The United States of America is the best/easiest place in the world to own guns. Period.
It’s the only place you can get a gun at a convenience store. In fact, in most states, a background check isn’t required unless you’re buying from a federally licensed firearm dealer. Guns can be advertised online and they can cost as little as US$100, making it one of the cheapest places to buy guns in the world. The estimated number of guns per capita is around 1.2, meaning there are more guns than there are people in the United States. What about the rest of the world? Beyond the borders of the red, white, and blue, where else can you own a gun?
If you are looking to start a new life overseas and your main hobby is sport hunting, you are concerned for the safety of your family, or you just like occasionally going to the nearest gun range, odds are you’ll want to bring your guns to your new country of choice.
There are a few things to keep in mind while you are seeking out your new gun-friendly destination. In many countries, you’ll need to be a citizen in order to obtain a gun permit, though there are certain countries that allow permanent residents to own guns. In nearly every country in the world, if you want to bring the guns you currently own with you, you’ll be required to have a special permit granting weapon importation. Otherwise, you’ll be faced with a fine or even some jail time. International shipment of weapons is a delicate matter these days, so before you choose your destination, do your due diligence regarding gun ownership laws and how best to get them where you’re going.
Now that you have a little idea of what’s involved in gun ownership when moving overseas, here are the 10 countries with the friendliest gun laws:
10. Bosnia and Herzegovina
The weather might not be for everyone’s taste, and sure, there’s the strong language barrier, but the gun laws here are one of the most lax in all of Eastern Europe. 31% of the population owns guns and 34% of households in Bosnia are reported to have one or more guns. The issuance of permits is governed by the police, to whom you apply and can appeal if denied. When you get a permit, you are automatically granted concealed carry rights.
Alamy/Francois RouxFrance often comes out on top, or near to the top, in quality-of-life indexes. With good food, access to beautiful countryside, a rich culture of art, history, architecture, music, and top-class health care, it’s not hard to see why.
With nearly 20 guns for every 100 people, the French rank high on the European gun ownership ranking. What’s more, it is relatively straightforward to obtain a gun license in France. You simply need to tick these boxes;
- Be older than 18 (or over 12 with permission for shooting sports);
- Be affiliated with a shooting range;
- Have followed at least three shooting sessions with an instructor;
- Submit a medical certificate stating you are physically and mentally fit.
Claiming the title of the “Happiest Country In The World,” Finland boasts First World qualities like great health care, healthy living, and mountain views to die for. Finland has high per-capita gun ownership, similar to other Nordic countries, due to strong hunting traditions. Requirements to get a gun license include criminal and mental health checks, and a theory and practical exam. The number of guns per capita is rated at 34% percent, however, this is based on registered ownership. Many World War II-era guns are thought to be in circulation, but there are no definite numbers on these.
Foreigners seeking to hunt in Finland must bring their hunting license from their home country or take the Finnish hunting exam. If you bring your license from home, it must be vetted by the Game Management Association.
The second biggest country in South America, Argentina is relatively off the beaten track when it comes to popular expat destinations. Argentina is a hugely diverse country, with dramatic mountains, salt lakes, and magnificent waterfalls… combine these with Argentina’s cheap cost of living, and this South American destination is a perfect retirement destination for the adventure seekers out there.
Argentina is one of the most traveled-to hunting destinations in the Americas, with over 20,000 hunting tourists arriving each year. If you are planning on relocating here, you will need a legal temporary or permanent residency in order to get a gun license. You must have a legitimate reason for having a gun, like target shooting, hunting, or in real cases of danger. The cost of a license is 300 to 500 Argentine pesos and the permit is renewable every five years. There is no limitation to the number of guns one can license or the amount of ammo you can have for a licensed gun. Open carry is only allowed with a permit, but these aren’t commonly issued. Concealed-carry permits are very rarely issued, and only with evidence of clear and present danger to the applicant’s life.
Norway is one of the most beautiful and wealthiest countries in the world. It’s ideal for outdoor activities thanks to its Fjords, the varied wildlife, and breathtaking natural sceneries. Similar to other Nordic countries, it has a strong hunting tradition, resulting in one of the highest guns per capita percentages in the world.
Gun licenses are issued for hunting and sports shooting only to “responsible and sober” individuals. Concealed and open carry are prohibited, but after a test and a qualifying course to obtain your permit, you might be eligible to own semi-automatic rifles with a special permit. For hunters, licensing tests involve a course of nine sessions of 30-hours of instruction and an exam. It even includes information on environmental protection.
Panama has it all. Residency permits are easy and fast to obtain, the cost of living can range from affordable to really cheap depending on where you base yourself, services are developed in the city, private health care is affordable and of high quality, and the economy is booming. On top of all this, Panama is the safest country in Central America, and some believe this is due to private firearm ownership.
The main advantage of Panama, gun-wise, is that a permit is simple to obtain, yet the application procedure for foreigners can be lengthy. Short-barreled rifles and shotguns are legal in Panama. Concealed carry permits are relatively easy to acquire and they must be renewed every four years and require proof of six hours of target practice per year to be renewed. Semi-automatic weapons are available with a specific license.
Being a small, gun-controlled country, gun culture is very small. There are few gun stores around, and those with a decent selection are increasingly scarce. Expect prices to be significantly higher than normal here.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum, incredible food culture, Mediterranean weather, cheap retirement options, and fully automatic rifles. Italy is a retirement dream for many, and for those with an interest in firearms, it is the ideal place to while away your retirement.
In Italy, a license is needed to get your hands on any type of gun. There are 3 licenses that allow individuals to own firearms: a hunting license; a shooting sports license; and a concealed carry license. The recommended license to go for is hunting, as it lets you engage and carry hunting grade firearms. To get any of these licenses you must be mentally fit and not a drugs or alcohol abuser. In order to obtain a concealed-carry license, you must prove you have a definitive “threat to life.”
Depending on the type of license you get, you are allowed to carry:
- Up to three common firearms (usually handguns, but all firearms not using hunting calibers fall into this category, such as 10-gauge shotguns, or some .22 rimfire pistols and rifles);
- Up to six weapons that have been classified as manufactured for shooting sports by the National Proof House;
- An unlimited number of hunting weapons (both rifles and shotguns);
- Up to eight antique or historical weapons (manufactured before 1890);
- Unlimited numbers of single shot muzzle loader replicas, for which no registration is needed;
- Unlimited numbers of air guns under 7.5 Joules of muzzle energy, specifically approved by the Ministry of Interior, which require no registration as well.
Canada is one of the best destinations in the world for American expats. Its completely public health system, stable and ongoing economy, the minimal culture shock Americans experience on arrival, vibrant culture, and one of the lowest crime rates in the world make Canada an attractive destination for retirees.
Canada’s strong hunting tradition has made gun culture a staple, 34.7% of people reportedly have legal ownership of firearms in their homes. Despite this, following a crackdown in May 2020 on the use of firearms, over 1,500 models of assault style firearms have been prohibited in Canada.
All gun ownership requires a “possession and acquisition license.” Numerous background checks must be completed before this license can be granted, after which the license is renewable every five years. Canada has several limitations to gun use:
- Concealed carry is highly restricted for civilians,
- When stored, guns must be unloaded and rendered inoperable or locked,
- Handguns under 105 mm in barrel length are prohibited,
- Semi-automatics require a special permit and training.
2. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has all the charm of the Old World at half the price. The capital, Prague, is often compared with Paris, and in its glory days, the 14th-century capital of the Holy Roman Empire was of greater repute than the City of Light.
It is a nation that has been riddled with struggle. Czechs have spent time much of their history fighting, including two civil wars—one of which lasted 200 years. After the fall of communism, Czechs restored their gun rights and now have some of the most permissive gun laws in Europe.
Recreational shooting is one of the most popular sports in the Czech Republic. Czech law also recognizes the right to self-defense more strongly than most nations, even if the right to firearms is not constitutionally recognized. Citizens may obtain concealed-carry permits without declaring a reason, and even carry up to two concealed firearms. To apply for a gun license in the Czech Republic, you must be over either 15 or 21 years old (depending on the license needed), pass both theoretical and practical exams, and submit a review by the national police.
Switzerland has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Housing is excellent, there is a strong food culture, and crime rates are some of the lowest across the globe. The largest city, Zürich, consistently ranks in the top 10 cities to live in the world. Apart from the picture-perfect overview, Switzerland is widely known for its vast gun culture and having some of the most relaxed gun laws in the world.
Until 2010, all capable males were required to keep a Sig SG 550 and a Sig Sauer p229 at home or at the local armory, to provide for the national defense. The service is now voluntary, and they have comprehensive military training. So-called “free arms” such as single-shots and bolt-action rifles can be purchased by anyone over 18 years of age without a permit. Concealed carry is allowed for a sidearm only after you can show “proof of genuine need and tangible danger.” Automatic rifles are allowed with a special permit, usually for hunting. Most types of ammunition is legal, and there are a lot of shooting ranges throughout the country.