How Long and How Much for a Gun Licence in Canada?

(COVID-19 Update, 16 April 2020: The licensing system is shut down at the moment, so the timelines here don’t apply. See my Covid-19 news. Subscribe at the bottom for updates.) — Fodollah (his username on Reddit) of Toronto got his gun licence this week after roughly four months and almost $500. Congratulations! asked him for details on timing and costs as a guide for the rest of us.

Steps to Get a Licence

  1. Take safety course and pass written and in-class practical exam.
  2. Send licence application to national police (RCMP). Website says law sets a minimum 28-day waiting period, and they aim to check criminal record, check references and issue licence within 45 days. I guess they count only Monday to Friday.
  3. Get licence card in the mail (if RCMP approve).

The Not-So-Fine Print

  • Those are the steps for a licence to buy or own many rifles and shotguns, what the law calls “Non-restricted” firearms. For “Restricted” firearms, which include many handguns and AR-15 rifles, there’s a second course and set of exams. Do them both in one stretch if you can.
  • The process is broadly similar across the country, with differences depending on your province or territory.
  • Timing and cost depend on location, licence and other factors. Several people outside Ontario told their courses cost less than half of what Fodollah had to pay. See below.
  • Neither licence includes the right to carry a gun day-to-day for self-defence.
  • You don’t need any licence to go shooting with someone who has one.
  • Some target ranges offer passes for unlicensed visitors to shoot while supervised by range staff. (It’s a great activity to do on your own, on a date, outing with friends or an association, office party, bachelor(ette) party, …)

Fodollah’s Timeline

(See Glossary below)

  • Day 1 – Dec 18: CFSC first day.
  • Day 2 – Dec 19: CFSC second day and exams.
  • Day 13 – Dec 30: FSESO stamps CFSC results (in Ontario).
  • Day 18 – Jan 04: CRFSC and exams.
  • Day 27 – Jan 13: Stamped CFSC results received at home by mail.
  • Day 30 – Jan 16: FSESO stamps CRFSC results (in Ontario).
  • Day 44 – Jan 30: Stamped CRFSC results received at home by mail.
  • Day 54 – Feb 09: Licence application mailed to RCMP.
  • Day 87 – Mar 14: RCMP charges credit card to process application.
  • Day 108 – Apr 04: Fodollah calls RCMP to check status. Officer says it speeds processing if one of the references calls in. Reference (me) calls RCMP.
  • Day 111 – Apr 07: Fodollah checks status online and sees: “Your application has been processed and your licence has been issued.” (Yay.)
  • Day 116 – Apr 12: RPAL card arrives by mail. (Yay!)

Fodollah’s Costs

  • $190 – CFSC and student handbook (includes both CFSC and CRFSC)
  • $140 – CRFSC
  •   $80 – RPAL application fee (PAL is $60)
  •   $15 – Photo for application
  •   $65 – Transportation to courses (taxi and public transit)
  • $490 – Total


  • CFSC = Canadian Firearms Safety Course, for “Non-restricted” guns
  • CRFSC = Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course, for “Restricted” guns
  • PAL = Possession and Acquisition Licence, for “Non-restricted” guns
  • RPAL = Restricted Possession and Acquisition Licence, for “Restricted” guns
  • FSESO = Firearms Safety Education Service of Ontario
  • RCMP = Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Your Timing May Vary

  • Time from course registration to course start date. Some courses sell out weeks ahead of time. “Here in Calgary it is even longer with a 2-3 month backlog to take the course,” said Jim. “We started looking in November and are still waiting for our PALs to arrive.”
  • Applying for “Non-restricted” or “Restricted” licence?
  • Some courses run on consecutive days, some are spread out.
  • Some applicants act on the next step immediately, some wait. (Fodollah lost time here.)
  • Provincial procedures/bureaucracy: In some provinces, such as Nova Scotia, the instructor gives you the exam results right away, so you could mail your application on the way home. In Ontario, instructors mail the exam results to the Firearms Safety Education Service of Ontario (FSESO), which stamps them and then mails them to the applicant.
  • Do you wait for police to call your references, or do you ask your references to call the police? (Fodollah gained some time here.)
  • Public holidays, RCMP backlog, Canada Post, mistakes, delays, other organizations (Ontario had a huge mess up with licences last year.)
  • Your personal situation, e.g. incomplete application or ticked the wrong box, medical issues, interactions with police, etc.
  • Concrete example: Jay in Nova Scotia said he registered for his CFSC in November 2016, took the course on Jan. 10 and 12, then waited for more than two months for work and other reasons. He sent his PAL application by registered mail on March 24, and it was received on March 27. He received a letter from the RCMP on April 28 asking for clarification on a box he ticked, PAL vs. RPAL, and called imediately to resolve the matter. Card issued on May 1, received by mail on May 4. Total of 115 days from Day 1 of CFSC, and 27 business days from receipt by RCMP.

Your Costs May Vary

  • Applying for “Non-restricted” or “Restricted” licence?
  • Travel, accomodation: Can you walk to the course for free, as Jay in Nova Scotia, or do you need to travel far and stay in a hotel?
  • Photo: cheap or pricey?
  • Postage: Basic stamp, registered mail or express courrier?
  • Location: Municipality and province/territory. One person said on Twitter that he paid $75 for both courses in Alberta, and another tweeted that he paid $160 (vs. $330 for Fodollah in Toronto, Ontario).
  • Jay in Nova Scotia paid about $160 for his PAL: $57.50 (with tax) for the course + $25 photo + $60 application fee + $15 registered mail. He mailed his application almost a month ago. Note: He didn’t get to keep his course handbook, which helps to cut costs. (Thank you Jay for for writing in!)
  • Some provinces, such as Ontario, restrict the supply of instructors, which may help them to charge higher prices for courses.

Good luck, and happy shooting!