Microstamping & Ballistic Identification in the District of Columbia

Posted on January 2, 2012

Ballistic Identification

The District of Columbia’s Chief of Police must ensure that any handgun to be registered in the District is submitted for a ballistics identification procedure.1

Any applicant seeking to register a handgun in the District must, prior to transfer, present the approved firearm registration application to the licensed firearms dealer selling the handgun and take the handgun directly to the Firearms Registration Section of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department for completion of a ballistic identification procedure, and pay a $12 fee.2 If the applicant purchases from a dealer located in another jurisdiction, the applicant must have that dealer transport the applicant’s handgun to a licensed dealer in the District where the applicant will accept transfer pending completion of a ballistic identification procedure.3

Failure to comply with the ballistics identification requirement will result in the denial of the registration application or revocation of the registration for that handgun, and may subject the handgun owner to criminal charges.4

Microstamping Requirements

The District prohibits licensed dealers from selling or offering for sale any firearm that does not have imbedded into the metal portion of such firearm a unique manufacturer’s identification number or serial number.5

Beginning January 1, 2013, the District will prohibit any licensed dealer from selling or offering for sale any semiautomatic pistol manufactured on or after January 1, 2013 that is not “microstamp-ready.”6 “Microstamp-ready” means manufactured to produce a unique alpha-numeric or geometric code on at least two locations on each expended cartridge case that identifies the make, mode, and serial number of the pistol.7 A semiautomatic pistol will be deemed microstamp-ready if it is:

  • Manufactured in the District of Columbia;
  • Manufactured on or after January 1, 2013, and delivered or caused to be delivered by any manufacturer to a firearms dealer in the District; or
  • Manufactured on or after January 1, 2013, and sold, offered for sale, loaned, given or transferred by a firearms dealer in the District.8

A semiautomatic pistol manufactured after January 1, 2013 that is not microstamp-ready and was acquired outside of the District by a person who was not a District resident at the time of acquisition but who subsequently moved into the District shall be registered if all relevant requirements of the District firearms control laws are met, and may be sold, transferred, or given away but only through a licensed dealer.9 If a dealer lawfully acquires a microstamp-ready semiautomatic pistol that was originally purchased by a non-dealer resident of the District, the dealer shall not sell, offer for sale, loan, give, or transfer that pistol if he or she knows or reasonably should have known that the unique alphanumeric or geometric code associated with that pistol has been changed, altered, removed, or obliterated, excepting for normal wear.10

Beginning January 1, 2013, a manufacturer transferring a pistol to a firearms dealer for sale in the District will be required to certify that the pistol was manufactured on or after January 1, 2013, and that:

  • The pistol will produce a unique alpha-numeric or geometric code on each cartridge case that identifies the make, model, and serial number of the pistol that expended the cartridge casing; and
  • The manufacturer will supply the Chief of Police with the make, model, and serial number of the pistol that expended the cartridge case, when presented with an alpha-numeric or geometric code from a cartridge case, provided, that the cartridge case was recovered as part of a legitimate law enforcement investigation.11

Except for normal wear, the District prohibits any person from changing, altering, removing or obliterating the unique alpha-numeric or geometric code associated with that pistol.12 Replacing a firing pin that has been damaged or worn and is in need of replacement for the safe use of the pistol or for a legitimate sporting purpose shall not alone be evidence that someone has violated this prohibition.13

See our Ballistic Identification and Firearm Microstamping policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(d). A ballistics identification procedure is, generally, a process, approved by the Chief of Police, undertaken to identify markings unique to a particular firearm or the ammunition used by the firearm. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2399.1. []
  2. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2320.3(f), (g). []
  3. Id. []
  4. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2320.6. []
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.08(a). []
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.08(b).D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.08(b). []
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(a)(3). []
  8. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(b). []
  9. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(c)(1). []
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(c)(2). []
  11. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(e). []
  12. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(d)(1). []
  13. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(d)(2). []