Ammunition Regulation in the District of Columbia

Posted on September 15, 2015

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Prohibited Possessors/Registration Requirements

The District of Columbia broadly prohibits the possession of ammunition1. A holder of a valid registration certificate for a firearm may possess ammunition, however ((D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a)(3).)). Licensed firearms dealers, on-duty law enforcement officers, holders of ammunition collector’s certificates, and persons temporarily possessing ammunition while participating in a firearms training and safety class conducted by a firearms instructor also exempt2.

Federal ammunition purchaser prohibitions also apply.

Ammunition Sales Licensing/Regulation

The sale or other transfer of ammunition is strictly regulated. Any person or organization eligible to register a firearm may sell or otherwise transfer ammunition only to a licensed dealer3.

Licensed dealers may sell or otherwise transfer ammunition only if:

  • The sale or transfer is made in person;
  • The purchaser exhibits, at the time of transfer, a valid registration certificate (if the purchaser is a nonresident, he or she must produce proof that the firearm is lawfully possessed in the jurisdiction where such person resides);
  • The ammunition to be transferred is of the same caliber or gauge as the firearm described in the registration certificate (or other similar proof in the case of nonresident); and
  • The purchaser signs a receipt for the ammunition (the dealer must maintain this receipt for at least one year from the date of sale)4.

This does not apply to, inter alia, sales to other licensed dealers and certain law enforcement officers and government agents5.

For additional information about ammunition that must be maintained as part of a dealer’s inventory, see the District Dealer Regulations section.

Owners or managers of establishments where ammunition is stored or kept for sale at wholesale or at both wholesale and retail must pay a license fee of $7606. Owners or managers of establishments where ammunition is kept for sale at retail must pay a license fee of $477.

Minimum Age to Purchase/Possess Ammunition

Because a registration certificate is required for the possession of a firearm8, licensed dealers may only transfer ammunition to valid registration certificate holders9, and persons under age 21 cannot obtain a registration certificate10, persons under age 21 are generally prohibited from possessing or obtaining ammunition.

Federal minimum age requirements may also apply.

Regulation of Unreasonably Dangerous Ammunition

Under District law, a “restricted pistol bullet” is defined as

  • A projectile or projectile core which may be used in a pistol and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium;
  • A full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a pistol and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25% of the total weight of the projectile; or
  • Ammunition for a .50 BMG rifle.11.

Licensed dealers may transfer restricted pistol bullets to only: 1) another licensed dealer; or 2) any law enforcement officer or agent of the District or the United States, when such officer or agent is on duty and acting within the scope of his or her duties when acquiring such ammunition, if the officer or agent has in his or her possession a statement from the head of his or her agency stating that the item is to be used only in official duties.12.

The District prohibits firearm registration certificate holders from possessing restricted pistol bullets13.

Federal law also prohibits certain kinds of armor-piercing ammunition.

  1. See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a). []
  2. Any licensed dealer may sell ammunition to any person holding an ammunition collector’s certificate on September 24, 1976, provided that the collector’s certificate shall be exhibited to the licensed dealer whenever the collector purchases ammunition for his or her collection, and the collector signs a receipt for the ammunition.  D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(e). []
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(a). []
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(d). []
  5. Id., D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(b), (e). []
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 47-2814(e). []
  7. Id. []
  8. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.06(a). []
  9. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(d). []
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(a)(1).  See the District of Columbia Minimum Age to Purchase/Possess section for provisions enabling persons between the ages of 18 and 21 to obtain a registration certificate. []
  11. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(13A). []
  12. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(b)(2). []
  13. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a)(3). []