Colorado Gun Laws

Last Updated: May 5, 2017

Disclaimer:  While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  


Colorado is a relatively lax state when it comes to gun laws, but there are still a few things to watch out for when trying to be a responsible gun owner.

We’ll go over all you need to know about buying and using firearms in the state of Colorado.

Colorado flag guns
Colorado state flag made out of guns!

Steps to Buying a Handgun 

No permit is required to buy a handgun.  However, there are a few rules to keep in mind.

To buy a handgun, you must:

  • Be over 18;
  • Provide a Colorado ID; and
  • Have a background check conducted by a licensed firearms dealer.

Unlike other free states, a background check must be conducted by a licensed firearms dealer even if you buy the handgun through a private sale, or are transferring it to a relative.

There are also a few conditions that disqualify you from buying a handgun.  You cannot buy a handgun if you have been:

  • Convicted of a felony, or a conspiracy or attempt to commit a felony;
  • Convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence; or
  • Adjudicated delinquent for a felony to possess a firearm.

If none of those conditions apply to you, you can safely go to your favorite local gun store and pick up that shiny new 1911!

colorado gun store law
Colorado Gun Store

But Wait!

Even though the state of Colorado only requires you to be 18 or older to buy handgun, the federal government requires you to be 21 or older to be able to do so.  

So what does this mean?

Basically, if you are between the ages of 18 and 21, you can only buy a handgun through a private sale, instead of from a licensed firearms dealer.  You will still have to go to the firearms dealer for the background check, but the purchase is from a private individual.  

But What About the Children?

Even if you are under 18, there’s still hope!  Anyone under 18 can possess a handgun if they are:

  • Attending a hunter’s safety course or firearms safety course;
  • Target shooting;
  • Hunting or trapping (with a valid license, of course!);
  • Travelling with an unloaded handgun to or from any of the activities above;
  • On property under the control of a parent, grandparent, or guardian, with that person’s permission; or
  • At home, with permission from the parent or guardian to own a handgun for self-defense.
Teaching kids to shoot
Never too early for shooting lessons.

And Long Guns 

Fortunately, buying long guns is no different than buying a handgun.  

No permit is required to buy a long gun, and you must:

  • Be 18 or older;
  • Provide ID (from any state!); and
  • Have a background check conducted by a licensed firearms dealer.

But Be Careful of Magazine Restrictions! 

Unfortunately, Colorado decided to balance out the relative ease of buying guns with a restriction on magazine capacity.  Mags in Colorado can only contain 15 rounds.  

What this means is any gun you buy can only use a 15 round mag, even if that is not the standard magazine size for the gun.  That brand new Glock 17 you bought can’t use the 17 round mags like it was meant to have, but can only use a 15 round mag instead.

Even if you purchase a gun out of state or online, the gun has to be compliant with Colorado laws, so any mags over the 15 round restriction cannot be purchased, even if they come with the gun.

Colorado magazine restrictions
AR Mags Limited to 15 Round Capacity.

And for All You Shotgunners

Shotguns have their own special mag restrictions that you’ll need to be careful of.  Any shotgun mag that is detachable can only hold 8 rounds or less.  Tubular shotgun mags are only allowed to hold up to 28 inches of ammo.

There Are Exceptions 

Any magazines purchased before July 1, 2013, does not fall under the 15-round restriction.  All those 30 (and 60!) round AR mags you bought back in 2010 are perfectly safe.  Good thing you bought so many mags back then.

Even if you didn’t buy your mags before July 1, 2013, .22 caliber rimfire ammo or any lever action rifle with a fixed tubular magazine also do not have to follow the 15-round mag restriction.

Carrying Your Firearms 

Handguns can be carried openly without a permit, as long as you are somewhere it is legal for you to carry the gun.  Don’t go walking into a courthouse and expect the police to overlook that hand cannon strapped to your hip.

Transporting the gun in a personal vehicle is also permitted, if the firearm is:

  • Carried for legal use; or
  • In the possession of a person who is legally engaged in hunting activities
open carry laws colorado
Open carry at Shooter’s Grill in Colorado.

Concealed Carry

A permit is required to carry a handgun in a concealed manner.  However, a permit is not required to carry concealed in your home, business, or any other property under your control (i.e leased property).

To learn about all the steps to getting a concealed carry permit, check out our dedicated Colorado CCW laws section.

Long Guns 

Luckily, the laws for carrying a long gun are the same as with handguns, so there’s nothing special to keep in mind.

Using Your Gun

Your shiny new AR-15 is not just for shooting steel at the range.  It’s also pretty handy at stopping bad guys.

Colorado follows the concept of the Castle doctrine for self defense.  

An occupant of a home is justified to use physical force, including deadly physical force, against a person when:

  • That person has illegally entered the house;
  • The occupant has a reasonable belief the person has:
    • Committed, is committing, or intends to commit a crime against someone or something, in addition to the illegal entry; and
  • The occupant reasonably believes the person might use physical force, no matter how slight, against the occupant.

Basically, if someone breaks into your home and is about to commit a crime, and you think that person will use some type of physical force against you, Colorado recognizes your right to defend yourself with deadly force.

Colorado castle laws
Defending your castle

But There’s a Catch

The Castle doctrine lets you defend yourself when you’re at home, but Colorado does not recognize a right to stand your ground when outside your home.  If you are out at dinner or at the game with your friends, you have a duty to safely retreat if you are in a dangerous situation.  Don’t be a hero, or you may end up in jail for it.

With all of that being said, it is still a good idea to decide what type of force is appropriate in defending yourself.  Deadly force is not always necessary in every situation.

Go Forth and Multiply!

…your gun collection that is.  You never know when the zombie apocalypse might happen!  And plus, that new CZ looks really nice.  

And, of course, while you’re building that gun collection, you’ll want a nice safe to keep all your firearms nice and protected.  A sturdy safe can keep your guns from prying eyes and curious kids.

If you want to start smaller, a gun cabinet, or even just a decent handgun safe may be a good investment.

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