U.S. Hunters Traveling to Canada: Are Your Shotguns Legal?

posted on May 18, 2020

Photo credit: Daniel Joseph Petty via Pexels

As we reported previously at A1F.com, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bill Blair, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, recently and unilaterally banned 1,500 types of firearms. In the process, the two effectively blamed law-abiding Canadian citizens for the acts of a crazed murderer in Nova Scotia.

But, as the cliché goes, the devil’s in the details, and a closer examination of the Trudeau gun ban reveals a worse situation than initially feared. Given these “details,” U.S. hunters traveling to Canada this fall must be up to date on that country’s gun laws or they could be in for big trouble.

When he announced this ban, Trudeau insisted he had only targeted arbitrarily labeled “assault weapons,” and that hunting firearms were excluded. Yet, while the ban included a long list of semi-automatic rifles (including the Ruger Mini-14, which may be the most popular ranch and truck gun ever, after the lever-action), one part of the law would seem to cover 10- and 12-gauge shotguns, too.  

One section of the new ban makes illegal: “Any firearm with a bore diameter of 20mm [millimeters] or greater….” Various mortars and missile launchers are listed under this bore-diameter restriction.  

A 12-gauge shotgun has a bore diameter of 18.52mm or .798-inches. But if the shotgun has a removable choke—which millions of shotguns have—and the choke is removed, a section of the shotgun’s barrel then has a diameter of 20.68mm or .814-inches. In a legal opinion prepared for the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA), Canadian lawyer Edward Burlew concluded that 12-gauge shotguns with Beretta Optima and Optima Plus, Browning Invector and Winchoke removeable choke systems are now illegal.

Soon after this legal opinion was circulated, Blair used Facebook and Twitter to post a May 6, 2020, “clarification” that 10- and 12-gauge shotguns with removable chokes were not illegal. Blair says they are measuring shotguns’ bores immediately after the chamber and so well before the choke tube.

None of which meant much to CSAAA.

Referring to Blair’s Twitter posting of his comment, Alison de Groot, managing director of the CSAAA, told CBC News, “We are not satisfied with a tweet from the minister that everything is OK as the basis for our whole industry’s future. There is lots of precedent in [Canadian] law and technical language in legal government documents our industry uses every day that conflicts with this tweeted response."

If the language of the gun ban is amended to reflect Blair’s social-media posts, U.S. hunters with removeable choke shotguns should be fine. If not, as CSAAA’s de Groot suggested, it could come down to how Canadian law enforcement interprets the new law.

Best advice: Remember, this is Canada, so it is near impossible to speculate how our neighbors to the north will implement, interpret, or enforce its new restrictions on firearms--especially as they relate to foreign visitors.  While NRA will be monitoring developments on this situation and will provide more information if and when it becomes available, American citizens who are considering a hunting trip to Canada in the near future should exercise an abundance of caution.Another section of the new Canadian law outlawed any “Firearm capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 joules….”

That 10,000 joules translates to approximately 7,500 foot-pounds (ft-lbs.) of energy.  And that makes the bolt-action 460 Weatherby Magnum rifle illegal.

According to Phil Massaro, freelance gun writer and author of “The Big Book of Ballistics,” the .500 Jeffrey, when loaded with 600-grain bullets, also surpasses the 7,500 ft.-lbs. threshold. And GunData.org shows the .600 Nitro Express as having over 7,500 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy, too.

This situation occurs frequently when anti-gunners draw up laws about something they know so little about—guns! They will claim, as both Trudeau and Blair have, they are not banning hunting firearms, when in truth, they don’t realize (or care) what firearms hunters use.   

Including, it should be added, Trudeau’s boogeyman, the “assault weapon,” which is nothing more than a semi-automatic rifle with certain cosmetic features that anti-gunners find scary.


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