How to Buy a Handgun in Canada: Regulatory and Procedural Steps

Note: As of October 2022, the steps outlined in this article are no longer valid.

  • The governing Liberal Party of Canada made it a crime for government-licensed handgun users to buy or inherit handguns.
  • We wish for a future government to restore legal handgun ownership. — Shooting is one of the most-popular and safest sporting activities in Canada.

It’s a lot more popular and safe than playing hockey, football, skiing, and many other sports.

Everyone is banned from buying, selling or having any firearm without a licence authorized by the RCMP.

This article outlines the procedural and regulatory steps to get a licence and buy a handgun.

In Short

  1. Take CFSC and CRFSC firearm-safety courses and pass tests. (3 days)
  2. Apply for licence and wait for approvals. (2-3 months)
  3. Buy handgun and wait for approvals. (A few days to a few weeks)

Before the Criminalization Order in Council of 01 May 2020: Same steps to get an AR-15 target rifle.

Newest Update of This Page: 23 October 2022


Respect Our Culture and Values

  • Shooting is rewarding, beneficial and fun, and it isn’t for everyone.
  • Beyond the strict legal requirements, Canada’s shooting community values our culture of safety, responsibility and good citizenship. We strive to be of good character and sound judgment.
  • If you don’t share our values or our aims, we don’t want you in our community. If you do, we’d love for you to join us.

Your Own Handgun in a Few Months

  • You’ll have many steps to follow to get a handgun, or any firearm.
  • If you can show you are responsible and trustworthy, and if you follow all the steps, you could be shooting your own pistol or revolver in less than four months. (A lot longer with Covid-19 shutdowns.)
  • The first step is to sign up for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course near you.

Facts and Stats

  • More than 2.2 million men and women have a federal firearm licence.
  • More than 600,000 of us took the extra steps to get a handgun licence.
  • Millions more of our family, friends and colleagues enjoy shooting without a permit, under our direct control.
  • In addition, 90,000 people (mainly police) are authorized or required to carry loaded handguns for work every day for personal and public safety.


  • I’m not a lawyer or a salesman, and this isn’t legal advice or a pitch to sell you a gun. It’s my best attempt to share relevant rules and procedures as I understand them.
  • This article focuses on buying handguns for recreational or competitive sport shooting. Different rules apply to different activities (e.g. collecting, trapping, security) and races (e.g., Aboriginals).
  • Contact the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program or your province’s Chief Firearms Officer for information.



  • All firearm users are severely restricted by law.
  • The laws are complex and confusing. Many of them are illogical, wasteful and/or unjust.
  • Even though millions of individuals and families own and manage guns and ammo responsibly, politicians made it a crime for anyone to have any firearm unless you have the proper paperwork and obey a mountain of restrictions.

Gun Owners Are Under Criminal Law

  • The Criminal Code and Firearms Act are the main national laws regulating licensed gun users.
  • Provincial and municipal politicians also regulate licensed firearm users.
  • You risk criminal charges, police raids and jail unless you comply strictly with all laws and regulations.

Gun Owners Are Tracked By Police

  • Having a firearm licence means police track you in several databases.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police – Canadian Firearms Program (RCMP CFP) is the main federal agency that controls licensed gun users and gun stores.
  • Every province and territory has a Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) who administers gun laws with their staff in their region. Most CFOs are active or former police.

Gun Owners Need a Licence

  • You need a permit to legally buy, sell, or own any gun and to buy ammo: a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
  • The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program administers licensing of firearm users.
  • The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program also administers registration of handguns.
    • They track the make, model, serial number and other details of every handgun you buy, sell, and own.
    • If you want to lend a handgun to another licensed shooter, even to your spouse, you need permission.

Firearm Classifications

  • The Criminal Code currently classes all firearms using three arbitrary and made-up labels:
    • Prohibited”: Includes handguns, rifles and shotguns
    • Restricted”: Includes handguns (Before 01 May 2020: Included some rifles, e.g. AR-15)
    • Non-Restricted”: Includes rifles and shotguns
  • Sport shooters typically have “Restricted”-class PALs for “Restricted”-class handguns.

Guns for Protection

  • Self-defence is one of the main motivations to buy guns and ammo.
  • This is smart preparation for some people, and a serious topic beyond this article.
  • In Canada, having a licence to own handguns for sport shooting doesn’t allow you to wear (i.e., “carry”) loaded handguns for protection.
  • Important: If your application to buy a handgun says you want it for protection, your application will be rejected. It will probably be approved if you say the purpose is target shooting.
  • If you’re interested in armed self-defence, get trained by professionals in armed self-defence.
  • More on Self-Defence

Getting Your Handgun in Five Steps

1. Take Course and Exam

  • You must be over 18.
  • Find an instructor in your area and register for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) (two days, usually a weekend), followed by the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) (one day). Some instructors offer evening classes.
    • The courses are in a classroom. You won’t fire any guns.
    • You’ll learn safety rules, such as: Always treat all firearms as if they are loaded, and Never point a firearm at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.
    • You’ll learn the basics of handling different types of rifles, shotguns and handguns.
  • You’ll pass written tests about the law and practical tests about gun handling. You need to get a minimum grade to pass. If you pay attention to the instructor, you’ll pass.
  • After you pass, you’ll get a form to submit to the RCMP for your licence application.

2. Apply for a Handgun Licence

  • Submit your application to the RCMP with the $81.76 fee and a professional photo.
  • Wait for the RCMP and your CFO to run background checks, reference checks, and get approval from your partner or spouse, maybe even your ex.
    • If you pass all those, the RCMP will mail you your licence card after about 2 months.
  • After you get your licence, you can apply to buy a handgun.

3. Apply to Buy a Handgun

  • (Some provinces require you to be a member of a shooting club or target range before they will authorize you to buy a handgun.)
  • Find a seller: an RCMP-licensed gun store, or another person with a gun licence.
  • Show them your PAL so they can check its validity.
  • Request permission from the RCMP to transfer ownership to you.
  • Register the handgun with the RCMP.
    • Stores usually handle the transfer and registration.
  • Wait for approval, usually a few days to a few weeks. The store will call you.
  • Return to the store to pick up your gun if the purchase is approved.
  • Every time you buy or sell any handgun, you will need explicit permission from the RCMP.

4. Apply to Take Your Handgun Home, And Take It Home

Apply to Take Your Handgun Home

  • Apply to your provincial Chief Firearms Officer for an Authorization To Transport (ATT) firearms. If it is approved, they will indicate the authorized departure point (the store), arrival point (your home), and allowed travel dates and times.
  • As of now, this authorization is included with your licence in most cases, but the government may change that.

Take Your Handgun Home

  • Ensure your handgun is unloaded and disabled with a trigger lock, zip tie, or equivalent.
  • Place it inside a locked case or container. (Stores do this for you.)
  • Take your gun home by a “reasonably direct” route. The law doesn’t say what that means.

5. Lock Your Handgun in a Safe

  • Store your handguns at home, not your cottage, cabin, car, or storage locker.
  • Store them by law: unloaded inside a locked gun safe or vault, or with a trigger lock inside a locked container, cabinet, or room.
  • In some cases you need to store ammunition separately.
  • The point: Prevent anyone from touching your gear without your authorization (e.g., curious kids, unstable/impaired spouse, drunk guests).

A Few Other Points

  • Apply and pay to renew your licence on time every 5 years, or risk jail.
  • If you change homes, obtain CFO permission to transport your handguns to your new home, or risk jail.
  • Tell your Chief Firearms Officer within 30 days of moving, or risk jail.

Be a responsible gun owner.

Happy Shooting!

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