Buying Guns and Ammo in Washington

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 ammunition and firearms laws in Washington State. To be clear, we mean the West Coast state famous for Seattle, not the East Coast district that shares the same name.

Washington’s firearms laws are somewhat restrictive and have gotten more so over recent years, but the state’s rural traditions of hunting and hiking carry through to some less restrictive policies that are still in place today.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 9.41 governs most things firearms and ammunition related in the state, so it is the legal backbone of the discussion here. Luckily, Section 290 of that chapter makes it clear that the firearms laws at the state level are the only ones in the state, as it prohibits localities from making their own firearms laws that are more restrictive than those at the state level.

While this guide should not be considered legal advice, it should serve as a useful starting point for people who are interested in the firearms laws in the State of Washington. In this piece, we’ll start with the laws governing ammunition sales in the state before getting into the laws around firearm sales, carry, and possession. The state’s laws around firearms purchasing are restrictive, but comparatively permissive in terms of both ammunition sales and the carrying of firearms.

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Washington 

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

Washington’s ammunition sales laws are generally permissive. As long as a buyer is not a prohibited person according to the ATF, they can have ammo shipped to their doors (assuming the buyer is 18 for shotgun and rifle ammunition and 21 for handgun ammunition). Generally, prohibited persons are felons, those who are in the US illegally, or have been deemed mentally unfit by a court.

Things are a little more restrictive on the seller side: Section 41.100 of RCW 9.41 mandates that anyone selling ammunition in the state for business purposes has to be registered with the state Department of Revenue to do so. Many online retailers and all in-state FFLs have registered, but this requirement is one reason that some companies choose not to do business in WA online.

Thus, it’s legal for most people to have ammunition delivered to them in WA as long as they meet the age requirements, though package carriers may well impose additional requirements such as requiring a signature for ammunition deliveries. Overall, Washington is fairly permissive in terms of buying and shipping ammo within the state. 

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in Washington 

Buying firearms in Washington presents a pretty stark contrast to the relatively lax ammunition laws in that state. Many of the new, most restrictive changes in Washington gun laws came into effect in April of 2023 with the passage of House Bill 1240. The bill recodifies a pre-existing ban on magazines of greater than 10 rounds (though it does not mandate, for example, that pre-ban magazines be turned in or registered). The main text of the bill is a ban on so-called assault weapons, which has two major components:

The first component of note is a long list of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that is several pages long, banning them by name. This list includes all AR and AK pattern weapons and even some exceptionally rare weapons like the .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles sold by the Barrett company. 

Second, and perhaps most restrictive, the bill has a list of features that make a gun an assault weapon, including accessories like vertical foregrips. Some particularly vague language on  page 5 of the bill is worth quoting at length here. Some of the things that are banned include: 

“A conversion kit, part, or combination of parts, from which an assault weapon can be assembled or from which a firearm can be converted into an assault weapon if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person”

Because of the aforementioned list of features, that bit of text makes it unclear as to whether the mere buying or possession of, for example, a foregrip you could potentially add to an otherwise legal rifle would make it an illegal assault weapon in the state. Many online and in-state retailers are thus stopping the sale of many accessories to the state, as there is not much case law as of the time of this piece’s writing. 

Starting on January 1, 2024, a new law will mandate ten-day waiting periods for all firearms transfers in the state. Since the state also requires an FFL to facilitate the transfer of firearms from one person to another in the state, even private party sales will require that same waiting period beginning in 2024.

Carrying firearms in the state is a less convoluted affair. Washington is an open carry state: assuming that a person owns firearms legally, it is generally allowable for them to carry those firearms in public.

For those who would prefer concealed carry, there is a permitting system within the state that has relatively simple paperwork: the application asks for a small fee, a background check, and some fingerprints.  There are a few hurdles to actually filling out that application, however.

Since localities handle fingerprinting and background checks, the first thing you have to do to get the permit is to figure out which jurisdiction you live in. The permitting might be at the city police station, county sheriff’s office, or, for out-of-state residents, any of the above. From there, actually setting the appointment to be fingerprinted is more or less up to the whims of whoever does scheduling at the local law enforcement office. Once the appointment takes place, and assuming that the background check goes well, the pistol license is mailed to the applicant’s listed address in about a month. 

Whether open carrying or concealed carrying, there are some restrictions on where people can carry firearms in the state. Generally, the following are off limits:

  • Court buildings

  • Jails

  • K-12 schools

  • Airport Terminals 

  • Bars that have over half of their income through alcohol sales

  • Mental hospitals 

  • Law enforcement offices

  • At protests or demonstrations 

These restrictions are common to even the most permissive states, so Washington is not especially restrictive when it comes to carrying a firearm, and the provision for open carry makes the state among the more permissive in terms of carry. Somewhere greater than 15% of all adults in WA have their concealed carry permits, making the practice quite common in the state. Buying firearms, on the other hand, is more legally difficult in Washington than it is in many other states

Interestingly, Aero Precision, a maker of high-end AR 15 receivers and parts, is located in Washington. They have launched a lawsuit against the state over HB1240: but, as of the writing of this piece, Aero is manufacturing AR15 receivers in the state but cannot sell a single one to a civilian within the state. This shows that the state of firearms law in Washington is very much in flux.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Washington 

Washington has a general sales tax of 6.5%, making it one of the highest in the nation to begin with. From there, localities can and do impose separate sales taxes: the state has a tool to look up taxes levied down to the individual address.  There is also a .4% Business and Occupation tax for retailers and an $18 fee for any transfer or sale of an assault rifle within the state. 

More Resources: is a fairly active forum, where people who are into firearms and shooting share recommendations, meet up with one another, and even help each other figure out what is, and is not, legal under the new assault weapons ban.

Washington Gun Law FAQ:

Yes: as long as the firearm is owned legally, it can be openly carried in the state. But, there is also a concealed carry permit that allows people to carry concealed in most places, though it has somewhat limited reciprocity with other states.

Yes, the ban took effect in 2023, though it did not affect rifles and shotguns already in the state. Much of the ban is vague and concerns accessories, prompting several lawsuits.

Assuming that the purchaser meets federal requirements for age, and is not a prohibited person, many online retailers are registered to do business in Washington and can thus ship ammunition to residential addresses in the state.

Detachable magazines for pistols and rifles are limited to ten rounds, though if you lived in the state prior to the magazine ban, you can keep your old, correctly sized magazines. 

As long as you have a valid Washington Pistol License or recognized out-of-state permit, yes you can, as permits are valid in the entire state and localities cannot invalidate them.