37

I’m a British citizen planning to visit a friend in Texas. He has firearms and the space to safely use them, and since this is something of a novelty to me I’m hoping we can do a bit of shooting while I’m there. However, I don’t want to burn up a load of his ammunition in what’s essentially a favour to me - trying to reimburse him in cash seems in rather poor taste, so ideally I’d like to arrive at his farm with a box or two in the car, and leave any leftovers with him. Think of it like bringing a bottle to a party :-).

Is this possible? I know Texas has quite relaxed firearms laws, but I can’t find anything definite on restrictions (or lack of them) around buying or transporting ammunition.

Assuming the answer isn’t “No, only Texas residents can buy ammunition there”, is there anything else I should know? Thinking particularly of legal stipulations like not leaving the car unattended, or maximum quantities, or not being allowed to carry ammunition in the same vehicle as (sealed bottles of) alcohol, or any other non-obvious quirks.

I’ll be driving a hire car, obviously. I’d be buying either in Austin or, if being in a city means additional restrictions, in one of the small towns I’d pass through on the way to my friend’s farm.

  • 54
    Do you know what to buy, though? It can get quite a bit more complicated than just buying the right caliber. And if your friend lives in rural Texas and is inviting you to shoot, he will certainly be aware of your inexperience, and likely won't be expecting you to pay for (most) ammunition. I would advise against buying anything if you aren't sure of what you'll be buying. Most likely, part of this trip will involve him taking you to visit a local gun store, at which time you can offer to pay for ammunition if you want. – Michael Hampton Dec 18 '19 at 20:52
  • 5
    I will of course check with him rather than just turning up. But I’d like to be sure it’s at least possible before broaching the subject. – Visitor Dec 18 '19 at 20:59
  • 5
    Can't you just buy him a dinner instead? Or take him some haggis & winkles? Ooops, I forgot - it is illegal to import haggis into the USA - a bottle of good whisky, then? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Dec 19 '19 at 8:55
  • 2
    Even if you absolutely insist on buying some ammo for him ahead of time, you should definitely ask him what he shoots with, perhaps get a link to an online store (where you could probably also get it shipped directly to him ahead of time). There are many factors even within the same kind of round. He might be ok with you buying the cheapest rounds in bulk that you can find, he might also prefer something more "premium". Maybe he even prefers to reload his own ammo (although if he's not an enthusiast, I'd doubt that). Be safe and ask first. It can get spendy, and you won't be able to return it. – Broots Waymb Dec 19 '19 at 14:23
  • 5
    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica , nah, when you go shooting with a mate supplying the guns, you pay for the ammo. And indeed as everyone has said you DO NOT buy it ahead as a "surprise", you go together. – Fattie Dec 19 '19 at 19:39
30

It’s contrary to US law for an alien admitted on a non-immigrant visa to be in possession of ammo without documentation (such as ATF Form 6 NIA which competition target shooters may have).

[18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5) and (n); 27 CFR 478.32] NOTE: This violation carries a prison term of up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

This probably would not apply to you, as you would be admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and the ATF has explicitely said that this regulation does not apply to visitors admitted under the VWP. However, if you did have to apply for a non-immigrant visa due to ineligibility for the VWP, this regulation would apply.

That doesn’t mean that the store won’t happily sell to you, especially in Texas. They don’t have any legal obligation to check or keep records of purchasers AFAIK.

Do not attempt to export live ammo from the US. You can take some spent brass if you like. Canada, for example, is happy to let properly licensed (ordinary firearms possession/acquisition license) citizens enter with up to 5,000 rounds of ammo, but the US can get quite snarky about unlicensed (referring to an export license, which is impossible for an alien to get) exports of ITAR-controlled goods- the potential penalties are very punitive (see above), though most likely confiscation and inconvenience would be the outcome.

At one point (during the shortages some years ago, IIRC) they were reportedly staking out parking lots of shops like Cabelas looking for Canadian license plates.

As others have said, .22LR ammo is very cheap, and 50 or 100 rounds of plinking doesn’t amount to much. Larger pistol and rifle calibers can get expensive.

I suspect you would find a US gun shop rather interesting, maybe go with your friend and pay (cash) for some ammo to use later.

| improve this answer | |
  • 18 USC 922(n) doesn't seem to apply, and 18 USC 922(g) probably does not apply if the ammunition was manufactured in Texas. I suppose the ammunition probably will not have been manufactured in Texas, though, in which case it will apply. There's also the "admitted for sporting purposes" exception, but I don't know whether that requires a specific nonimmigrant class; if not, it might be enough to tell the immigration officer of the plan to go shooting, but I wouldn't risk that. – phoog Dec 19 '19 at 18:08
  • 1
    I’ve seen statements from ATF themselves saying that someone travelling on the Visa Waiver Program (which as a Brit, I will be) doesn’t fall into this “non-immigrant visa alien” category. There doesn’t seem much reason for it to be so, so it’s probably a quirk of drafting rather than a considered decision, but nevertheless it appears to be an established rule. – Visitor Dec 19 '19 at 22:37
  • Oh, and trying to bring anything home to the UK is an obvious non-starter - way bigger of a deal than anything at the Texas end. Empty cases might be possible, but why on earth would I want to? :-) – Visitor Dec 19 '19 at 23:06
  • 1
    @phoog You are correct, this answer is wrong, since he would enter on the VWP. See atf.gov/firearms/qa/…. Note as well, Canadians would be similarly unaffected, though they are usually admitted visa-free outside of the VWP. There would be edge cases for TN (NAFTA) workers which is awkwardly sometimes considered a visa and I'm not sure if it is considered under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15) – Matthew FitzGerald-Chamberlain Dec 20 '19 at 1:42
  • @MatthewFitzGerald-Chamberlain I wasn't actually thinking about the "visa" condition at all, but rather about the interstate commerce angle. But that's a good catch: by a strict reading, the fact that VWP visitors and Canadians (and Bermudians, for that matter) do not generally have nonimmigrant visas is in fact relevant to the statute. It's surely an unintended consequence. – phoog Dec 20 '19 at 2:06
23

There are very few regulations concerning the sale of ammunition in Texas. There's no age requirement for possession, although I believe most stores will refuse sale to minors.

There are no storage requirements, although I wouldn't suggest leaving it in the car during a Texas summer. Not because it's at risk of going off, it won't be near hot enough for that, but because heat degrades ammunition over time.

I do believe it is illegal for felons to be in possession of ammunition, and it's also illegal to knowingly give ammunition to someone convicted of a felony in the past 5 years.

Another answer suggested looking at WalMart as their prices will be better. This is true, however WalMart is in the process of liquidating their supplies of very common ammunition types and in a few months may have a very limited selection. I'd personally go to an Academy Sports + Outdoors store. They are a large sporting goods chain and have a number of locations in and around Austin. Their prices are often competitive with what you'll find online as well.

| improve this answer | |
  • 10
    "I'd personally go to an Academy." - for people less familiar with southeastern US sporting goods stores, the full name is Academy Sports + Outdoors. – user2357112 supports Monica Dec 19 '19 at 7:44
  • 18
    "***most*** stores will refuse sale to minors" - that sounds reassuring :-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Dec 19 '19 at 8:56
  • 9
    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica As does the concept that you can buy ammunition at the supermarket. – user253751 Dec 19 '19 at 17:21
  • @user253751 Not in most supermarkets from what I've seen (caveat: I'm in Florida, not Texas, which may be slightly less gun-focused?), and even Walmart is phasing that out now, likely due to the recent high-profile mass-shooting in their El Paso store. – Darrel Hoffman Dec 19 '19 at 19:48
  • 1
    @RedwolfPrograms I thought most of the destructive power was actually in the ammo, and the gun is merely a device for triggering and aiming it. – user253751 Dec 20 '19 at 10:50
12

since this is something of a novelty to me

Sounds like this is your first experience with firearms. you're in for a good (admittedly noisy) time.

Unless you know exactly what your friend has, there is no way you will buy the right ammo. Do you know the difference between a 22 Long Rifle and a 22 Hornet? They are the same calibre but completely incompatible. Take a couple of examples with the same number from this page and see how vastly different the actual round is.

I see several simple solutions:

  • Google for "ammunition near (friends address/town)", choose a big one and get a gift card for $100. Note that Wal-Mart has stopped selling several kinds of ammo after a couple of their stores got shot up.
  • casually ask him where he buys his ammo (more focused version of the above)
  • just give him some cash. Rather poor taste in the UK, generally ok in rural America.

he’s by no means a “gun enthusiast”

I'm going to guess that he has a .22 calibre rimfire rifle, as pretty much every farmer has one. Ammo for that is dirt cheap, like under 10 cents each. Larger calibres can be around $1 each. Your shoulder won't want to fire all that many of those.

Something you should do for yourself is stop at a home center and pick up some eye protection and earplugs.

If you are having a really good time with the guns and want more, there are plenty of places in Texas that will rent you pretty much anything, up to and including fully automatic military weapons, and there is a place near San Antonio where you can drive and fire a full-size tank and/or 150mm field guns (yes, that is the correct size, 6 inches). Bring your credit card, machine guns go through ammunition REAL fast.

| improve this answer | |
  • "there are plenty of places in Texas that will rent you pretty much anything, up to and including fully automatic military weapons, and there is a place near San Antonio where you can drive and fire a full-size tank and/or 150mm field guns": please, please, PLEASE tell me you are not serious! Letting people rent a machine gun is already crazy enough, but a tank????? I can't believe it! – Fabio says Reinstate Monica Dec 19 '19 at 10:17
  • 3
    @FabiosaysReinstateMonica - don't worry about it; they also have a full flight of A10 Thunderbolt II Warthogs to set on you if you try to drive the tank off the range. – Spratty Dec 19 '19 at 10:40
  • 11
    @FabiosaysReinstateMonica drivetanks.com And check out battlefieldvegas.com for an M-134 minigun - think "Terminator 2" here. Note that these activities are EXTREMELY expensive - the tank is $3,200, the minigun is $135 per SECOND of trigger time. – peter Dec 19 '19 at 12:05
  • 3
    @FabiosaysReinstateMonica I know of a range that lets you fire live machine guns from the side of a moving helicopter. And another that lets you drop bombs from a fully restored B17. – Ryan_L Dec 19 '19 at 18:20
  • Actually I used to shoot quite regularly as a teenager - believe it or not my school in the UK had a .22 indoor range on site and in spring and summer we had a weekly booking on a nearby Army range for 5.56 and occasionally 7.62. But that was all 20+ years ago and I haven’t shot since, nor have I done the kind of casual Texas plinking I envisage happening here - that’s where the novelty factor comes in. – Visitor Dec 19 '19 at 22:43
7

Ammunition isn't regulated in the same way firearms are. In many states as long as you're 18 (or 21 in some states or for certain ammunition types) you should be good to go, but Texas doesn't have that limit. No quantity limits or legal stipulations assuming you haven't been convicted of a felony or other serious crime. Just stop at a WalMart, Gun Range, or local gun store and buy it.

Just a helpful tidbit; the bigger the place, the better the ammo price. Walmart or very large gun store will have better ammo prices than a small gun store/range.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Thanks. I’ll be 38 by the time I go, and no history with the law :-). – Visitor Dec 18 '19 at 21:05
  • 7
    that said, it might be better to have the gun owner buy the ammo as he's the one who'll be most familiar with the various choices and how well they work with his weapon. – jwenting Dec 19 '19 at 4:36
3

Absolutely, yes, they can buy ammunition in Texas. Is it legal? Maybe not. From my experience (and being a native 3rd generation Texan) you aren't required to show ID when purchasing ammo. This past March I took my Russian brother in law to Academy Sports where he wanted to buy some 9mm ammo to take to the shooting range the next day. I asked the cashier if I needed to make the purchase for him, or if he could do it. The cashier said he could do it, and to his amazement he paid cash and showed no ID.

As we walked to my car he told me how amazed he was that in America he could purchase 9mm ammo without needing a permit. He told me that in Russia it would take a few years to get approval for such ammunition. He is an avid gun collector and it thrilled him very much to purchase ammo in Texas with no problems.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.