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Magazine Limits: What Are They and Which States Have Them?

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You may have heard how limiting the magazine capacity of firearms will curb the number of fatalities during mass shootings. This is a common gun myth. Still, it is critical that you understand which states have magazine-capacity limitations for handguns. Currently, there are 11 states with magazine-capacity restrictions that range from 10 to 20 rounds of ammunition.

Limiting Capacity

From 1994 to 2004, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was in force. The federal law defined a “large-capacity ammunition-feeding device” as a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It made any handguns with large-capacity magazines not lawfully possessed before the law’s enactment illegal.

Since that time, a number of states have enacted laws banning large- or high-capacity magazines. However, the state laws vary in many ways, including whether possession of the magazines is banned or the sale, transfer and purchase (as well as manufacture, transportation, shipment or disposal) is illegal. There are also variations with how large- or high-capacity magazines are defined and whether the definition applies to long guns and/or handguns. State laws that ban the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines also vary in the approach to large-capacity magazines already in the possession of individuals at the time a ban was adopted.

Limitations by State

California

The Golden State doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. However, on Aug. 14, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment that California Government Code § 32310, which bans possession of large-capacity magazines (“LCMs”) that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, violated the Second Amendment. The state of California now has the option of requesting the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision and may seek a delay on implementation of the decision to prevent a surge in purchases.

Colorado

The Centennial State doesn’t allow more than 15 rounds. It is illegal to sell, transfer or possess a “high-capacity” magazine (defined as greater than 15 rounds for firearms other than shotguns) unless the individual owned the large-capacity magazine on July 1, 2013, and maintained continuous possession of the large-capacity magazine. The City of Boulder has Ordinance 5-8-2, which makes any ammunition-feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds illegal.

Connecticut

The Constitution State doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. Any person who distributes, imports into the state, keeps for sale, offers or exposes for sale, or purchases a high-capacity magazine is criminally liable for a Class D felony. There are exemptions for, in part, a feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds of ammunition, or a magazine that is permanently inoperable. There is also a grandfather provision for high-capacity magazines possessed prior to January 1, 2014.

Washington D.C.

Our nation’s capital doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. The term “large-capacity ammunition-feeding device” is defined as a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip or similar device that has a capacity of or that can be readily restored or converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Hawaii

The Aloha State doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. Handgun magazines may not hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Maryland

The Old Line State doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. A person may not manufacture, sell, offer for sale, purchase, receive or transfer a detachable magazine that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a firearm. There is an exemption for law enforcement officers (LEOs) and retired LEOs.

Massachusetts

The Bay State doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. It is illegal to sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon or a large-capacity feeding device that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on Sept. 13, 1994. “Large-capacity feeding device” means a fixed or detachable magazine, box, drum, feed strip or similar device capable of accepting or that can be readily converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

New Jersey

The Garden State doesn’t allow more than 10 rounds. In 2018, the Third Circuit held that New Jersey could redefine “large-capacity ammunition magazine” as a box, drum, tube or other container which is capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition to be fed continuously and directly into a semi-automatic firearm. There are exemptions for authorized military and law enforcement and for firearms that have been registered by persons who participate in competitive shooting matches sanctioned by the director of Civilian Marksmanship of the U. S. Department of the Army.

New York

The Empire State doesn’t allow more than seven to 10 rounds. New York prohibits the manufacture, transportation, disposal and possession of any large-capacity ammunition feeding device, which New York law defines as a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip or similar device that:

  • Has a capacity of or that can be readily restored or converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition
  • Is obtained after Jan. 15, 2013, and has a capacity of or can be readily restored or converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition

Vermont 

The Green Mountain State doesn’t allow more than 15 rounds for handguns. In 2018, Vermont enacted legislation to generally restrict the sale, purchase, possession, manufacture and importation of large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices. There is a grandfather provision for large-capacity magazines that were lawfully possessed on or before April 11, 2018. There are various exemptions which include law enforcement, government officials and shooting competitions.

Virginia

Old Dominion doesn’t allow more than 20 rounds for handguns. Although Virginia has no law restricting large-capacity ammunition magazines, Virginia law defines “assault firearm” as any semi-automatic centerfire rifle or pistol which expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.


The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. members and the concealed carry community and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and, as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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