massachusetts compliant

Massachusetts Compliant Guns: A Brief Guide

All states have some laws about guns, but Massachusetts is REAL strict, and there is a list of Massachusetts compliant firearms. These are the guns you can buy if a resident of the Bay State, that bastion of Boston baked beans...that is, IF you have a Firearms Owner Identification Card.

Massachusetts is actually one of the tougher states when it comes to gun rights. There are some dynamics to be aware of, to be sure, but Massachusetts compliant guns are at least relatively common enough. Bear in mind that this isn't legal advice, just a discussion of the topic. That said...

Massachusetts Gun Laws Are Tough...But It Depends A Bit On Where You Live

massachusetts tough gun laws

Massachusetts gun laws are some of the most restrictive in the country, but there is a bit more "give" than there is in other states.

Hawaii, for instance, hasn't issued a single concealed carry permit in several years. New York City? Fuggeddaboutit. Donald Trump can get one, because he's a billionaire. Whoopi Goldberg can get one because she's a celebrity. The typical average person trying to make a living is a schnook, according to city hall, and had just better not die before the NYPD or an ambo shows up. All you can do is pray a robber shoots you when it's not rush hour.

Just because there is such a thing as a New York reload doesn't mean you'll be getting the license for one.

First, Massachusetts is an FOID state, meaning you have to obtain a Firearms Owner ID card. This includes a background check and fingerprinting. Concealed carry licenses can be obtained, but are "may-issue" and require good cause to be granted by the issuing authority, which is normally the chief of local police.

However, just like some other states such as California and New York, licenses are more frequently granted in rural areas but rarely, if ever, in dense urban areas. So the experience will depend a lot on where you live.

As To Guns, Massachusetts Gets A Bit Nutty

massachusetts guns

As to guns, Massachusetts has some very interesting laws.

Manufacturers have to submit guns for testing, and those that pass the drop tests are approved for sale. Any variations of that gun that aren't tested won't be approved. If, say, a Sig P226 with a stainless steel slide is approved by the black version isn't submitted for testing, then the black version won't be approved.

It's kind of like how cars have to pass NHTSA and DOT/EPA tests to be approved for sale. The only thing you'll be able to put in a holster and put on a gun belt is one that's passed state inspection.

After that, MA regulations cover what sort of guns can be sold in the state. An "assault weapon ban" was passed in 1994, covering rifles, shotguns and pistols. Any gun in the state manufactured prior to that date is grandfathered in and is therefore legal to possess.

A gun that accepts a detachable magazine is acceptable, but is considered an "assault weapon" if it meets certain criteria. For rifles, this includes:

  • Telescoping/collapsible stock
  • Pistol grip that protudes conspicuously beneath the stock
  • Bayonet lug
  • Flash suppressor or threaded barrel for a suppressor
  • Grenade or flare launcher can be attached

Shotguns can't have the folding/telescopic stock, exaggerated pistol grip, accept a detachable magazine or hold more than 5 rounds or have a revolving cylinder.

Pistols can accept detachable magazines, but must meet the following criteria to not be considered an "assault weapon":

  • Threaded barrel or flash suppressor
  • A second handgrip
  • Only the slide may enclose the barrel
  • Can accept a magazine anywhere other than the grip

Additionally, the Massachusetts "assault weapon" ban precludes carrying capacity of more than 10 rounds. A pistol made prior to 1994 can be owned and carried if it holds more, however, though - and this stinks - new magazines cannot be purchased for it. The state also requires a clearly visible loaded chamber indicator and a 10-pound trigger pull weight if the pistol has no external safety.

Aftermarket triggers may be purchased and installed, but factory guns that lack a manual safety have to have a 10 lb trigger pull.

Thus, any state-approved 1911s or revolvers are good to go. That's actually a good concealed carry top tip: if you live in a restricted state, you'll probably be okay with a wheel gun.

The state maintains a list of approved firearms. You can check out the state website, or just check out the list of MA approved firearms here. The link goes to a PDF, so you'll need Adobe reader or some other program.

What About My Guns If I Move To Massachusetts? Do They Become MA Compliant?

massachusetts compliant guns

Could your guns BECOME MA compliant if you move there? Not on their own, no matter how legally they were acquired beforehand. Only approved firearms or those manufactured prior to Sept. 13, 1994 can be possessed in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts gives you a grace period of 60 days to store your guns in your house while obtaining for your FOID card, so make sure that happens early. You also need to make sure to transport guns into Massachusetts in compliance with their transport laws. All firearms should be transported in a case, with any magazines removed and completely clear of ammunition.

If you're going to seek a concealed carry license, which they call an LTC or License To Carry, then you...well, you better have moved to farm country. If you're moving to or around Boston, you can forget it unless you're Tom Brady.

While there's no law precluding a person from converting a pistol to MA compliance, there's no official avenue to do it. Ostensibly, so long as the magazine is restricted to a 10 rounds, the trigger pull weight is increased to 10 pounds or has an external safety and the pistol is on the approved list...it might. Make sure you seek guidance from a law enforcement official first; this is not legal advice in any way shape or form.

A semi-automatic rifle, however, is another matter. Any AR should have the folding or telescopic stock swapped for a fixed model and the barrel replaced with a straight tube, like the typical bolt gun would have, if not just sold prior to moving to Massachusetts.

Be in no doubt, MA is not the friendliest state when it comes to guns and gun rights...but it's not the absolute worst.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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