How to get a gun license in Canada … and you though BATFE was bad?

Noah has created a website to help Canadians who are interested in getting a “Possession and Acquisition License” (gun license). It is well worth passing onto Canadian friends or relatives who are interested in getting their license.

You’re going to have to wade knee deep into Canada’s nearly two billion dollar firearms registry boondoggle. But it’s not as bad as it sounds; and you’re already paying for it with your tax dollars, so why not get something out of it?

After my US readers, Canadians make up the second biggest group of readers on the blog.

UPDATE: Solomon, a criminal defence lawyer practicing in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, has also started a blog about firearm ownership in Canada.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • JC

    I’m a Canadian living in the States, and have a PAL. I’m in the process of renewing it, which is interesting. They require a letter of good conduct from my local police. I’m sure the local PD are going to give me a blank look when I try to explain this. 😉

    BTW, the renewal fee is waived until 2010 FWIW.

  • Phil

    “After my US readers, Canadians make up the second biggest group of readers on the blog”

    Yeah, this is where we come to see all the guns we’re
    not allowed to have…

  • Shane

    The worst things about Canada’s system are:

    A) Requiring too much personal information: job history, “conjugal” partners, and other private information that should have no real bearing on the process.

    B) If you own “restricted” firearms (handguns, AR15’s, and short-barreled firearms) or 10 or more “non-restricted” firearms (rifles, shotguns), police no longer need a reason to search your house. The CFO (Chief Firearms Officer) can simply schedule an inspection with you (a “reasonable” amount of time in advance) and search everywhere and any documents that may “reasonably” contain any firearm, firearm-related device, or documents relating to a firearm collection. Basically, he can look at whatever he wants–goodbye privacy rights.

    C) The “ATT” (Athorization to Transfer). To transport your restricted firearm anywhere to need to contact the government and have them fax you an authorization. You can get a long-term one to any firing range you belong to (generally restricted to your province). If you want to take it to a gunsmith or to a competition, you need to phone the government. This, in my opinion, is one of the most onerous and useless restrictions. It has no conceivable “public safety” applications (as firearms owners already have control over their firearms and if they wanted to commit, say, a robbery they aren’t going to request an ATT to a liquor store), and is entirely there to make owning these kinds of firearms more difficult and “social engineer” them away over time (as owners die or quit and aren’t replaced with new shooters who have to learn and comply with all the draconian restrictions).

    D) No property rights. The governing party can simply pass an “Order-in-Council” that can prohibit any firearm at will which will then be confiscated without compensation. They don’t need a majority of the seats to do this–they can do it on a whim. This has been historically used to ban evil-looking “black rifles”–Steyr Aug, FN FAL, or even the SPAS-12–which would otherwise be non-restricted. With the Conservatives in power the CFC (Canadian Firearm Center) tactic has been simply to attempt to keep new non-restricted black rifles in “review” forever (like they are doing with the semi-auto Type 97 imported from China).

    Scrapping the long-gun registry gets the most airtime in Canada as far as gun rights go, but it is not one of my biggest concerns. It is just happens to be one thing we may have a chance to get rid.

  • Kevin

    Thanks! This will definetley get passed along to my buddies who are interested. Most of them want their liscense, but due to the horrible mess of paperwork, they dont want to get the liscense. This may help.

  • Jeff Powell

    I am Canadian and I read this blog. I recently passed my tests and applied for my license. Its not as bad as it sounds. But at the same time its really sad that we even have to get a license for this.

  • Martin

    Things like this make me feel true sorrow for Canadians, and real concern for my own rights here in the US.

  • D

    man this is far worse than getting a concealed handgun license here, unbelievable

  • gunner

    i had a canadian friend come down to visit some few years ago, before this “gun registry”. she went shooting with me and loved shooting my .45, she went home and was royally pissed off to find that canada would not allow her to have one for herself at home. (“what’s a little lady like you want a gun for, eh?”)

  • Nick T.

    To Phil, I am also Canadian, and I know some VERY decent things we can get that the Americans cannot, like new chinese guns, the US has the embargo against them, so they only have the older ones. Not a huge loss, but hey, who isn’t in the market for a 100$ .22 that is accurate to boot! or the Dominion arms “outlaw”, over there in the states, that’s a weapon that requires the tax stamp and BATFE approval, over here, we go through PAL course and we can pick one up and go hunting with it.

    I am going to go for my PAL and RPAL course in a few months (turning 18! YEH!) only thing I hate, is that we can’t have guns with an AK based design, we can get pretty close, but no AK clones, and no silencers. I am going to get the RPAL only for a handgun for target practice, and for the sake of owning at least one.

    Thanks for the great link Steve, got to work on those 3 references now!

    as for all the personal info, I am pretty glad we have these things in place, I mean yes, it is a pain, but if you really read, its more tedious than anything, you are VERY likely to get your license, but it requires you to know your stuff, be reasonably sound of mind, and stuff like that, stuff that people who have legitimate uses for firearms will be able to bypass and get their PAL, whereas a convicted sexual predator in debt 50,000$ will NOT get it, makes me feel safer, knowing that there are significantly less guns just “handed out” to the public.

    Steve, could you actually maybe explain the process of obtaining a firearm in the states? I have never understood it.

    • Nick, you walk into a gun shop and buy it 😉 A background check is done but no license is needed. What the state allows to be purchased differ from state to state. Certain items like suppressors need federal (ATF) approval and a hefty tax paid.

  • JC

    One funny thing about American vs. Canadian law is that if we want a barrel shorter than 16 inches, we pay a $200 fax for a short-barreled rifle. In Canada, there is no distinction between 16 inch, 14.5, 11, etc. Of course, in Canada there is that pesky 5-rnd mag limit on semi autos. 🙁

  • JC

    Uh, I meant tax. 🙂

  • Crystal

    I’m also from Canada and have been cruising on your site for quite a long time.
    I am a holder of both a PAL and an RPAL
    Unfortunately, we’ve got no such thing as “Concealed Carry” or even open carry for that matter. Apparently it exists, but no one is known to have one, despite the many many many applications for them (check out for canadian carry information so I don’t jack this, or turn this into a political discussion).
    Anyway, it’s much different here in canada. There’s no such thing as buying shotguns in walmart or pistol and most rifle rounds either. When I bought my CX4 storm in 9mm, I paid 1000 from a registered firearms dealer (from a chain called Outdoor wholesale outfitters), but for those of us who love guns although laws here make it hard for us to, it’s worth it.
    Another point, a box of 50 9mm ammo here is about 20 bucks canadian, went to the states and found out that it’s 21 bucks american! I thought that was odd.

  • JC

    I’m confused by the term RPAL. I have a PAL, and on the back is says:

    Non-restricted, Restricted.

    Crossbows, Non-restricted, Restricted

    What are people referring to when they say RPAL?

  • uzim16

    I’m from Canada too. Nothing really bothers me except the transfer permit( when I need to move to new place. sometimes I have to rush to get it). Also, firearms are more expensive in Canada than in US. Maybe because we don’t have a lot of gun makers here. Colt Canada is not allowed to sell anything to civilians here. That’s sad.

  • Nick T.

    and steve, another thing that I f*ckin hate over here, is that airguns over 500 FPS are considered firearms over here, so I would have to go through all that work to get something you fellas can pay 50$ for at the local walmart. Being an airgun enthusiast, this REALLY pisses me off, since child’s toys over there, are licensed weapons over here >:(

  • Phil Nason

    Wow lot’s of good comments!
    one thing nobody touched on yet are the different “classes” of firearms licences there are in Canada. I have my RPAL but I also have my 12.6
    which means I can own prohibited pistols (short barrels and small caliber) Nick T. can never have that class of firearms licence. I have mine
    because I Bought an old pos S&W Model 10 with a 4 inch barrel to plink with back in 1988. I don’t have my 12.2 or 12.3 class. 12.2 means you can own full auto. You had to own a registered full auto before 1978 for that one. 12.3 is (I think) converted full auto ie an M-14 that’s now semi auto only. You can’t get an ATT for 12.2 and 12.3 guns which means
    you can’t take them out of your house…
    My 2 year old son can theoretically get his 12.7 class when he’s old enough which means he can inherit any 12.6 class guns I own
    that were made before 1946.Byzantine enough? I can keep going…..

    • Phil, LOL, you lost me!

      One question. These restricted licenses: Can you hunt with the restricted guns? Or are they range only?

      • David

        Range only, it’s not really all that difficult to get a gun, but it is very expensive and time consuming, but I’m okay with that, less “legal’ guns in the hands of criminals (In the US many guns seized from scumbags were purchased legally) but I hate the 5 round max for semi auto rifles (few exceptions though) the AK being banned, no CCW to civvies (ATCs are available but VERY hard to get) ATT, can’t hunt with restricted guns (EVEN RIFLES….LIKE WTF) etc, basically the only form of gun control I support is the licence, everything else is bull

  • Phil

    Hi Steve

    They’re range only. Which is why I sold my CAR-15 back in 92′ and bought a mountain bike. It’s also why I spent extra money to get a longer barrel
    for the M1 Carbine I bought this year. If I had
    kept the 18 inch barrel it would have been restricted
    I put an 18 3/4 barrel on it so now it’s ok. I won’t
    actually hunt with it but it’s a great hiking gun.

    • Phil, ah, I thought so. Thanks for the info.

  • Carl

    “Hiking gun”? Meaning you are allowed to carry for defensive purposes in Canada? Only in the wilderness or everywhere? What types of weapons?

  • Phil

    Hi Carl

    heh, actually “Hiking” in this case is what my friends call the way I hunt.
    I call it a walk in the woods with a gun.

    To be honest I don’t know if you can carry for defensive purposes
    I think you might be able to in special circumstances say if you’re
    a trapper or prospector but don’t quote me on that.

    In my province, New Brunswick we have a varmit hunting license which is good from March 1st until mid September. During that season you can carry 23 cal and under centerfire rifles. Before all M-16 type rifles became restricted in 92′ I used to hike all over southern N.B.
    with my CAR-15.

  • Crystal

    Okay, to answer a few questions here…
    JC: The difference between the PAL and RPAL is exactly what’s on the back of your card 🙂 the “R” just stands for “Restricted” and the PAL stands for “Possession and Acquisition License” AND about the 5 round mag limit- I believe that is for non-restricted firearms only. Restricted firearms are limited to 10.

    Phil: There’s really only 3 “classes.” Non-Restricted, Restricted, and Prohibited. Prohibited, of course, has many other sub classes.
    You cannot carry for defensive purposes unless you are given permission and a carry license by your Chief Firearms Officer. As said in my previous post, they exist, but no one is known to have one (but don’t take my word on that). The only possible way to be able to carry in Canada is if you can prove to your CFO that you are constantly in life-threatening situations to the point where you need to protect YOURSELF only with a firearm.
    Let me put it this way… Even LAW ENFORCEMENT is not allowed to carry off-duty.

  • Chris

    I read through the posts, lots of helpfull info there, thanks guys. I was wondering if anyone could tell me exactly where to start this whole process. As in, is there a website I can visit to begin the application process/practice test etc. Or do I have to go somewhere like a shooting range. Sorry, I really don’t know jack all at this point. My sis’ and bro-in-law are making a move to a backcountry area and we were thinking of getting our gun/hunting licenses.

  • Crystal

    Chris – here is your best start
    Don’t forget, you HAVE to take a firearms safety course first!!

  • Dianne

    Chris – You may wish to try if you live in Alberta. Unsure what Province you are from but most Hunter Education Instructor’s Associations have a list of instructors for their Province. You can take the full course or challenge the exam(s). Once you have passed the written & practical tests you then have to apply for your PAL (Possession & Acquisition Licence). Anyone providing the course will have these forms readily available. You’ll need a phoo, two reference and your completed application. If all goes well you should have your licence in roughly 6 weeks. Good luck!

  • Dianne


    On the 5 mag limit – This is during bear season only. During bird or big game (excluding bear) it’s only 3 maximum.

  • Nick T.

    @ dianne, that is false. it is 5 rounds max always.

  • Dianne

    Nick T.

    No this isn’t false if we are talking about shotguns. Federally you can have five rounds but Provincially you can only have three shotgun rounds during bird season. As long as there is NO BIRD SEASON OPEN (migratory or upland) you can have five rounds. This has been in effect since December 1995. Rifles are five rounds.

  • Nick T.


    what province do you call from? in Ontario I have never heard of this limit, and I was assuming we were talking rifles.

  • Evan

    Hey I have a PAL and looking to Get my RPAL How do i go about doing so? As well i’m looking at buying a Dpms AR Lo PRO 16 out of the states, for shooting paper, is it possible to bring this into Manitoba? Thanks

  • Jeff

    Since you are a not a resident of the US, I don’t think you will be able to come down here and buy a DPMS. You must be a citizen or a legal alien. Why not just buy one of the excellent ARs available in Canada?

    Also, the US has Export Control laws on anything remotely military (e.g. rifle scope with mil reticle). If I ever move back to Canada, I need to get the US’s permission to bring my firearms out of the states before I can even get permission to bring them into Canada. *sigh*

    As far as the restricted PAL, I think you just need to take the restricted safety course.

    Somebody please correct me if I’m blowing smoke or other inaccuracies… 😉

  • Dianne

    To obtain the restricted PAL you must first obtain the non-restricted PAL, it is the pre-requisite requirement to the restricted PAL.

  • Evan

    Thanks Jeff i will look into the AR’s available here. Dianne i have my non-restricted PAL just trying to get my RPAL, Is it still just a coarse?

  • Nick T.

    I am from Alberta. Regarding magazine limit for shotguns during bird season, I have copied a paragraph from Page 23 of the Ontario Hunting Regs which states, “You must plug a semi-automatic or repeating shotgun so that it will not hold more than a total of three shells in the chamber and magazine combined”.

  • Evan: You can take the Restricted course or just challenge the test. To challenge you need to study the course material, find an instructor who does the testing (written 50 question test & short practical). This usually takes 30-45 minutes and you need 80% to pass, just like the non-restricted one. Once you have passed both portions you can fill out your PAL Application to get your Restricted PAL. The RCMP are in the process of revamping both manuals so hopefully this will reduce mandatory class time. Alberta Hunter Education has a list of instructors for our Province but unsure if all provinces provide this info. The Chief Firearm Officer for your Province should also have this info.

  • glen

    Or you can just make your own guns if you have bullets laying about.There’s some good template and schematic .pdfs posted on for example, and will prevent police from simply ‘looking up you on the list’ when guns are eventually banned and they go door to door consficating them from law abiding citizens, which can, and will, happen during times like war or martial law.

    On another note, I think the fact that they ask you about your sexual fetishes is a tipoff that there are things seriously wrong with the registry laws.

  • Canada does have some crazy regulations when it comes to firearms licensing.

    In the hopes of helping the readers here I have outlined an up to date synopsis of the process of obtaining a firearms license on my Candian Firearms Blog:

    Take care and stay safe.

  • Jim


    An m1 carbine in canada is OK too with the extension on the end of the barrell installed also??? do you know, I assume it is but don’t know the rules change a plenty

  • Sexual fetishes need to be disclosed? Uh…there wasn’t anything about that on my form.

    There was a section about spouses, ex-spouses, partners etc. But that’s there so they can contact them and inform them if they deem it necessary. Remember that our system isn’t so much about licensing but about preventing harm.

    That’s why I had to have my psychologist sign off on mine.

    Keep in mind that this was a reaction to the massacre in Montreal (must be 20 years ago by now) that was done with legally purchased firearms by a licensed owner.

    So yeah, not about punishing or preventing crooks from doing anything but ensuring us legal folks don’t do anything stupid. Ass-backwards, especially as gun crime had been falling steadily for years prior (still is).