A Firearm Bill of Sale provides proof of purchase of a handgun, rifle, shotgun, or other type of gun from a seller to a buyer. The seller agrees to transfer ownership of a gun to the buyer, and a Firearm Bill of Sale is used to record the transaction along with the personal information of both parties. Having the proper documentation can protect you when you sell a gun if future legal or criminal issues occur involving the sold weapon.
Depending on the state, the forms and processes required to sell a gun might be different. Be sure to check your local laws before buying or selling a privately-owned gun.
1. Who Should Use a Firearm Bill of Sale?
You’re not legally required to use a Firearm Bill of Sale when privately selling or buying a gun in most states.
However, using a Firearm Bill of Sale does protect you by proving:
- a transaction actually occurred, meaning the other party cannot claim theft or that they never received the gun.
- the firearm truly belonged to the seller and was not stolen.
- the seller intended to legally transfer ownership of the gun to the buyer.
- which gun was transferred (i.e. year, model, make, serial number, unique markings).
- the seller made promises and assurances as to the condition of the firearm or sold it “as is”.
Without using this form, you may be legally liable for anything associated with the gun. This includes any fees, violations, fines, or even criminal behavior.
If you want to privately sell a gun to a friend, a Firearm Bill of Sale can serve as a receipt between two unlicensed individuals.
Dealers such as pawn shops that frequently buy and sell guns for profit need a Federal Firearm License (FFL) from the ATF.
2. How to Sell a Gun Using a Firearm Bill of Sale
If you’re selling a gun in a state that allows private firearm sales, it’s important to take the following steps:
Step 1: Check State Laws on Private Gun Sales
While you may not need a firearm bill of sale to sell a gun, knowing the local and state laws regarding private firearm sales will protect you from legal issues.
Private firearm sales to unlicensed individuals like a friend have certain restrictions in some states, while others don’t allow them at all. Additionally, some states have restrictions such as mandatory background checks on sales between unlicensed individuals, while others have few or no regulations in place.
If the law seems complex or unclear, your safest bet is to contact your local Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) office and ask for information.
Step 2: Do a Background Check
Background check requirements for private gun sales vary across states. For example, only 13 states and Washington D.C. require background checks for all gun sales, even if they are private transactions.
It’s important to figure out if you need to conduct a background check through a licensed dealer or government agency before selling to the buyer.
Step 3: Ask for a Gun License or Permit
To limit the risk of selling to someone who shouldn’t have a gun, ask the buyer if they currently have a license to carry, a concealed carry permit, or other such documentation. If they don’t, consider asking them to get one before selling them the gun.
While it’s not required, it does offer a certain level of security, as the process for getting one often involves a background check and basic gun training. Certain states require some sort of permit or license before buyers can purchase or carry a firearm.
Step 4: Arrange an In-Person Exchange
Meeting face-to-face with the buyer allows you to check their ID and verify that they’re from the same state where the private gun sale is taking place. You can’t send or sell a gun across state lines without first sending the weapon to a licensed firearm dealer for a state background check.
Step 5: Complete a Firearm Bill of Sale
To protect yourself from future liabilities, you and the buyer should fill out a Firearm Bill of Sale to finalize the sale of the gun. The document will have your information in case legal authorities need to contact you, and the buyer’s information will let officials trace the gun’s ownership.
Selling a gun privately might differ in process among states, but a Firearm Bill of Sale generally includes the following details:
- Seller: The personal information of the individual transferring the gun to the buyer.
- Buyer: The personal information of the individual buying or receiving the gun from the seller.
- Property: A complete description of the gun being sold and its current condition.
- Payment Terms: A record of the amount of money paid or “value received” for the transaction.
- Warranty: A note of whether the weapon is being sold “as is” or if there are any guarantees on the item.
- Date: A record of when the firearm was sold.
Because this form is an official record of a gun sale, it should be signed by both parties. Once the exchange is complete, make sure both you and the buyer each have a copy of the completed Firearm Bill of Sale.
3. How to Write a Firearm Bill of Sale
Completing a simple firearm bill of sale should include the following steps and information:
Step 1: Fill In the Parties Involved in the Firearm Sale
A Firearm Bill of Sale records the gun’s ownership transfer and ensures that the seller is the legal owner of the firearm, so it should include the buyer and seller’s:
- Contact information
- Valid identification numbers
Step 2: Write the Descriptions of the Firearm
Describe the firearm as clearly as possible so the gun is easier to identify if necessary. This includes the gun’s:
- Serial number
- Make and model, and
- Features such as caliber, color, accessories, customizations, and materials
Step 3: Describe the Condition of the Firearm
The state of the gun at the time of the sale should be noted to avoid future disputes or legal issues with the gun’s condition. Usually, the firearm is “sold as is,” or as the seller advertised, unless you have agreed to something else.
Step 4: Note the Details of the Firearm Sale
As a receipt that documents the terms agreed by both the buyer and seller, the Firearm Bill of Sale should include the:
- Date of purchase
- Sale price
- Payment arrangement (i.e. paid in full, initial down payment, or installments)
Step 5: Sign the Document
The seller and buyer should both sign and date the form to make it official. Each person should keep a copy of the signed form to protect themselves if there are any legal problems in the future.
4. Free Firearm Bill of Sale Template
The following template is a printable firearm bill of sale that you can download as either a PDF or Word Document. Use it to privately transfer ownership of a gun.
Firearm Bill of Sale