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We have a large gopher population here in Western Canada. They breed at a rate that makes rabbits seem like Franciscan monks. Technically, they’re Pocket Gophers. Don’t be fooled by the name; you’d no more want a Canadian gopher in your pocket than an Arizona bark scorpion. We think of Canadian gophers as furry rats that are too lazy or stupid to climb trees. Every spring they reappear in crazy numbers in fields and pastures all over my neck of the woods. Farmers loathe gophers. They’re highly destructive to crops, eating them from underneath. Their holes pose a risk to livestock. Long story short, the annual gopher shoot is a tradition for hunters who gain access to farmland infested with the pests . . .

Farmers can choose to poison or trap the critters, but there are plenty of gun guys who are grateful—yes grateful—for the opportunity to live target the little bastards on behalf of a willing landowner.

In a simpler time, I counted myself a member of the annual gopher patrol. My buddies and I used to look forward to the spring ritual of a gopher shoot. The .22 rifle was our weapon of choice; we wanted to make it an equally matched event for all of the participants.

Sometimes we even debated whether to use .22 shorts or longs. Occasionally somebody would drag a large bore shotgun or big caliber rifle into the game. The result was massive overkill for the critters. When an over-armed shooter exploded the critters and their hills in one big red/black cloud of gopher and dirt, he got a lot of abuse from his fellow hunters.

All of this took place in the 70s during a pre-regulation era in Canada for .22 rifles. The low-caliber guns were exempt from more rigid laws associated with more powerful weapons. We could plink gophers without a permit and gun training. It was a fearful time for the gophers, a relief for the farmers and a great way to spend an afternoon for a young me and my buddies.

Things have changed dramatically since those days when gophers feared to tread. My buddies and I have gotten older. Only a handful of my friends are still active weapon owners. The gopher shoot days have gone the way of the Easy Rider rifle rack that was a component of nearly every pickup truck here in Western Canada back in the days when disco was king (and the King was still alive).

I don’t possess a PAL (Possession and Acquisition License). I can no longer own a .22 rifle or even buy .22 ammunition. Gophers can now thumb their noses at me and most of my gopher shooting buddies from back in the day.

These days, there’s only one way I can terminate gophers with extreme prejudice (close your eyes PETA fans): aim my car at them on a highway. It is not a particularly sporting method to help keep the gopher population in check. It’s not quite so humane. But it is legal.

Like so many other former hunters in Canada, there’s simply too much red tape to reacquire my sights; my ambition to jump through the Canadian gun law hoops is nonexistent. That is why Canadian gophers are happy gophers.


Editor’s note: Just for fun, I’ve scraped the following list of Canada’s prohibited firearms from Wiki. Oh, and their description of what is allowed.

Prohibited firearms include:

  • Handguns with a barrel that is 105 millimetres (4.1 in) or less
  • Handguns that are designed to discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition (unless stated in the Regulations Prescribing Exclusions from Certain Definitions of the Criminal Code International Sporting Competition Handguns)[6]
  • Rifles and shotguns that have been altered by sawing, cutting or any other means, so that their barrel length be less than 457 millimetres (18.0 in) or their overall length less than 660 millimetres (26 in)
  • Automatic firearms, whether or not they have been altered to discharge only one projectile with one pressure of the trigger
  • Firearms prescribed as prohibited by the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (SOR/98-462)[7]:
  • Firearm capable of discharging dart or other object carrying electrical current or substance, including Taser Public Defender and any variant or modified version of it
  • Firearm known as SSS-1 Stinger and any similar firearm designed or of a size to fit in the palm of the hand
  • Carbines, rifles and shotguns of designs commonly known as, including any variants or modified versions of them:
  • A.A. Arms AR9 semi-auto rifle and AR-9 carbine
  • AK-47 rifle and all variants, including AK Hunter, AKM, AKM-63, AKS-56S, AKS-56S-1/2, AKS-74, AKS84S-1, AMD-65, AR Model .223, DragunovGalil, KKMPi69, M60, M62, M70B1, M70AB2, M76, M77B1, M78, M80, M80A, MAK90, MPiK, MPiKM, MPiKMS-72, MPiKS, PKM, PKM-DGN-60, PMKM, RPKRPK-74, RPK-87S, Type 56, 56-1, 56-2, 56-3, 56-4, Type 68Type 79, American Arms AKY39, AKF39, AKC47 and AKF47, MAM70WS762, Mitchell AK-22, AK-47 and Heavy Barrel AK-47, Norinco 84S, 84S AK, 56, 56-1/2/3/4, Poly Technologies Inc. AK-47/S, AKS-47/S and AKS-762, Valmet M76, M76 carbine, M78/A2, M78 LMG, M82 and M82 Bullpup, exceptValmet Hunter, Hunter Auto and M78
  • American 180 auto-carbine, including AM-180 and Illinois Arms Co. Model 180 auto-carbines
  • Armalite AR-180 Sporter carbine
  • Barrett “Light 50” Model 82A1Model 90 rifles
  • Benelli M1 Super 90 and M3 Super 90 shotguns, except: M1 Super 90 (Field/Sporting Special), Montefeltro Super 90 (Standard Hunter/Left Hand/Turkey/Uplander/Slug/20 Gauge), Black Eagle (Limited Ed./Competition/Slug Gun), Super Black Eagle (Custom Slug)
  • Beretta AR70 assault rifle
  • Bernardelli B4 and B4/B shotguns
  • BM 59 rifle, including: Beretta BM 59, BM 59R, BM 59GL, BM 59D, BM 59 MkE, BM 59 MkI/MkII/MkIII, BM 59 Mk Ital/Ital TA/TP/Para and BM 60CB, as well as Springfield Armory BM 59 Alpine, BM 59 Alpine Paratrooper and BM 59 Nigerian MkIV
  • Bushmaster auto-rifle
  • Calico M-900 rifle, including M-951, M-100 and M-105 carbines
  • Cetme Sport auto-rifle
  • Claridge HI-TEC C, LEC, ZLEC-9 carbines
  • Daewoo K1, K1A1, K2, Max1, Max2, AR-100, AR-110C, MAXI-II and KC-20 rifles
  • Demro TAC-1M and XF-7 Wasp carbines
  • Eagle Apache carbine
  • Encom MK-IV, MP-9 and MP-45 carbines
  • FAMAS rifle, including MAS223, FAMAS Export, FAMAS Civil and Mitchell MAS/22
  • Feather AT-9 semi-auto carbine and AT-22 auto-carbine
  • Federal XC-900, XC-220 rifles and XC-450 auto-rifle
  • Fabrique Nationale FN FNC, FNC-11, FNC-22, FNC-33, FNC Auto and FNC Auto Paratrooper rifles, as well as FN FAL, FN 308 Model44, FAL Competition Auto, FAL Heavy Barrel 308 Match, FAL Paratrooper 308 Match 50-64 and FN 308 Model 50-63
  • Franchi SPAS 12, LAW 12 shotguns
  • Franchi SPAS 15 shotgun
  • Galil assault rifle, including AP-84, ARM, AR, SAR, 332 and Mitchell Galil/22 auto-rifle
  • Gepard anti-materiel rifle
  • Goncz High-Tech carbine
  • Grendel R-31 auto-carbine
  • Heckler&Koch G3, G3A3, G3A3ZF, G3A4, G3SG/1, G11HK33, 33A2, 33A3, 33KA1, HK91, 91A2, 91A3, 93, 93A2, 93A3, 94, 94A2, 94A3 and PSG-1 rifles, as well as: MP5, MP5A2, MP5A3, MP5K, MP5SD, MP5SD1, MP5SD2, MP5SD3 submachine guns
  • Iver Johnson AMAC long-range rifle and Plainfield Super Enforcer carbine
  • J&R Eng M-68, PJK M-68 and Wilkinson Terry carbines
  • Kimel Industries AR-9 rifle/carbine
  • Leader Mark Series auto-rifle
  • Maadi Griffin rifle/carbine
  • McMillan M87, M87R rifles and M88 carbine
  • Pauza Specialties P50 rifle and P50 carbine
  • PE57 rifle
  • Research Armament Industries Model 500 rifle
  • SIG AMTSG-550 rifles and SG-551 carbine
  • Spectre auto-carbine
  • Springfield Armory SAR-48, SAR-48 Bush/Heavy Barrel/Para/22
  • Steyr AUG rifle
  • Striker, Striker 12 and Streetsweeper shotguns
  • Thompson submachine gun including: Model 1921, 1927, 1928, M1, Auto-Ordnance M27A-1, M27A-1 Deluxe, M1927A-3/A-5, Commando Arms MkI, MkII, MkIII, Mk9, Mk45
  • Universal Enforcer Model 3000 auto-carbine and Model 3010N, 3015G, 3020TRB and 3025TCO carbines
  • US Arms PMAI assault rifle
  • USAS-12 auto-shotgun
  • UZI, Mini-UZI and Model A carbines
  • Weaver Arms Nighthawk carbine
  • Pistols, revolvers and other handguns of designs commonly known as, including any variants or modified versions of them:
  • AA Arms AP-9 auto-pistol and AP-9, Target AP-9 and Mini AP-9 pistols
  • Bushmaster auto-pistol
  • Calico M-950 auto-pistol and M-110 pistol
  • Claridge Hi-Tec Models S, L, T, ZL-9 and ZT-9 pistols
  • Cobray M10, M11, and RPB M10/M11/SM10/SM11 and SWD M10/M11/SM10/SM11 pistols
  • CZ Skorpion auto-pistol
  • Encom MK-IV, MP-9 and MP-45 assault pistols, including MP-9, MP-45 mini pistols
  • Federal XP-450, XP-900 auto-pistols
  • Goncz High-Tech long pistol
  • Grendel P-30, P-30M, P-30L and P-31 pistols
  • Heckler&Koch SP89 auto-pistol
  • Ingram M10M11 pistols
  • Interdynamics KG-99 assault pistol
  • Intratec Tec-9, Tec-9S, Tec-9M and Tec-9MS auto-pistols (as well as any semi-automatic variant including Tec-DC9, Tec-DC9M, Tec-9A, Tec-Scorpion, Tec-22T and Tec-22TN)
  • Iver Johnson Enforcer Model 3000 auto-pistol
  • Kimel Industries AP-9 pistol
  • Leader Mark5 auto-pistol
  • Maadi Griffin pistol
  • OA-93 assault pistol
  • Patriot pistol
  • Partisan Avenger auto-pistol
  • Spectre auto-pistol
  • Sterling MK6 carbine
  • Steyr SPP auto-pistol
  • Sterling Mk7, Mk7 C4 and Mk7 C8 pistols
  • US Arms PMAIP assault pistol
  • UZI, Micro-UZI pistols
  • XM231S pistol and A1, A2, A3 Flattop pistols

Restricted firearms are:

  • Handguns that are not prohibited
  • Firearms with a barrel shorter than 470 millimetres (19 in)
  • Semi-automatic firearms designed to discharge center-fire ammunition
  • Rifles and shotguns that can be fired when their overall length has been reduced by folding, telescoping or other means to less than 660 millimetres (26 in)
  • Firearms prescribed as restricted by the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (SOR/98-462),[7] and any variant or modified version of them:
  • High Standard Model 10 Series A & Series B
  • M-16 rifle, including Colt AR-15, AR-15 SPI/Sporter/Collapsible Stock Model/A2/A2 Carbine/A2 Government Model Rifle/A2 Government Model Target Rifle/A2 Government Model Carbine/A2 Sporter II/A2 H-BAR/A2 Delta H-BAR/A2 Delta H-Bar Match/9mm Carbine, Armalite AR-15, AAI M15, AP74, EAC J-15, PWA Commando, SGW XM15A and CAR-AR, SWD AR-15, as well as any .22 calibre rimfire variant of it including Mitchell M16A-1/22, M-16/22, CAR-15/22, AP74 Auto Rifle

Non-restricted firearms are:

  • ordinary rifles and shotguns, other than those referred to above.

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  1. Wow, no .22’s. That’s a crime against boyhood.

    Montana was the same with the rodent population. I could literally grab my Ruger, step onto the back porch and pick off gophers at the edge of the backyard. Good times.

  2. I am just floored at those laws. Amazing how there were no school shootings or such when everyone could own full autos and buy TNT at the local store.

  3. I got to shoot some of these little critters a couple of years ago in South Dakota. Was using a .17 HMR and it was fun!
    It must suck to be a maple leaf.

  4. Seems to me like it would have been easier to list the guns that are allowed. Would be a much shorter list anyways. Guess if you are going to have backwards gun laws, you may as well do it in a backwards way.

  5. That’s a shame. I also grew up in Western Canada in the 70’s and moved down to the states right after high school. I spent hours (if not weeks) on my uncle’s farm, one afternoon at a time, popping off gophers with a 10/22. To this day, I’m certain there are parts of Kneehill County that remain gopher-free because of my youth, but that might be a bit of an over-statement. 😉

  6. “Like so many other former hunters in Canada, there’s simply too much red tape to reacquire my sights; my ambition to jump through the Canadian gun law hoops is nonexistent.”

    Yet one of the common refrains from the gun banners (at least the American ones) is “This won’t affect hunters/sportsmen.”

  7. Can’t you still get a .22 air rifle from Crappy Tire anymore? You’ll save money in the long run and your arm will get a workout.

  8. Your description for restricted long guns is inaccurate. There are are number of semi-auto rifles that are not restricted in Canada.

    It is true that most of the “cosmetically challenged semi-auto long guns” are restricted or prohibited in Canada.

  9. Why don’t they just say bring us the gun and we’ll see if we want you to have it. I’ve wondered why I never wanted to go to Canada, I guess my questions are all answered now…..No Thanks.

    • But, you can legally own what the US NFA would consider an SBS, just not one that has been cut down from the original configuration. Imagine owning a Serbu Super Shorty, with a stock, and no tax stamp…

      I have a Gewehr 1888 that was made in 1890, legally an antique firearm to both the BATFE and Canadian law iirc. And those can generally handle everything except hot loaded MG ammo from Romania and Yugoslavia. Plus, the Tavor is (currently) non-restricted, which is temping imo.

  10. My favourite in that list of prohibited weapons is the experimental HK G11 that shot caseless ammunition. Good thing they prohibited it…

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