Below is a list of frequently asked questions relating to firearms in general. If you have any further questions about firearms, please contact the Gun Permit Unit at (215) 685-3658. You may also visit the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' website for frequently asked questions about the National Firearms Act.
Q: What is considered a firearm under the Uniform Firearms Act?
A: A firearm is considered to be any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15", any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18", or any rifle with a barrel length less than 16"; or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26". The barrel length of a firearm is determined by measuring from the muzzle of the barrel to the face of the closed action, bolt or cylinder, whichever is applicable.
Q: Is a long rifle or a hunting rifle considered a firearm?
A: Typically no. If your rifle or shotgun does not meet the above measurements/definition of a firearm and you do not meet any of the elements of §6105 (relating to Persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms) of the Uniform Firearms Act, it is not considered a firearm.
Q: Since my hunting rifle/shotgun is not considered a firearm, am I allowed to carry it loaded in my vehicle when not hunting?
A: Except as permitted under the Pennsylvania Game Law, you are not permitted to carry a loaded rifle, shotgun, or black powder gun loaded in your vehicle. Even if you possess a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms, this prohibition still applies to you unless you are a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer.
Q: Is a black powder gun considered a firearm?
A: Typically no. Under the Uniform Firearms Act, a gun that has a matchlock, flintlock, or percussion cap type of ignition system is not considered a firearm. Also, any gun manufactured on or before 1898 is not considered a firearm; nor is any replica of any firearm described above if it is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional center fire fixed ammunition or it uses rimfire or conventional center fire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. These types of guns are considered to be Antique Firearms by the laws of Pennsylvania and the Unites States Code and are not typically subject to the laws under the Uniform Firearms Act.
Q: When is an Antique Firearm prohibited?
A: An Antique Firearm is prohibited from be possessed, used, manufactured, controlled, sold or transferred by a person prohibited from possessing any firearms. This means that if you are prohibited from possessing any firearms under §6105 (relating to Persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms) of the Uniform Firearms Act, the "Antique Exception" does not apply to you. For purposes of that section, a firearm includes any weapons which are designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.
Q: If I would like to carry an Antique Firearm, must I still possess a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms?
A: Yes. For purposes of §6106 (relating to Firearms not to be carried without a license) of the Uniform Firearms Act, you must still possess a License to carry an Antique Firearm.
Q: I have an old firearm and would like to have it registered. Where can I do that?
A: There is no such thing as firearms registration in Pennsylvania. Per §6111.4 (relating to Registration of firearms) of the Uniform Firearms Act, firearms registration by any government entity in Pennsylvania is illegal. When a firearm is purchased from a firearms dealer in Pennsylvania, an Application/Record of Sale is completed by the buyer. The paperwork you complete is not to register the firearm, but to conduct a background check on you before you are sold the firearm. A copy of the completed paperwork is forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Police by the dealer within 14 days. The information on the Application/Record of Sale as well as the Application/Record of Sale itself must be destroyed by the Pennsylvania State Police within 72 hours of receiving it.
Q: I want to transfer a firearm to a family member of mine. Do I have to take my family member to a firearms dealer to complete the transfer?
A: It depends on what relation the family member is to you. You do not need to have a firearms dealer conduct the transfer if the transfer is between spouses, a parent and child, or a grandparent and grandchild AND the receiving family member is legally permitted to possess a firearm. Otherwise, you must take your firearm and your family member to a firearms dealer and have the dealer conduct the transfer.
Q: I want to transfer a firearm to a person who is charged with a crime, but has yet to be convicted. Can I legally do so?
A: Under federal law, a person may not transfer or give a firearm to another person who is under indictment for a crime of a grading of a Misdemeanor of the 1st degree or higher in Pennsylvania. Check with the Sheriff's Office for how this will relate to persons charged with crimes in other states.
Q: When can a person/minor under 18 years of age possess a firearm?
A: A minor may possess a firearms when he/she is under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or an adult acting with the expressed consent of the minor’s custodial parent or legal guardian AND the minor is engaged in lawful activity, including safety training, lawful target shooting, engaging in an organized competition involving the use of a firearm or the firearm is unloaded and the minor is transporting it for a lawful purpose. A minor may also be in possession of a firearm when he/she is lawfully hunting or trapping in accordance with the Pennsylvania Game Law.
Q: When can I lend or give a firearm to someone?
A: You may only lend or give a firearm to someone, or secure a loan from a bank or financial institution with a firearm, if:
the person who is receiving the firearm possesses a valid License to Carry Firearms
the person who is receiving the firearm is exempt from needing a License to Carry Firearms
the person who receives the firearm is engaged in a hunter safety program certified by the Pennsylvania Game Commission or a firearm training program or competition sanctioned or approved by the National Rifle Association
the person who is receiving the firearm is under 18 years of age and is under the supervision, guidance, and instruction of a responsible individual who is 21 years of age or older and is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm
the person receiving the firearm is lawfully hunting or trapping in accordance with the Pennsylvania Game Law
the person is receiving the firearm pursuant to a Safekeeping Permit
the person is receiving the firearm within one's place of dwelling or employment and the firearm never leaves such place
the person is receiving the firearm pursuant to interstate commerce
the bank or financial institution is able to adequately secure firearms in its possession
Q: What types of weapons are illegal?
A: Under §908(a) (relating to Prohibited offensive weapons) of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, a person commits a Misdemeanor of the 1st degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon. A prohibited offensive weapon is defined as any of the following that can cause serious bodily injury and serve no common lawful purpose:
Any bomb or grenade
A machine gun
A sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches
A firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge
Any blackjack, sandbag, or metal knuckles
A dagger, knife, razor, or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise
Any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic or electric weapon
Any other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose
Contrary to this section, possession of a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun or firearm with a "silencer" is permitted when purchased pursuant to the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. §5801 et seq.).
Stun guns, stun batons, tasers, and other electric weapons are permitted if they are possessed for a lawful purpose such as self-defense. However, they are not permitted to be possessed by a person who is prohibited from possessing firearms under §6105 (relating to Persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms) of the Uniform Firearms Act.
Q: Are certain types of ammunition prohibited in Pennsylvania?
A: Typically no. It is only illegal to possess, use, or attempt to use a KTW Teflon-coated bullet or other armor-piercing ammunition while committing or attempting to commit a crime of violence.
Q: Is it illegal to remove or alter the serial number off of a firearm?
A: Yes. It is a Felony of the 2nd degree to remove or alter a firearm's serial number. It is also illegal to possess a firearm with an altered or removed serial number.