Ammunition Regulation in the District of Columbia

Posted on January 2, 2012

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 of the same gauge or caliber as the ammunition he or she possesses is not subject to this prohibition2. Licensed firearms dealers, on-duty law enforcement officers, and holders of ammunition collector’s certificates are also exempt3.

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 dealer4.

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)5.

This does not apply to, inter alia, sales to other licensed dealers and certain law enforcement officers and government agents6.

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 $7607. Owners or managers of establishments where ammunition is kept for sale at retail must pay a license fee of $478.

Minimum Age to Purchase/Possess Ammunition

Because a registration certificate is required for the possession of a firearm9, licensed dealers may only transfer ammunition to valid registration certificate holders10, and persons under age 21 cannot obtain a registration certificate11, 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 any bullet designed for use in a handgun which, when fired from a handgun with a barrel five inches or less in length is capable of penetrating commercially-available body armor with a penetration resistance equal to or greater than that of 18 layers of kevlar12.

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 duties13.

The District prohibits firearm registration certificate holders from possessing restricted pistol bullets14.

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

  1. See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a). []
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a)(3). []
  3. 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). []
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(a). []
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(d). []
  6. Id., D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(b), (e). []
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 47-2814(e). []
  8. Id. []
  9. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.06(a). []
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(d). []
  11. 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. []
  12. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(13A). []
  13. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(b)(2). []
  14. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a)(3). []