Buying Guns and Ammo in Virginia

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.

Virginia, when compared to most states within the US, is fairly permissive when it comes to the buying of firearms and ammunition, as well as the carrying of firearms.

While the state-level laws are fairly permissive, meaning that the only major restrictions come from the federal level, there are some important caveats when it comes to the nature of VA’s firearms laws. For example, state law explicitly allows cities and counties to regulate the carrying of rifles and shotguns on or near public roadways and sidewalks. While localities can, and sometimes do, make stricter regulations than the state, the general process of buying firearms and ammo in the state is mostly in line with federal regulations, making VA law more permissive than many other states in terms of firearms laws.

Because of the ability of localities to make regulations that are stricter than those at the state level, this piece focuses mainly on the generalities of state law in Virginia as far as buying and carrying firearms and ammunition. While this piece is not legal advice,  it should serve as a good guide for those interested in owning or carrying firearms in Virginia. 

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Virginia 

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

Generally, ammunition sales in Virginia are regulated by the federal government. Basically, most people in Virginia can buy ammunition so long as they are old enough: 21 for handgun ammunition and 18 for either rifle or shotgun rounds. Additionally, the buyer cannot be a prohibited person, which includes people convicted of felonies, declared mentally unfit, or convicted of certain drug offenses.

There is one important, but highly specific, regulation that Virginia places on ammunition sales: ammunition with plastic-coated slugs is prohibited in the state.

Aside from the prohibition on plastic-coated bullets (shotgun shells are ok), folks of the necessary age and who are not prohibited persons can purchase ammunition in Virginia and have that ammunition shipped to residential addresses as well. Keep in mind that package carriers may impose additional requirements, such as asking for an adult with a valid ID to sign for the package on delivery. 

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in Virginia 

Much like the ammunition laws, the firearms laws in Virginia are relatively permissive, and mostly governed by federally set standards, though there are a few exceptions to this rule.

For example, the state defines “assault firearms” as semi-automatic firearms that take magazines of over twenty rounds along with having either a folding stock or a threaded barrel, and then mandates state-level background checks for the transfer or sale of those firearms. In a similar vein, the same section of state law mandates that virtually all private sales have an accompanying background check and assigns set fees that FFLs can collect to initiate those checks.

While these processes are not bans on any particular firearms, they are additional paperwork steps that Virginia imposes on firearms sales. Aside from those restrictions, the state does not impose mandatory waiting periods. Thus, assuming the buyer is not a prohibited person, all the buyer has to do to purchase a gun in the state is fill out Form 4473, pass the background check, and pay for the firearm before leaving with it the same day. Of course, items regulated by the NFA, such as suppressors, will take longer and come with the tax stamps and wait times imposed by the federal government.

Purchasing firearms in Virginia, with the exception of requiring background checks for private transfers, is fairly straightforward. Carrying a firearm in the state, on the other hand, is quite a bit more complicated. Technically, the state itself has no prohibition against openly carrying a rifle, shotgun, or handgun.

But, since localities such as cities and counties can set their own rules about who can carry a firearm openly, the legality of carrying openly varies widely from place to place. The Virginia Citizens Defense League is an excellent source of information on where people can carry firearms in the state, and they maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date list of carry restrictions in the state, down to the local level.

VA also allows for the concealed carry of handguns through a permitting process that is administered through local police offices. These permits cost $50 or less, are shall-issue, and consist of a background check not that different from the one used to purchase firearms in the state. Like all shall-issue states, these permits are available to any state resident who is not a prohibited person, assuming the person is willing to pay the fee and submit to the background check. That same list from the Virginia Citizens Defense League also has a good list of prohibited places for concealed carry. Still, the statute also outlines that one cannot generally carry a firearm in Virginia in:

  • Court buildings

  • Jails and Prisons

  • Educational Institutions 

  • While drinking alcohol or under the influence of drugs 

These restrictions are not uncommon, but Virginia’s carry laws are unusual in a few respects. Many states prohibit people from carrying firearms in bars or clubs, which Virginia allows, but the state instead makes it illegal to carry while drinking, which will likely have the same practical effects.

Also, Virginia’s carry policies are more strict than they appear at the state level, since localities can and do set their own regulations for open and concealed carry. Thus, Virginia is fairly permissive in terms of buying firearms but can be fairly restrictive when it comes to carrying a firearm, depending on where one is in the state. The number and nuance of local regulations make openly carrying a firearm in the state a potential legal liability for folks, and thus the concealed carry permit is likely the way to go for people who want to be in the clear while carrying a firearm.

There are also a number of firearms manufacturers in the state. For instance, Zenith’s American headquarters is in the state. All things considered, VA is in about the middle of the pack when it comes to gun friendliness: while there are no major bans in place, the addition of local restrictions on carry makes life with firearms a little more complicated. 

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Virginia 

VA has a state sales tax rate of 4.3%, but localities set additional taxes, meaning that in some places taxes are as high as 7% on general goods. There is some good tax news, too: VA allows people to claim a tax credit on firearm safety devices such as safes.

While not a tax as such, FFLs often charge fees for background checks, even for private part sales: these are also part of the cost of firearms ownership in the state. 

More Resources

The NRA’s National Firearms Museum is also in the state for those interested in seeing a wide array of firearms on display.

Virginia Gun Law FAQ:

While open carry is legal at the state level, enough cities and counties have rules that restrict open carry that you should carefully study the above-linked list of restrictions to make sure it is legal to open carry in a given spot.

There are no additional waiting periods for gun purchases in Virginia.

VA state law does mandate that every gun sale has a background check to go with it: most FFLs in the state will facilitate this process for a small fee. 

Virginia does issue concealed carry permits, and those permits allow people to carry in most places, except for some listed exceptions. VA’s permit is somewhat widely accepted in other states, though there are often restrictions that differ from one state to another.

While the state does not ban people from owning assault weapons, Virginia law does define them in a fairly unique way, as weapons that are semi-automatic, can accept magazines of 20 or more rounds, and have either a threaded barrel or a folding stock. These weapons are not banned, but any transfer of them has to go through an FFL with a background check.