Why not handgun hunting in Canada?

Let’s indulge in  bit of fantasy.

Lets say the federal government re-writes the Firearms Act and makes it possible to get licensed to carry a handgun into the backcountry. So you think, ‘maybe I could pot a grouse for supper, or wonder of wonders, hunt for Whitetail with a handgun’. Not going to happen, even if the feds were to suddenly see the light.?.

And why?

Because the majority of the provinces prohibit hunting with a handgun.


Good question. And the answer is …… that all of the provincial hunting regulations ban the hunting of game with handguns either explicitly or through definition of what constitutes a firearm for the purpose of hunting.

New Brunswick Fish and Wildlife Act

No ban found on the use of handguns in hunting.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hunting Synopsis

No ban found on the use of handguns in hunting.

Nova Scotia Hunting Synopsis

During the general seasons for hunting deer, moose, and bear, holders of appropriate licences may use: • a rifle and ammunition of .23 calibre or greater; • a shotgun of 28, 20, 16, 12 or 10 gauge, using a single projectile; • a muzzle loaded firearm of .45 calibre or greater; or • a bow with a draw weight of 50 pounds or greater within the draw length of the archer when hunting moose and 40 pounds or greater within the draw length of the archer when hunting big game other than moose; and any arrow fitted with a broadhead. (Handguns specifically omitted).

Prince Edward Island Wildlife Act

No ban found on the use of handguns in hunting.

Ontario Hunting Synopsis

Firearms include rifles, shotguns, air or pellet guns, bows and crossbows. You may use semi-automatic or repeating firearms for hunting in Ontario, but not handguns or fully automatic firearms. Air and pellet pistols with a muzzle velocity less than 500 feet per second may be used for hunting in Ontario.

Manitoba Wildlife Act

Except as may be otherwise permitted by this Act or the regulations, no person shall capture, kill or take or attempt to capture, kill or take a wild animal, other than a fur bearing animal, an amphibian or a reptile, by means other than a rifle, shotgun, cross bow or bow and arrow. (Handguns specifically omitted)

BC Hunting Synopsis

It is illegal to hunt with a handgun in BC. (Page 9)


It is unlawful to

5. set out, use or employ any of the following items for the purpose of hunting any wildlife:

  • A pistol or revolver.


No ban found on the use of handguns in hunting.

Quebec Hunting Synopsis

“…. “firearms” means rifles, shotguns and muzzle-loading firearms authorized, according to the species”.


It is unlawful to hunt big game with a

  • Pistol or a revolver.

Northwest Territories

No ban found on the use of handguns in hunting.


Unable to find current regulations.

Six out of ten provinces ban the possibility of hunting with a handgun as well as one of the three Territories. (I am assuming that Nunavut does not have any restrictions written into their hunting regulations).

It is also possible that there is something in the three provinces that I have listed (Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, PEI and Saskatchewan) as having no specific restrictions against using a handgun for hunting purposes that I missed.

It would be interesting to hear the rationale that the other seven provinces and the Yukon have for singling out handguns as not acceptable for hunting. In some cases it might be just ignorance, where instead of using the term ‘firearms’ they speak to specifics, such as rifles and shotguns. But if you say that you can only hunt with a rifle or a shotgun, you have eliminated the possibility of using a handgun simply by default.

In the case of British Columbia, the restriction against hunting with a handgun showed up, out of the blue, in the regulations a number of years ago. It was put into the regulations, I believe, by one individual in the Ministry of Environment with no consultation even though there was a process in place to review with stakeholders any changes that the Ministry was contemplating. The reason given when queried was that some (anonymous) gun club had threatened to start hunting with handguns so the Ministry was compelled to put the ban in place.

This explanation was too ludicrous to be believable.

Firstly, anyone contemplating this would not be able to obtain a transport permit from the feds to carry a handgun into the backcountry and therefore would be in breach of the law under the Federal Firearms Act. Secondly, it shouldn’t be in the purview of Ministry staff to even make that kind of decision – and certainly not without consultation.

It seemed more like it was done by someone with a personal agenda.

On the other hand, the fact that 7 out of 10 provinces have regulations to keep handguns out of the hunting fields may not be a coincidence. A number of years ago a Ministry staff member told me that there was pressure being applied to all of the provinces to write a ban on the use of handguns into their respective regulations. He didn’t expand on that statement to say where the pressure was coming from and unfortunately I didn’t take it any further, but if he was correct it would appear that someone had an agenda.

What is particularly frustrating is that although a regulation can be added very simply – in this case by an individual in a key position, it is far more difficult – read almost impossible – to get it removed. It requires a request to the Minister and his committee, made up of MLAs from both parties, who are normally reluctant to remove an existing regulation unless there is a advocate at the table to make the point.

Thus even though there have been efforts to get this regulation removed from the B.C. hunting regulations it remains in place.

So in six of the provinces and one Territory we remain in a catch-22 situation. We cannot hunt with a handgun because the Federal Firearms Act makes no provision for a transport permit for that purpose. And in the unlikely event (at least at the present time) that the feds might modify the Act for transport permits that would allow for handgun hunting, the provincial regulations would provide another barrier.

You can’t win for losing.


42 Responses to “Why not handgun hunting in Canada?”

  1. bluntobject Says:

    The B.C. handgun-hunting ban seems mean-spirited and rather, um, targeted. What’s the big deal regarding handgun hunting?

  2. Gary Mauser Says:

    Handgun hunting would be a win – win.

    We could increase the number of Americans who come north to hunt, and we could increase our safety in the woods.

    Unfortunately, neither the bureaucrats nor our governments trust us with handguns.

    Why the big deal? Could it be simply a case of anti-Americanism?

    So childish and small minded. As well as paternalistic.

  3. Heavybones Says:

    Laws ought to have some rationale basis. Picture a hunter in Northern BC encountering a charging grizzly with nothing but a bolt acton rifle in thick woods…perhaps his rifle jams or misfires…perhaps his rifle can not readily be turned on the charging animal due to the thick brush. Have we not constitutionally enshrined the individuals right to life and the security of the person? Why not give that hunter the option of carrying a large calibre sidearm as a backup? I simply do not understand.

  4. Kaido Says:

    I WILL Not Hunt in Socialist Canada, unless I can bring my Handgun.
    Many Americans already Boycott Canada because of this. That is why I Do. I will not spend my money to Hunt in any place that is anti handgun and prohibits handgun hunting where ever it be in Canada, The Americas, Europe, Asia etc. I “Ban” my giving money to these places.
    To the Good Canadian Citizens, you need to have a revolt your Country is so similar to a Communist Country( I know as my backgrond is from one) You need to Demand that your elected politicians make a lLaw or recignized Right in your Charters of freedom similar to the U.S. Second
    Ammendment. tell them you will Fire them at the next election if they do not comply. I feel for Good Canadians as you have so much wilderness with animals much more so than America has and you have more attcaks on people by animals as a result. It is open season by politicans and animals on people in Canada. Reverse that You should be able to carry a handgun into the woods.

    • Canusk Says:

      I see on the news every day you americans killing each other , I’ll happily forego the revenue from your visit to avoid having you come up here and kill someone that isn’t driving fast enough for your liking and wounding big game with your little toys.

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  8. DAK Says:

    Hand gun hunting has not aways been illegal in Canada. I have potted more than a few birds or bunnies using my old Ruger. I really cannot remember when it became illegial or the rational why it became such a serious crime. I do not hand gun hunt now but would seriously like to do it and legally again here in Ontario. Anyone that can remember the history and rational please feel free to post. I do know that a reg can be modified reasonable easily but the Act can be a chore! Thank you!

  9. Kayle Hatt » Gun Control Part 2 – Policy Options Says:

    […] example of this type of test: It is illegal to use a handgun to hunt in Manitoba (Source), Ontario (Source), Alberta (Source), and BC (Source PDF). Of course some handguns might be used for sport shooting, […]

  10. LaserGuy Says:

    Back in the 60’s in Ontario, there was no specific ban on hunting with a handgun, and I used to do it all the time.. Back then you had to be 21 to own one, and as long as you held a ATC (authorization to carry, there were NO ATT’s back then) and a hunting license you were good to go. The only quirk was it was illegal to hunt with more than one gun. So if you just used the pistol you were fine. But you could not carry a rifle or shotgun and a pistol on your hip.. The specific ban came around about the same time Trudeau’s government of thieving liberals changed the firearms laws due to, what else, Quebec and their problems with the FLQ.

  11. DAK Says:

    Darn and did we not get the “new” firarms act in retaliation to what happend to those poor folks at the Poli-tech in Quebec?!? 2 4 2 everyone can really give thanks for PQ being part of Canada and forcing the law makers to make laws thinking that they were making it really a safer place to live?!?

    Anyways the laws might not be what we like or even want but they are all that we got. So, push to have them ammended but do not get yourself into a legal quagmire but trying to ignore them!!!

    Me thinks that one would loose all credability if charged doing something illegal, like hunting with a handgun, even if one tried to blow the charges off by calling them a “protest”!?! So stay save and stay legal!!!

    Yes to a previous post, here in Ontario me thinks we too got the ban of hand gun hunting through the actions of a couple of short sided, A-kissing burecrates who probably believed that they were making the world safer or just too scared?!? I do not remember any consultation at that time but it could have been mist-ted?!?

  12. Mark Says:

    Canada is not a socialized country. I think perhaps you should consider what a socialized country really is before you say something so condescending and ignorant. If you refuse to hunt in beautiful country side because you aren’t allowed to carry a pistol on your hip, that’s your loss. Do you really think your so much better protected against bears with a hand gun? Good luck taking a charging bear down, 20 feet away with anything, let alone a hand gun. This isn’t a shoot out at the O.K. Corral.
    There are many reasonable precautions you can take to protect yourself against dangerous animals In Canada, Including arming yourself with a rifle or shot gun designed to take down large game.
    I own three hand guns and would like to be able to shoot pop cans in the bush, but hunting??? Big game no less with a pistol?? Ahh common.

    • DAKott Says:

      Hey Mark, Ahh common – for certain!!! Just read your post and I have, as part of my work took down bears at extremely close range. Three out of the four actually had powder burns from my initial shot. They were black bears and I was using a .357 Magnum. Hunting is not protecting you or your loved with a handgun and the same rules must apply, “A clean one-shot kill”! I did hunt bear with the same handgun and always held off for the clean one shot and never had a problem and as such always looked at handgun hunting as a method of potting small game and on the very rare occasion, I was a guide at the time, protection or the coup-de-grace shot!!!

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  14. Dean Says:

    Although their may not be a specific ‘ban’ on hunting with handguns in Saskatchewan in our regulations, it does however state that the empty cartridge case must be 44mm long…..which effectively rules out the majority (if not all) handgun cartridges. I would definitely try it if it was legal – a bow can easily bring down game, a well placed shot from a handgun should be effective as well.

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  23. Tom Says:

    If you take the premise of your post that there might be permission to carry handguns in the bush for self protection (not sure they want them loaded though, if you can believe it). That already happens for a lot of people who work in the bush in BC. So they already have guys in the bush who might wish to handgun hunt. This might have encouraged the move to put in a regulation.

    The other provinces can issue permits today, they just don’t in most of the other provinces. You can ask a CFO in Ontario, for a license to carry for protection where your job requires you to be at risk. They just didn’t issue these in the past.

    I’d be all for handgun hunting myself, and in particular see no reason to ban it for those who are allowed to own handguns, and own their own property. There is zero downside. But we can’t even get them to permit shooting on one’s own property where it would be legal to shoot long guns. People ask why we are against regulations, when say cars are regulated. One reason is that they spend billions to promote cars and driving, but they do a lot to screw up shooting in Canada, no mater how harmless it may be.

  24. hernandayoleary Says:

    I do wonder, I see no specific regulation forbiddening or excluding hand gun hunting in Saskatchewan looking at the laws, statues and hunting guides. So it appears one can hand gun hunt there. As for the caveat of not being able to obtain an att well one could ask the cfo for one anyways. As the statute seems to imply one can pistol hunt.
    ““firearm” means any device from which any shot, bullet or other missile can
    be discharged and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes a
    rifle, shotgun, pellet gun, air gun, pistol, revolver, spring gun, longbow or
    “Permitted firearms
    17(1) No person shall hunt big game with a firearm or metal projectile of .23
    calibre or less.
    (2) No person shall hunt upland game birds with a centrefire rifle.
    (3) No person shall hunt any wildlife with a shotgun larger than 10 gauge.
    (4) No person shall hunt game birds with a shotgun unless the magazine is
    plugged with a plug that cannot be removed or altered without disassembling the
    gun so that the magazine cannot carry more than two shells.
    21 Aug 81 cW-13.1 Reg 1 s17; 2”

    Nothing about no handguns. And firearms includes handguns. The one caveat is you probably have to use an antique handgun if you cannot get an ATT. As antique handguns require no att. So in saskatchewan you can handgun hunt, not true in communist cuebec or ontario as they prescribe specifically what you can hunt with and t doesn’t count antiques.

    • Dan Kott Says:

      In Ontario there is a provincial reg or statute that will not allow hand gun hunting but at the same time I am thinking that a portion of the firearms act will not allow, which is Federal… When I was much younger and trapping I potted more than enough birds and bunnies with my licenced handgun!!! Would like to see this again!!!

      • hernandayoleary Says:

        Dan was this in Ontario, are you a senior citizen? because it seems like this country has been communist for as long as I can remember. I would love to hunt a big bear or moose with a hand gun.

        You are correct handgun hunting is strictly forbidden in Ontario, as it prescribed SPECIFICALLY WHAT YOU CAN HUNT WITH. And it only includes rifles and shot and non-restricted. I don’t think you can use antiques. Boy would I love to go hunting with a blunderbuss, only if it was legal though.

        I am not aware of any federal handgun ban on hunting. Usually the hunting laws are provincial and territorial, but it does appear the feds have alot of influence over the language and interpretation.

        I have decided ultimately that I will not hunt in Ontario or Canada. Its not worth going to jail and losing your job over some communist in Ottawa. I had hope that Harper would reverse alot of these insane gun control laws passed by the liberals under chritien but it seems not so. I will continue to support changing the laws politically but it looks like Harper will lose the next election to gun control liberals so its clear the next government will be anti gun with more gun control.

        Next time I want to hunt big game I will go to Alaska or South Africa or Sweden where I can have all the guns, aks, hand guns, machine full autos and hand grenades riding on the back or a horse I want. It is clear the authorities want to take all the fun out of hunting, what is the pointing of hunting with a crappy civil war rifle if I cannot even bayonnet a charging bear. This countries gun laws are communist and I am sick of it. I will no longer support the comrades in ottawa financially by hunting in canada. I will only hunt in countries who respect its citizens and don’t treat them like children.

      • d_man2 Says:

        I hate when people talk about a subject with such conviction when they obviously do not know of what they speak.This is how rumours are started and how people unfortunately tend to get their information, from online blogs. Antique pistols CAN be used to hunt small game in Ontario. There are restrictions on big game since the regs specifically say “rifle” or “shotgun” but small game IS permitted. This is an email I received from the MNR specifically on this subject. When you have a legal question, go to the legal authorities, NOT blogs.

        “From: NRIC, MNR (MNR)

        Subject: RE: Question for Enforcement about antique firearms


        Thank you for your inquiry.

        The use of handguns to hunt is not prohibited by Ontario legislation, but by the fact that possession and use of handguns is legislated under the Criminal Code and federal Firearms Act. If a person lawfully possesses a handgun and is lawfully allowed to use it as set out in the Criminal Code and Firearms Act then that person could use it to hunt in Ontario within the confines of types and calibres of firearms that can be used to hunt under Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting).

        The wilderness handgun safety course is required to get an authorization to carry. Simply being authorized to carry doesn’t allow you to use the handgun for hunting. Handguns that do not require authorization, such as pellet pistols or certain antiques do not require authorizations to carry. As such, they are legal to carry and use, and therefore can be used to hunt.”

        I hope this puts to rest this discussion

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  26. Dan Kott Says:

    Hey d_man-2,
    Can you give me the OMNR contact please??? I would really love to get those words, hard copy, signed and on OMNR letterhead…

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  33. jonnyb Says:

    handguns are restricted in canada that is why we cannot hunt with them the government would have to change the law . We as hunter would have to try to get them to do that . it is legal to hunt with a 44 mag in rifle because we are aloud to carry that in the woods handguns we are not allowed to carry

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  35. Andrew Says:

    I think I can see some of the reasons that we can’t use handguns to hunt… like why would you need to go hunting with a Glock, or 1911, or Beretta. However something like specific revolvers such as the S&W Governor or the Taurus judge that can chamber multiple calibers like 45.cap, 45.lc and 410 shot shell could be used for small game like rabbets and squirrels with the shot shell, to a backup safety for medium and large game like deer and beer with the 45.lc…

    I’m not by any means saying that someone should go out with the intention of hunting a bear with a revolver, but having a secondary firearm that’s easier to hold/use than a full sized rifle or shotgun that is capable of the same stopping power would be a “safety blanket” for some who are weary of animals possibly playing dead.

    The only “handgun” that I would even consider anyone ever needing/using is a large caliber (unless trapping for fur) or multi caliber revolver. While a multi caliber revolver may have the versatility of different loads, the firearm is still limited to the number of chambers in the cylindered more often than not meaning six

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