Editor’s Note: The U.S. Concealed Carry Association is unable to rank every state, especially as there are no universal criteria for what makes a state gun-friendly. A great deal of consideration was put into choosing the below criteria and verifying which states meet them. If you do not see your state in either of the two “tiers,” it does not necessarily mean your state is not gun-friendly. To learn more about your state’s gun laws, visit the Concealed Carry Reciprocity & Gun Laws Map.
You may have heard individuals or organizations grade or score states based on their firearms laws from the least to most restrictive. Determining if a state is “gun-friendly” is a matter of opinion, but there is some truth to it. Are you curious about which states are the friendliest to gun owners? Or the least? Well, we’ve compiled a list for you. Hopefully, for your own sake, your home state is at the top of the list.
Top Gun-Friendly States
Our USCCA gun laws expert came up with 13 criteria based on concealed carriers’ questions about purchasing, traveling with and defending with a firearm. The No. 1 factor in determining how friendly a state is toward gun owners was whether people could carry concealed. (Learn why open carry isn’t always a good idea.) Although no state in the U.S. allows all of the gun-friendly measures listed below, nine states permit most of these:
- Permitless carry or unrestricted concealed carry for anyone who can legally possess a firearm based on the minimum age listed (except where noted)
- No permit required to purchase handguns
- No waiting period imposed on handgun purchases
- No background checks required for private transfers
- No handgun registration
- No magazine-capacity limits
- No ammunition restrictions
- No red flag laws
- Vehicle carry permitted without a permit
- Possession of a handgun on private property without a permit is allowed
- State laws have preemptionPreemption is a doctrine of state law that holds that a state law supersedes a local law or regulation that is in the same field and is in conflict or inconsistent with the state law. For example, if a state legislature enacts gun-control legislation, and the intent of the legislation is to occupy the field of gun control, then a municipality is preempted from enacting its own gun-control ordinance. (so, no concern about local restrictions)
- Castle DoctrineCastle Doctrine is the concept that an individual has a right to be safe and secure within his or her own home or “castle” and should not have to retreat from his or her home to be safe. statute(s)
- Stand Your GroundSo-called “stand-your-ground” laws allow armed individuals who believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force under certain circumstances, without first attempting to retreat from the danger. statute(s) in some locations
A whopping 25 states now have constitutional carry and are the most favorable to gun owners. 18 of those states with the least restrictions include:
- Alabama (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) (Goes into effect January 1st, 2023)
- Alaska (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Arizona (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Arkansas (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Georgia (permitless carry if at least 21 year old and 18 for members of the military)
- Idaho (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Indiana (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Iowa (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Mississippi (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Montana (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- New Hampshire (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Ohio (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- South Dakota (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Texas (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Utah (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Vermont – (Vermont is a does-not-issue, permitless carry state) (must be 18 years old to carry)
- West Virginia (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Wyoming (permitless carry if at least 21 years)
States Close to Meeting Our Gun Friendly Criteria
Seven more states meet nearly all of the criteria listed above, but either have ammunition restrictions, a waiting period for purchases, lack one of the Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground laws, or some other restriction the above states do not possess. These states are:
- Kansas (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) — The sale and possession of plastic-coated handgun ammunition is prohibited.
- Kentucky (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) — Armor-piercing ammunition Armor-Piercing Ammunition is designed to penetrate ballistic armor and protective shields intended to stop or deflect conventional bullets. is prohibited.
- Maine (permitless carry if at least 21 years old or 18 for members of the military) There is no “stand your ground” law, so an individual has a duty to retreat outside of his or her dwelling place
- Missouri (permitless carry if at least 18 years old) — The possession and sale of “exploding bullets” is prohibited.
- North Dakota (permitless carry if at least 18 years old) permitless carry is for residents only and is concealed carry only.
- Oklahoma (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) — The possession or use of any “restricted bullet” is prohibited.
- Tennessee (permitless carry if at least 21 years old or at least 18 years old for members of the military) — Exploding bullets are illegal.
All Other States
If you live in one of the states already listed, consider yourself fortunate. For those who live in Hawaii, California, New Jersey and New York, we feel for you. These four states are the most restrictive states in the U.S. for gun owners. The remaining states not listed here fall somewhere between the top gun-friendly states and the ones most restrictive to gun owners.
It’s important to know which states are the most and least gun-friendly, especially when traveling or purchasing a firearm for the first time. That’s why our Concealed Carry Reciprocity Map & Gun Laws by State is an essential resource for every gun owner. Use it regularly, and share it with those who are not familiar with it. It can keep you out of a world of trouble and may help you reconsider relocating to or visiting a specific state.
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, and laws are constantly changing, and as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.