Traveling to Canada With a Rifle - MDT Field Report

Posted by Aaron Martin on 2024 May 22nd

Traveling to Canada With a Rifle - MDT Field Report

Editor's Note: MDT FIELD REPORTS are stories highlighting TEAM MDT, user-submitted stories, or insights from professionals using MDT gear. Today, we have a guest post from Aaron Martin, an Industry Professional, Precision Rifle Instructor, and a former US Marine Corps Scout-Sniper and Reconnaissance Marine.

I ended the call with the Team Ruger manager and immediately went to the NRL Hunter website. They had just announced two matches in Canada for the 2024 Season. I scrolled through the match schedule, making notes of venues in extraordinary locations around the United States and checking my schedule. Then I saw it: MDT Canadian Rocky Mountain Hunter, Cranbrook, British Columbia. I had visited the region years prior. Images of sheer granite walls packed in snow and ice, clear and cold rivers teeming with trout, and dense evergreen forests with an abundance of Big Game animals raced through my memory. I knew I had to get there.

As a precision rifle instructor, I find myself traveling a lot. Competing on Team Ruger only adds to that travel. The most common question I received from someone when discussing my competition schedule was, "You can take guns into Canada?" Not only can you, but you should! The firearms competition scene is growing exponentially, and the hunting opportunities are endless. In my experience, Canadians welcome tourism; they are exceedingly polite, and the country is unspeakably beautiful. However, when dealing with any government, there are rules to follow. If you follow the rules, the process is straightforward.

When I first started traveling with a firearm, I knew I needed to learn the rules the Transportation Safety Administration has in place.


  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Firearms must be declared upon checking baggage.
  • Firearms must be secured in a hard-sided locked container as checked baggage. You may use any brand or type of lock, including TSA-recognized locks, to secure your firearm case.
  • Firearms must be unloaded.
  • Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts, and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage but may be transported in checked baggage.
  • Rifle Scopes are permitted in carry-on bags.


  • Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage but may be transported in checked baggage.
  • Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).
  • Small arms ammunition (up to .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge) must be packaged in a fiber (such as cardboard), wood, plastic, or metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition and declared to your airline.
  • Ammunition may be transported in the same hard-sided, locked case as a firearm if it has been packed as described above. You cannot use firearm magazines or clips for packing ammunition unless they completely enclose the ammunition. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be boxed or included within a hard-sided, locked case.
  • Please check with your airline for quantity limits for ammunition.

It may seem overwhelming the first time you fly with firearms and ammunition, but once you've gone through the process, you realize how easy it actually is. I check my rifle case containing the unloaded firearm and ammunition the same way you would check any piece of luggage. The only difference is filling out a card with your information on it. Once completed, the airline employee asks that you open the case, and they place the card inside. It's a good idea to loiter for about ten minutes until the firearm case clears the TSA Security Screening before getting in line for your personal security screening. Upon arrival, the case is typically sequestered with oversized baggage. The baggage attendant will ask to see your identification in most circumstances upon pick-up, so have that ready as well.

Keep in mind local firearms laws in your destination. Even in the US. Magazine capacity restrictions, types of firearms allowed, and NFA items are prohibited in certain states at this time. There are some exceptions for competitions.

A week before the match, I printed a Non-Resident Firearms Declaration Form RCMP 5589, required by the Canadian government. It is important to note that this form is to be printed on legal paper (8.5" x 14"), and an additional copy should be made. Only sign the form once instructed to do so in person. The additional copy acts as your license once inside Canada. This form is for the first three firearms you intend to bring into Canada. To bring in additional firearms, Form 5590 needs to be included. For restricted firearms, there is a more lengthy process when attempting to take them to Canada. For more information on how to bring restricted firearms or what constitutes a restricted firearm, check the link to RCMP 5589.

I also printed a US CBP Form 4457. This is your Certificate of Registration of Personal Effects Taken Abroad, which is necessary for re-entry into the United States. Note that this form recently changed to include an expiration date. If you have previously re-entered the US, it is likely the old 4457 and is not current.

The day came for me to travel to the match across the border. I arrived within a few hour's drive of Cranbrook on the US side in Montana rather than flying into Calgary. I enjoy scenic drives. The closest border crossing is just outside of Kalispell at Roosville. The directions on form RCMP 5589 states that a fee of $25 CAN is required. They do not accept US Dollars. I found the hardest part of this process was actually finding Canadian Dollars. The border was less than three miles away. I failed to visit the exchange at Denver International. I had heard rumors that the Duty-Free Store often runs out of Canadian Dollars, so it is best to have procured them prior. I stopped at every bank in Eureka, MT, and received the same story: they only exchange currency for bank customers. One teller told me the local bowling alley would swap out small sums.

Upon arrival at the bowling alley, I entered a rather dimly lit casino entrance, populated by senior citizens and handwritten signs stating, "No Street Shoes!" I assumed they meant inside the bowling area. After a short wait by the bar, a bartender appeared from the backroom. When asked, he informed me they "weren't really supposed to exchange money." I pleaded my case, offering a 1:1 exchange rate plus a five-dollar tip. In short, I got fleeced on the exchange but was back on track. It was good I stopped; the Duty-Free Shop on the US side was still closed as I approached the checkpoint.

I was asked for my passport at the Customs Checkpoint and answered a few questions. I found the RCMP Officers at Roosville to be genuinely amicable. I simply answered their questions about who I was and the contents of my vehicle. They were particularly interested in Alcohol and Tobacco as well as anyone else in the vehicle. I was without all three. When it was my turn to speak, I told the officer that I had a firearm to declare, and they directed me into an inspection lane. I was asked to come into the office without the firearm but with all supporting documents. Two copies of RCMP 5589 printed on legal paper, unsigned as of yet. I left my firearm and ammunition in my vehicle - still locked in the case, and entered the small office.

MDT Canadian Rocky Mountain Hunter was an incredible match!

After a short wait, the officer requested my paperwork and also a copy of the invitation to the match. To enter Canada with a firearm, you must have a valid reason. Unfortunately, Self Defense is not a valid reason to the Canadian government. Showing the officer an email from the Match Director, Tyler Beckley, sufficed. The address of where I intended to stay and the duration were recorded and verified with a reservation. He asked if the firearm was locked in a case and where the ammunition was stored. I flew with the ammunition in the rifle case, but in Canada, they require the ammunition to be separate from the firearm. I agreed to move the ammunition to another piece of luggage. I was also asked how many rounds of ammunition I had with the rifle. Two Hundred rounds are the maximum you can bring with you. However, you can purchase additional ammunition once inside Canada. He stamped the forms, and I was on my way. A similar process repeated on my way out of the country a few days later. Upon approaching the US Checkpoint, the CBP officer asked for my passport. After a very brief conversation about the contents of my vehicle, I declared that I had a firearm and produced my 4457 along with the Canadian 5589. The officer asked about the match and what type of rifle I competed with. We chatted about firearms competitions briefly, and he wished me well on my trip home.

The process must be followed, but if you have all your forms, travel to Canada is easy and enjoyable. Still, for those with more complicated travel plans or plans to other countries, travel agencies specializing in clientele with firearms are available. While researching this article, I spoke with my friend Patrick Wright of PWP Travel. Patrick runs a team of dedicated travel agents that make the nuances of travel a breeze. From South Africa to Tajikistan, New Zealand to Argentina, letting professionals handle your plans is a good idea. His biggest piece of advice for anyone planning to travel internationally with a firearm was to make sure your US CBP Form 4457 is current, as many countries use this form as your license. In others, it is incumbent upon the guide or outfitter to square away the details before your arrival. If you have any questions regarding upcoming travel with firearms, give Patrick and his team a call.



Aaron is a former US Marine Corps Scout-Sniper and Reconnaissance Marine, having served multiple tours. He has gone on to instruct hunters and military service members on precision rifle skills at FTW Ranch and is an engineering and design consultant in the firearms industry. He is currently competing in the NRL Hunter Series on Team Ruger. When not instructing in Texas, Aaron resides in Southern Indiana with his family. At home, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and working on the farm alongside his wife and daughter. Aaron can be reached via Instagram @TENSECONDPRECISION.


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