Gun Trade World delves into the huge expanse of Canada, a country built for hunting, to find out how you can get the best out of doing business there.
There are more than 500 licensed gun shops in Canada and they’re serviced by around 16 wholesalers and around 1,830,000 people hold firearm licences. There are more than 1,250,000 big-game licences issued to residents, together with about 450,000 small-game licences. More than 150,000 Canadians purchase a Migratory Waterfowl Licence along with more than 18,000 visitors, the majority of whom are American.
It is estimated that Canada imports around 50,000 rifles, 22,000 shotguns, 9,000 handguns and 2,500 black-powder weapons each year, so the gun trade can certainly be described as active.
There are only three manufacturers of firearms at present. The small-arms plant of Savage Arms producing the company’s rimfire rifles is the largest. Canada is not home to any of the world’s major firearm brands other than Savage, although Excalibur Crossbows and Buck Expert game calls and scents are notable ancillary products.
There are more than a dozen consumer shows that feature hunting products but there is only one industry show, run by the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA) – Canada’s gun-trade association.
There are three magazines that cater for hunting, the largest and best known of which is Outdoor Canada, with a circulation of roughly 95,000. However, there are a number of regional outdoor magazines, such as Ontario Out of Doors with a circulation of more than 90,000, and a number of online magazines.
Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association
569 Grandview St S Oshawa ON Canada L1H 7T5
Canadian domestic trade information was kindly supplied by:
Timberwolf Marketing Inc
42 Catalina Drive
Canada's firearm laws
Canadian firearm programme
The main purpose of the Firearms Act and its supporting regulations is to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are likely to be a danger to themselves or others. The Criminal Code and its supporting regulations define a firearm for the purposes of the Firearms Act and set out penalties for the illegal possession and misuse of a firearm.
Businesses and individuals need a valid firearm licence to be able to possess (own, borrow or store) a firearm in Canada. They must keep their licence up to date and renew it before the expiry date if they possess firearms.
Individuals must be at least 18 years old to get a licence that will allow them to own or acquire a firearm. Minors aged 12 to 17 can get a minors' licence, which will allow them to possess a non-restricted rifle or shotgun, but a licensed adult must be responsible for the firearm.
The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is the only licence now available to new applicants over 18 years old. An existing Possession-Only Licence can be renewed, but new ones are not being issued.
Applicants for a PAL or a minors' licence must meet specific training requirements in the safe use and handling of a firearm.
All licence applicants must pass a public-safety check. A computer link between the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS) and the national police database helps to speed up the process and allows for continuous checks of licence holders. As part of the background check, spouses and common-law partners with whom a PAL applicant has lived within the previous two years may be notified of the application to find out if they have any concerns about their own or someone else's safety.
The Government has announced its intention to simplify licence requirements for firearm owners and to remove the requirement to register non-restricted firearms. However, any changes to the Firearms Act must go through a legislative process and pass in Parliament. This will take time. In the meantime, firearm owners and users are required to comply with the current law. An amnesty protects some owners of non-restricted firearms while they acquire licences and registration certificates.
All firearms must have a valid Canadian registration certificate. To be able to register a firearm, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and have a valid firearm licence, allowing them to possess that class of firearm.
Owners of restricted and prohibited firearms that were registered in the former Restricted Weapons Registration System (RWRS) were required to re-register their firearms in CFIS by January 1st, 2003, to update the information and link it to their licence.
A registration certificate issued under the Firearms Act does not have to be renewed unless the firearm is modified in a way that changes its class. When a firearm changes ownership, it will be registered to the new owner as part of transfer process. When someone borrows a firearm, they must also borrow the registration certificate for that firearm.
Requirements for non-residents
Non-residents who wish to bring a firearm to Canada, and who are at least 18 years old, can meet Canada's licence and registration requirements by filling out the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration and having it confirmed by a customs officer. A confirmed declaration serves as a temporary licence and registration certificate for the firearm being imported. Non-residents also have the option of obtaining a PAL and registering their firearms in Canada.
Storing, displaying and transporting firearms
The regulations supporting the Firearms Act set out specific rules for storing, transporting and displaying firearms safely to deter loss, theft and accidents. Provinces may have additional regulatory requirements.
Canada’s mandatory firearm safety and education courses
Every applicant for a firearm licence for either restricted or non-restricted firearms is required to pass tests relating to firearm safety and education. For novices it is probably necessary to attend the course, but an applicant can elect not to attend, but just to take the tests.
The view of a Canadian shop owner
International Shooting Supplies
I own and operate a gun shop in the lower mainland of British Columbia called International Shooting Supplies Ltd – www.internationalshootingsupplies.com.
The variety of animals that are hunted in Canada varies from one end of the country to the other. Canada is huge geographically and diverse biologically. We are second only to Russia in land size so each region is pretty different.
Game birds are hunted everywhere from one end to the other, migratory and upland. In British Columbia, for big game the most popular are mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, elk and black bear.
Our market is probably more heavily dominated by large independent shops than the USA is, but we still have big-box stores such as Wholesale Sports and Cabela’s – these are the two largest. Then you have about 20 to 40 large independents that are close in size that make up a large part of that market share. It would be hard to name any specifically since we don't really share our gross sales volume with each other.
The tactical market here is large and getting larger. Some of the big names we sell nationwide are Glock, Smith and Wesson, Sig, Kel Tec, DPMS, Daniel Defense and Norinco.
Surplus firearms like the SKS line are massive. The amount of these in this country is well into the hundreds of thousands – some estimate close to a million of them but no-one is exactly sure (it is big for a population of just 34 million people).
Our government admits to two million gun owners in Canada. Other groups estimate the number as high as five million. When you consider just the amount of SKS guns here there is likely enough hardware to arm the entire country a few times over. We own similar stuff to the Americans, but it is generally accepted we have fewer handguns and more long guns, although judging by my sales that is changing. Half my clientele no longer hunt – they are recreational shooters and accumulators.
Canada in numbers…
Small Arms Imports (US$) - Customs
Rate of Civilian Firearm Possession per 100 Population
23.8 firearms per 100 people
Number of Privately Owned Rifles