You bought an 80 percent lower or stripped receiver and built an AR-15. You’ve had your fun at the range, but you’re tired of that old gun. Can you sell it? This is a common question asked by so many gun owners. The AR-15 is different from other firearms in America because many black rifles and pistols in circulation weren’t simply bought at the gun store. They were built by hand, some times from scratch. Manufacturers do this all time – building and selling guns – but they have Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs), and paperwork that says they can legally do this. Is it legal for you?
Before we get started: We’re not attorneys, we don’t practice law, and we’re not a source of counsel when it comes to interpreting the legalities of firearms at the federal, state, or local level. With that said, we can give you some advice and point you in the right direction based on our informed opinions. Let’s answer the question: I built an AR-15. Can I sell it?
The Law: Building vs. Manufacturing
Whether or not you can legally sell the AR-15 you built comes down to one important factor: Do you qualify as an individual or a manufacturer in selling the gun you built? Here’s what the law has to say:
According to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), it is legal to build an AR-15 (and most types of firearms) if you can otherwise legally own a firearm in your state. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) further states that you do not need a license, nor do you need to submit any paperwork, request any application, nor file any request for a background check to build your own firearm (source from ATF). [18 U.S.C. 922(o), (p) and (r); 26 U.S.C. 5822; 27 CFR 478.39, 479.62 and 479.105]
There are some requirements you must adhere to:
- Your gun cannot be made from 10 or more imported parts.
- Your firearm must be detectable by a metal detector or X-ray machine.
- If you’re building an NFA item (like an SBR) you need a tax stamp and approval from the ATF.
There’s one other important restriction to this legality: You can’t >build your AR-15 with the original intent of selling it. This constitutes the act of “manufacturing” – building a gun to sell it and make profit. This would classify you as a sort of “commercial firearms maker”, in which case you would need an FFL license and a plethora of other legal qualifications to build.
In case you were debating whether you could get away with building your AR-15 with the original intent to sell, consider this: Recently, one man was put away just for buying and selling guns to make a profit. He didn’t build any of them, but the ATF takes profiting off guns very seriously.
Don’t fret too much, though. You can still sell the gun you built.
Legally selling an AR-15 you built
Like we said, you can’t build a gun with the intent of selling it. However, common sense says that our intentions may (and likely do) change over time. Perhaps you may want to sell your home-built AR-15 later, though you didn’t intend to do so when you built it.
But does this change of mind violate the GCA and the ATF’s legislation?
Proving the original intent of your AR-15 build
The safest way to legally sell your home-built AR-15 or firearm is to make sure you can prove, before the sale (if ever necessary), that your original intent was not to manufacture your AR-15 just so you could sell or transfer it to another individual. But how can you ensure this proof is available and strong enough to keep you in the clear if you’re ever questioned?
Factors such as the length of time since you completed the build project, whether the AR-15 you built was ever fired, how frequently it was fired, and whether any discussions or suggestions of sale were ever had with other individuals are all pieces of evidence that could prove your original intent was not to build your AR-15 to sell it. There are some steps you can take to document your intentions (or lack thereof):
- Take pictures of your build, including a timestamp
- Document the personal use of your homemade rifle
- Don’t share or advertise that you’re building a gun
- Don’t state that you may want to sell your gun later
- Don’t try to post your newly built gun for sale right away
Pretty common-sense, right? Sharing and boasting about your custom-built rifle or pistol is fun, but you invite others to ask questions (like, “Hey cool! Is it for sale?”) when you do this. Avoid setting yourself up for discussions where it might seem like you’re trying to do business as a gun-maker.
Decided to sell? Serialize it first.
Serial numbers became a requirement on firearms in 1968 with the passing of the Gun Control Act. Any homemade AR-15 or firearm that is sold or transferred will be subject to the same regulations and requirements that govern the sale and purchase of a manufactured firearm from a dealer. You’ll need to conduct a background check, execute an FFL transfer, and your home-built AR-15 will need a serial number.