The main FAQ on Canadian law doesn't really address this issue, other than to state some policy. Hopefully this will answer a lot of the questions people keep asking but just end up getting told, "Read the FAQ".
This is not to say people should skip reading the FAQ. This will be written with the assumption you've done that already and have a working knowledge of the laws and regulations governing airsoft in Canada.
The main emphasis of this FAQ is on mailed goods. There is a section at the end for personally bringing items into the country.
Can I import airsoft guns into Canada?
The short answer is no. The Canada Border Services Agency
(formerly Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) has a directive that says airsoft guns are replicas and are thus prohibited from importation.
But if airsoft guns are legal to purchase and use in Canada, why does CBSA still refuse individual importation?
CBSA plays by their own set of rules and interpretations. They always have. Understand that their job is to control the entry of goods and people into the country in order to protect the citizenry. If there's a doubt as to the legality of an item, their duty is to detain it until proven otherwise or ordered to release it by a justice. Due to the relatively poorly-established legal status of airsoft guns (replica vs. air gun) the CBSA errs on the side of caution and will not permit their importation.
How do dealers then import airsoft?
Dealers have purchased a Business Firearms License that has a provision for Prohibited Devices, i.e. replica firearms. A rumor as of late indicates that some now state Airsoft specifically, although this remains to be confirmed.
A prohibited BFL can cost upwards of $1,200 depending on the type of options you ask for. Certain options are much cheaper. To get an idea for the costs involved ask the Canada Firearms Centre
for a copy of the BFL application form, which has the costs and such on it.
Note that to successfully get a BFL with the requisite options for importing airsoft requires that you have an established business with the proper security controls and procedures. Joe Teenager will NOT get one so he can sell AEGs out of his mom's basement on the side.
Iím gonna try importing a gun anyhow. What should I expect?
For starters, expect to have it seized by the CBSA without compensation. You will receive a Notice of Detention which states whatís been seized and why, and your options for appeal.
If you lose your appeal (which is the most likely scenario) or do not respond to the notice, your goods will be destroyed by the Crown. All that money you spent trying to get a better deal from overseas or the States is now gone. You will also likely be entered into the CBSAís registry and be scrutinized more closely in the future.
Sometimes you have the option of having the goods returned to the sender rather than being destroyed, although most carriers will refuse to touch it if CBSA has branded it a ďprohibited itemĒ. You may be able to persuade a carrier with a BFL for prohibited goods to do it, although it may be difficult and is not always guaranteed. They will also typically need a permit to export prohibited items which very few - if any - carriers have. Assuming you can accomplish this however, youíve now paid shipping for two directions and likely a nice restocking fee once your seller receives the item, presumably intact. So much for savings, huh?
Oh yeah, well my fatherís brotherís motherís nephewís former roommate managed to get some guns across the border no problem.
Indeed they may have. Customs inspections are random and his obviously slipped through. If you can afford to play Russian roulette with your money thatís your decision, although bear in mind the more times you draw the ire of the CBSA, the more likely youíre to experience legal troubles as well.
Okay, so I canít import guns. What about parts and accessories?
Yes. The good news is that most parts and accessories, including most magazines, can be successfully imported by individuals without requiring a BFL. Examples of things you CANNOT
- AEG magazines with fake cartridges (i.e. P90, G36, SG 552 mags)
- Frames, receivers, and metal bodies
- Suppressors and silencers
- Prohibited-length outer handgun barrels (i.e. USP Compact, Glock 26)
- Hand and 40mm grenades that look real
Examples of things you CAN
- Magazines for AEGs and GBBs without fake cartridges
- Outer barrels for most guns
- Inner barrels of any type
- Handgun slides
- Flash suppressors
- Scopes, red dot sights, iron sights, lasers
- Rail systems and scope mounts
- Springs, bushings, gears, pistons, or other gearbox parts
- Batteries, BBs, loading tools
- Helmets, goggles, body armor, tactical vests, camouflage
Note that CBSA inspectors have discretion to detain goods of questionable legality, and although it shows up on the above list it MAY be held if you draw an inspector that is particularly ignorant or of foul demeanor. That said, I have yet to hear of any seizures of the above items.
Prohibited-length handgun barrels may or may not be stopped. Most outer barrels are not dimensioned internally to even appear capable of firing a real bullet, and faux rifling marks typically extend only a few millimeters down the bore. However CBSA inspectors are not firearms experts and if they think there's a potential of it being usable in a real gun, they'll seize it rather than risk their jobs. Best not to take a chance on it.
I heard that Airsoft guns that shoot between 407 and 500 fps will be allowed in. Is that true?
Actually, it is. The RCMP was paid to do forensic testing on airsoft guns to determine at what velocity they are capable of causing serious bodily injury. The findings indicated that 407 fps was the magic number at which point airsoft guns go from being replicas to air guns. CBSA will apparently respect this finding.
The caveat here is that while the gun may be legal to import, the onus is on the importer to prove it. If an inspector so desires, they will ship your gun off to Regina to be chronographed and YOU will be responsible for bearing all costs associated with testing and return shipping, effectively negating any savings you might have earned by shopping outside the country.
In the end, itís still best to let someone with the right licenses import for you and save you the potential headache and expense.
Is there a difference between importing via mail, and personally bringing them into the country?
In terms of what you can and cannot bring, no. However things change dramatically when you are personally present at a port of entry and declaring your goods.
First thing, ALWAYS declare truthfully what you are bringing into the country. Even if you think it stands a chance of being seized. Under Section 12 of the Customs Act you are obligated to report all goods being imported at the port of entry to a customs officer. Section 13 of the Customs Act requires that you do this truthfully. Also explain why you're bringing it in to add legitimacy to the item, as the inspector is less likely to give you a hard time about it. Explain airsoft is a sport and you're not bringing this stuff back just because you thought it was cool. Aside from narcotics, the CBSA's policy is no enforcement action will be taken against anyone who properly and truthfully declares their goods.
If you truthfully declare your goods but the inspector decides it isn't permitted in the country, it will be denied entry and considered abandoned to the Crown for destruction (there are other options but for your sake, it's abandoned). If you falsely declare your goods and they are discovered, they will be seized under Section 110 of the Customs Act and an enforcement action will be taken.
An enforcement action can be as minor as being assessed duties and taxes for an extra pack of cigarettes you didn't declare, but something that would be considered a replica firearm is a far more serious contravention and you would likely be looking at prosecution possibly under Section 159 of the Customs Act, which deals with smuggling. Keep this in mind next time you try to sneak that $20 springer in your checked luggage.
Also bear in mind that a misdescription of goods may also lead to a seizure. For instance, if you are trying to pass off a KSC Glock 17 as firing at 450 fps and it is sent for determination, they're going to discover your declaration was false and you may be charged and your gun seized and subsequently destroyed by the Crown.
Parts, for the most part, stand zero chance of being detained, abandoned, or seized. Generic things like gears, barrels, springs, BBs, can have other uses besides airsoft and an inspector has no real reason to detain them. Things like magazines should be shown as incapable of holding real cartridges; having a few BBs to demonstrate would help. Barrels and such aren't controlled items (aside from prohibited handgun barrels as mentioned previously) and any good customs officer will know this. Stick to what's in the list above and you should be fine.
Can I import a Robert Goulet?
Yes, although it must be made of clear plastic and have an orange tip. If you get the color model it WILL be seized by customs. Part 933(s)(ii) of the Criminal Code of Canada makes importing, or attempting to import, a Robert Goulet without an orange tip and not in clear plastic, an indictable offense punishable by life in prison.