Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal In Texas? A Close Look At State And Federal Laws

For firearm owners in Texas, sawed-off shotguns occupy a legal gray area. The laws surrounding these modified weapons can be complex and confusing. So are sawed-off shotguns legal or illegal in the Lone Star State? The short answer is: it depends. While possession of a federally regulated short-barreled shotgun is generally prohibited in Texas, there are some exceptions under state law that can provide legal protections in certain circumstances.

In this comprehensive guide, we will analyze Texas’ nuanced sawed-off shotgun statutes in detail. We’ll outline key definitions, exemptions, restrictions, and penalties to help clarify the legal standing of shortened shotguns in this gun-friendly state.

Sawed-Off Shotgun Definitions and Federal Regulations

What is a sawed-off shotgun under federal law?

Under federal law, a sawed-off shotgun is defined as a shotgun with a barrel length shorter than 18 inches or an overall length less than 26 inches. This definition applies to both pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns.

It is important to note that this definition may vary from state to state, so it is crucial to understand the specific regulations in your state.

NFA restrictions and registration requirements

Short-barreled shotguns, including sawed-off shotguns, are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. The NFA imposes certain restrictions on the possession, transfer, and manufacture of these firearms.

To legally own a sawed-off shotgun, individuals must comply with the NFA requirements, which include:

  • Registering the firearm with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
  • Pay a one-time tax stamp fee of $200
  • Pass a background check
  • Obtain approval from the ATF

It is important to note that the NFA regulations apply to both individuals and entities, such as trusts or corporations, that wish to possess a sawed-off shotgun.

Definition of ‘short-barreled shotgun’

According to federal law, a ‘short-barreled shotgun’ is a firearm designed or redesigned to fire shotgun shells and has one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length. The overall length of the shotgun must also be less than 26 inches.

Short-barreled shotguns are subject to strict regulations and are classified as NFA firearms.

To better understand the specific regulations and definitions related to sawed-off shotguns and short-barreled shotguns, it is recommended to consult the official websites of the ATF ( and the NFA (

Texas State Laws and Exemptions for Sawed-Off Shotguns

Penal code definitions and possession ban

In Texas, the possession and manufacture of sawed-off shotguns are generally illegal under state law. The Texas Penal Code defines a sawed-off shotgun as a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches.

Possessing or making such a firearm is considered a third-degree felony, punishable by imprisonment and fines.

Important: It is crucial for gun owners and enthusiasts to familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations regarding firearms in their state. Always consult with legal professionals or refer to official government websites for the most up-to-date information.

Exceptions for antique firearms

While sawed-off shotguns are generally prohibited in Texas, there are certain exemptions to this rule. One significant exemption is for antique firearms. According to the Texas Penal Code, a firearm made before 1899, or a replica of such a firearm, is not considered a sawed-off shotgun and is therefore exempt from the possession ban.

Did you know? Antique firearms are highly valued by collectors and often hold historical significance. These firearms are typically sought after due to their craftsmanship, rarity, and association with significant events or figures in history.

Other lawful exemptions in Texas

Aside from antique firearms, there are other lawful exemptions to the possession ban on sawed-off shotguns in Texas. These exemptions include law enforcement agencies, members of the military, and individuals who possess a valid federal firearm license (FFL).

It is important to note that individuals who fall under these exemptions must still comply with federal regulations governing the possession and use of sawed-off shotguns.

Helpful resource: If you are interested in further exploring the specific laws and exemptions surrounding firearms in Texas, you can visit the official website of the Texas Department of Public Safety at

This site provides comprehensive information on gun laws, licensing requirements, and other related resources.

Exceptions for Peace Officers and Military Personnel

When it comes to the legality of sawed-off shotguns in Texas, there are certain exceptions in place for peace officers and military personnel. These exceptions recognize the unique needs and responsibilities of those in law enforcement and the military.

Possession permitted for law enforcement use

Under both state and federal laws, peace officers are allowed to possess and use sawed-off shotguns for official law enforcement purposes. This means that if you are a police officer or a member of a law enforcement agency in Texas, you can legally carry a sawed-off shotgun as part of your duty gear.

This exception is based on the understanding that law enforcement officers often face dangerous and unpredictable situations where the use of a sawed-off shotgun may be necessary. These firearms can provide officers with increased maneuverability and ease of use in close quarters, making them valuable tools for certain law enforcement scenarios.

Exemption for Texas military forces personnel

In addition to peace officers, Texas military forces personnel are also exempt from the general prohibition on sawed-off shotguns. This exemption applies to members of the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, and other branches of the military who are stationed in Texas.

The exemption for military personnel recognizes their unique role in safeguarding the security and well-being of the state. Sawed-off shotguns may be issued to military personnel for training purposes or for use in specific operational contexts where their compact size and firepower can be advantageous.

It’s important to note that these exceptions apply specifically to peace officers and military personnel who are acting within the scope of their official duties. Outside of these contexts, the possession and use of sawed-off shotguns are generally prohibited under both state and federal laws.

If you’re interested in learning more about the specific laws and regulations surrounding sawed-off shotguns in Texas, it’s always a good idea to consult the official sources or seek legal advice from a knowledgeable professional.

Transporting Sawed-Off Shotguns in Texas

Transporting sawed-off shotguns requires careful consideration of both state and federal laws. In Texas, the possession and transportation of firearms are protected by the Second Amendment, but there are still regulations in place to ensure public safety.

Let’s take a closer look at the rules for transporting sawed-off shotguns within and across state lines in Texas.

Rules for transport across state lines

When transporting a sawed-off shotgun across state lines, it is essential to comply with federal laws. Under the National Firearms Act (NFA), sawed-off shotguns, also known as short-barreled shotguns, are considered a regulated firearm.

This means that individuals looking to transport one across state lines must adhere to strict regulations and obtain the necessary permits.

To legally transport a sawed-off shotgun, individuals must first ensure that the firearm is registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Additionally, they must obtain a tax stamp from the ATF, which requires the payment of a one-time tax.

This tax stamp serves as proof of registration and allows for the legal transportation of the sawed-off shotgun across state lines.

It’s important to note that some states may have additional restrictions on the transportation of sawed-off shotguns. Therefore, individuals should always research and comply with the laws of the specific states they will be traveling through or to.

Consulting with an attorney who specializes in firearms laws can provide further guidance and ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

In-state transportation restrictions

Within Texas, the transportation of sawed-off shotguns is also subject to certain restrictions. According to the Texas Penal Code, it is generally illegal to possess a sawed-off shotgun, as they are considered prohibited weapons. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

One exception is for individuals who hold a valid Federal Firearms License (FFL) and are engaged in lawful activities such as manufacturing or dealing firearms. These individuals are permitted to possess and transport sawed-off shotguns in accordance with federal regulations.

Another exception is for individuals who have obtained a tax stamp from the ATF. As mentioned earlier, this tax stamp allows for the legal possession and transportation of sawed-off shotguns across state lines.

However, it is crucial to remember that possessing a sawed-off shotgun without the proper registration and tax stamp is a serious offense in Texas.

It is advisable to keep all relevant documents, such as the tax stamp and registration paperwork, readily accessible when transporting a sawed-off shotgun within Texas. This will help to demonstrate compliance with the law in the event of any encounters with law enforcement.

Penalties for Unlawful Possession in Texas

When it comes to the unlawful possession of sawed-off shotguns in Texas, the state has strict laws in place to deter individuals from engaging in illegal activities. Violating these laws can lead to severe penalties, including state jail felony charges, fines, and imprisonment terms.

State Jail Felony Charges

Under Texas law, possessing a sawed-off shotgun without the proper authorization is considered a state jail felony. This means that if you are found in possession of a sawed-off shotgun, you could face serious legal consequences.

A state jail felony is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 180 days to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The specific penalties can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

It is important to note that simply possessing a sawed-off shotgun, regardless of whether it is used in the commission of a crime, can result in a state jail felony charge. The law in Texas takes a strict stance on this issue to prioritize public safety and discourage the possession of dangerous firearms.

Fines and Imprisonment Terms

In addition to the potential prison sentence, individuals convicted of unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun in Texas may also face fines. As mentioned earlier, the maximum fine for a state jail felony charge is $10,000.

The actual amount of the fine may depend on various factors, including the defendant’s criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the possession of the illegal firearm.

It is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable attorney if you are facing charges related to the possession of a sawed-off shotgun in Texas. They can provide you with guidance on the specific penalties you may be facing and help you navigate the legal process.

Remember, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense, so it is essential to be aware of the laws and regulations surrounding firearms possession in your state.


In conclusion, while federally regulated short-barreled shotguns are largely banned in Texas, state law carves out important exemptions for certain antique firearms and legal uses. However, serious criminal penalties still apply for those found in unlawful possession without proper registration. Understanding the complex interplay of federal and Texas statutes is crucial for lawfully owning or transporting a sawed-off shotgun.

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