Firearm Bill of Sale

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When a purchase is made between two private parties outside of a typical retail setting, a bill of a sale is likely going to be produced to prove the transfer of ownership. That’s especially true for larger items such as cars, boats, motorcycles, and yes, even horses.

But what about firearms? Well, depending on your state of residency, you may need to go through more requirements before getting your hands on this crucial legal document.

We’ll go over the process of why you need to get a firearm bill of sale, researching your state’s gun sale laws, and what you need to do when you’re ready to make the sale or purchase of a firearm.

Firearm Bill of Sale Template

By State

What Is A Bill of Sale?

Simply, Investopedia does a great job of explaining a simple bill of sale as a legal document that details in writing the transfer of ownership of an item between two parties where money is involved. There are two types of bill of sale:

1. Absolute Bill of Sale

The absolute bill of sale is a document produced to prove the sale of goods between two parties.

2. Conditional Bill of Sale

The conditional bill of sale creates conditions for the sale to go through and provides security to either party involved in the sale.

Why Do I Need a Firearm Bill of Sale?

Any transfer of ownership between two parties regarding an item that can inflict harm or kill someone, legal documentation does nothing but provide protection for all involved. What if the weapon you once owned was involved in a robbery or homicide and you had no bill of sale to prove you didn’t own it anymore? Producing this document helps reduce legal liability in cases like this. 

Firearm bill of sale requirements vary from state to state, so you’ll have to do your own research.

Firearm Bills of Sale From State to State

Depending on which part of the country you live in, buying a gun through a private seller can either be a simple transaction with a firearm bill of sale or one requiring a background check.

According to FindLaw, each of the 50 states has its own unique gun laws that may include a background check.

Sometimes it’s easier to go to the source when it comes to federal regulations involving firearms sales. That’s why the ATF has put together a guide on privately selling a firearm.

Still, if you’re looking to sell a gun to another person, it’s best to start with getting acquainted with what your state’s gun laws say about private sales.

Starting the Process

Once you have done your research based on existing state laws regarding private gun sales, getting in touch with the appropriate state agency for more information is a great way to start the process.

Figuring out which state agency you may be dealing with can be an issue of its own, however. Depending on your state, gun sales are likely to be regulated by the state’s highest law enforcement agency.

Once you have contacted your state’s gun regulatory agency, you’ll want to get to work on locating a firearm bill of sale form. These forms can be obtained in a number of different ways:

  • Through your state or county’s regulatory agency on firearms ownership: Each state and sometimes the individual state counties have their own agency to deal with gun ownership. Going through your state’s attorney general is a good start. has a list of all attorneys general.
  • Online through form and legal document websites: The Internet can be the best place to locate a firearm bill of sale form. Simply pulling up your favorite search engine and typing out “firearm bill of sale” will likely generate many forms and templates you can use for your transaction.
  • Write your own firearm bill of sale: A firearm bill of sale does not have to be based on an existing template or form. Instead, you can create one on your own provided you have the necessary information added to the document.

How Do I Write a Firearm Bill of Sale?

Once you have completed the necessary work making sure you can even sell your firearm, the next part in the process is making sure all the paperwork is in order. But what do you need on your bill of sale form?

Once again, it all depends on your state. However, many states require the following:

  • Personal information for both parties such as name, address, and any contact information: This one is a no-brainer. Having all the necessary personal information for both parties involved in a transaction like this one is essential from the start.
  • Date of the property transfer: Just like any other legal document, providing the date of the transaction helps place a timestamp should any legal issues arise from the sale.
  • Amount of money exchanging hands between the parties: Stating clearly how much money is expected to change hands between both parties is one way for a private seller to make sure they are getting what they are seeking.
  • Description of the firearm being sold, including make and model details, caliber of the weapon, and serial number: With a firearm being a dangerous item, providing as many details as possible about the weapon is a great way to ensure both parties are on the same page as to what is being exchanged.

Serial numbers are especially important in this case considering firearms all have unique identifying numbers.

  • Details regarding any warranties: Warranties help gun owners in case the weapon malfunctions. Making it clear from the moment of sale helps the next owner know who to contact in case something goes wrong with the firearm.
  • Guarantee that the firearm is free of any claims: Just like any other purchase, a potential customer should know for certain that what they are preparing to purchase doesn’t have any claims on it that could tie them up in litigation.
  • Signatures of both parties: Just like every other binding legal document, a signature is possibly the most important piece of the puzzle here.

Once the form is properly filled out, you may need to go through extra steps to ensure the transfer of the weapon’s ownership is okay from a legal perspective.

What if My State Requires More Steps To Be Taken?

This all goes back to making sure you’ve done your research when it comes to the private sale of a firearm between two parties. States like California and New York are going to require that a background check is done for anyone who is purchasing a firearm – even through a private sale. Other states like South Carolina and Alabama are going to be more lax when it comes to private firearms sales.


Only a handful of states require a bill of sale to be notarized by a notary public who witnesses both parties signing the document: Louisiana, Nebraska, Maryland, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Montana.

No. You do not. However, no one will judge you for having an attorney draft a firearm bill of sale form or look over it before the transaction is complete. A second set of eyes – especially a legal set of eyes – never hurt anyone.

Tell us if you’ve heard this one before: laws on private firearm sales vary from state to state. However, most states do not require this document. Many other states, however, do require some things during a private firearm sale such as a background check.

A legal document like a firearm bill of sale is not going to protect you much from selling a firearm to a felon, especially if you know the person is a felon. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 clearly states that felons are not allowed to own firearms unless the firearm in question is an antique.

On top of the previously mentioned federal Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act also governs sales by expressly stating who can and cannot purchase a firearm. The law also helped establish the process of background checks and how long that background check should take.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives helps to provide governance for all firearms purchases – even private sales. The bureau has an entire section on its website devoted to forms and brochures on all types of firearms questions and sales information. Many of those forms are necessary or required to fill out on top of a firearm bill of sale in some states.