An MG-42.

Can You Legally Own a Machine Gun?

Some gun enthusiasts may be wondering if they can legally add a machine gun to their collection. While machine guns are heavily regulated and generally difficult to obtain, it is possible to legally own this type of firearm if you meet certain requirements. In fact, many hobbyists see the machine gun as the ultimate addition to their vaults because of the expense and difficulty associated with purchasing one.

What Classifies a Machine Gun?

According to federal law, a machine gun is defined as a firearm that fires more than one round for every pull of the trigger. Basically, if your finger is pulling the trigger and multiple rounds are fired, that firearm is classified as a fully automatic machine gun. Some examples of machine guns include the following models:

In contrast, a semi-automatic firearm will only fire one round with each individual pull of the trigger, then automatically reload the chamber with a cartridge so the gun is ready to fire again. Semi-automatic guns are much more common than fully automatic firearms due to less extensive regulations and a much lower price point.

Can You Legally Own a Machine Gun in the U.S.?

Although there are clear restrictions that outline individuals who cannot legally own a machine gun, this doesn’t mean anyone not on that list can own a machine gun. In addition to federal gun ownership restrictions, some states restrict the types of guns their residents can own. Approximately one-third of U.S. states do not permit residents to own machine guns. 

Residents of the following states are not permitted to own machine guns:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin

The following states have a limited ban on machine gun ownership, which applies to individuals using machine guns to commit criminal acts or for “offensive or aggressive” purposes:

  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • Virginia

Some states, including those listed here, allow citizens to apply for exemptions or have exemptions in place for some people:

  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Wisconsin

Citizens of the following states can own a machine gun if they are not in any of the restricted groups prohibited from gun ownership:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Since machine gun laws vary from state to state, you should check your state’s laws to confirm their machine gun ownership laws and requirements. In some cases, collectors can get an exemption from machine gun ownership restrictions.

Additional Machine Gun Restrictions

The following states also prohibit the sale and manufacture of machine guns:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island

The following states prohibit or restrict machine gun ownership and manufacturing:

  • District of Columbia
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Wisconsin

New York does not prohibit the sale of machine guns but prohibits the manufacture of machine guns.

Restrictions on Owning a Machine Gun

For private citizens, there are several facets to legally owning a machine gun. For one, you are only eligible to own a fully automatic machine gun (or any gun) if you are not a “prohibited person” by law. Some of the things that will classify you as a prohibited person include the following:

  • People convicted of a crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison
  • Felons
  • Fugitives
  • Unlawful users of controlled substances
  • People with a confirmed mental disorder
  • People previously committed to a mental institution
  • Former military personnel who were dishonorably discharged
  • Illegal aliens
  • Those who have renounced their U.S. citizenship

Another restriction is a result of the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) passed in 1986. It prohibits the possession of new machine guns (made after 1986) by civilians. If the machine gun was not registered at the time the act was passed, it cannot be legally owned by a private citizen for any reason.

Also, you have to watch out for specific state laws that could ban certain characteristics of some firearms. For example, you cannot legally possess, manufacture, or sell a machine gun in California, Illinois, or New Jersey.

To summarize, you can’t be a prohibited person; the machine gun must have been made and registered before 1986, and it needs to be legal according to your state’s laws to own a machine gun. Exceptions do exist, however. Some government officials, military, and police personnel, for example, may have their own set of rules regarding owning a machine gun.

Registration Requirements

Based on the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, machine guns fall under a special category of firearms. This means they must be registered with the government from one owner to the next so they can be tracked. Some of the NFA firearms and related equipment that fall under this special category include:

  • Silencers
  • Short-barreled rifles
  • Cane guns and pen guns
  • Short-barreled shotguns
  • Fully automatic machine guns

To legally own a machine gun, you first have to apply for approval from the federal government. After purchasing the gun, you must fill out an ATF Form 4 application and wait for approval before taking possession of the firearm. The FBI conducts a thorough background check using fingerprints and a photograph required with your application, which could take 9 to 12 months to process. The gun will need to stay in possession of the previous owner until the process is complete.

In addition, you will need to pay a $200 “NFA tax stamp” for each weapon transaction. If approved, you will receive your paperwork in the mail, including a permit with the listed lawful possessor of the firearm. Only then can you take the machine gun home and possess it legally.

The Price of Machine Guns

As you can imagine, the ban on purchasing newer models of machine guns made after 1986 meant the supply became more and more limited while demand continued to grow. This created the inflated prices you see today. According to FOPA, machine guns already in possession of civilians in 1986 can be transferred to new owners, but no additional machine guns can be added to the pool of available firearms.

Believe it or not, the price of a machine gun can be upwards of $20,000 today and is expected to increase every year. Some of the more exclusive models are even more expensive, with an average price tag ranging from $30,000 to $50,000! Also, you will have to pay for ammunition, and most machine guns will go through 500 to 1,000 rounds per minute. It can make the cost of owning one impractical for a lot of people.

Looking for the best machine gun range in Las Vegas? Look no further, The Range 702 has you covered!

Shooting a Machine Gun Without Owning It

Those hoping to shoot a fully automatic machine gun in Vegas who don’t have the means to purchase one themselves can take advantage of other ways you can have this experience. For example, some shooting ranges have machine guns in their vault and offer people the chance to fire them in a safe and controlled environment.

At The Range 702 in Las Vegas, we have several machine guns in our vault you can choose to shoot individually or as part of a shooting experience package. Some of our most popular shooting experiences are the Triple Threat, Zombie Hunt, and Adrenaline Rush packages, which all include the thrill of shooting a machine gun. Check out our gun vault for more details on our AK-47, MP5, M4, SCAR, RPD, Thompson, and more!

Where To Shoot Machine Guns in Vegas

An MG-42.

Citizens of Nevada are allowed to own machine guns that meet federal machine gun regulations. However, not everyone has a property that allows them to shoot their machine gun. Many places ban shooting firearms near homes, and there are also restrictions governing the use of public lands that prevent gun use in some locations. 

If you’re a Las Vegas machine gun enthusiast, you have a fantastic option if you want to test your machine gun shooting skills. Head to our Vegas machine gun shooting range to test out your shooting skills with a variety of machine guns and lite machine guns. Some of the machine guns we have available include the following:

Book a shooting experience, or sign up for a membership to enjoy unlimited access to our gun range. You’ll also enjoy discounts on classes and purchases. Plus, we offer free range time to all Nevada residents on Wednesdays and specifically for ladies on Tuesdays. 

Check out our machine guns and learn about our shooting packages!


Dale, D. (2023). Fact check: Biden’s claim that ‘you’re not allowed’ to own a flamethrower or machine gun isn’t true in most states.

Machine Gun Registration – Initial and Renewal. (2024). 

National Firearms Act. (2020). 

Nevada Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting. (2024). 

S.49 – Firearm Owners’ Protection Act. (2024).

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