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Why Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal? (2 Important Laws You Need To Know)

Are Sawed Off Shotguns Illegal - Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal - Sawed Off Shotgun Legal Length - Sawed Off Shotgun Penalty

Why are sawed-off shotguns illegal?

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • whether sawed-off shotguns are ACTUALLY illegal
  • what makes sawed-off shotguns illegal
  • what the penalties are for owning sawn-off shotguns
  • sawed-off shotgun laws
  • how to legally own a sawn-off shotgun

Let’s dig in.

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Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal?

Sawed-off shotguns are not illegal.

Shotguns are illegal if they fit either description:

  • the barrel is shorter than 18 inches
  • the overall length is less than 26 inches

You can, technically, saw off a shotgun and it will still be legal if it’s both:

  • longer than 26 inches
  • has a barrel that’s longer than 18 inches

The ATF refers to a sawed-off shotgun as a “12-gauge Crude Manufacture.”

They define a “12-gauge Crude Manufacture” as any shotgun with:

  • a barrel less than 18 inches long
  • an overall length that’s less than 26 inches long

Only one of these conditions needs to get met for your shotgun to be illegal.

What Is A Sawed-Off Shotgun?

A sawn-off shotgun is a shotgun with a shorter barrel that’s under 18 inches long.

Sawed-off shotguns usually have a s shortened or absent butt stock.

These are usually similar to a revolver handgun.

The standard shotgun is 26 inches to 28 inches long.

People saw off the barrel of a shotgun to make them more manageable in close quarters.

Sawn-off shotguns are commonly used for:

  • close-quarter or close-range combat with law enforcement
  • gangsters for their concealability
  • home defense and self-defense against robberies and intruders

Why Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal?

Sawed-off shotguns became illegal in the National Firearm Act (NFA) of 1934.

This law was put into place to reduce gangster crimes with concealed, sawed-off shotguns.

This gangster violence stemmed from the prohibition in the 1930s.

With the same gun control Act, the NFA also updated gun laws to outlaw:

  • machine guns
  • short-barreled rifles (SBRs)
  • suppressors and silencers

Sawed-Off Shotgun Laws

Sawed-off shotgun laws fall under the National Firearm Act (NFA).

Sawed-off shotgun laws pertain to:

  • shotguns with barrels shorter than 18 inches
  • shotguns with an overall length lesser than 26 inches

Sawed-off shotgun laws do not apply to:

  • a law enforcement officer of any duly authorized agency
  • anyone in the National Guard or the Military

But, you can own these short-barrel shotguns with:

  • a background check
  • a tax stamp from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  • $200 or $5 tax for every transfer (or sale)

These sawed-off shotgun laws only apply to sawed-off modern smokeless powder shotguns.

They do not apply to short-barreled muzzleloading black powder shotguns.

But these are federal-level laws.

Your local state laws can differ.

It’s very important that you speak with a criminal defense attorney to make sure.

Fill out the form on this page for a free consultation.

Sawed-Off Shotgun Penalty

Possession of a sawed-off shotgun results in a felony charge and up to 5 years in jail.

Sawed-off shotguns get considered “dangerous weapons” under federal laws.

The sawed-off shotgun penalties are:

  • fines and 1 year in prison for possession
  • fines and 5 years in prison for use in a crime

But, the penalty for owning a sawed-off shotgun varies by state.

At the state level, owning a sawn-off shotgun can land you with:

Is It A Felony To Have A Sawed-Off Shotgun?

Yes, it is a felony to have unauthorized possession of a sawed-off shotgun. 

Sawed-Off Shotgun Legal Length

The legal sawed-off shotgun barrel length is 18+ inches.

And the legal length of the overall shotgun is 26”.

Can You Own A Sawed-Off Shotgun?

You can own a sawed-off shotgun.

To legally own a sawn-off shotgun, all you have to do is:

  • file for the tax stamp
  • pay the tax
  • provide the identifying information for the short-barreled shotgun (SBS)
  • pass a background check

Tax-paid registrations are from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

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