Try Before You Buy: Can You Rent a Gun?

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Can you rent a gun to go hunting in the USA

I can go down to Rent-A-Center and rent a sofa, TV, and computer, plunk down my first week’s rent and haul it back to my house.  I can walk over to the airport with my ID and rent a convertible from Avis or Hertz and just hop in the car and drive away.  But I want a gun for just the weekend.  Is there somewhere I can go to just rent a gun?

In the United States, you can rent a gun at an FFL licensed shooting range, but you can’t take it off the range.   You can also rent a gun from a private individual in many states.  These you could use for lawful activities.  There are restrictions and conditions that have to be met, and state laws vary wildly, so make sure you check with your locale for all the caveats.

Do you need an FFL to rent guns?

The only place you can rent a gun commercially is at a shooting range with an FFL license.  An FFL is a Federal-Firearm License that allows a business or individual (who is in the business of firearms trade) to take part in the manufacturing, importing, transfer, and sales of firearms and ammunition. (we go into a bit more detail on FFLs in our article addressing buying a gun as a gift)

Just like in the sale and transfer of a gun, there is a difference between dealing with guns as a business or as a private, non-FFL citizen.  If dealing with firearms is your primary business, you need to have an FFL.  Shooting ranges need an FFL to rent you a gun.  You, a private citizen, do not need an FFL if you rent your neighbor your extra hunting rifle for him to use for a weekend of legal hunting.

What paperwork do you need to rent a gun?

The interesting thing about renting a gun is that there is no background check required by an FFL or in a private transaction.  As with most things dealing with firearms, requirements differ by states.  Shooting range owners may also have their own requirements, usually state-issued ID and filling out a waiver of liability form.  Interestingly, since there is no actual transfer of ownership, they do not have to use the ATF 4473 transfer form

Rentals involved with private citizens have no federal requirements, however, some states do require actual transfer using an FFL, in order to rent a gun to another private citizen.

How much does it cost to rent a gun?

The shooting ranges I spoke with rent guns by the hour and sell you the ammunition that you need.  Some require you to be a member for a nominal fee of around $15 per year.  After you have become a member, the price per hour of a gun can range anywhere from $10 to over $100 depending on the kind of gun you are wanting to shoot.  In most cases, the minimum age to rent a gun is 21 years old, however, in some states, the age limit is only 18.

What kinds of guns can you rent?

As I have stated, there are different state requirements when a private rental takes place.  Some states only allow private individuals to rent (occasionally, and not as a business) rifles and shotguns.  Only some states allow private individuals to rent handguns.

Shooting ranges are also governed by different state laws.  In my buddy’s home state of NC, according to  Triangle Shooting Acadamy, you can rent anything from rifles, shotguns, and handguns to submachine guns and even belt-fed machine guns.  Shoot, for an extra $10 you can add a suppressor to your gun of choice (if you want to try out the world of “silencers”). 

RKBA Gun Range in Fowler, Illinois will rent you a sniper rifle by appointment.

Then there’s the ever famous, and popular, machine gun renting shops in Las Vegas where you can participate in some “Machine Gun Tourism” (check out the video at the end to see what it’s like).

Don’t you just love America?!

I’ve heard of “try before you buy”  How does that work?

“Try it before you buy it”  Is pretty much what it sounds like.  Many shooting ranges double as gun shops to increase revenue.  Some of these ranges will allow you to rent a gun you are looking to purchase and fire some shots on the range.  It gives you a chance to see how the gun feels.  If you are planning to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a new gun, you might as well “try it before you buy it!”  Some of the dealers will even deduct the price of the rental if you end up buying the gun.

Can you rent a gun outside of a licensed range?

Not Commercially.  If you rent a gun at a licensed shooting range then you must remain on the premises while you are in possession of the gun.  You may not rent the gun, and take it out to go hunting, for example.

Private individuals may loan or rent a shotgun or rifle, sometimes even a handgun, but this is the FEDERAL code 18, 922.  Even when a state allows the temporary transfer of a firearm, the rules are not completely clear and differ from state to state

    According to this federal code, however, If you wanted to privately rent a gun to someone, you could so IF the person you are renting to is legally allowed to possess a firearm, AND that person is going to use the gun for a lawful purpose, like hunting.

Can you go hunting if you don’t own a gun?

Yes, you may borrow or rent a gun from another private individual as long as you are legally allowed to possess a firearm and you are going to use the gun in a lawful manner.  Some states require that the person the gun is licensed to be present.  Others do not have such requirements.  Some states only allow lending or renting long guns and not handguns. Be sure to check your state’s laws.

Are there rental gun agencies?

The closest you would get to there being a gun rental agency would be shooting ranges and clubs.  There you may rent guns for target practice and skeet shooting. You may not take the guns off the premises though.  So, while there are places to rent guns, they are destinations, not a rent and run type of place like AVIS Rent-a-Car.  It would be more along the lines of renting a go-cart at the amusement park where you have to use the go-cart only on their track.

The controversy surrounding gun rentals

As with all types of Freedoms we’re born with, there are those who choose to use theirs in a bad/dumb way.

Because of this, there is some controversy surrounding gun rentals, and it centers on the fact that people who may fail a background check can potentially get their hands on a gun.  Likewise, there is no waiting period.  So, someone wanting to commit suicide, or even murder, could join a gun club, rent a gun and use it for those purposes all in a short amount of time. 

An example of this is an episode that happened in 2009 in Florida.  A woman took her son to a shooting range, rented a gun, and shot her son in the back of the head while he had his attention focused downrange.  She then turned the rented gun on herself and killed herself.

Groups opposed to gun rentals use examples like these, where a cooling-off period (waiting period) might have saved lives.

Of course, we don’t really like the idea of squelching freedom in any form, but it’s important to be smart and watch for signs that someone might be looking for help. Don’t let them find it at the end of a rented gun.

It might be good to note that, because of this, some gun ranges will not rent you a gun if you’re by yourself. At first brush, this sounded weird, but it could make sense since someone planning to commit suicide with a rented gun probably wouldn’t bring friends with them.

Final Thoughts on Gun Rentals

Can you rent a gun in America?  Sure, and it can be relatively easy if you are an unlicensed person dealing with another private citizen (depending on what state you live in).  If you want to try different types of guns or kick the tires of a possible purchase, you can also rent in those situations at many shooting ranges.  I can tell you this, on my next trip to Las Vegas I am going to try my hand at shooting a belt-fed machine gun!

Thanks for reading and Happy shooting!