How do I Transfer Handguns Without an FFL?

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The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 created Federal Firearms Licenses. It set up regulations concerning who could be an authorized gun dealer. The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibited private transfers of firearms across state lines. A federally licensed dealer located within the buyer’s state must be involved in out-of-state transactions. State laws vary on private purchases and sales of handguns between individuals within a state. Federal law on gun transactions applies in addition to state rules.

Step 1

Call local police to check on local law and whether it’s legal to transfer the handgun. Some states prohibit the ownership of certain types of handguns or have specific rules for transfers between private individuals.

Step 2

Get full identification, including proof of age and residency, from the buyer. Under federal law, the owner of a gun cannot sell it to a known felon or someone disqualified from owning the firearm.

Step 3

Complete paperwork required in your state. Even if your state does not require it, write down the buyer’s identifying information, the type and serial number of the firearm, complete information about the place, date and time of the sale and the selling price. Have him sign the sheet. While not legally necessary in all states, this information may prove important if there is ever a question about the transaction.

Step 4

Accept the payment and provide a receipt.


  • According to the Legal Community Against Violence, as of 2008, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia require all handgun purchases to go through a FFL. Alaska, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington require specific paperwork.
  • If the buyer is not willing to provide you with full identification, the need and use of the gun may be suspect.
  • Follow the same steps even if no money is changing hands and you’re giving a handgun to someone as a gift.


About the Author

Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980 with articles in "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. He has managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. Burton holds a B.S. in broadcasting from John Brown University. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves and the Navy Seabees.

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