Buying Guns and Ammo in Illinois

DISCLAIMER: It is your full responsibility to make sure the firearm, ammunition, or accessories you are purchasing is legal for you to own in your state or jurisdiction. The information contained throughout this web site, including the firearm and ammunition state guide provided below, is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

Despite its world-renowned reputation for gun-related violence in Chicago, Illinois is one of the least permissive places in the United States when it comes to firearms and ammunition laws. In addition to the laws themselves being among the most restrictive in the country, there is one other major hurdle to understanding Illinois gun laws. Until fairly recently, counties and other political units such as cities could, and did, pass firearms laws that were more restrictive than that at the state level. In simple terms, it’s entirely possible to drive for 20 minutes down a highway in Illinois, not pass through a state border, and yet the driver might have gone through two or three jurisdictions with different firearms laws.

To keep things as logical as they can be with Illinois gun laws, this piece will focus on the big picture of ammunition and firearms purchasing in Illinois, with a focus on Chicago and Cook County, as those contain much of the population of the state.  The foundational legal framework to keep in mind for most people in Illinois is that to possess, buy, or sell firearms or ammunition in Illinois, one has to get a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card  (FOID) to even begin this process.

There is a lot of paperwork involved in buying and concealed carrying in Illinois, so we recommend keeping this guide handy, even though it should not be construed as legal advice. Despite the barriers to firearm ownership in Illinois, some gun companies do operate in the state, including Winchester, which manufactures some ammo in East Alton.

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Illinois 

First, we will cover the ammo laws of the state.

The first step to legally buying, selling, or possessing any ammunition or firearms in the state at all is that FOID mentioned above. Although it’s a little onerous, the process itself is simple on paper: it is a $10 application that includes a copy of your state ID or driver’s license, along with a recent passport photo.  But, it’s not necessarily as simple as it appears, and sometimes wait times can be several months, during which the applicant cannot legally buy or sell firearms or ammunition in the state. It’s also unclear what happens when the state fails to process renewals, causing a lapse in someone’s FOID even though they are still legally eligible to buy, sell, and own firearms.

In addition to the FOID, there are several sources within Illinois law that curtail what even a FOID card holder can buy at the state level. Part of Section 720 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) defines and forbids armor-piercing rounds, “dragon’s breath” rounds, bolo shells, and flechettes.

A relatively new law, Public Act 102-1116 draws up quite the list of things that people cannot purchase or own in Illinois, including (but not at all limited to):

  • .50 caliber firearms or ammunition

  • Rifle magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds

  • Pistol magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds 

  • Adjustable or Folding Stocks 

  • Flash Suppressors 

Just the list of firearms banned by name in the Act is several pages long, and thus we’d highly recommend reading it yourself should you want to purchase anything firearms or ammunition-related in Illinois.

Most items regulated by the National Firearms Act, such as suppressors, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, machine guns, and explosives, are forbidden in the state as well. With all of that in mind, it is worth your time to make specifically sure that whatever firearm or ammunition you would like to buy is not explicitly outlawed in either Public Act 102-1116, Section 720 of the ILCS, or, vitally, your local laws.

Technically, it is possible to have ammunition shipped, even to Chicago, to one’s address in Illinois provided that the retailer maintains a copy of the buyer’s valid FOID. But, it seems as though a good number of online retailers simply do not want the hassle of dealing with the quagmire of state and local laws in any given spot in Illinois.

Before 2013, many localities passed their own gun laws that were more restrictive than those within the state, but, luckily, no new laws that are more restrictive than state law can be passed. That is to say, once someone figures out how to legally ship ammunition to a given address in Illinois, the only way those rules should change now would be through changes in federal or state law.

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in Illinois 

Buying guns in Illinois begins with a FOID again, and the ban lists that are found in Section 720 of the ILCS as well as Public Act 102-1116. Assuming the firearm you want to purchase is legal in Illinois, the actual gun store experience is much like that in other states. Bring your FOID, driver’s license, and payment method to the store, and be prepared to fill out form 4473.

Assuming your background check, FOID, and payment method are all in order, this is where the process is unique to Illinois. First, there is a 72-hour waiting period on all firearms transactions in the state, so you’ll be waiting three days to pick up your gun after you pay for it. That’s not just true at gun stores, but also in private sales: every gun sale in the state has to go through an FFL and the waiting period. Most FFLs charge for this service, so this will add to the costs of buying firearms in the state.

So, while private sales of firearms are allowed in the state, they have to go through an FFL anyway, which makes the process look much more like the one of buying a gun at an FFL in the first place.

Assuming the above process goes according to plan, Illinois also requires a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm in public. This process can be long and there are several points along the way at which any law enforcement official can more or less reject applications for whatever reason they deem fit. Because it is such an onerous process, we highly recommend reading through a guide like the one that the United States Concealed Carry Association has put together on the matter. Expect the concealed carry permit process, at best, to take several months in Illinois.

Once the license is issued, there is a list of places outlined in the relevant statute where one cannot carry a firearm at all, including:

  • Court buildings 

  • Legislative buildings

  • Hospitals 

  • Bars where half or more of the income is from alcohol sales 

  • Concerts and other permitted public events 

  • Parks and playgrounds that have a sign forbidding firearms 

  • Gambling establishments 

One upside to Illinois’ permitting and firearm purchase system being exceptionally difficult is that the Illinois permit meets the requirements of many states, meaning that folks with a residential Illinois permit can concealed carry in a substantial portion of the United States.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Illinois

Illinois has a general sales tax of 6.25%, which applies to firearms and ammunition. Depending on location within the state, other fees may apply. For instance, Cook County charges $25 per firearms transaction. This would also apply to transfers of firearms made between private sellers since those have to be facilitated by an FFL as well.

More Resources

Illinois Gun Law FAQ:

Yes, but you will need a FOID card first. Then there is a waiting period to get the firearms, and a lengthy process to get a concealed carry permit.

While ammo can be shipped to anyone with an FOID on file with merchants, the fact that local laws can in some cases differ from the state laws in Illinois means that many retailers are not willing to ship it.

There are basically two waiting periods if you would like to buy a gun in Illinois. The first is waiting for the FOID to be approved by the state, which can take months. Then, there is a three-day waiting period for all firearm sales in the state.

Technically yes, but every firearms sale in the state has to go through an FFL, and those FFLs will probably charge a fee for this service, so there are no legal person-to-person firearms sales in Illinois as of now.

Absolutely there is: Public Act 102-1116 has a long list of guns that are banned by name in Illinois, and also lists many features that would make a gun into a prohibited “assault weapon” in the state.