A Brief Overview of Canadian Gun Laws

Here is a brief description of the current Gun Control laws that we have here in Canada:

Firearm Classifications:

Non-restricted firearms are those that you would expect to see if you were out hunting.  They include  any firearms that are not already classified as restricted or prohibited, and have an overall length of 26 inches or more and have a barrel length of 18 inches or more.  There are a few exceptions to the barrel length rule, but I’ll get into that later.

Restricted firearms include those that have overall lengths less than 26 inches and barrels less than 18 inches.  So no handgun, for example, could ever be classified as non-restricted as it is too short.  Certain military styled firearms that meet the requirements for non-restricted are also classified as restricted by name.  Popular examples are the AR-15 and the G-36.

Prohibited firearms include all fully automatic firearms, any handgun that has a barrel length of less than 4.2 inches, any handgun that is designed to shoot .25 or .32 calibre ammunition, and certain military styled rifles that have been prohibited by name.  Popular examples include the AK-47 and the MP-5.

So what do the classifications mean?

You may hunt with, target shoot with and transport any non-restricted firearm anywhere that it is legal to do so.  Technically, you can carry a non-restricted rifle with you where ever you go, so long as you only load it where it is legal to discharge it.  So it would need to be unloaded if you were in your car, in town or anywhere else that you are generally not allowed to shoot a gun.  Obviously, it is not a good idea to carry a rifle while going for a stroll downtown as you will attract a lot of unwanted attention from the police, but it is legal to do so.

Restricted firearms, on the other hand, may not be used for hunting and may only be used at, and transported to and from, an approved range.  On top of that, you also need an ATT (Authorization To Transport) from the local Firearms Office to do so.

Prohibited firearms are all the guns that government wants to get rid of.  They decided that it would be too costly to confiscate them all, so they decided that the people who already owned them could keep them, but when they died, the guns would have to be turned in and destroyed.  You can still get an ATT for prohibited handguns to take them to the range for target shooting, but not for prohibited rifles.

Barrel length exceptions

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few exceptions to the barrel length laws:

– semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and shotguns must have a barrel length of more than 18.5 inches to remain non-restricted (does not apply to semi-automatic rimfire rifles)

– non-restricted, non-semi-automatic,  rifles and shotguns (along with semi-automatic rimfire rifles) may have barrel lengths of less than 18 inches (providing the overall length remains more than 26 inches) as long as the barrel was manufactured that way from the factory

Magazine limits

All semi-automatic centre-fire rifle magazines are limited to 5 rounds of ammunition.  All handgun magazines are limited to 10 rounds of ammunition.  Because the law is worded so that it is the magazine that is being controlled, it has allowed AR-15 owners (and owners of other firearms that use the popular AR-15 magazine) the ability to use 10 round pistol magazines in their rifles.  This is because there is a pistol variant of the AR-15 and the magazine designed for the pistol variant will also work in the rifle.  There are no limits set for any rimfire rifle magazines.


Non-Restricted firearms must be unloaded, trigger locked or locked in a sturdy container.  Ammunition must be stored separately or locked up in the same container as the firearm.

Restricted and Prohibited firearms must be unloaded, trigger locked and locked in a sturdy container.  Trigger locks are not required if the firearm is stored in an approved safe.  Ammunition must be stored separately or locked up in the same container as the firearm.


To transport non-restricted firearms, they must be unloaded.  That’s it.  You do have to be aware of Provincial hunting laws however, as they usually require that the firearm be cased when you are not permitted to hunt.  If the firearm is left unattended in the vehicle, the firearm must be locked in the trunk.  If the vehicle does not have a trunk, the vehicle must be locked and the firearm must be out of sight.

Restricted and Prohibited firearms must be unloaded, trigger locked and locked in a sturdy container.  The bolt must also be removed from automatic firearms if able.  If the firearm is left unattended in the vehicle, the firearm must be locked in the trunk.  If the vehicle does not have a trunk, the vehicle must be locked and the firearm must be out of sight.

So that, in a nutshell, is a quick look at Gun Control in Canada.  The actual laws are obviously quite a bit more wordy and complicated, but this will give you a running start on understanding what we are up against.  You’ll notice (especially if you’re American) that there is no mention of Concealed Carry.  Canada does have an Authorization To Carry permit (ATC), but unless your job requires you to carry a firearm to protect money (armoured vehicle services) or you work in a remote area where you are considered to be food by the local predators, there’s literally a one in a million chance that you can get one.  A good site to learn more about Concealed Carry in Canada and what we can do to make it easier to obtain such a permit is casd.ca.


53 Responses to A Brief Overview of Canadian Gun Laws

  1. […] Click here for more info on what non-restricted, restricted and prohibited classifications mean. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Nazi GreensRCMP officers enforcing non-existent firearm lawsCanadian election critical for gun ownersCourt: Government Can Require Gun Registration […]

  2. […] is a very common hunting rifle found all over North America, and in Canada, is classified as a Non-Restricted firearm.  Chambered for .223 Remington ammunition, its versatility is profound.  From competition […]

  3. chris L says:

    I was wondering where in the Firearms Act is specifies a restricted firearm can only be used at an approved course. I have searched many documents. I am a landowner and am trying to find in writing such a condition, as I would like to target shoot occasionally on my property.

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      I can assure you that this is 100% illegal. The only place that a restricted firearm may be discharged is at an approved range. (I will add a link as soon as I can find it)

      • Rob says:

        Did you ever find that link? There may well be local bylaw restrictions but I don’t think anything in the firearms act.

      • gunningforthetruth says:

        There seems to be a bit of controversy on this one. From what I’ve found so far, the Firearms Act doesn’t specify locations for legal firearms discharge. It dictates where and how we store them, and where and how we transport them; but nothing about where to discharge them. Common sense tells us that since they will only approve the transportation of a restricted firearm to and from the range, that this is the only legal spot that we can shoot them, but the law doesn’t seem to implicitly state this. The law DOES state that your firearm must remain at your residence unless it is on its way to the range; so taking it out into the backyard would be illegal since the Criminal Code seems to indicate that your residence is defined as the structure of your house. Does that mean you could legally shoot out of a window or door…? Probably not since most hunting laws prohibit shooting within 200 meters of a residence. But some provinces state that this does not apply to the owner of said residence so long as there are no neighbours within those 200 meters. I certainly wouldn’t do this nor suggest to anyone else that they do. If you live in a province where it sounds like you might be able to get away with this, I’d definitely contact the CFO to get some clarity on the issue – preferably in writing!

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      The other option you have is to construct a private shooting range and get the CFO to approve it. Apparently, there are several private shooting ranges on private property in Canada.

  4. Johnathan says:

    I now understand that it is legal to carry a non-restricted firearm without a case, to do so would you need a trigger lock while carrying it? And would you be allowed to carry ammunition in your pocket or would it have to be in a locked case?

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      Legally, you can carry a non-restricted anywhere you want – but I wouldn’t recommend it. You will be arrested at gunpoint if you’re in a built up urban area and you may even get shot if you try this in Toronto.

      No, you don’t need to trigger lock the gun and carrying ammo for the gun is perfectly legal as well. The gun can only be loaded if you are in an area where it is legal to discharge it.

  5. Drew says:

    where can i find the rules on non restricted firearms…I travel a lot and i am now in court for not changing my addres…yet my address is still the same. ( I would stay at my brothers place for abit/ my gfs place. So i would liek to find the rules on it please. I know that i can carry it anywhere and bring it anywhere so i dont get it.

  6. Dave P says:

    If I buy a magpul Pmag for my AR15 it’s pinned to 5 rounds. But the mag for my LAR15 is a ten round mag. If these mags are interchangeable then I should be alowed to have a Pmag pinned to 10 rounds. Correct? Or is my logic off. Does anyone know if this is true?

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      There’s nothing wrong with your logic, but you still can’t have your Pmag pinned to 10 – they still has to be pinned to 5. The LAR-15 mags can hold 10 because those mags were designed for the LAR-15 pistol, and as we all know, pistol mags in Canada can hold up to 10 rounds. The Pmags were designed for a rifle and so they are limited to 5. From a practical point of view, it makes no sense, but it’s the legal point of view that we must refer to.

  7. […] demise. On April 6th, 2012, Bill C-19 officially passed into law eliminating the need to register non-restricted firearms in […]

  8. David pidgeon says:

    I want to carry my shotgun in my suv all times and I want to store the shells in glove box….my question is there certain rules in times where I can or cannot have the gun in my car? Also I want to hike in the woods can I carry legally while hiking?

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      As I understand the law, you can keep your non-restricted guns wherever you want. If it is in your vehicle, you must follow all the transportation laws. (gun out of sight, locked in trunk, vehicle locked, etc.)

      You’ll want to check your provincial hunting regulations to be sure that you are not breaking any of them. For instance, in NB, you can only transport firearms to and from a range unless you have a valid hunting licence. This is different from province to province.

      As for hiking in the woods with it, again, check your hunting regs. The federal law does not stop you, but provincial law might.

      • Ramsey says:

        I’m in NB and you don’t need any hunting license if you’re not hunting, your gun membership card will suffice.

      • Rob Stewart says:

        Keeping a non-restricted firearm over night or any significant period of time constitutes storage. This has been decided in case law when a woman left her firearm in her car for 4 hours.

        If you want a truck gun I’d recommend you buy a locking container that can be bolted into the body of the vehicle that you can store the firearm and ammo in just like the storage laws in your home.

        Otherwise, I’d personally trigger/cable lock the firearm AND store the ammo in an ammo box with a padlock.

  9. Jen says:

    Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is fantastic, as
    well as the content!

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      I think I’ve had this for about 3 years now. I’m not very active here as I co-host a podcast as well. (Canadian Reload Radio – a pro-gun show) Thank you very much for the kind words!

  10. kitling says:

    “Legally, you can carry a non-restricted anywhere you want – but I wouldn’t recommend it. You will be arrested at gunpoint if you’re in a built up urban area and you may even get shot if you try this in Toronto.”
    Apparently,if your firearm is not hidden from public view, you will get harassed by the police. however, carrying a concealed weapon is illegal.
    Someone says the regulations for transport are clearly written in mind for motor vehicles,but not everyone owns a car/truck. What are those people support to do?
    If those people want to carry the non-restricted firearms and ammo(or magazines,separately from the firearm) in their case or bag legally, what should they do?

    • Rob Stewart says:

      Some Case Law I read would indicate that the courts recognize the problem between a concealed weapon and scarring people. The general rule seems to be a case that looks like a gun/gun case OR is clearly marked.

      I’ve been considering getting a patch made up to stick on my backpack that says “FIREARM INSIDE” and then I can backpack my 10/22 takedown out in the woods.

  11. Drew says:

    The province, even though they get away with it, cannot restrict you from having a firearm. They do not have the power to restrict you from being in lawful and peaceful possession of items and that includes firearms. Only the federal government can do this. The province of Ontario is also illegally stealing vehicles from people and denying citizens their right to collective bargaining among other illegal activities. It’s time for all Canadians to educate themselves about the law and take back the rights that have been stripped from us.

  12. Drew says:

    Further more I’ve been told numerous times that my firearm should be out of sight in my truck while I’m in it. This is untrue, the firearm only has to be out of sight when the vehicle is not under the supervision of an adult. You can have it in the passenger seat, on the dash, your lap, wherever you want. The only restriction the transporting firearms is that they remain unloaded until you get to an area where it is legal to do so. To add to the magazine capacity issue, there is another loophole. If you have a magazine lets say for a .40 cal and that will feed into your 9mm. You can fit more than 10 rounds of 9 but this is legal because the magazine itself is regulated, not what you put into it.

  13. Marcel says:

    I’m wanting to customize my ruger 10/22 with some aftermarket parts, one of them being a barrel. The only aftermarket barrel I could find in Canada was a 16 inch bull barrel I’ve been debating on buying it cause I was under the impression that under 18 inches was a no go. So I guess my question is can I legally put an aftermarket 16 inch barrel on my 22. Thanks for your time.

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      Absolutely. With any firearm, except centre-fire semi-autos, there is no set law on barrel length. So long as the overall length of the gun is more than 660mm, you’re good to go. That being said, you cannot cut ANY barrel shorter then 457mm. Shorter barrels ARE allowed, you just have to buy them that way from the factory like the one you have your eye on for your 10/22. Good choice in rifle by the way. 🙂

      • Marcel says:

        Good stuff buddy thanks for the info greatly appreciate it. And I love my 10/22, quality firearm + cheap ammo = happy me lol

  14. Jay says:

    Can i carry my shotgun from alberta to BC and back in my truck?
    I will have the trigger lock n locked in a case.

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      Yes, most gun laws are federal and apply to all the Provinces equally. (Quebec being one notable exception) So long as you are also in compliance with each Province’s hunting laws, you are good to go.

  15. tengage says:

    do i have to get a permit from the dnr to take my non restricted rifle (30-06) to the range (that I am a member of) outside of hunting season

  16. gunningforthetruth says:

    Depends on the province you live in. In most, and know in NB specifically, you do not. So long as you’re on your way to the range and you’re not stopping in fields or sideroads (which makes it look like you’re hunting) then your range membership is your permit.

    Your best bet would be to call the your local DNR office to see what you need to do where you live.

  17. Kyle says:

    First off, great concise information here, thanks for putting it out there. My question is this: If I have a shotgun with an attached side-mount shell carrier, Is it legal to keep it in my SUV, unloaded but with shells in the shell carrier? Moreover does a loaded magazine, outside of a firearm, count as a loaded firearm, or does ammunition need to be kept completely separate from the magazine? Thanks for the info!

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      As far as I understand it, having shells in a side saddle on a shotgun is perfectly legal. Loaded mags are also completely legal.

      • Steve says:

        Any ammunition in on or attached to a firearm is considered a loaded firearm while in a vehicle.

      • Nick says:

        Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations, SOR/98-209

        S. 10(1) An individual may transport a non-restricted firearm only if (a) except in the case of a muzzle-loading firearm that is being transported between hunting sites, it is unloaded;

        Definition from SOR/98-209
        S. 1 “unloaded”, in respect of a firearm, means that any propellant, projectile or cartridge that can be discharged from the firearm is not contained in the breech or firing chamber of the firearm nor in the cartridge magazine attached to or inserted into the firearm.

        Definition from Criminal Code R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46
        S. 84(1) “cartridge magazine” means a device or container from which ammunition may be fed into the firing chamber of a firearm;

      • Rob Stewart says:

        Keep in mind some case law has determined that you are “storing” your firearm in your car if you leave it there for any period of time like over-night.

        My recommendation would be to get a locking container that can be bolted to the car.

  18. frank says:

    Hi, need clarification on barrel length I know it’s been covered but I need to know 100% I have a Savage 93R in a 17HMR cal. I want to shorter barrel for it, and can’t find 1 anywhere on the web SO I am thinking of having the barrel cut down and re-crowned ? is how SHORT can I go and still be legal

    thanks in advance

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      18 inches or 457mm is the shortest you can cut a barrel for any rimfire or manual action centrefire. (18.5″ or 470mm for centrefire semis). Here’s the weird part; if you can find a factory barrel that is less than 18″, it is still legal so long as the overall length of the firearm is longer than 660mm (or 26″).

      So yes, you can cut the barrel of your 93R down to 18″ and still be legal. Or, if you can find one, you can install any length factory barrel as long as the gun stays more than 26″.

  19. dan says:

    Another wierd exception is the rossi ranch hand its a center fire gun that is classified as a handgun its overall length is 24″ its barrel is 12″ and it holds 6+1 yet its non restricted you can even carry it like a handgun in a leg holster when hunting

  20. Jerry Boscariol says:

    If I have my magazine with bullets in it in my vehicle , with my gun while I am hunting is that gun considered loaded ? No bullet in the gun but magazine in my hand ? seems to be a lot of confusion on this one.

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      A gun is only considered loaded if the ammunition is in or attached to the gun (think hinge plate magazine) Having a loaded mag in your hand with an empty rifle is not considered loaded.

  21. Jerry Boscariol says:

    Thank you !!! It is nice to be right once in awhile . THANKS !!!!!!

  22. Richard Nawhinney says:

    Maybe I’ve asked this question before. I have a PAL with a fire arms course as well. I bought a Ruger 10/22 with few problems. My PAL has a 12 (6) on the back. If a want a restricted .22 hand gun do I have to take the restricted course. A fire arms person here in N.B. said no, just get my PAL upgraded. Also, can I purchase any prohib with the 12 (6) attachment? This question seems to cause confusion everywhere. Help!

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      Did you take the restricted course or just the non-restricted course? Just because you have been grandfathered for 12.6 pistols doesn’t mean you are approved for restricted firearms. You’ll have to take the restricted course and pass those tests as well. I’d call your local CFO office to be be sure.

  23. Bill says:

    I have my Pal and restricted if i take a friend to the gun range who does not have their PAL or restricted are they aloud to fire my hand gun?

    • gunningforthetruth says:

      As I understand the law, yes they can so long as they remain under your direct supervision. Don’t take my work for it though, ask a professional. All I can give for an answer is what I think.

  24. Josh says:

    I’m going to lay out a scenario. You don’t have a car. You live in Toronto. You are at a gun store and decide to buy a nonrestricted gun. If it’s in a box, it’s in a box. If it’s used and not in a box, you buy a rifle bag to put the gun in. And then you walk home, with a gun that’s in a bag or box, unloaded, maybe a trigger lock for extra precaution, and definitely no ammo. What do you think?

  25. Edward W Hunter says:

    I live in NB and am wondering about the legalities of carrying two firearms while hunting. I use a 16g shot gun and would like to be able to carry my 22 with me at the same time. Different applications at times…lol

  26. Samantha says:

    How far must I be to shoot my riffle, shotgun, or crossbow from any residence and can I shoot from anywhere on my property?

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