Legal Shotgun Barrel Lengths In Texas: Everything You Need To Know

For shotgun owners in Texas, barrel length restrictions are an important consideration. Needing the right barrel length to be in compliance with state laws is crucial for responsible ownership. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the ins and outs of legal shotgun barrel lengths in the Lone Star State.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The minimum legal barrel length for shotguns in Texas is 18 inches. The exceptions are for shotguns classified as ‘any other weapon’ by the ATF, which can have barrel lengths under 18 inches when registered properly.

This article will cover Texas state statutes on shotgun barrel length requirements, definitions of terms like ‘short-barreled shotgun,’ exceptions such as AOW shotguns, and best practices for staying in compliance. With the right information, Texas shotgun owners can understand exactly what barrel lengths are permissible so they can stay on the right side of the law.

Texas State Laws on Shotgun Barrel Length

When it comes to owning and using shotguns in Texas, it’s important to understand the laws surrounding barrel length. The state has specific regulations in place to ensure the safety and legality of shotgun ownership. Here is everything you need to know about shotgun barrel length laws in Texas.

Statutory Minimum Barrel Length

In Texas, shotguns must have a minimum barrel length of 18 inches. This measurement is determined by measuring the distance from the muzzle to the breech, excluding any permanently attached muzzle devices such as flash suppressors or muzzle brakes.

It’s important to adhere to this requirement to avoid any legal issues.

Definition of ‘Short-Barreled Shotgun’

A ‘Short-Barreled Shotgun’ (SBS) is a term used to describe a shotgun with a barrel length shorter than the statutory minimum of 18 inches. In Texas, possessing or manufacturing an SBS is considered a violation of state law unless you have obtained the appropriate federal permits and tax stamps from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

It’s worth noting that the National Firearms Act (NFA) also applies to short-barreled shotguns, and compliance with federal regulations is necessary to legally possess or transfer such firearms.

Penalties for Violating Barrel Length Laws

Violating Texas shotgun barrel length laws can have serious consequences. Possessing or manufacturing a short-barreled shotgun without the necessary federal permits can result in felony charges. If convicted, individuals may face hefty fines, imprisonment, and the loss of their right to own firearms.

It’s important to stay informed and comply with the laws to ensure the legal and safe ownership of shotguns in Texas. For more information on Texas firearm laws, you can visit the official Texas Department of Public Safety website:

When Shorter Barrels are Allowed

In the state of Texas, there are certain circumstances in which shotguns with shorter barrels can be legally owned and used. These circumstances fall under the classification of an Any Other Weapon (AOW) and come with specific requirements and exceptions.

Requirements for AOW Classification

To legally classify a shotgun as an AOW in Texas, it must have a barrel length of less than 18 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches. Additionally, the shotgun must be designed to be fired from the shoulder and have a smooth bore.

It’s important to note that obtaining an AOW classification for a shotgun requires proper registration and compliance with federal regulations. Failure to comply can result in serious legal consequences.

Registering an AOW Shotgun

When it comes to registering an AOW shotgun, individuals must complete the necessary paperwork and pay the required tax. This process is typically done through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which oversees the registration of NFA (National Firearms Act) items, including AOW shotguns.

It is crucial to consult with local law enforcement and legal professionals to ensure the proper handling and registration of an AOW shotgun. They can provide guidance on the specific steps and requirements for registration in your area.

AOW Barrel Length Exceptions

While shotguns with barrels shorter than 18 inches are typically classified as AOWs in Texas, there are a few exceptions to this rule. One such exception is for shotguns that are specifically designed for and used by law enforcement officers or members of the military.

These individuals may be authorized to possess and use shotguns with shorter barrels for legitimate law enforcement or military purposes. It is important to note that this exception only applies to those individuals who have the proper authorization.

For more detailed information on the legal requirements and exceptions for shotgun barrel lengths in Texas, it is advisable to consult the official website of the Texas Department of Public Safety at or consult with legal professionals specializing in firearms laws.

Measuring and Modifying Barrel Length

When it comes to legal shotgun barrel lengths in Texas, knowing how to accurately measure and modify your shotgun barrel is essential. Whether you are a hunter, sport shooter, or simply a firearm enthusiast, understanding the regulations and guidelines will ensure you stay within the boundaries of the law.

Here is everything you need to know about measuring and modifying shotgun barrel lengths.

How to Accurately Measure Barrel Length

Measuring your shotgun barrel length correctly is crucial to ensure compliance with Texas laws. The barrel length is measured from the closed breech (the point where the cartridge is loaded) to the muzzle (the end of the barrel).

Using a measuring tape or a ruler, start from the closed breech and extend the measuring device all the way to the muzzle. Make sure to take the measurement in a straight line along the centerline of the barrel.

Pro Tip: To get the most accurate measurement, make sure your shotgun is unloaded and the action is open before measuring the barrel length.

Cutting Down a Shotgun Barrel

If you find that your shotgun’s barrel length exceeds the legal limit in Texas, you may consider cutting it down to meet the requirements. However, before you pick up your saw, it’s important to note that modifying a shotgun barrel should only be done by a qualified gunsmith.

Attempting to cut down the barrel yourself can lead to dangerous consequences and may even be against the law.

Important: Always consult with a licensed gunsmith who has the knowledge and experience to properly modify your shotgun barrel. They will ensure that the length is reduced to meet the legal requirements without compromising the firearm’s functionality or safety.

Adding Extensions to Meet Requirements

Alternatively, if you have a shotgun with a barrel length that falls short of the legal limit, you can add extensions to bring it into compliance. Shotgun barrel extensions are available in various lengths and can be easily installed by a gunsmith.

These extensions attach to the end of the barrel, effectively increasing its overall length to meet the legal requirements.

Did you know? The use of barrel extensions may affect the balance and handling of your shotgun. It’s important to test and familiarize yourself with the modified firearm to ensure accuracy and proper control.

Remember, modifying a shotgun barrel should always be done in accordance with the law and with the help of a qualified professional. By understanding how to accurately measure barrel length, and seeking expert guidance for modifications, you can ensure that your shotgun is legal and safe to use in Texas.

Staying Compliant and Responsible

When it comes to owning a shotgun in Texas, it is crucial to understand and adhere to the legal requirements regarding barrel lengths. By staying compliant and responsible, gun owners can ensure their safety and the safety of those around them. Here are some important guidelines to follow:

Following All State and Federal Laws

First and foremost, it is essential to familiarize yourself with both state and federal laws regarding shotgun barrel lengths. In Texas, the minimum legal shotgun barrel length is 18 inches, as mandated by federal law.

However, it is important to note that certain shotguns may require a longer barrel length due to specific regulations. It is always recommended to consult the Texas Department of Public Safety or a legal professional to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

Purchasing From Licensed Firearms Dealers

When purchasing a shotgun in Texas, it is crucial to buy from licensed firearms dealers. These dealers are knowledgeable about the legal requirements and can guide you through the purchasing process. They will ensure that the shotgun you are purchasing meets all the necessary specifications, including the appropriate barrel length.

Buying from a licensed dealer not only ensures compliance but also guarantees that you are purchasing a firearm from a reputable source.

Asking for Guidance When Unsure

If you are uncertain about the legal requirements or have any questions regarding shotgun barrel lengths in Texas, it is always best to seek guidance from knowledgeable professionals. Reach out to local law enforcement agencies, gun clubs, or shooting ranges for accurate information.

They can provide you with the necessary guidance and help you make informed decisions regarding your shotgun’s barrel length.

Remember, staying compliant and responsible is not just about following the law; it is about prioritizing safety and being a responsible gun owner. By understanding and adhering to the legal requirements, you can enjoy your shotgun responsibly while ensuring the well-being of yourself and others.


Shotgun owners in the state of Texas must adhere to barrel length laws if they want to stay safe, legal, and responsible. This guide provides the key details on minimum shotgun barrel length, exceptions for AOW shotguns, and tips for remaining compliant. With the right information on Texas’ rules around shotgun barrels, owners can avoid missteps and confidently use their firearms.

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