Buying Ammo and Guns in Tennessee

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.

This piece aims to explain the laws that govern ammunition and firearms in the state of Tennessee. To do so, the piece begins with the ammo laws with an eye on the processes and regulations for having ammo shipped to a residential address in the state. From there, we turn to the gun laws, examining the rules that apply in the state for buying and carrying firearms. To wrap things up, the piece offers you some information and resources that we think you’ll find useful if you are interested in legally buying, owning, and carrying firearms in Tennessee.

We do not intend this piece as legal advice. Instead, we hope that you can use the information here to better inform your own decisions.

Like most states, Tennessee has preemption. This means that the state has a law that prohibits localities such as counties, cities, and towns from making their own, stricter firearms laws. On a practical level, this means that Tennessee gun owners only have to learn one set of laws, as state law does practically apply to the entire state. There is one small exception to the stage’s preemption: the state allows posted signs on government buildings to be stricter than state law in terms of the carriage of firearms.

Overall, Tennessee is fairly permissive in terms of its firearms and ammunition laws. There are some small inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies in the state’s laws, but it is generally fairly simple and permissive to be a gun owner in the state.

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Tennessee

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

There are two specifically barred ammunition practices in Tennessee. First, the state bans explosive ammunition. Second, it’s against state law to knowingly sell ammo to a drunk person. Aside from those regulations, Tennessee is permissive in terms of ammo purchasing and follows the federal laws enforced by the ATF.

The ATF enforces two sets of requirements for purchasing ammunition. The first is an age requirement: buyers have to be eighteen years of age or older to purchase ammunition for long guns, and twenty-one or older to do so for handgun ammo. Secondly, ammo buyers cannot be prohibited persons, which the ATF defines as people who have been convicted of felonies or domestic violence, people who have been found mentally incompetent in court, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment.

Assuming that those requirements have been met, then Tennessee is fine with people having ammunition shipped to homes so long as it is not explosive ammo. Package carriers might sometimes impose their own rules, such as asking that someone with a valid ID be present to sign for packages that contain ammo.

The ban on explosive ammo and the prohibition on selling ammo to intoxicated people do make Tennessee's ammo laws a little less permissive, but these laws will not affect the vast majority of ammo buyers in the state. Thus, Tennessee’s ammo laws can still be considered fairly permissive. 

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in Tennessee

Next, we will do the same exercise for the state’s gun laws.

The laws for purchasing firearms in Tennessee are permissive. The state does not have bans on magazines or assault weapons, either by a list of features or specifically named models. The state also does not restrict NFA items such as suppressors, machine guns, or short-barreled rifles, or shotguns. Of course, federal laws still apply to NFA items.

The gun buying process in the state follows federal guidelines. The buyer should bring both a form of payment and a valid identification with their current address on it to the local gun store. There, the FFL will have the buyer fill out ATF’s Form 4473 to both complete a background check and to make the legally necessary record of the transaction. Once that background check clears and payment has been received, the buyer is free to leave with their firearm the same day.

Tennessee does not require that private persons selling firearms do a background check on the buyer. With that in mind, it is advisable to ensure that the buyer meets the age requirements to buy firearms and is not a prohibited person.

The state is generally permissive when it comes to the carriage of firearms. Open carry is allowed and does not require a permit. But, the state does mandate that long guns have to be unloaded when they are openly carried.

The state also allows for the concealed carriage of handguns and does not require a permit to do so. Like most states with permitless carry, Tennessee does still issue its concealed carry permits on a shall-issue basis. These permits serve the primary function of allowing permit holders to carry concealed firearms in other states: Tennessee's permit is fairly widely recognized.

Nearly every state has a list of places where it is generally forbidden to carry a firearm, and Tennessee is no exception. In this state, the list includes:

  • Bars if the carrier is drinking

  • Inside a courtroom in session

  • Wildlife management areas not during hunting season

  • Private property and government meetings with posted signs

  • Public parks and playgrounds (Only applies to open carry)

  • Federal facilities

This list is not an unusual one, but the differences between people with and without permits, even with the passage of permitless carry several years ago make it harder for law-abiding people to comply with the laws of the state, and thus makes it a bit less permissive than necessary.

Overall, Tennessee is fairly permissive when it comes to buying firearms and ammo. In terms of carriage, things are a little less permissive. While the option for permitless carry is permissive, the fact that the state has highly strict and specific exceptions to when, who, and where people can carry a firearm makes it more difficult than necessary for people who are likely trying to follow the law. With that said, the absence of major firearms or ammo bans in the state makes it a permissive one, but this is one of the few states where people might want to get a concealed carry permit even though permitless carry is technically legal, just to have more options of where and when they can carry a concealed firearm without risk of arrest or being asked to leave.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Tennessee 

Tennessee's base sales tax rate is 7%. With local taxes, the effective sales tax rate in Tennessee varies between 8.%% and 9.75%. Because this is such a small variance, it is likely not worthwhile to look for an FFL in a lower-taxed area.

The state does not have additional, specific taxes on firearms and ammunition sales. 

More Resources:

  • The ATF maintains a list of every FFL in the country, including in Tennessee. This list is kept well up to date: generally, gun stores are either Type 1 or Type 2 FFLs. 

  • is a great tool for finding ranges: use the mileage, city, and zip code filters to find ranges in your area. Users can add more ranges, too, and the information is regularly checked for accuracy.

  • There are a number of well-rated gun stores in Tennessee.

  • TNGunOwners is a somewhat active forum that can keep you up to speed on local events relevant to the firearms community.

Tennessee Gun Law FAQ:

Yes, you can. As long as the buyer meets ATF’s age requirements and is not a prohibited person, most ammo can be shipped to a home in Tennessee. Explosive ammunition is not allowed, though. 

The state allows for permitless carry but does place some location restrictions on folks who do not have a permit, so it might still be worthwhile to get the permit. The permit also allows for people to carry in a fair few states.

Overall the state is pretty gun-friendly, but a few of the laws around the carriage of firearms are convoluted to follow, which makes things a little harder for otherwise law-abiding gun owners in the state.

There is no assault weapons ban on the books in  Tennessee, and it is unlikely that one will be passed at any time in the near future.

Yes, but there are some caveats. Openly carried pistols can be loaded, but rifles and shotguns cannot. Also, there are location restrictions on open carry that only apply to people without a concealed carry permit. Always make sure to carefully read posted signs, especially on government buildings, before openly carrying a firearm into said buildings. The local post office is federal property, by the way, and you absolutely cannot openly carry a firearm there.