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Are Automatic Weapons Illegal? Collection Addition Guide preview image
Oct 17 2023
8 min read

Are Automatic Weapons Illegal? Collection Addition Guide


Are assault weapons legal in the U.S.?

Yes, they are. But you have to be willing to fight for it (in a way). It is hard to attain one, and many states don’t allow you to own one for their own questionable reasons.

The definition of an automatic weapon, or machine gun, is as follows:

“Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manually reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

Needless to say, if it shoots more than one pew per trigger squeeze, or has the capability to do so, or be changed to do so, it’s “illegal.”

These types of bans have been in place since 1934, during the reign of the Tommy Sub-Machine Gun, where the NFA proposed a special tax be added to the sale of the gun, which would hopefully deter criminals from buying them.

If only criminals followed the law. Imagine that.

Since then, politicians have been hard at work trying to ensure that automatic weapons, or attachments that give a semi-automatic weapon the capability of firing automatically, are off the streets and not attainable by folks like you and me.

And they aren’t stopping at automatic weapons. But that’s a talk for another time, cool?

Why Are Automatic Weapons Banned?

They aren’t banned per se, but you must meet some pretty strict requirements to add one to your collection.

As for them being banned, there are currently 638,000 automatic weapons in the hands of law-abiding citizens.

And none of these have been used in a crime. As a matter of fact, after 1934, there have not been any automatic weapons involved in a crime. Hmm. Makes you think.

I suppose the idea behind banning automatic weapons came back when Al-Capone and his boys were tearing up the streets of Chicago with the Tommy Gun. This is what prompted the 1934 assault weapons “ban.” Or tax.

But they aren’t banned. They are just hard to get and expensive. 

Are Automatic Weapons Still Out There?

Machine gun

Oh yeah. On both sides of the law. I know you’ve seen those Glock switches around lately that can take almost any Glock and turn it into a machine pistol.

Remember, anything capable of putting out more than one round per trigger squeeze quantifies as a machine gun. No matter if it’s a pistol, rifle, or shotgun.

And if you think the criminals out there don’t have fully automatic weapons, guess again. The laws against automatic weapons don’t apply to those who don’t follow them.

While a well-networked criminal may be able to get his hands on one within the hour, there are ways for law-abiding citizens like you and me to get our hands on them as well.

More about that in the next section.

As I stated before, as of 2018, there were 638,000 law-abiding machine gun owners in the U.S. That study was taken not long ago.

So they are definitely out there. That’s only the side that has them legally. You can imagine how many are out there “illegally.”

Can I Attain An Automatic Weapon?

You can still attain an automatic weapon, but it has to have been made before 1986 as per the Firearm Owners Protection Act. If you can find yourself a nice M60 that was made sometime in 1963, you should be golden.

The problem is the number of hoops you have to jump through to attain one. Not only do you have to pay a hefty penny, but you know big brother has to get a slice of the pie.

So there will, of course, be an ATF Form 4, a $200 tax, and be ready for some fingerprinting and photographs.

But wait, there’s a loophole to this.

If you’re a law-abiding citizen with a squeaky-clean record, you could apply for your FFL, which would allow you to buy and sell machine guns. There’s more; you could get the machine gun for dealer rates, or about $3,000, whereas a normal shooter would have to pay about $10,000.

And it doesn’t have to be made before 1986. Or last year. If you see a machine gun that you want to add to the collection that was made last night, you could attain it on the spot.

We don’t advise you to take this route. It’s a tricky process, and it costs more than it’s worth.

So, to answer your question, yes, you can attain a machine gun. But you have to be willing to fight for it. The hoops, or the loopholes, will take a lot of time, money, and maybe some carpal tunnel.

Okay, How Can I Legally Attain An Automatic Weapon?

Thinking of getting one yourself? It’s gonna cost you time and money, but you can definitely add one to the collection as long as you don’t have any serious boo-boos on your record.

For those of you who live in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Delaware, or California (surprise), those states have banned automatic weapons, and you should probably move.

But for those of you who live in a state that doesn’t have communist laws, you are eligible to own an automatic weapon.

Let’s go over some steps you need to take.

Step One: Prohibited Person

Step One, make sure you aren’t a “prohibited person” or someone who probably can’t own a firearm anyway. This includes anyone who doesn’t meet the normal criteria for owning a firearm in the first place.

This includes:

  • Felons
  • Anyone convicted of a crime that requires a year or more in prison (even if you didn’t serve time)
  • Under indictment for a crime
  • Unlawful users of a controlled substance
  • Have been deemed mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution
  • Fugitives
  • Non-legal citizens, including those who have revoked their U.S. Citizenship.
  • Dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Those subject to a restraining order

These are pretty much the standard criteria you have to meet to own any type of firearm. But if you aren’t any of those things above, you aren’t a “prohibited person”

So let’s move on to step two.

Step Two: Buy A Legal Assault Weapon

This is the real first step since you probably already know you aren’t prohibited from buying an assault weapon anyway. You should know that even though you just dropped $10,000 on a machine gun, it’s gonna be a while before you can take possession.

Step Three: Paperwork and Tax Stamp

Step Three: Get your pen ready; it’s time for the paperwork and tax stamp.

Fill out an ATF Form 4, which will ask you a bunch of questions about yourself, including those that would disqualify you and make you a “prohibited person.”

During this time, you will have to send in $200 for a tax stamp on top of what you already paid for your assault weapon.

After this paperwork is submitted, it’s a waiting game of about eight months to a year or more until you hear back from them. Hopefully, you dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s.

Make sure you’re on your best behavior. You’re not out of the woods yet, they will be conducting a background investigation during this period.

Step Four: Pick Up Your Gun

Step Four: Take possession of your pew machine.

After you’ve met all the criteria that we’ve talked about above, you can head over to the gun store and pick up your firearm, and head home, but I’d recommend you hit the outdoor range for an experience that few get to have.

Not too bad, right? It’s just a game of time and money.

Here is a video from Armed Attorneys on the subject

Why Should Civilians Own Assault Weapons?

Despite the second amendment being a right for all of us to own whatever we please, I will give you my most unbiased opinion.

There has never been an automatic weapon used in a mass shooting after 1934. Now, do I think they would be used in mass shootings if they were as common as a Glock? Yes. Of course. Look what Capone did.

But the thing many individuals don’t understand about firearms is that no matter what, people with bad intentions will always find a way to commit evil.

Don’t believe me? Timothy McVeigh used a rental truck, ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and diesel fuel to kill 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. No background checks were needed.

In 1990, Julio Gonzalez bought $1 worth of gasoline and killed 87 people in the Happy Land nightclub.

An LGBTQ bar in New Orleans was set ablaze with lighter fluid by Roger Dale Nunez, killing 32 people. All because he was ejected from the bar.

While many individuals like to blame the gun for the deadliest mass shootings, if you look back in time, some of the deadliest mass shootings didn’t involve a firearm.

I believe the real problem lies with the mental healthcare system, which, quite frankly, sucks.

With that said, I do believe that Americans have the right to own whatever they wish unless they have proven that they don’t deserve the responsibility.

After all, who do you call when there’s chaos? Someone with a gun.

Here are the FAQs

What states have banned automatic weapons entirely?

Eight states have banned automatic weapons: California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, and Hawaii.

How much does an automatic weapon cost?

Automatic weapons are a collector’s item at this point. They can range from $10,000 to well past $100,000. The reason for the price is supply and demand.

Will there ever be a ban on automatic weapons?

I don’t see it happening without major conflict. But there are more and more laws being passed every day with the intent of taking our guns away from us. Get yours while you can.


While they may not be illegal, owning an automatic weapon can be a long and expensive process.

You have to go through many hoops, and if you lack patience, you may find it to be more expensive than it’s worth.

In my unbiased opinion, unless I somehow strike it big by talking about guns with you fine folks, I don’t see myself ever owning one. And I’m okay with that.

For $20,000 or more, I could buy Night Vision. You can’t hit what you can’t see.

Anyhow, I hope this article helped clear those late-night questions about the legalities of mounting an M60 onto your F-150 like Red Dawn.

My advice: Go for it. Just keep it on the range. Or mount it in the house for self-defense.

Written by Brian Zerbian
Brian Zerbian photo Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things. His goal is to help new gun owners and people who are getting into guns get all the best knowledge in the simplest ways. With no technical jargon and seasoned with fun.


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