Buying Ammo and Guns in Iowa

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.

In this piece, we cover the basics of the firearms and ammunition laws in Iowa. We start with the ammo laws, going through the process of buying ammunition in IA and having it shipped to a residential address. From there, the piece goes through the firearms laws, detailing both the buying process and the information for carrying a firearm both openly and concealed within Iowa. Having done both of those, the piece wraps up with some resources we think will be useful for folks who want to buy, own, and carry firearms in the state.

Iowa has some of the most permissive firearms laws in the country, but that was not always the case. And even in this relatively permissive state, there is a machine gun ban in addition to the federal-level restrictions on the ownership and manufacture of such guns. This piece details the current state of Iowa’s relevant laws. Like many states, Iowa has what is called preemption: this means that the state government prevents localities such as counties or cities from making firearms and ammo laws that are more restrictive than those at the state level.

This is handy for firearms owners in the state because it means that once you have a working knowledge of one set of laws, that understanding applies to the state of Iowa as a whole.

This piece is not intended as legal advice. Instead, we hope that it serves as a base of knowledge for those interested in purchasing, owning, and carrying firearms responsibly in Iowa.

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Iowa 

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

Iowa follows the federal guidelines for purchasing and possessing ammunition, with one exception: state law prevents giving ammunition to anyone under 18 without the permission or consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

With that exception aside, the ATF has two sets of requirements for the purchasing of ammunition. The first is an age requirement: buyers have to be eighteen years old to purchase rifle or shotgun ammunition, and twenty-one to purchase handgun ammunition. Second, buyers of ammo cannot be prohibited persons, which the ATF generally defines as felons, people who have been convicted of domestic violence, those who have been found mentally unfit in court, and people who have been involuntarily committed into a mental health facility.

So long as those requirements are met, it is legal to have ammunition shipped to a residential address in Iowa. Keep in mind, though, that parcel carriers may institute their own requirements, such as asking for an adult with a valid form of identification to be present to sign for a package containing ammunition.

Iowa does not have a magazine ban, so buyers can place the ammunition into whatever magazines they deem best once the ammo arrives on their doorstep.

Overall, the ammunition laws in Iowa are among the most permissive in the nation. The prohibition on giving ammunition to unsupervised children is a niche prohibition and does not make it harder for adults to legally purchase ammunition and have it shipped to their homes in the state. 

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in Iowa 

Next, we will do the same analysis for Iowa’s gun laws.

Historically, Iowa had something of a mixed record when it came to the permissiveness of its gun laws. In some regards, the state was quite permissive; for example, Iowa prohibited the government by law from creating a firearms registry within the state. 

On the other hand, the state used to require a permit to purchase handguns, let alone carry them. Both of these rules have been recently changed, however, and Ioawns can now purchase and carry handguns without a permit from the state.

With the pistol permitting requirement now a thing of the past, buying a firearm in Iowa follows the federal guidelines enforced by the ATF. Assuming the buyer meets the age requirements and is not a prohibited person, they should bring a form of payment and a valid ID to the gun store. Once there, the FFL will require the buyer to fill out ATF’s Form 4473 for a background check. After both the background check and payment are cleared, the buyer is welcome to leave with their firearm on the same day of purchase.

Iowa does not, at this time, have bans on assault weapons as usually defined. Private parties are not required to do a background check if they are selling a firearm to another private party, but the seller should be reasonably sure that the buyer is not a prohibited person.

Iowa allows for both open and concealed carry of firearms without a permit. With that said, Iowa follows the lead of many other states with permitless carry and continues to offer its concealed carry permits. The permitting process is handled at the county level and is a fairly straightforward form that begins a background check. Once completed and approved, this permit allows carriers not only to carry in Iowa but also in the states that accept Iowa’s permit. Being able to carry legally in other states is the primary reason that Iowans might still apply for a concealed carry permit even though the state does not require a permit for concealed carry.

As is common among even the most permissive states, Iowa has a list of places where it is generally prohibited to carry a firearm. In Iowa, those locations include:

  • K-12 Schools

  • University Campuses

  • Casinos

  • State Fairgrounds

  • While Bowhunting 

  • While Drinking, over the Legal Limit to Drive

Iowa is not especially restrictive in this regard: every state has limits on where people can carry a firearm legally. One thing to note for all states is that it is generally forbidden to carry a firearm on Federal property, which includes the local Post Office.

All things considered, Iowa has permissive firearms and ammo laws. There is, however, one exception to this: the state generally bans machine guns for civilian ownership.  Ammunition sales are not restricted at the state level, and neither are firearms purchases. The recent addition of permitless carry makes the state even more permissive, especially considering that this also did away with a previously necessary license to purchase a handgun.

Since Iowa is gun-friendly, it is home to one of the largest companies in the industry: Brownells, which is both a retailer and occasional manufacturer (for example, they offered a line of retro-inspired AR-15s a few years ago) and has their headquarters in the state. The current machine gun ban and recent history of handgun permits give Iowa a bit of a mixed record on gun rights, but it appears as though the state is trending towards being more permissive over time. Overall, it is not difficult for the average person to legally purchase and carry a firearm in Iowa.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Iowa

The general sales tax rate in Iowa is 6%. With that said, localities can and do impose their own takes, sometimes up to a total of 7%. 

The state of Iowa does not impose any further, additional taxes on firearms and ammunition. 

More Resources:

  • The ATF maintains and publishes a list of all of the FFLs in the country, including those located in Iowa. The list is kept up to date: generally, gun stores are Type One or Type Two FFLs. 

  • The Iowa Department of Natural Resources maintains a number of ranges that are open to the public. 

  • There are a number of well-rated gun stores in the larger cities in Iowa. 

  • has an active Iowa section where people discuss local events, share knowledge, and keep each other up to date on the gun laws in the state.

Iowa Gun Law FAQ:

Iowa does not require a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm within the state. The same is true of open carry. The state does still offer a concealed carry permit, and it can be used to carry in states that recognize the permit. 

As long as the buyer meets the age requirements (18 for long gun ammo and 21 for handgun ammo), it is legal to ship ammunition to residential addresses in Iowa. Carries might ask for an adult with an ID to be present to sign for the package. 

In most regards, yes: the state does not have an assault weapons ban or permitting for concealed or open carry. It does ban machine guns, though, and in the past had a permit for purchasing a pistol.

Iowa allows for open carry at the state level. But there are places where you cannot carry at all, such as schools, casinos, and federal buildings. Always check beforehand if you are in any doubt about the carry laws in a given location. 

The only ban in Iowa on a blanket category of firearms is a machine gun ban. The state does not have an assault weapons ban at this time.