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Best States for Concealed Carry (2020)

Best States for Concealed Carry (2020)

Top 5 - Best States for Concealed Carry

1. Arizona
2. Kansas
3. Idaho
4. Kentucky
5. New Hampshire

Bottom 5 - Worst States for Concealed Carry

47. Maryland
48. New York
49. New Jersey
50. California
51. Hawaii

Each year, Guns & Ammo ranks the “Best States for Gun Owners,” our survey of each state’s gun laws and firearms culture. In the past, we have also focused on each state’s concealed carry laws but, for a variety of reasons, we haven’t released a “Best States for Concealed Carry” piece since 2015. Lots has changed since then, and it is time to revisit the subject. When our 2015 rankings were published, only a handful of states allowed for permitless or “Constitutional” carry while today, at least 16 states have those laws in place. This has really shaken-up our previous rankings. States that have not continued to move the ball forward have lost some serious ground while others have leapt ahead.

In this year’s edition, we review several aspects of a state’s concealed carry statutes, or lack thereof, to determine which states are most friendly for those of us who chose to carry a firearm for self-defense. Each state is ranked in the following categories: issuance, reciprocity/recognition, training requirements, fees, the existence and strength of so-called “Castle Doctrine” or “Stand Your Ground” laws, rankings from our “Best States for Gun Owners” survey, duty to inform law enforcement, firearm law preemption, and non-resident permit issuance. As always, these evaluations are designed to be as objective as possible, but some judgments must be made.

Please note that this article addresses concealed carry, rather than open carry, though we do note where open carry is legal and it is one of the factors we employ in order to break a tie, the other being the list of prohibited locations.

Permitless/Unrestricted – Also commonly known as “Constitutional Carry,” individuals can carry a concealed firearm without obtaining a license or permit. Of these states, only one (Vermont) doesn’t issue permits to individuals who want them.

Shall-Issue – Permits are required to carry a concealed handgun, but the granting authority has no discretion over the issuance of permits. The granting authority shall issue a permit if an applicant meets distinct criteria in the law.

May-Issue – The granting authority may issue a permit at their discretion, and usually require “good cause” or a “significant reason” to carry a firearm. Obtaining permits to carry in these can vary from pretty simple to nearly impossible.

No-Issue/Restricted – Individuals cannot obtain a license to legally carry a concealed firearm. Currently, no state truly fits into this category though Hawaii comes very close.

Permit Issuance: States were awarded up to 25 points based on their method of issuance.

  • Permitless/Unrestricted = 25 Points
  • Shall-Issue = 20 points
  • May-Issue = 5 points
  • No-Issue/Restricted = 0 points.

Reciprocity: The number of states honored in the issuing state were counted and assigned a maximum of 10 points. Next, the number of states where the issuing state’s permit is honored were counted and assigned a maximum of 10 points. The two totals were then added together for a maximum of 20 points.

Number of Permits Honored in the Issuing State

  • 0 States = 0 Points, 1-10 States = 2 Points, 11-20 States = 4 Points
  • 21-30 States = 6 Points, 31-40 States = 8 Points, 41-50 States = 10 Points

Number of States Where the Issuing State’s Permit is Honored

  • 0 States = 0 Points, 1-10 States = 2 Points, 11-20 States = 4 Points
  • 21-30 States = 6 Points, 31-40 States = 8 Points, 41-50 States = 10 Points

Training Time: Training time was scored based on the minimum number of statutory training hours required, for a maximum of 10 points. States with unrestricted carry automatically earned the maximum number of points.

  • 0 Hours = 10 Points, 1-3 Hours = 9 Points, 4-6 Hours = 8 Points
  • 7-9 Hours = 7 Points, 10-12 Hours = 6 Points, 13-15 Hours = 5 Points
  • 16+ Hours = 0 Points

Application Fee: Application fees were scored with a maximum of 5 points based on the statutory annual cost paid by civilians to their state of residence in order to obtain the permit. Fees were not scored based on renewal or out-of-state permit costs, military/law enforcement/veteran rates or senior citizen discounts. Fees also do not include the cost of any necessary training course(s) and may not include fees for fingerprints or photos. States with unrestricted carry automatically earned the maximum number of points.

  • $0-5 = 5 Points, $10-15 = 4 Points, $15-20 = 3 Points
  • $20-25 = 2 Points, $25-30 = 1 Point, $30+ = 0 Points

Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine: States’ scores were determined based on how strong their laws regarding self-defense are, both inside and outside of the home. The best-case scenario are states where a gun owner is immune from civil liability and criminal prosecution in a self-defense situation. These scores reflected the same point values as the 2019 Best States for Gun Owners unless the law has changed since that article was published. Maximum of 10 points.

Best States for Gun Owners in 2019: To best determine how generally gun friendly the state is, each was awarded up to 10 points based on their overall rank in the Best States for Gun Owners in 2019.

Duty to Inform: States were awarded points based on whether or not individuals who are legally carrying are required to immediately inform a law enforcement/peace officers they are carrying a gun upon initial contact.

  • 5 Points = Not required to immediately inform a law enforcement officer.
  • 0 Points = Required to immediately inform a law enforcement officer.

Pre-Emption of Home-Rule:  States were awarded points if state laws pre-empt local governing bodies from crafting their own legislation regarding concealed carry. In most states, pre-emption does not include local laws regarding the discharge of firearms within city limits.

  • 5 Points = State laws pre-empt local governing bodies from crafting their own laws.
  • 0 Points = Local governing bodies can make their own laws and are not subject to state pre-emption.

Permit Issued to Non-Residents: States earned points based on their method of issuance to non-residents.

  • 5 Points = Permits are issued on a Shall-Issue basis to non-residents or a permitless carry law applies equally to non-residents.
  • 2 Points = Permits are issued on a May-Issue basis to non-residents.
  • 0 Points = Permits are not issued to non-residents.

Find out where your state ranks compared to the rest of the country, and be sure to enter the debate.

51. Hawaii uses a very restrictive may-issue permit system. “Sufficient indication of urgency” must be shown to the Chief of Police in order to meet the threshold for obtaining a permit. As far as we know, Hawaii has issued no permits in recent years and permits are only valid within the county they were issued. These scarce permits cost $10 and are valid for one year. Hawaii does not recognize permits from other jurisdictions, though Hawaii’s hypothetical permits are recognized by 28 states. Hawaii loses additional points for its gun laws as a whole since it only receives two points in the “Best States” category. This is the only state where I overrode the raw score since permits can actually be obtained in much of California but not in Hawaii.

50. California Concealed Weapon Licenses are issued on a may-issue basis by the Sheriff of each county. Whether or not an average citizen can actually obtain a license is very much a county-by-county question. Requirements for obtaining a permit vary from county to county as well though in 2018 the state instituted minimum training standards that mandate between eight and 16 hours classroom and life fire instruction. Permits last up to two years, after which a four-hour refresher course is required. California permits are currently honored in 28 states though California does not honor permits from any other jurisdiction. California is one of very few states where permit numbers are on the decline, thanks no doubt to the difficulty of obtaining one.

49. New Jersey has may-issue permits that are issued to residents and non-residents by either the local Chief of Police or the State Police. Applicants must demonstrate “justifiable need” as well as evidence of good character and competency. According to USCCA, only 0.01% of Garden State residents have a permit to carry. Permits are valid for two years and are recognized in 28 states. The good news is that, if you can get a permit, the fee is only $10 per year and there is statewide preemption. Magazine capacity is limited to ten rounds and hollowpoint ammunition is illegal. Training is mandatory though a specific duration isn’t in statute. Permittees must qualify with the specific handgun that they intend to carry.

48. New York is not an easy state to obtain a permit in but it’s far from the worst. Supposedly, the state has issued more than 200,000 permits which is roughly one percent of Empire State residents. State permits are not valid in New York City and City permits aren’t honored by the state. State-issued permit costs are very low, but additional fees for fingerprints and photos pushes that number up to $100. For the record, New York City permits cost more than $300. New York does not recognize permits from any other states, but permits are issued to part-time and non-residents. New Yorkers with state-issued permits can carry in 26 other states. New York imposes a duty to retreat in the context of its self-defense laws, which costs it points. There is no duty to inform law enforcement when carrying.

47. Maryland CCW permits are all but impossible to get despite years of efforts to the contrary. Permits are issued through Maryland’s State Police, and the applicant must show that getting one would be a “reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.” Only 24,000 permits have been issued out of six million residents. The law requires 16 hours of instruction in order to obtain a permit and 8 additional hours in order to renew every two years. Maryland does not recognize the permits of any other jurisdiction but it is recognized by 27 states.

46. District of Columbia (DC) had a “may issue” permit system in place when last we examined the issue. During that time, an applicant had to prove that they had been subject to “serious threats of death or serious bodily harm, any attacks on his or her person, or any theft of property from his or her person” in order to qualify for a permit. Subsequently, the courts forced DC into a “shall issue” system, and permits are actually being issued on that basis. Obtaining a permit requires 18 hours of training, two hours of which must be live fire, and the list of prohibited locations is extensive. DC law also limits permittees from carrying more than one reload and no one can carry more than 20 total rounds. The city has 90 days to process an application and the fee is a non-refundable $75 plus $35 for fingerprints. Permits are valid for two years. DC does not recognize permits from any other jurisdiction, but permits are issued to non-residents. Preemption isn’t an issue since DC is its own municipality.

45. Massachusetts state law imposes a may-issue permit system where a Class A license serves as both a permit to purchase and to carry a concealed firearm. Permits are obtained through the police department. Non-resident permits are issued through the state police and are valid for a year. Massachusetts does not recognize permits from other states but holders of permits from Massachusetts can carry in 28 other states. There is a duty to inform law enforcement that you’re carrying when stopped and there is no statewide preemption so individual municipalities can impose more stringent requirements if they so choose.

44. Connecticut has a surprisingly high percentage of permits at 7.5% since the permit that is issued to purchase a handgun also allows you to carry the gun, either concealed or openly. Connecticut permits are “may issue” but are generally issued if the applicant is qualified under the law. Connecticut does issue permits to non-residents and does not recognize permits from other jurisdictions, permits are recognized by 27 other states. The only enumerated prohibited locations are schools.

43. Delaware residents in possession of the state’s Concealed Deadly Weapon License are fairly rare, only about 2% of the population. The state’s may-issue permits are issued by the courts and require extensive documentation of good character. The price of permits is low at just over $20 per year but training and newspaper publication requirements increase the total cost. Delaware has decent reciprocity: it honors 21 states’ permits and 29 states recognize Delaware’s permits. Reasonably strong self-defense laws and state firearms preemption make Delaware a decent state to carry in if you can get a permit. The state passed a law several years ago to allow municipalities to regulate open carry in some areas, but concealed carry is exempt. Delaware’s list of prohibited locations is fairly short.


42. Illinois was the last U.S. state to pass a concealed carry law, and did so only on a court order. Since that time, the state has issued over 300,000 Concealed Carry Licenses. Illinois is a “shall issue” state, but with some discretion allowed. Permits cost $150 and are valid for five years while non-resident permits can be obtained for $300. The training requirement is extensive as Right-To-Carry states go, but Illinois does have strong self-defense laws. The law has a preemption element so cities cannot opt-out, and Illinois resident permits are recognized in 29 states.

41. New Mexico residents with a Concealed Handgun License can carry just a single firearm under state law. Permits are issued to residents on a shall-issue basis by the Department of Public Safety and are valid for four years. Initial training as well as refresher training is required, and license fees are $25 per year, which is higher than the national average. Thirty-four states honor New Mexico permits while 23 states’ permits are valid there.

40. Nebraska was one of the last four states in the U.S. to adopt a concealed carry statute, after more than a decade of effort by pro-gun lobbyists and advocates. I’m proud of the fact that I stood over Governor Heineman’s shoulder as he signed the bill into law back in 2006. CCW permits are issued through the Nebraska state patrol with a fee of $20 per year. Non-resident permits are not available, but Nebraska honors the permits of 38 other states. The Cornhusker State gets only 5 points for its lukewarm self-defense laws but gains points due to reasonable training standards. The law is preemptive of local ordinances in places like Omaha and Lincoln but there is a duty to inform law enforcement in place.

39. Oregon Concealed Handgun Licenses are issued to residents (6.6% have them) on a shall-issue basis and may be issued to non-residents as well. Reciprocity isn’t great with only 26 states recognizing Oregon permits; no out-of-state permits are honored. Permit fees are $12.50 annually. Other than courthouses and schools, the only prohibited locations are those set by federal law. The state does have a preemption statute so permits are valid statewide. Open carry is legal in Oregon.

38. Rhode Island offers shall-issue permits which are issued through the Attorney General to both residents and non-residents, though far less than 1% of Rhode Islanders have permits. Fees are only $10 annually for the four-year permit and a handgun can be carried anywhere that it is not prohibited by federal law. Rhode Island permits are good in 26 states, but Rhode Island does not recognize permits from any other state. The Ocean State ranked 43 in our 2019 Best States for Gun Owners rankings.

37. Minnesota sheriffs issue permits on a shall-issue basis. State law doesn’t enumerate many prohibited locations, but it does allow just about any business from banning carry by posting a sign. Minnesota has reasonable training requirements and also issues permits to non-residents. Reciprocity isn’t great, with only 15 states’ permits honored. There’s no duty to inform law enforcement that you’re carrying, unless they ask. A duty-to-retreat in self-defense situations costs the state points.

36. Louisiana is a shall-issue state where more than 5% of residents have Concealed Handgun Permits. Louisiana gets good points for reciprocity and a strong “stand your ground” statute, but its fees are high. Permits are only issued to residents and military members stationed in the state. There is a duty to inform law enforcement that you are carrying when contact is made. Louisiana’s list of prohibited locations is fairly broad and includes churches, parades and bars. Open carry is legal, but not in every jurisdiction. Louisiana is one of very few states that puts a specific blood-alcohol content in-statute (0.05) to prohibit carrying under the influence.


35. Colorado Nearly nine percent of Colorado residents have CCW permits. Fees remain low at just over $10 per year and Colorado has strong reciprocity with other states. Colorado has very few prohibited places listed in state law- schools and public buildings with security screening are the only restricted areas. Colorado’s 15-round magazine limit hurts the state in the “Best States for Gun Owners” category over the past few years, with a current rank of 40.

34. Ohio has a shall-issue system with good permit reciprocity among other states. Nearly 6% of Ohioans have carry permits. Folks carrying in the Buckeye State have a duty to inform law enforcement that they are carrying, and permits are not issued to non-residents. Ohio has some of the broadest reciprocity in the nation and recognizes permits from all issuing jurisdictions—38 states honor Ohio permits. Fees are $13.40 per year.

33. Michigan has a shall-issue CCW law with broad reciprocity. The state gets high marks for strong use of force laws. Permit fees are rather high which is about the only place that the state loses many points. Prohibited locations include hospitals, casinos, large sporting events and most restaurants. Parents dropping their kids off at school may carry legally in their automobiles. Interestingly, more prohibited locations apply to concealed carry than to open carry, which is legal without a permit.

32. North Carolina, like the rest of the south, has a shall-issue permit system. Reciprocity is very good, and the state’s use of force laws are strong. Permits are issued residents by the county sheriff and fees compute to $16 per year. Permits are only issued to non-residents if they are stationed at one of the state’s many military bases and there is a duty to inform law enforcement when carrying.

31. Virginia Republicans lost majorities in both houses of the state’s General Assembly so things are getting worse, not better there for gun owners. No changes have been made to the state’s concealed carry laws at this point, though a bill did pass that will partially gut the Commonwealth’s longstanding preemption statute. The good news is that there is strong reciprocity and stand your ground laws as well as the ability for non-residents to apply for permits. Prohibited locations are few in Virginia. Carrying openly or concealed is allowed in restaurants and bars so long as no alcohol is consumed, though most municipalities will no doubt regulate carry in places such as parks now that they have the ability to do so.

30. Washington residents, more than 8% of them, are licensed to carry a firearm under the state’s shall-issue system. Permit fees are very reasonable at $7 annually and nonresident permits are available. The state gets max points for strong use of force laws and training requirements are minimal. Reciprocity isn’t great, with only 10 states’ permits honored in the Evergreen State.

29. South Carolina, overall, is a pro-gun state, but its reciprocity is poor as southern states go. Nine percent of South Carolinians have Concealed Weapon Permits, but open carry is illegal. South Carolina only issues CWPs to residents, landowners and military members stationed there. The state has a strong “stand your ground” statute that earns it maximum points and maintains low fees, but its list of prohibited locations is fairly long.

28. Arkansas has a General Assembly that’s been working to support the rights of gun owners, eliminating many of the prohibited carry locations. For example, K-12 schools may establish their own CCW policies if they so choose. The state has a strong self-defense law that earns it nine points. Fees are a bit higher than the national average at $28.30 annually. Individuals carrying a firearm in Arkansas have a duty to inform law enforcement that they are armed, and the state does not issue permits to non-residents unless they are in the military or stationed in the state, spouses qualify as well. Reciprocity is strong with 37 states honoring Arkansas permits; permits from all other jurisdictions are valid in the state.

27. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, in late 2019, called a special session to enact gun control laws. Fortunately, the legislature rejected that effort. Wisconsin has a strong shall-issue law on the books and enjoys decent reciprocity, a strong Castle Doctrine law, reasonable training standards, and modest fees. A little more than 6% of Wisconsin residents have been issued CWLs. The list of prohibited locations is limited to government-type facilities and the parking lots of those locations are exempt from the prohibitions. Permits are issued to residents only, but Wisconsin recognizes 40 states’ permits.

26. Nevada ranked at number 25 in our latest edition of “Best States for Guns Owners” and issues permits on a shall-issue basis to residents and non-residents, alike. Nevada’s list of prohibited locations for carry is short, basically consisting of public buildings. Nevada’s training standard is reasonable, which earns it seven points. Like Michigan, open carry is legal in more locations than concealed carry. There is no duty to inform and a statewide preemption law is in place.

25. Pennsylvania is a shall-issue jurisdiction where LCFs have gone to more than 10% of residents. Permits are issued by sheriffs or chiefs of police. The state has decent reciprocity as long as you don’t drive north, south or east (seriously) and the state’s deadly force laws score well. Pennsylvania’s list of prohibited locations is short and public buildings must provide lockers in which citizens can secure their handguns. Permitless open carry is legal outside of Philadelphia.

24. Iowa has more than 11% of its 3.2 million residents in possession of Permits to Carry Weapons, which are valid for five years. The state has great reciprocity, training time is minimal and fees are low. Non-resident permits are issued, and the state has strong use-of-force laws. Generally, Iowa has a short list of prohibited locations.

23. Tennessee, under the leadership of Governor Lee, is poised to become the latest state to allow for permitless carry but, at press time, the bills still have some legislative hoops to jump through. Almost 10% of Tennesseans are licensed to carry under the state’s current shall-issue program. Reciprocity is excellent and Tennessee recognizes all permits from other states. The Volunteer State has a strong self-defense law that earns it max points in that category. Carrying a gun in restaurants is legal but establishments can prohibit carry with proper signage. Permits are issued to residents (and certain non-residents) for a duration of eight years at an annual fee of $12.50.


22. Florida, for a state of its population, is tough to beat in terms of concealed carry. Florida has been a shall-issue state since 1987, and has continued to lower fees, extend the length of time between renewals and expand reciprocity. Florida honors the permits of 35 states and issues Concealed Weapons Liscenses to non-residents, making it one of the most popular states for gun owners who want broad reciprocity for traveling the U.S. The Sunshine State’s use-of-force statues are a model for the nation and there is a preemption law on the books.

21. Alabama is currently undertaking the effort of passing a permitless carry bill, but it is unclear at this point if it will make it across the finish line. A lifetime permit bill is also moving its way through the legislative process. The state does well in our “Best States for Gun Owners” survey and gets full points for its Castle Doctrine statute. Fees in Alabama are at the discretion of the issuing authority, but are $20 per year on average. There is no training requirement for obtaining a permit in the state and Alabama recognizes permits issued by all other states.

20. Maine had just became a permitless carry state when we did our last review, which is a pretty big deal in the northeast. Concealed handgun permits will still be issued to those that desire them, and are only $10 per year. Though Maine is a shall-issue state, the statute does allow for the denial of a permit based on non-criminal activity such as reckless or negligent behavior on the part of the applicant. Reciprocity has increased significantly, with Maine recognizing the permits of all other states. Those with Maine permits can carry in 29 other states. Maine has very few prohibited locations—essentially only schools.

19. Texas is a shall-issue state where a License to Carry a Handgun makes it legal to carry either concealed or openly. Colleges and universities in Texas are no longer automatically prohibited locations and cities are restricted from enforcing some prohibitions on where citizens can carry. As in years past, Texas gets high marks in nearly every category. Permits are issued by the Department of Public Safety to both non-residents and residents and nearly 1.5 million have been issued.

18. Montana isn’t technically a permitless carry state, though it is allowed outside of the cities which means that more than 99% of the state’s geography doesn’t require a permit if you’re a resident. Open carry is legal. Montana gets high scores for reciprocity, Castle Doctrine, and in the “Best States for Gun Owners” category. It is unlawful to carry concealed in an establishment where alcohol is served, regardless of whether you’re drinking. Fees are below average at $12.50 per year.

17. Vermont remains the only state with a permitless carry law imposed by the state’s Supreme Court rather than by statute. Vermont doesn’t issue permits and shouldn’t, since that would no doubt lead to permits being required—there is nowhere to go but down. If you are legally allowed to possess a firearm, you can carry a gun legally almost anywhere in the Green Mountain State. Vermont’s no permit law hurts reciprocity as states can’t honor a permit that doesn’t exist, though the list of permitless carry states has expanded significantly. If a Vermonter wants wide reciprocity, a non-resident permit from another state is the answer.

16. North Dakota is a permitless carry state, but only for residents. It is also a shall-issue permit state with reasonable fees, $9 a year. Most states recognize ND permits (especially Class 1 permits), and the state has a solid stand your ground law that even provides civil liability protection. Permits are issued to both residents and non-residents, and are valid for five years.

15. Indiana scores well across the spectrum of categories and almost 14% of residents have licenses to carry handguns. Indiana has good reciprocity—the permits are recognized in 32 states and the state recognizes all other states’ permits. No training is necessary to obtain a permit in Indiana and permits are issued to residents and non-residents alike. Permit fees in Indiana are low at only $10 per year.

14. Georgia permit reciprocity has increased since our last edition and, generally, Georgia has very strong concealed carry laws. Almost 10% of Georgians have a Weapons Carry License. Permits can be issued at age 18 for active duty military and are issued to non-military residents ages 21 and older. The Peach State has strong use of force laws and a solid preemption statute. Prohibited locations are very few in Georgia, and licensees can even carry into government buildings. Georgia’s fees are right at the national median of $15 per year.

13. Missouri is a permitless and shall-issue carry state with good use of force laws. The Show Me State has excellent reciprocity/recognition, which earns it 18 points. The annual permit fee of $33 per year is well above the national average and permits are only issued to residents, though non-residents can carry without a permit if they are at least 19 and not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm. There is no duty to inform law enforcement that you are carrying a firearm.

12. Utah does really well in our lineup for a state that still requires concealed carry permits. Its laws are strong across the board and a Concealed Firearm Permit is valid for both concealed and open carry. Utah has consistently scored near the top in the “Best States for Gun Owners” lineup as well. Utah permits are widely recognized, and Utah accepts permits from any issuing state. Permits are inexpensive at less than $10 per year, and renewals are even less at only $3 annually. Carrying is prohibited in “secure locations,” but that list is short and requires posted notice.

11. Mississippi is both permitless and a shall-issue carry state. There is strong reciprocity and open carry is legal in most locations other than schools and bars. Permit fees are $20 per year, but, since no permit is required, full points are awarded there. Mississippi has strong use-of-force laws that earn it nine points.

10. West Virginia, as of 2016, is both a permitless carry and shall-issue state, which earns it maximum points in terms of issuance. West Virginia has good reciprocity and recognition, which earns it 18 points in that category. The state also has strong self-defense laws and ranked number 15 in our “Best States for Gun Owners” survey. County sheriffs issue permits in the Mountain State and the list of prohibited places is short.


9. Oklahoma is a permitless carry state that also issues permits to those who desire them. Oklahoma gets 18 points for reciprocity as it recognizes permits from all other U.S. states and its permit is honored in 37 other states. The only categories where the state lacks are higher than average fees and a duty to inform law enforcement. Oklahoma gets full points for a model use of force law, and Oklahomans can keep firearms legally locked in their cars in employer-owned parking lots. Oklahoma requires a .45 caliber maximum bore diameter for concealed carry, so leave your .500 Linebaugh at home.

8. Wyoming is a permitless carry state for residents as well as being a shall-issue jurisdiction. Wyoming Concealed Firearm Permits issued by the Attorney General’s office have reciprocity in 36 other states, and are valid for five years. The state’s list of prohibited locations is short—essentially public buildings, schools and bars. A very strong use-of-force law protects individuals from both criminal and civil liability.

7. South Dakota has joined the ranks of permitless carry states since we last compiled this list. Permits, including “enhanced permits” are still issued on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal. Fees for permits are among the lowest in the country and permits can be issued to individuals as young as 18. Reciprocity is very good and the state’s self-defense laws have been improved significantly in recent years.

6. Alaska was the first state to offer the best of both worlds: both permitless and shall-issue carry. Alaskan permits are recognized by 38 states. The only areas where Alaska loses points is the duty to inform law enforcement that one is carrying. The lack of non-resident permits is moot since no permit is required anyway. A strong use-of-force law earns the state full points.

5. New Hampshire recently became a permitless carry state and also issues permits on a shall-issue basis. It must be working out okay since the state has one of the lowest homicide rates in the nation. Reciprocity is decent, with 29 states recognizing New Hampshire permits. The only place specified by state law where you can’t carry a gun is in a courthouse, and the fee is less than $3 a year if you want a permit. New Hampshire has excellent use-of-force laws.

4. Kentucky is one of the many states who have gone to a permitless carry system since our last edition. Permits are still available, and no training is necessary to obtain a Kentucky Carry Concealed Deadly Weapon permit if you have served in the military. Bars, schools and government buildings are virtually the only places where carry is prohibited. More good news, a Kentucky permit not only allows for the carry of a firearm but also nunchucks.

3. Idaho became a pemitless carry state in 2016 and still issues Concealed Weapons Licenses to those who desire them. The state has very strong reciprocity, recognizes permits from all other states and issues non-resident licenses. Idaho has two classifications of CWLs—a standard license and an “enhanced” license. The enhanced license has specific training requirements and gives the holder greater reciprocity and, with some exceptions, the ability to carry on the campuses of colleges and universities. Idaho has improved its use-of-force laws and no longer imposes a statutory duty-to-retreat outside of one’s home or business.

2. Kansas has been one of the “most improved” states for gun owners, passing its shall-issue Concealed Carry Handgun License law in 2006, over the governor’s veto, and going to permitless carry in 2015. Reciprocity is as good as it gets, and training time is reasonable if you want to obtain a permit. The state doesn’t issue non-resident permits but you can carry there without a permit anyway so we give it full points. Kansas gets a perfect 10 for its Castle Doctrine law, which was passed back in 2006, and open carry is legal.


1. Arizona, like several other states, issues permits even though it doesn’t require them for concealed carry if you are over the age of 21. Open carry is legal at the age of 18. Arizona managed to score top marks in every category we used for this evaluation and also does well in the intangible categories such as locations where carry is prohibited. Permits, when they are desired, cost $60 for the first 5 years and $43 for subsequent renewals—of course, since AZ does not require a permit, it gets a full 5 points in the fee category regardless of the permit’s cost. Guns locked out of sight in privately owned vehicles, including motorcycles, cannot be prohibited by property owners or employers, whether public or private. As far as concealed carry goes, AZ is about as good as it gets.

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Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout cartridge was developed to provide greater effectiveness than a 9mm at short and medium ranges when fired from a short-barreled suppressed firearm. Just because the cartridge wasn't designed to go long doesn't mean Rifles & Optics Editor Tom Beckstrand won't take it there, using a large-format pistol, no less. Armed with SIG Sauer's 9-inch-barreled MCX Virtus Pistol loaded with Black Hills' 125-grain TMK ammunition, Beckstrand attempts to ring steel at 600 yards with help from Hornady's 4DOF ballistic calculator in this segment of “Long Range Tech.”

Guns & Ammo TV: Shooting 1,270 Yards with the 5.56 NATO

Guns & Ammo TV: Shooting 1,270 Yards with the 5.56 NATO

Guns & Ammo Rifles & Optics Editor Tom Beckstrand was on location in Idaho where he pushed the limits of the 5.56 NATO cartridge in this segment of “Long Range Tech” for Guns & Ammo TV. Pairing a SIG Sauer MCX Virtus rifle loaded with Hornady's 73-grain ELD-M ammunition, Beckstrand attempted to ring steel set at 1,270 yards, an incredible distance for any 5.56-chambered rifle and beyond the typical range for an AR-15.

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

It is unlike any other rifle on the market because it offers features no one else does; those looking for a rifle that fits like a custom-made firearm should look no further than the Benelli Lupo.

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