Recent studies show that US citizens have about 6 million registered guns, with the southern part of the country having the highest gun ownership rate with36% of the population registered gun owners.
While normal gun registration data isn’t collected and published, we can use National Firearms Act (NFA) weapons to get an idea of the most heavily armed states.
Keep reading to see where your state ranks by capita (numbers of guns per 1000 citizens).
NFA Weapons Definitions
The NFA definition of a machine gun is any weapon that “shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” 26 U.S.C. 5845(b).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) defines short-barreled rifles as rifles with “barrels of less than 16 inches in length,” or rifles with an overall length of less than 26”. Short-barreled rifles also include rifles with detached buttstocks. https://www.atf.gov/firearms/firearms-guide-identification-firearms-section-5
Short-barreled shotguns are those with smoothbore barrels that are less than 18” long. Short-barreled shotguns have an overall length of less than 26”.
Suppressors are also known as silencers, sound moderators, or mufflers. The ATF defines suppressors as “any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.” https://www.atf.gov/firearms/firearms-guides-importation-verification-firearms-gun-control-act-definition-silencer
According to the NFA, destructive devices are any of the following:
- “A missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than 1/4 oz.
- Any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may readily be converted to expel a projectile, by the action of an explosive or other propellants, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore greater than one-half inch in diameter.
- A combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a device into a destructive device and from which a destructive device can be readily assembled.” https://www.atf.gov/firearms/firearms-guides-importation-verification-firearms-national-firearms-act-definitions-1
Any Other Weapon
“Any Other Weapon” is defined by the ATF as “any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive.” https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/what-does-%E2%80%9Cany-other-weapon-mean
10 States with the Highest NFA Gun Ownership
Wyoming has the highest percentage of registered guns in the United States. It has a population of 581,075 and 137,346 registered firearms. That’s 237 weapons for every 1,000 residents.
Wyoming also has over 100,000 destructive devices registered. Clearly, explosives are a popular thing too! Pair that with the love for hunting, and you’ve got a very gun-friendly state.
Wyoming may get the top spot when it comes to the number of guns per capita, but when it comes to the highest number of registered weapons, Texas is number one, with a total of 830,109 registered NFA weapons in 2021. But because of its population, its number of registered guns per capita only averages to 29 per 1,000 persons. The second place goes to Florida with 497,078 registered weapons.
2. New Mexico
The second-highest percentage of registered NFA items in America comes from New Mexico. Its population of 2,096,829 has an average of 55 guns for every 1,000 residents.
What is so threatening in New Mexico anyway? Whatever it is, they’re ready for it!
3. New Hampshire
A close third spot goes to New Hampshire with 47 registered guns per 1,000 persons. That’s a total of 63,713 firearms among 1,359,711 people.
Virginia comes in next with 46 registered guns per 1,000 residents. The State of Virginia doesn’t require the registration of firearms except for machine guns, so the actual number may be larger than that.
With DC right next door, maybe these are former military types that just got used to playing with things that go boom. Who can blame them!
5. South Dakota
South Dakota has a small population of 884,659, but it has 37,479 registered firearms in 2021. That’s approximately 42 registered guns for every 1,000 persons. This is a huge jump from its statistics of only 11.5 guns per 1,000 persons in 2015. What’s been going on in South Dakota the last few years?
Idaho is in sixth place with 39 registered weapons for every 1,000 residents. With plenty of wide-open spaces, there are plenty of places for hunting and other shooting sports with incredible backdrops!
Alabama comes in at number seven with an average of 36 guns per 1,000 persons. That means the Yellowhammer state’s population of 4,903,185 people has 177,732 registered guns.
The eighth spot goes to Arkansas with 103,641 registered weapons for a population of 3,017,804. That means for every 1,000 residents, there are 34 registered firearms. This is a significant decrease in gun ownership rate from its average of 41.6 guns per 1,000 persons in 2015.
Nevada’s gun ownership for every 1,000 residents averages at 34. That’s a total of 104,998 registered guns among 3,080,156 residents.
Alaska gets the last spot on our list. Its population of 731,545 people has 23,455 registered guns. That’s an average of 32 guns for every 1,000 residents.
Highest Explosive Ownership (Destructive Devices) – Wyoming
Highest Machine Gun Ownership – New Hampshire
Highest Suppressor Ownership – South Dakota
Highest Short-Barreled Rifle Ownership – New Hampshire
Highest Short-Barreled Shotgun Ownership – Alaska
Frequently Asked Questions
What does NFA mean in guns?
NFA stands for National Firearms Act. It is a law that regulates every transaction involving firearms stated in the Act. These firearms are called NFA weapons.
The NFA requires the registration of every NFA weapon owned in the United States. It also imposes taxes on people who own, manufacture, import, distribute, and deal with NFA weapons. atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/national-firearms-act
Who can buy NFA guns?
Buying an NFA gun involves a transfer of registration within the NFA registry. The transfer must be approved by the NFA prior to actual possession of the firearm.
The NFA requires no minimum age to purchase guns. However, the Federal Firearms Law has an age requirement of at least 18 years old to buy guns.
Is the National Firearms Act still alive?
The National Firearms Act was enacted in 1934 and is active now.
Which states allow NFA weapons?
NFA weapons are legal in most states. Refer to this table for more details.
There you have it, folks, the states with the highest NFA gun ownership. These statistics are collated for your reference only. If you plan on purchasing a firearm, be sure to check the laws in the State you’re in to learn more about the legal process on gun ownership.
If you want to collect guns but don’t know where to start, this beginner’s guide on collecting guns will help you.