle energy of 5.7 joules or 4.2 foot-pounds. Such air guns are exempt from licensing, registration, and other requirements under the Firearms Act, and from penalties set out in the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate.

However, they are considered to be firearms under the Criminal Code if they are used to commit a crime. Anyone who uses such an air gun to commit a crime faces the same penalties as someone who uses a regular firearm.

The simple possession, acquisition and use of these air guns for lawful purposes are regulated more by provincial and municipal laws and by-laws than by federal law. For example, some provinces may have set a minimum age for acquiring such an air gun. For more information, please contact your local or provincial authorities.

These air guns are exempt from the specific safe storage, transportation and handling requirements set out in the regulations supporting the Firearms Act. However, the Criminal Code requires that you take reasonable precautions to use, carry, handle, store, transport and ship them in a safe and secure manner.

Air guns that are replica firearms

These are air guns not powerful enough to cause serious injury or death, but designed to resemble a real firearm with near precision. Replica firearms, except for replicas of antique firearms, are classified as prohibited devices.

In particular, some air guns commonly known as air soft guns may fall into this category. These are devices that have a low muzzle velocity and muzzle energy, and that usually discharge projectiles made out of a substance such as plastic or wax rather than metal.

An airsoft gun, firing a .20g 6mm plastic pellet with a muzzle velocity below 111.6 m/s (366 fps), and resembling with near precision an existing make and model of a firearm, other than an antique firearm, is a replica firearm and therefore a prohibited device.

Although replica firearms are prohibited, individuals may keep those they owned on December 1, 1998. You don't need a licence to possess them, and they do not need to be registered. However, you cannot import or acquire a replica firearm. If you take a replica firearm out of Canada, it will not be allowed back in.

The Criminal Code sets out penalties for using a replica firearm or any other imitation firearm to commit a crime.

The CFP receives many enquiries from people wondering whether a low-powered air gun would be considered a replica if it resembles a real firearm in terms of its shape, but it is made of clear or brightly coloured plastic, or has significant dimensional differences. Many of these devices need to be assessed on a case-by case basis. As a general rule, however, devices significantly smaller or larger than the real version are not classified as replica firearms.

Air guns that are neither firearms nor replicas

These are air guns that are not powerful enough to be classified as firearms and that do not resemble a real firearm closely enough to be considered a replica. An example would be a harmless air gun made out of clear plastic or a device that is obviously a child's toy. Like replicas, they generally fall within the definition of an "imitation firearm" and may be subject to some penalties under the Criminal Code if used to commit a crime.

Antique firearms

The Criminal Code defines an antique firearm as either:

  • (a) any firearm manufactured before 1898 that was not designed to discharge rim-fire or centre-fire ammunition and that has not been redesigned to discharge such ammunition, or
  • (b) any firearm that is prescribed to be an antique firearm
Criminal Code

Licensing and registration requirements

If you only own antique firearms, you do not need a firearms licence or to register any of them.

Selling antique firearms

There are no restrictions on selling, buying, bartering or giving away antique firearms.

Types of antique firearms

The following firearms are antique firearms under the Regulations Prescribing Antique Firearms.

Black powder reproductions

Reproductions of flintlock, wheel-lock or matchlock firearms, other than handguns, manufactured after 1897.

Note

All other reproductions of long guns are considered non-restricted firearms. They don't need to be registered but a licence to possess them is required. As an example, reproductions of percussion cap muzzle-loading firearms like American Civil War Enfield and Springfield rifles are considered non-restricted firearms and not antiques.

Rifles

Rifles manufactured before 1898 with the following characteristics:

  • able to discharge only rim-fire cartridges, other than:
    • .22 Calibre Short
    • .22 Calibre Long
    • .22 Calibre Long Rifle cartridges
  • able to discharge centre-fire cartridges (whether with a smooth or rifled bore), have a bore diameter of 8.3 mm or greater, measured from land to land in the case of a rifled bore, with the exception of a repeating firearm fed by any type of cartridge magazine
Shotguns

Shotguns manufactured before 1898 with the following characteristics:

  • able to discharge only rim-fire cartridges, other than:
    • .22 Calibre Short
    • .22 Calibre Long
    • .22 Calibre Long Rifle cartridges
  • able to discharge centre-fire cartridges, other than 10, 12, 16, 20, 28, or 410 gauge cartridges
Handguns

Handguns manufactured before 1898 with the following characteristics:

  • able to discharge only rim-fire cartridges, other than:
    • .22 Calibre Short
    • .22 Calibre Long
    • .22 Calibre
  • Long Rifle cartridges able to discharge centre-fire cartridges, other than a handgun designed or adapted to discharge:
    • .32 Short Colt
    • .32 Long Colt
    • .32 Smith and Wesson
    • .32 Smith and Wesson Long
    • .32-20 Winchester
    • .38 Smith and Wesson
    • .38 Short Colt
    • .38 Long Colt
    • .38-40 Winchester
    • .44-40 Winchester
    • .45 Colt cartridges

Safety regulations

Please see the section on Firearms safety.

Black powder firearms

If you possess or are planning to acquire a black powder firearm, whether a muzzleloader or a firearm that discharges black powder cartridges, you should be aware of requirements that may apply to them under the Firearms Act. There are no licence and registration requirements for antique firearms.

Muzzleloaders made before 1898

All black powder muzzleloaders made before 1898 are considered antique firearms. Antique firearms are exempt from the licence and registration requirements set out in the Firearms Act.

Muzzleloaders made after 1898

All matchlock, flintlock and wheel lock long guns are considered antiques no matter when they were made. Like older firearms of these types, they are exempt from the licence and registration requirements set out in the Firearms Act.

Percussion cap long guns and muzzle-loading black powder handguns made after 1898 are not considered antiques even if they are copies of an earlier antique model. Newer percussion cap long guns are classified as non-restricted firearms. Newer handguns, including matchlock, wheel lock and flintlock handguns made after 1898 are classified as restricted if their barrel length is over 105 mm (about 4 inches), or prohibited if their barrel length is 105 mm or less.

There are a lot of reproduction firearms on the market. In addition, some firearms were made over a period of several years spanning the 1898 cut-off date. If you possess or are planning to acquire a percussion cap firearm or a muzzle-loading handgun, you need to know if it was made before or after 1898 in order to know what rules apply.

Firearms that discharge black powder cartridges

A firearm that discharges black powder cartridges might be considered an antique if it was made before 1898, but not necessarily. It would depend on the caliber or gauge. For example, a shotgun that discharges 12 gauge centre-fire cartridges would not be considered an antique no matter how old it is. More information on which ones are antiques is available by calling 1-800-731-4000.

Obtaining ammunition for black powder firearms

You must have a firearms licence to obtain ammunition. As defined in the Criminal Code, "ammunition" means "a cartridge containing a projectile designed to be discharged from a firearm and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes a caseless cartridge and a shot shell." The definition does not include loose black powder and shot used in muzzleloaders. Black powder is regulated primarily under the Explosives Act, which is administered by Natural Resources Canada. For more information on requirements for the purchase of loose black powder, contact Natural Resources Canada or consult the Explosives Act. Provincial, territorial and municipal laws, regulations and policies may also apply.

Storing and transporting black powder firearms

Please see the section on Storing, transporting and displaying firearms.

Exception

Black powder muzzleloaders do not have to be unloaded when you transport them between hunting sites if you have removed their firing cap or flint.

Crossbows

Crossbows that you can aim and fire with one hand, and those with an overall length of 500 mm (about 19.68 inches) or less, are prohibited. You cannot lawfully have a prohibited crossbow.

Under the Firearms Act, you do not need a licence or registration certificate to have other types of bows. This includes crossbows that are longer than 500 mm that need two hands to use.

Flare guns

Flare guns and other devices designed exclusively for signalling or notifying of distress, and intended to be used only for that purpose by the person in possession of it, are not classified as firearms for purposes of the Firearms Act.

A licence is not required to possess one, and it does not have to be registered. These devices are classified as firearms for purposes of the Criminal Codeif they are used to commit a crime.

Note

A few flare guns have been designed using the frame or receiver of a real handgun, and may require registration as such. Contact the CFP for more information.

Flare guns with chamber adaptors which permit the discharge of conventional ammunition may be considered firearms.

Kit guns and conversion kits

Kit guns

The registration requirements for guns assembled from a kit vary depending on the type of firearm being assembled or made. Firearms that meet the definition of an antique, including matchlock, wheel lock or flint lock long guns, do not have to be registered. In all other cases, if a frame or receiver for a restricted or prohibited firearm is included in the kit, it must be registered.

Conversion kits

Licence and registration requirements may apply to conversion kits. If the kit contains a frame or receiver for a restricted or prohibited firearm, you must have a licence to possess it and you must register it. A licence or registration certificate is not needed if the kit simply contains parts, such as a barrel, unless the barrel is also a receiver (for example, the barrel of a percussion-cap muzzle-loader).

Receiver blanks

As defined in Section 2 of the Criminal Code, receiver blanks, also known as unfinished receivers or 80% receivers, are firearms for the following reasons:

  1. A receiver blank is a nearly complete receiver of a firearm and falls within the adaptability clause of the definition of firearm
  2. Manufactured receiver blanks have no other purpose than to be firearm receivers

Receiver blanks are available as separate components but are often sold as part of a kit. These kits commonly include:

  • receiver blank
  • equipment and tools to complete the receiver
  • spare parts to assemble the receiver into a working firearm

Based on Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code, receiver blanks can be classified as non-restricted, restricted or prohibited. The most common in Canada are for:

  • Colt M1911, SIG 226 and Glock 17 pattern handguns (all restricted firearms)
  • AK-47 and AR-15/M16 pattern rifles (both prohibited firearms)

Once the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) determines a receiver blank to be a firearm, it is published in the Firearms Reference Table (FRT).

Future import and retail sales of receiver blanks will be available only to individuals or businesses that have the appropriate firearms licence. Restricted and prohibited receiver blanks must be registered.

Affected products

The table below identifies many of the receiver blanks known to be in circulation. Variations of the products listed may exist. The classification listed in the table applies to the unmodified receiver blank. The classification of a firearm made from one of the receiver blanks may differ.

Receiver blanks in circulation
Make and model designation Classification of the unmodified receiver blank Remarks
AK-47 assault rifle Prohibited Many variations possible
AK-74 assault rifle Prohibited n/a
AMD-63 assault rifle Prohibited Variation of the AK-47
AMD-65 assault rifle Prohibited Variation of the AK-47
AR-15 (M16) rifle Prohibited The receiver blank can be made into either an AR-15 rifle or an M16 assault rifle
Beretta 92 pistol Restricted n/a
Beretta AR70 assault rifle Prohibited n/a
Carl Gustav m/45 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
CETME rifle Prohibited n/a
Colt M1911 pistol Restricted Many variations possible
CZ 26 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
FBP 9 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Galil assault rifle Prohibited n/a
Glock pistol Restricted Many variations possible
HK 91 rifle Prohibited n/a
HK G3 rifle Prohibited n/a
KP 44 submachine gun Prohibited Similar to the PPS-43
Krinkov assault rifle Prohibited Variation of the AK-47
MG 42 light machine gun Prohibited n/a
M249 light machine gun Prohibited n/a
M3 (M3A1) "grease gun" submachine gun Prohibited n/a
PKM machine gun Prohibited n/a
PPS 43 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
PPSH 41 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Ruger 10/22 Non-restricted n/a
SIG P226 pistol Restricted n/a
SIG P228 pistol Restricted n/a
SIG P229 pistol Restricted n/a
Sten Mark II submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Sten Mark III submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Sten Mark V submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Steyr MPi-69 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Suomi submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Swedish K submachine gun Prohibited Similar to Carl Gustav M/45
Tantal assault rifle Prohibited n/a
Vz58 assault rifle Prohibited n/a
Vz61 Scorpion submachine gun Prohibited Many variations possible
Yugoslavian M56 submachine gun Prohibited n/a
Zastava M72 light machine gun Prohibited n/a

For more information, please contact the Canadian Firearms Program at 1-800-731-4000.

Replica firearms

A replica firearm is a device that is not a real firearm, but one that was designed to look exactly, or almost exactly, like a real firearm. Replica firearms are prohibited devices in Canada.

To be prohibited as a replica firearm, a device must closely resemble an existing make and model of firearm. If it is an antique firearm, as defined by the Criminal Code and corresponding regulations, it is not prohibited.

Airsoft guns

Airsoft guns are devices that:

  • have a low muzzle velocity and muzzle energy
  • usually discharge projectiles made out of a substance such as plastic or wax

An airsoft gun, firing a .20g 6mm plastic pellet, with a muzzle velocity below 111.6 m/s (366 fps), and resembling with near precision an existing make and model of a firearm, other than an antique firearm, is a replica firearm and therefore a prohibited device.

Replicas of antique firearms

Replicas of antiques are not considered firearms. They are made to look like the original firearm, but cannot discharge projectiles at all, or can discharge only harmless projectiles. (Devices that discharge projectiles that can cause serious bodily injury are not replicas.)

Replica firearms made of clear or brightly coloured plastic

The CFP receives many enquiries from people wondering whether an imitation firearm would be considered a replica if it resembles a real firearm in many ways, but is made of clear or brightly coloured plastic, or has significant dimensional differences.

Many of these devices need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. As a general rule, however, devices significantly smaller or larger than the real version are not classified as replica firearms.

Possessing or acquiring replica firearms

Individuals may keep any replicas that they owned on December 1, 1998. You do not need a licence to possess a replica firearm, and you do not have to register it.

However, you cannot acquire, make or import a replica firearm. If you take a replica firearm out of Canada, you cannot bring it back in.

Businesses may possess, acquire or import replica firearms only if they have a valid Firearms Business Licence that allows them to possess prohibited devices for an approved purpose.

Lending or borrowing replica firearms

You cannot sell or give a replica firearm to an individual or an unlicensed business. However, you can loan a replica firearm to:

The specific requirements pertaining to such things as record keeping, notification and storage requirements can be found in the Special Authority to Possess Regulations (SAP) (Firearms Act).

Use of replica firearms in crimes

When used to commit a crime, replica firearms are included in the broader Criminal Code definition of "imitation firearms". There is a mandatory minimum penalty of one year in prison if an imitation firearm is used to commit, to attempt to commit, or during flight after committing a serious criminal offence, such as kidnapping, robbery or sexual assault. This sentence must be added on to the sentence for the main offence.

Storing and transporting replica firearms

Please see the section on Storing, transporting and displaying firearms. Replica firearms should be treated like other firearms during storage and transportation.

If a replica firearm is borrowed under the terms of the SAP, you must store it in a sturdy, securely locked container, vault, safe or room that cannot be broken open or into easily.

If shipping a replica firearm, you must send it via a carrier licensed to transport prohibited devices. The CFP has a list of eligible carrier companies. You must pack replica firearms being shipped by licensed carrier in a sturdy, non-transparent container that cannot be broken into easily and that is not likely to break open accidentally.

Businesses that are licensed to possess prohibited devices for an approved purpose must store and transport these and other prohibited devices in accordance with the Storage, Display and Transportation of Firearms and Other Weapons by Businesses Regulations.

Information on importing a device that is not a prohibited replica is available from the Canada Border Services Agency.

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