Firearms Safety Courses
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Firearms FAQ

What is the difference between a PAL, POL and FAC?

The acronym P.A.L. stands for Possession and Acquisition License. This term is used in place of Firearms Acquisition Certificates or F.A.C..Firearms Acquisition Certificates (FAC) issued under the former law are considered to be licenses. They need to be replaced with a PAL as they have expired. In the early process of the reformed firearms laws in the late 1990's, the government brought out a POL (Possession Only Licence).  Owners of firearms were able to obtain these to retain their existing firearms but could not purchase any new ones.  These have been phased out and the only people who still have them are individuals who kept them current and did not allow them to expire.  The Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) is the only license currently available to new applicants. It is renewable every five years. Applicants must have passed the Canadian Firearms Safety Course in order to obtain one.  As of September 2, 2015, all persons holding a current POL will automatically be issued a PAL without the requirement of passing an exam. A PAL card is issued as you renew your PAL.  Vendors have been instructed to treat unexpired POL cards as PAL card until they are all replaced.  If your POL has expired, you will be required to take the course.

How can I check the status of my firearms application online?

You can check the status of your licence application at this link:
 Pal Application Progress 
They suggest waiting 45 days before getting too anxious about the status of your licence.  If you feel that the answer on line was not clear, you can phone the Chief Firearms Officer to ask why things are taking longer than 45 days.

What is the minimum age for a minor to obtain a PAL?

Minors can obtain a minor's permit as young as 12 years old.  This allows them to use a firearm with adult supervision but reduces the requirement to have a licenced individual within arm's length.  They are basically given a longer tether from the licenced individual.  The minor takes the same course as an adult.  When they turn 18, they apply for a PAL and do not need to take another course.  Unlike adults, minors are not allowed to challenge the exam.  They must take a course.  If the minor is interested in restricted firearms, they must wait until they are 18.  They are not permitted to have a restricted licence until they are 18.  They cannot obtain a restricted licence but if they wish, they can take the course for interest reason.  Once they turn 18, they can re-take the course at that time.  In terms of safety, if the minor will be using restricted firearms, it is a good idea to have them take the restricted course so that they learn the safe handling of the firearm that they will be using.

What are the different classes of firearms?

 There are three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited.  Non-restricted are any rifles and shotguns that are neither restricted nor prohibited. Most common long guns are non-restricted, but there are a few exceptions.

Definition of a Restricted Firearm

According to the Criminal Code, a restricted firearm is:

  • a handgun that is not a prohibited firearm;
  • a semi-automatic, centre-fire rifle or shotgun with a barrel length less than 470 mm (18.5 inches) that is not prohibited;
  • a rifle or shotgun that can fire when its overall length is reduced by folding, telescoping or some other means to less than 660 mm (26 inches);
  • any firearm prescribed as restricted (including some long guns).
Prohibited firearms:
 The Criminal Code defines the following firearms as prohibited:
  • automatics, including those that have been converted so that they can only fire one projectile when the trigger is squeezed;
  • handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm (4.1 inches) or less, and handguns that discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition, except for a few specific models used in International Shooting Union competitions;.
  • rifles and shotguns that have been altered so that their barrel length is less than 457 mm (about 18 inches) or their overall length is less than 660 mm (about 26 inches); or
  • any firearm prescribed as prohibited – These can be found in the fact sheet listing restricted and prohibited firearms.
 What is considered to be a firearm for purposes of the Firearms Act and for offences related to the Firearms Act in the Criminal Code?

As set out in the Firearms Act, "firearm" means:
  • a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person, and includes
  • any frame or receiver of such a barrelled weapon, as well as
  • anything that can be adapted for use as a firearm.

Following are some weapons and devices that meet the definition of a firearm but that are deemed not to be firearms for purposes of the Firearms Act and related offences in the Criminal Code. Some of these items are exempted from the definition only if they were designed exclusively for a specific purpose and are intended to be used exclusively for that purpose by the person who possesses it. However, all of the items listed below are considered to be firearms if used in a criminal or negligent manner.

  • Antique firearms;
  • Devices designed exclusively for signalling, for notifying of distress, for firing blank cartridges or for firing stud cartridges, explosive-driven rivets or other industrial projectiles;
  • Shooting devices designed exclusively for slaughtering domestic animals, tranquilizing animals, or discharging projectiles with lines attached to them;
  • Air guns and other barreled weapons designed to have:
    • A muzzle velocity of 152.4 meters (500 feet) per second or less and/or
    • A muzzle energy of 5.7 joules (4.2 foot pounds) or less. 

 Do the licensing and registration requirements apply to bows?
Crossbows that can be aimed and fired with one hand and crossbows with an overall length of 500 mm (about 19.68 inches) or less are prohibited. You cannot lawfully possess or acquire a prohibited crossbow. 

You do not need a valid licence or registration certificate to possess any other type of bow, including a crossbow that is longer than 500 mm and that requires the use of both hands. Criminal Code provisions making it an offence to acquire a crossbow without a valid licence were never brought into force.

 If you plan to use a bow to hunt, please check provincial hunting regulations for information on hunting licence requirements and restrictions that may apply to the use of bows. For example, some provinces do not allow crossbows for hunting.

I own firearms but I do not have a licence and I have not registered them. Can I still apply, and if so, will there be any penalties?

Yes, you may still apply. We are making every effort to help firearm owners comply with the law. If you need assistance, call 1-800-731-4000. An amnesty protects you from penalties under the Criminal Code if you only possess non-restricted firearms and you had a licence but it expired. You will need to comply with the licensing requirement or dispose of your firearms before the amnesty ends.   We are always looking for firearms to disable for use in our courses.

 In all other cases, you risk penalties if a peace officer finds you in possession of a firearm without a valid licence and/or registration certificate. To minimize that risk, we urge you to apply as quickly as possible.

You need a valid firearms licence to be able to register your firearms. The Possession and Aquisition Licence (PAL) (CAFC 921) is the only licence currently available to new applicants. If you have a licence, you can apply to register your firearms online for free. Non-restricted firearms no longer need to be registered but you must have a valid PAL in order to possess these firearms.

Firearms being registered for the first time in Canada need to be verified by an approved verifier. Call 1-800-731-4000 for help to verify your firearms.

If you have prohibited firearms, please call 1-800-731-4000 to find out your options.

What is the maximum number of cartridges that a firearm magazine can legally hold?

As set out in Criminal Code Regulations, some large-capacity magazines are prohibited regardless of the class of firearm to which the magazines are attached. As a general rule, the maximum magazine capacity is:

  • 5 cartridges for most magazines designed for a semi-automatic centre-fire long gun; or
  • 10 cartridges for most handgun magazines

A large-capacity magazine is not prohibited if it has been permanently altered so that it cannot hold more than the number of cartridges allowed by law. Acceptable ways to alter a magazine are set out in the regulations.

There is no limit to the magazine capacity for semi-automatic rim-fire long guns, or for other long guns that are not semi-automatics.  22 Long Rifle calibre magazines designed or manufactured for 10/22 platform rifles are also inherently designed or manufactured for 10/22 platform handguns. Because 22 Long Rifle calibre 10/22 platform magazines are designed or manufactured for use in a semi-automatic handgun, they are prohibited devices if they are capable of containing more than 10 cartridges. The 10 cartridge limit for the 10/22 platform applies irrespective of the type of firearm it is used in.

What is the difference between licensing and registration?

Licensing and registration under the Firearms Act can be compared to a driver’s licence and the registration of a vehicle. A firearms licence shows that the licence holder has met certain public-safety criteria and is allowed to possess and use firearms. A registration certificate identifies a firearm and links the firearm to its owner to provide a means of tracking the firearm.

How to Acquire a Firearm in Canada

1. Obtain a Firearms Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).

A. Take and pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) for non-restricted firearms (rifles and shotguns).  Check out our UPCOMING DATES to see when you can take the course.

B. If you are applying for a restricted firearm (handgun) you must pass the non-restricted exams and also take and pass the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). Also available through us.

C. Complete the license application form and forward with payment. This license is renewable every five years. Keep your address up-to-date with the Firearms office so that your renewal for will reach you.

2. Join a gun club that will permit you to discharge the kind of firearm you wish to acquire.  You do not need to belong to a gun club for non-restricted firearms.

3. Purchase your firearm.  For a restricted firearm, follow these steps.

A. Call 1.800.731.4000 and follow the prompts for transfer of the handgun.

B. Obtain a Reference Number for the transaction in case you need to follow up.

C. Obtain a Transfer Authorization Number (TAN) for the transaction.

D.. Obtain a long term ATT to move the handgun from your residence to gun clubs, gun shops, border crossings, etc. This long term ATT may be good for between 2 and 5 years at which time it will need to be renewed.

4. Get out and enjoy safe shooting!

Note that the Firearms Act states that the registrar may revoke the registration certificate if the firearm is not being used for the purpose for which the individual acquired it. This means you will have to prove that you use it, or you may lose it.

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