Getting into the Shooting Sports
For many people who are interested in getting into this hobby, there is a some confusion about How to Legally Buy a Gun in Canada. There is some misinformation about the cost and complexity of taking part in this most Canadian of tradition. However, the steps are very straight forward and it is not very expensive. For a small investment of time and money you can enjoy a lifetime of safe and fun shooting experiences.
To encourage new shooters to join the sport, we would like to outline: the steps necessary to obtain a Firearms License, the Process of Buying different types of firearms as well as some of the different shooting disciplines that a person can take up.
Please note, we are not lawyers and this is not legal advice, We endeavour to provide accurate and up to date information, however it is your responsibility to read and follow the laws governing the acquisition and possession of firearms in Canada. The RCMP runs the Canadian Firearms Program and their website with links to the relevant information can be found here http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/index-eng.htm
Get Your PAL (Possession & Acquisition License)
To obtain a PAL you need to take the the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC), this will allow you to buy and own non-restricted firearms (shotguns, bolt action guns, rim fires etc.).
If you want to shoot Pistols, Revolvers, AR-15s, short barrel rifles and carbine, etc. then you will also need to take the second course - the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course CRFSC. This is because the really cool guns are classed as Restricted :-)
We recommend doing both courses at the same time. Please note that there is an option to challenge the exam/s without doing the course/s, however if you are new to firearms, we strongly recommend that you do the courses.
Both courses are fairly simple and are designed with safety in mind. After you have successfully completed the course/s the instructor will give you a copy of your test and an application form (you can also download extra copies of the form here if you need to). Fill out the form and submit it with the requested accompanying documents.
After your application has been processed (this may take a few months) and interviews/background checks etc. completed you will be issues with either a PAL or RPAL, depending on whether you did one or both of the courses.
You are now able to go to a store and pick out the firearm of your choice. Find a gun that fits you well and that you are comfortable with, do not buy a gun that is too big or too small for your body type and hand size.
Most experts agree that the ideal first gun for is something chambered in .22. The benefits of this are two fold:
1. You get to learn with a less punishing firearm, which means that the experience is more likely to be pleasant and you will be less likely to develop bad habits (flinching, tensing etc.).
2. Cost, the .22 cartridge is the one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest round on the market, this lower cost means that you can shoot more, and we all know that practice makes perfect.
Once you find the gun that fits you well at a price that you are satisfied with, it is not a bad idea to go home without buying it. This may not seem intuitive, but spending an extra day doing some research on the gun, reading reviews and such would ensure that you don't get any nasty surprises later.
Do not buy under pressure, if you are being pressured to buy right away, you are in the wrong store, most reputable gun store will hold a gun for you for a day, or you can offer to put a small deposit on the gun and if you change your mind you can transfer the deposit to another purchase.
Once you are satisfied that you have found the ideal gun, you can present your PAL and purchase the gun. Depending on your choice of firearm; Non-Restricted or Restriced this process will be different for you.
Because you are buying a Non-Restricted gun you can take it home right away. (See Below for Safe Transport Rules).
When buying a Restricted gun, the process is a bit more involved. First the seller will have to call the CFO and initiate a transfer, you will then have to talk to the CFO to confirm the transfer.
Once the transfer is completed, You will have to wait until the CFO sends the registration to yourself and the seller, at that time they (the CFO) will also issue a Short Term Authorization to Transport (STATT), this will allow you to transport the firearm from the store to your house. You can now take your gun home. (See Below for Safe Transport Rules).
Go Shoot It
Now you can reap the rewards of your efforts. You can finally take your firearm to the range and pound off a few (thousands) rounds. Aside from regular target shooting, there are several organized shooting disciplines that you can get into, below are a few
Trap & Skeet Shooting
Now that you are a gun owner, we cannot stress enough how important it is for you to get involved in the community. The first step is to join the CSSA and/or NFA. These are the two most prominent organizations defending of the rights of firearms owners in Canada.
Canadian Gun Nutz is the most popular web forum for gun owners in Canada, it is a great place to interact with the community, ask questions, buy and sell new and used firearms and accessories. Another popular web forum is Gun Owners Of Canada and there is also a CanadaGuns sub on Reddit.
Notes on Storage & Transportation
This is different depending on the class of firearms you have.
For Non-Restricted firearms the process of transporting is much less complicated. From the RCMP website "Non-restricted firearms must be unloaded during transportation."
It is not a bad idea to also ensure that the firearm is not visible during transport, this is not a legal requirement, but not causing public alarm is always the better way to go.
The first thing that you will need to transport a Restricted Firearm is an Authorization to Transport (ATT). these come in two flavours:
Short Term Authorization to Transport (STATT) - As the name implies, this is ATT is only valid for a short amount of time, usually covering a specific trip (single trip to a gun club , gunsmith, moving etc.).
Long Term Authorization to Transport (LTATT) - A long term ATT covers you for multiple trips to a range or gun club.
The terms and restrictions on your ATT varies by province so PLEASE CONTACT YOUR CFO, as saying that you know that you can do this or that because you read it on the internet is a bad way to start a conversation.
The number to call to obtain an ATT is 1-800-731-4000
Additional requirement for transporting a Restricted Firearms are:
- Unload the firearms; and
- Attach secure locking devices to the firearms; and
- Lock the firearms in a sturdy, non-transparent container; and
- Remove the bolts or bolt carriers from any automatic firearms (if removable).
Below is a copy of an RCMP Produced Sheet that details the Safe Storage and Transport of Restricted and Non-Restricted Firearms. We recommend printing it out and keeping a copy in your Range Bag.