The topic of shooting ranges in Canada can be a little triggering for some. Why? Because depending on where you live and what you shoot, they are an inaccessible necessity. Here’s why.

The Bullet Points

Stats provided by

  • 1,245 target-shooting ranges in Canada. About the same as the number of McDonald’s restaurants.
  • 330,000 estimated adults with a federal firearm licence own at least one police-registered handgun.
  • 2,236,983 men and women with a firearm licence authorized by the RCMP on 31 Dec. 2021.
  • More Canadian adults have a firearm licence than play golf, hockey, soccer or baseball.
    • In 2010, 1.5 million Canadians aged over 15 participated in golf (the most-popular sport), and 1.3 million played hockey (No. 2). (Source: Department of Canadian Heritage)
    • 1.85 million adults (over 18) had a gun licence. (Source: RCMP)

Missing the bullseye: Accessibility

Imagine having to wait 2+ years to hit the ice and play a hockey game or be able even to buy a stick. Stop imagining because this is an authentic scenario for many firearms owners. 

With dense population pockets far from Crown land, the demand for shooting lanes far outpaces the supply, making memberships hard to come by, especially for places with only one shooting option. There are reports of some ranges having years-long wait lists, making accessibility near impossible for some, resulting in fewer people purchasing and shooting restricted firearms. 

Get on Target: Necessity

What makes Canadian shooting ranges a necessity? More than being one of our country’s most prominent sports, it’s in our laws and geography.

Legal Necessities

Shooting ranges, and clubs, are a must for any of our 330,000 RPAL holders. Obtaining an Authorization to Transport (ATT) requires a range or club membership to allow you to purchase, possess, and transport a restricted firearm.

That’s not the only necessity RPAL holders have for the range. Since restricted firearms are only permitted at an RCMP and CFO sanctioned and approved range, ranges are the only place to go plinking with your pistol.

Location Necessities

The vast wilderness of our country allows us to explore and shoot, but not everyone has that access. It could be hours of driving before finding public land safe to shoot on, which is not something you will want to do regularly. The nearest shooting range is the go-to place for regular practice.

Risky Business

If shooting ranges are an inaccessible necessity, why aren’t there more? Opening a shooting range has its own hoops to jump through and money to invest, similar to earning a firearms license. To open and operate a shooting range in Canada, you must be RCMP and CFO approved.

Jumping through the hoops

Estimated to take anywhere from 2-4 years and cost a couple of million dollars, opening a shop is a significant risk. First, there are a host of documentation and requirements needed even to request approval. Outlined in the Firearms Act Shooting Clubs and Shooting Ranges Regulations includes:

  • A survey report, location certificate, or other similar document shows the shooting range’s geographical location and layout (including the portion of the surrounding area that could be affected by shooting).
  • Evidence of compliance with applicable zoning laws.
  • Proof the design and layout follow the Range Design and Construction Guidelines.

And those are only a few of the long list of documentation you will need to provide.

Challenges along the way

Outside of the mountains of paperwork, there are other challenges to overcome – the biggest one being where to put it.

Shooting ranges are noisy, busy, popular, fun and relaxing places. The general public likes to only focus on the first two points, which means that getting local residents on board will never be easy. Even longstanding ranges face this challenge from residents who move into the area.

On top of that, many municipalities have moved to restrict new ranges from opening. Take Toronto’s 2008 Zoning By-law Amendments to limit shooting ranges. Outside of the grandfathered ranges, the city has made it near impossible to open new ones. 

Education is our Firepower

With the low accessibility and high necessity for shooting ranges in Canada, what can we do to solve the problem? Educate. The more people we can educate on our sport, safety, and culture, the more chance we have at having more ranges.

What are your thoughts on the state of shooting ranges in Canada?

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