USA pre-1899 firearms Law

Q: What constitutes "antique" under U.S. law?

A: Although your State and local laws may vary, any firearm with a receiver actually made before Jan.1, 1899 is legally "antique." and not considered a "firearm" under Federal law. This refers to the actual date of manufacture of the receiver/frame, not just model year or patent date marked. (For example, only low serial number Winchester Model 1894 lever actions are actually antique.) No FFL is required to buy or sell antiques across state lines-- they are in the same legal category as a muzzle-loading replica. I regularly ship them right to people's doorstep via UPS, with no "paper trail." Think of it as the last bastion of gun ownership privacy.

Q: I saw a post that said that pre-1899s are considered modern “firearms” if they are chambered to fire ammunition that is available off-the-shelf. Is this correct?

That is absolutely incorrect. ANY gun manufactured before Jan. 1, 1899 (other than a machinegun or other NFA category, such as a short-barreled gun) is NOT controlled in any way by Federal law.
There is NO Federal requirement for sales of these guns to be handled by Federally licensed dealers.
They may be freely bought and sold across State lines by private parties, regardless of what cartridge they are chambered in. (However, State or local laws vary.)

Q: Does sporterizing or re-chambering an antique end its exemption?

A: Sporterizing, re-barreling, or re-chambering an antique gun does not effect its legal status. Thus, I can legally sell folks Mauser sporters that have been converted to modern cartridges (like .303 British), without having to go through the "FFL to FFL" hassle.

Q: Would an antique serial number range gun be worth more than an otherwise identical gun made just a few years later?

A: Pre-1899 production guns now bring a 20 to 60% premium over identical condition guns made
AFTER 1898. Based on market trends, I expect that premium to increase considerably in the next few years. Many of my customers are commenting that they previously had no interest in "antique" guns, but now want one or more because they are paranoid about additional gun laws. For the time being at least, pre-1899 are completely EXEMPT from all federal laws. Presumably, this would also mean that they would be exempt from registration if they ever have nationwide gun registration.... Think about the possibilities

Q: But what if I find a pre-1899 gun at a gun shop that was mistakenly logged into the dealer's "bound book" of post-1899 firearms? Won’t I have to fill out a Form 4473
(yellow form)?

A: No. All the dealer has to do is log the gun out as: "Inadvertent entry. Pre-1899 manufactured receiver. No FFL required." (If the dealer gives you any grief and insists on the yellow form, a call to any ATF branch office will confirm this.)


Q: Will the prices of pre-1899s continue to go up?

A: Yes, and the rate of increase is likely to accelerate! After Nov. 30, 1998
the permanent Brady rules went into effect. On that date all post-1899 gun sales--long guns and handguns--came under the federal control of "national instant background checks." Subsequently there has been a much bigger interest in guns that are Federally exempt and that can be bought via relatively anonymous mail order!

Q: Are pre-1899s included in the Brady II background check law?

A: No. They are exempt.


Q: How does the law on pre-1899 antiques and replicas actually read?

A: From the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Which modified Title 18, U.S. Code):

18 USC 921 (a)(16).

(A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or
before 1898;
or
(B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica --
(i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or
(ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.

Q: What are the primary advantages in investing in pre-1899 guns rather than modern
(post-1898) guns, or replicas?

A: They are not considered "firearms" under Federal law. Thus they will most likely be exempt from any new Federal gun registration law.
(Sadly, registration looks inevitable within a few years unless there is a massive swing of the pendulum back toward a constitutional republic.)

I can literally send you a pre-1899 handgun or rifle right to your doorstep without a lick of paperwork. (Unless your live in for example New Jersey, New York City or D.C.) It is a great loophole.

The Dec. 31, 1898 cut-off date has been in existence, (unchanged), since 1968. Thus the pool of available pre-1899s continues to shrink
with each passing year, and because of it they A.) Look more and more antique/obsolete to lawmakers--i.e. not worth bothering about. and B.) Grow more valuable with every passing year. Pre-1899 guns are already bring a considerable premium. People are willing to pay more for privacy.

So the bottom line is that with pre-1899s you are buying both privacy (the lack of a "paper trail" and probable exemption from future
registration) plus a great investment. Why buy a replica (such as theTrapdoor Springfield, Winchester, and Schofield top break revolver
replicas currently on the market--and requiring the Federal "Yellow"Form 4473), when you can buy the real thing (with far greater long term investment value, and NO paperwork) for just a little bit more money?