Skip to main content

Machine Guns — Can You Own One?

Fun guns with a giggle switch.

Machine Guns — Can You Own One?

COLT M16A2 (PRE-’86)/SOCOM KAC Upper, 5.56 NATO: $35,000

You might be surprised how many Americans (even gun owners) think they are illegal. True, 15 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the possession of “Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger,” according to the ATF’s definition, plus receivers and certain parts. However, the citizens of 35 states can legally enjoy exercising this aspect of their Second Amendment rights if they are willing to submit to the process of acquiring and registering a machine gun, and assuming they can find one for sale.

The National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 required interested civilians to pay a $200 tax when a machine gun was transferred between one federally registered owner to another. Though $200 may not sound stiff in 2020, in 1934 it was equivalent to $3,867 today. Because it defied the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791, the government’s tactic to fight the criminal element of the Gangster era aimed to discourage ownership of machine guns through collecting tax revenue and registering citizens. Though the spirit of the NFA may appear well intended, it yielded regulatory powers to increase the federal government and allowed an infringement on the rights of law-­abiding citizens.

The ATF reports that 630,019 machine guns are registered in the U.S. Though regulated since the passage of the NFA in 1934, there would be more in circulation to meet demand were it not for the Hughes Amendment attached to the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986. The Hughes Amendment banned the sale of machine guns manufactured after the date of enactment to civilians, restricting sales of new machine guns to military, law enforcement and dealers. Though the amendment was controversial, it passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on May 19, 1986. At the time of this writing, the newest machine guns that are transferable between law-­abiding citizens are 34 years old.

Since 1934, there have been two homicides committed with legally owned machine guns. One was a murder of a police informant committed by an Ohio police officer on September 15, 1988. Another was an alleged homicide committed on September 14, 1992, but details are scarce. Machine gun ownership among law-­abiding citizens does not rise to a level of concern such that the Hughes Amendment should exist. It should be repealed.


While gun owners are often poised to defend against new restrictions to the Second Amendment, I challenge readers to consider electing representatives who will fight to reinstate and protect our gun rights. Unfortunately, transferable machine guns command tens of thousands of dollars when they come up for sale, leaving most of us unable to afford owning one. Given the value of a pre-­’86 select-­fire Colt AR-­15 now exceeds $25,000, and some belt-­feds demand six figures, most of the transferable machine guns are acquired by a few. Would these machine gun collectors be willing to risk devaluing their investments to see the availability of these small arms restored to America’s citizenry?


Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Small, lightweight and purpose-built for sub-compact carry guns, Surefire's XSC pistol light takes on EDC illumination segment.

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.

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle, the Impulse, with three hunting configurations.

Trijicon

Trijicon's New Specialized Reflex Optics (SRO)

The Trijicon SRO is specifically designed for pistol use. The wide field of view and clean, crisp dot makes it easy for users to find and track the dot in both target and competitive shooting applications.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms How-To

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE sensor, onboard recording, automatic & manual calibration options, multiple color palettes, and manual focus.Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look Optics

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 02, 2020

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE...

The Taurus TX22 rimfire shoots like no other.Taurus TX22 Rimfire Review Reviews

Taurus TX22 Rimfire Review

Eric Poole - May 23, 2019

The Taurus TX22 rimfire shoots like no other.

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and deer; here's everything you need to know to make it work for you..350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know Rifle

.350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know

Tom Beckstrand - April 02, 2019

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

Building on the Ruger American's success­ful foundation, Ruger, Davidson's and Magpul have teamed up to create an exclusive version of the Ruger American Rifle Hunter that is tailored to the long-range shooter.Davidson's Exclusive Ruger American Hunter Review Reviews

Davidson's Exclusive Ruger American Hunter Review

Cody Eardley - September 16, 2020

Building on the Ruger American's success­ful foundation, Ruger, Davidson's and Magpul have...

There's a lot to like about the Kel-Tec SU-16E. With a gas-piston operation, the SU-16E is a departure from the traditional 5.56 NATO-chambered AR-15 design. Retired USMC Col. Craig Boddington takes a close look at the unique sport-utility carbine and finds that it's handy with many desirable features.Guns & Ammo TV: Kel-Tec SU-16E Rifles

Guns & Ammo TV: Kel-Tec SU-16E

Guns & Ammo Staff - July 28, 2020

There's a lot to like about the Kel-Tec SU-16E. With a gas-piston operation, the SU-16E is a...

In this segment of Air Gun Reviews: Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle Rifles

Air Gun Reviews: Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 02, 2020

In this segment of "Guns & Ammo TV," Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr...

Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range with both .177-caliber airguns to test their aim and demonstrate why the full-auto selector is often called the Air Gun Reviews: Full-Auto Fun Rifles

Air Gun Reviews: Full-Auto Fun

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 26, 2020

Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range with both...

See More Rifles

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now