Federal Minimum Age to Purchase and Possess Handguns

Minimum Age for Possession of Handguns

Subject to limited exceptions, federal law prohibits the possession (unlawful for a person to sell, deliver or otherwise transfer to a person who the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe is a juvenile) of a handgun or handgun ammunition by any person under the age of 18 [18 U.S.C. § 922(x)(2)].

Exceptions [18 U.S.C. § 922(x)(3)]:

  • Temporary transfer and possession of handguns and handgun ammunition for specified activities, including employment, ranching, farming, target practice and hunting, provided the juvenile is in possession of prior written consent of the juvenile’s parent or guardian who is not prohibited by federal, state or local law from possessing a firearm;
  • A juvenile who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard who possesses or is armed with a handgun in the line of duty;
  • A transfer by inheritance of title (but not possession) of a handgun or ammunition to a juvenile; or
  • The possession of a handgun or ammunition by a juvenile taken in defense of the juvenile or other persons against an intruder into the residence of the juvenile or a residence in which the juvenile is an invited guest.

Minimum Age for Sales and Transfers of Handguns

Licensed Firearms Dealers
Dealers may not sell or deliver a handgun or ammunition for a handgun to any person the dealer has reasonable cause to believe is under age 21 [18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(1) and (c)(1)].

Note – A federal appeals court has ruled on July 13, 2021, that the existing minimum age  requirement (21 years old) for purchases from federally licensed gun dealers restricts the rights of law-abiding citizens and draws an arbitrary, unjustified line.The decision, which probably will be appealed to the full court, finds that 18-year-olds possess a Second Amendment right to gun ownership.The ruling does not mean that 18-to-20-year-olds can immediately buy handguns from federal dealers. The court’s order sends the case back to District Court in Charlottesville and gives the government an opportunity to ask the full 4th Circuit to rehear the case.

Unlicensed Persons
Unlicensed persons may not sell, deliver or otherwise transfer a handgun or handgun ammunition to any person the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe is under age 18. However, subject to state law, someone between the age of 18 and 21 and is not a prohibited possessor of firearms may be allowed to acquire a handgun from someone who is not a licensed dealer. Exceptions include those noted above per 18 U.S.C. § 922(x)(3). [18 U.S.C. § 922(x)(1)].

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.  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 for a specific case.