How to Sell a Gun in Pennsylvania

In the Keystone State, selling a firearm comes with a set of legal requirements designed to ensure public safety. This article will guide you through Pennsylvania's gun laws, the transfer process, and various considerations when selling different types of firearms. From background checks and age requirements to understanding federal regulations, we’ll break down the essentials for conducting a lawful and responsible transaction, whether you're a private seller or a federally licensed dealer. Be informed and stay on the right side of the law as you navigate the process of selling a gun in Pennsylvania.

Written by:
Isaiah Miller
May 26, 2023
minutes read
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Gun Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania city skyline

Pennsylvania's gun laws strike a balance between safety and accessibility, requiring expanded background checks for firearm purchases. Prospective buyers must complete the ATF Form 4473 and pass a background check facilitated by the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS). This system allows for swift access to background records, helping to identify and disqualify individuals ineligible for gun ownership in the state.

Requirements to Purchase a Firearm in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, purchasing a firearm is subject to age requirements, with buyers needing to be:

  • At least 18 years old for rifles, shotguns, and ammunition
  • 21 years old for handguns

While no permits or registration are mandated for firearm ownership, a 48-hour wait period applies to purchases made at federally licensed dealers. In case a background check unjustly disallows a sale, buyers have the option to appeal and seek clearance for completing the transaction.

Private Sale Requirements

Private firearm sales in Pennsylvania have specific requirements depending on the type of weapon involved. To sell your handgun, a background check is mandatory prior to completing the sale.  However, the background check requirement does not apply to transfers between spouses, parents, and children, or grandparents and grandchildren. In contrast, transferring long guns, such as rifles and shotguns to another state resident can be done without a background check.

Transferring Gun Ownership in Pennsylvania and Important Considerations Before the Transfer

When transferring gun ownership in Pennsylvania, it's crucial to consider certain factors to ensure a legal and responsible exchange.

  • It is illegal to sell or give a gun to someone prohibited from owning a firearm.
  • Avoid purchasing a gun for someone under 18 years old.
  • Immediate family members do not need to follow the standard transfer process.
Older man signing documents

How to Complete the Transfer Between Private Individuals

Completing a firearm transfer between private individuals in Pennsylvania involves several key steps: 

  • Visit a licensed gun dealership or sheriff's office with the recipient.
  • Fill out Form 4473 and a record of sale form with the buyer.
  • The buyer must pass a background check, which costs $2.00 plus any additional fees.
  • Obtain a receipt of the transfer as proof that the proper laws were followed.
  • Hand over the unloaded gun to the recipient.


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Federal Laws and Considerations for Private Firearm Sales

Federal laws regulate private firearm sales in the United States, imposing specific requirements on sellers and buyers. Restrictions on selling firearms to individuals include factors such as criminal convictions, warrants, drug abuse, fugitive status, mental defects, and domestic violence crimes. The National Firearms Act of 1934 regulates the ownership and possession of various firearms, and the legal transfer of firearms between unlicensed individuals residing in different states requires shipping the firearm to a Federal Firearm License (FFL) holder in the recipient's state. Non-compliance with federal or state laws can result in penalties, including fines, imprisonment, or both.

Man holding a rifle with two handguns on a table

Federal Legal Restrictions for Selling Firearms to Certain Individuals

Federal legal restrictions apply to the sale of firearms to specific individuals, including those who fulfill any of the following criteria:

  • conviction (felony or misdemeanor) where the crime has a maximum imprisonment term exceeding 1 year
  • warrant (felony or out-of-state misdemeanor)
  • felony criminal charge
  • drug abuser
  • fugitive from justice
  • illegal alien
  • mental defect or commitment
  • dishonorable discharge from the armed forces
  • renounced U.S. citizenship
  • restraining order
  • a person convicted of a domestic violence crime.

Important Considerations

As per the National Firearms Act of 1934, ownership and possession of shotguns, rifles, machine guns, firearm mufflers, and silencers are regulated. The purchase of semi-automatic weapons is legal in most states, and the possession of automatic weapons made before 1986 is also legal as long as you obtain the proper tax stamp and go through the proper ATF channels.

It is illegal for an unlicensed individual to transfer a firearm to someone not residing in the same state. In general, for a legal transfer of a firearm to an unlicensed person residing in a different state, the firearm must be shipped to a Federal Firearm License (FFL) holder in the state of residence of the recipient, and be transferred by the FFL.

Penalties for non-compliance

If private sellers are discovered to be breaking federal or state laws while selling a gun, they could be subject to penalties including fines, imprisonment, or both.

Guidelines for Selling a Gun in Pennsylvania

If you're considering selling a firearm in Pennsylvania, it's important to understand these guidelines to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues. In this article, we will outline the key guidelines for selling a gun in Pennsylvania, including background check requirements, restrictions on certain individuals' ability to possess firearms, and guidelines for transferring ownership of firearms.

Type of Firearm Matters

When selling a gun privately in Pennsylvania, it's essential to follow the guidelines that vary according to the type of firearm involved. These categories include long guns, pistols, National Firearms Act (NFA) weapons, accessories, and antique firearms, each of which has its own specific provisions.

Several types of firearms on a table

General Gun Sales Guidelines

In Pennsylvania, general gun sales guidelines dictate that sellers cannot sell firearms to those prohibited from owning them. To ensure compliance, both seller and buyer should visit a local gun dealer to conduct a background check via the Pennsylvania State Police PICS system. Keep in mind that private sales can only take place between residents of the same state and within that state's boundaries.

Selling Long Guns

When privately selling or trading long guns, it's important to confirm that the buyer is legally permitted to own firearms under both state and federal law. While no background check is required, keeping a record of the transaction can provide added personal protection and documentation of the sale or trade.

Transferring Handguns

For the private transfer of handguns:

  • A background check is required.
  • Licensed state gun dealers can help process private transactions legally, including at gun shows.
  • Both parties meet with the dealer to provide information and process paperwork.

Transferring NFA Weapons and Accessories

Antique firearms and replicas are generally exempt from the Uniform Firearms Act (UFA) and do not require a background check for their transfer. NFA weapons and accessories are considered offensive weapons and prohibited unless registered to the owner with appropriate ATF approval and tax stamp. Any transfer between individuals must go through an FFL dealer licensed to process NFA items.

Antique Firearms Transfers

The Uniform Firearms Act (UFA) does not apply to antique firearms and replicas,

so there is no background check required for their transfer. However, if the firearm has been restored or uses commercially produced obsolete ammunition, it could be subject to UFA provisions again.

Overview of State Laws Governing Firearm Acquisition, Possession, and Carrying:

The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA/ILA) offers a convenient reference chart to help understand Pennsylvania's state laws concerning the purchase, possession, and carrying of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. As stated in Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania state constitution, the right to bear arms is guaranteed for citizens.

Pennsylvania's firearm laws cover purchasing, possessing, carrying, and transporting guns, as well as specific regulations for antiques and machine guns. Understanding these laws is crucial for legal and safe firearm transactions. The state outlines requirements for handgun sales, license and permit requirements, transportation in vehicles, and restrictions on certain firearms. Familiarize yourself with these regulations to ensure compliance with Pennsylvania's gun laws.


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Tips to Sell Safely and Get the Best Price

To ensure a successful sale, ensure your firearm is in good working condition, clean, and well-maintained. Provide an accurate description of the firearm, including its make, model, caliber, and accessories. Prepare a comprehensive bill of sale and include relevant documentation, such as receipts and warranty information. Finally, complete the sale and transfer ownership in a legally compliant manner by adhering to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Cleaning and Maintenance:

It's a good idea to ensure your firearm is in good working condition and properly cleaned before selling it. This can also increase the firearm's value.

Man cleaning a rifle

Accurate Description:

When preparing your firearm for a private sale, you should aim to provide an accurate description of the firearm. This includes information about the make, model, caliber, and any accessories that come with the firearm. An accurate description will help ensure a smooth transaction with your ultimate buyer.


Prepare a complete bill of sale that protects both parties in case of disputes, including the following information: sale date, buyer and seller information, and firearm details (such as make, model, and serial number). Additionally, be sure to include any relevant paperwork, such as purchase receipts and warranty information.

Completing the Sale and Transferring Firearm Ownership:

Once you've found a legal buyer, complete the sale and transfer ownership of the firearm in a legal and compliant manner. Be sure to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, including background checks and any necessary permits or licenses.


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General Questions & Answers

Is it legal to sell guns in Pennsylvania?

Yes, it is legal to sell a gun in Pennsylvania, but all private handgun sales need to go through a licensed dealer or the county sheriff's office. Both of these entities will require a background check.

Can I buy a gun in Pennsylvania without a license?

Yes, you can. Private sales of long guns usually do not require a background check. However, in Pennsylvania, all private handgun sales must go through a licensed dealer or the county sheriff's office, both of which will conduct a background check.

How much is a handgun permit in Pennsylvania?

The handgun permit fee in Pennsylvania is $20.00, and payment must be made in cash. Applications for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may be obtained from the Centre County Sheriff's Office from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday (Excluding Government and Major Holidays).

Do I need a federally-issued ID to buy a gun in Pennsylvania?

No, you do not need a federally-issued ID specifically to buy a gun in Pennsylvania. However, to comply with the background check requirement, you will need a valid government-issued photo identification card.

Does a gun Bill Of Sale have to be notarized in Pennsylvania?

No, Pennsylvania law does not specifically require a Bill of Sale for firearms to be notarized. However, it is always advisable to have such documents notarized for the purpose of maintaining a clear record of the transaction. 

What is the process to buy a gun in Pennsylvania?

The process of buying guns in Pennsylvania is relatively easy. One selects a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, who then runs a background check via the Pennsylvania Instant Check System. If the buyer passes, the purchase can proceed. For handguns, there's a 48-hour waiting period. The buyer and dealer document the sale on ATF Form 4473. Minimum ages are 18 for long guns and 21 for handguns. 

What documents do I need to buy a gun in Pennsylvania?

To buy a gun in Pennsylvania you will need a valid, government-issued photo ID (like a driver's license). For the federally mandated Form 4473, you will also need to provide personal information including your full name, address, date of birth, and more. 

What are the rules for gun ownership in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania allows legal residents who are 18 years old to own rifles and shotguns, and 21 years old to own handguns. No permit is needed to purchase or possess these firearms. However, a background check is required for all gun sales at federally licensed dealers, and for private handgun sales. 

Are Pennsylvania gun laws strict?

Yes, Gun laws in Pennsylvania are strict, and authorities take weapons offenses very seriously.

Does Pennsylvania have a gun registry?

Pennsylvania does not have a comprehensive gun registry. The state does not maintain a centralized database or require firearm owners to register their guns with the state government. 

Does Pennsylvania allow private gun sales?

Yes, Pennsylvania allows private gun sales, but they must go through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer.

Can I gift someone a gun in Pennsylvania?

Yes, you can gift someone a gun in Pennsylvania. However transfers of handguns in Pennsylvania, even as gifts, are generally required to go through a licensed firearms dealer or the county sheriff's office, which includes a background check. This requirement is irrespective of whether the transfer is a sale or a gift.



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By following the guidelines and recommendations in this article, you can successfully navigate the process of selling a gun in Pennsylvania. Remember to always adhere to federal and state regulations, as well as local laws, to ensure a legal, safe, and profitable transaction.


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