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Which guns are legal to own in Canada?

Canada’s Criminal Code defines three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited.

While it’s still legal to own restricted firearms, Canada’s Firearms Act imposes strict regulations on their use, ownership and transport. Regulations governing non-restricted firearms largely pertain to safe storage and transport.

Non-restricted

Includes most common rifles and shotguns not classified as prohibited or restricted. There are no non-restricted handguns.

Restricted
  • Most handguns are restricted. Any firearm designed, intended or modified to be operated with one hand is either restricted or prohibited under Canadian law.
  • Any firearm that can be fired while folded, telescoped or otherwise adapted to a length less than 660 mm.
  • Any firearm that:
  1. Isn’t currently prohibited; and
  2. Has a barrel shorter than 470 mm; and
  3. Can fire centre-fire ammunition (rounds with the primer in the centre of the base) at a semi-automatic rate.
  • Any other firearm classified as restricted in the Criminal Code’s Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted

Regulations governing restricted firearms:

Owners require a valid license for restricted firearms, also needed to buy ammunition.

With few exceptions, it’s illegal to keep a restricted firearm anywhere other than the owner’s residence or another location authorized by the provincial or territorial chief firearms officer.

If you want to transport your restricted firearm anywhere, you need an official Authorization to Transport (ATT), allowing you to take the gun outside your home for certain purposes like visiting a range or a gun show, attending training or seeking repair.

Your firearm must be unloaded, equipped with a trigger lock and stored in a lockable container when being transported.

In rare cases, owners of restricted guns can get an authorization to carry (ATC). These are typically granted for occupational use, like security guards, or very rarely for self-defence.

If you don’t have an ATC, it’s only legal to fire your restricted gun at a shooting range or in competition.

Prohibited

These aren’t prohibited in the strictest sense of the word, since some people and business can own them, but acquisition and ownership are tightly controlled. Prohibited weapons include: 

  • All fully automatic firearms, even if they’ve been modified to semi-automatic capability. One example is the famous AK-47 assault rifle.
  • Handguns designed or modified to fire a 25 or 32-calibre round or with a barrel shorter than 105 millimetres.
  • Any rifle or shotgun modified to be shorter than 660 mm in length or with a barrel shorter than 457 mm, regardless of its overall length.
  • Any firearm that fires a dart or electrical charge, like a Taser.
  • Any firearm designed to fit in the palm of your hand.
Several hundred specific models of shotguns, rifles and handguns listed in the Criminal Code’s Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted.

Further reading:

Firearms definitions and regulations in Canada’s Criminal Code:http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-42.html#h-37

The Criminal Code’s Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-98-462/FullText.html

Read more about the different classes of firearms: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/fs-fd/clas-eng.htm