Montana Gun Laws

Last Updated: July 23, 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.  

 

With tons of gun laws at the federal and state levels, it can get confusing trying to keep track of the ones that affect you and your gun rights.  As a resident of Montana, there are only a few laws that you’ll need to worry about to make sure you stay on the right side of the law.  This guide will go over everything you need to know about how to buy a gun and be a responsible gun owner in Montana!

Montana State Flag
Montana State Flag

Buying a Handgun

As a gun-friendly state, Montana does not have too many requirements in the way of getting you that handgun.  No permit is required to purchase a handgun.

To buy a handgun, you must:

  • Be 21 or older;
  • Provide state ID; and
  • Have a background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer.

If that seems like too much of a hassle, you can avoid the background check requirement by purchasing your handgun through a private sale.  Of course, you will have to settle for a used firearm, rather than that shiny new Sig you’ve had your eye on.

However, there are situations where a person may be prohibited from owning a firearm, even if you meet all the other requirements above.  You cannot own a firearm if you:

  • Have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for over a year;
  • Are a fugitive from justice;
  • Illegally abuse controlled substances;
  • Have been adjudicated as mentally defective of incompetent, or have been committed to a mental institution;
  • Are an illegal alien;
  • Are a former US citizen who has renounced his citizenship;
  • Were dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces;
  • Are subject to a restraining order;
  • Were convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

For Any Antique Collectors…

Unlike some other states, Montana does not treat antique firearms any differently than standard firearms.  That means even if you are buying an old flintlock pistol from the 1800s, you’ll need to go through all of the same procedures just like if you were buying a brand new Glock.

Montana Gun Store
Montana Gun Store

Buying Long Guns

While you’re picking out a new handgun, you might as well pick up an AR to go with it!  Luckily, the laws on buying long guns are similar to those for handguns, so they are pretty easy to remember.  Just like with handguns, no permit is required to buy a long gun.

To buy a long gun, you must:

  • Be 18 or older;
  • Provide ID; and
  • Have a background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer.

Since you only need to be 18 to buy a long gun, you can practice your rifle and shotgun skills while you save up for that 1911 and be ready to go as soon as you turn 21.

If you decide to buy a long gun from a private seller, though, you won’t have to have the background check done, since a licensed firearms dealer won’t be involved in any way.

As For the Kids

We didn’t forget about you guys!  Montana requires anyone under 14 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, or under the supervision of a qualified firearms safety instruction (who has been authorized by a parent or guardian) in order for the child to carry or use a firearm in public.

What does that mean?  Basically, if you are nice to your parents, they can give you permission to hit the range – with proper legal supervision, of course.  

For those of you paying extra-close attention, you probably noticed the rule is only for carrying and using firearms in public.  If you’ve got a private range or just somewhere you can shoot on private property, none of it applies!  Of course, a knowledgeable adult should still be around to make sure everything stays safe.

Boy shooting rifle
Start Practicing Early

Have Gun, Will Carry

There’s no point in owning firearms if you don’t keep it around for self-defense!  Open carry is permitted in Montana without a license.  You should always be careful about where you carry your firearms though.  If you’re out somewhere and find you are the only person carrying openly, you might be drawing unwanted attention to yourself.  

Of course, there are some limitations on where you can carry.  Some of the places where you cannot carry firearms, openly or concealed, include courthouses, jails, prisons, trains, and schools.  Generally, metal detectors are a good sign that firearms may not be allowed inside the premises.  

 

Concealed Carry

Carrying concealed is the other option, if you don’t want to announce to the world you’re armed.  However, in order to carry a concealed handgun, you will need a permit from the state.  For those of you interested in the process, check out our Montana CCW page to find out all the requirements and the laws you’ll need to pay extra attention to when you’re carrying concealed.

However, a permit is not needed to carry concealed, if you are:

  • Out hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, backpacking, farming, ranching, or doing any other outdoor activity where you may need the firearm for recreation or protection;
  • Outside the official boundaries of a city or town, or the confines of a logging, lumbering, mining, or railroad camp; or
  • On your own property, home, or place of business.

On the Road

Since open carry is allowed, when you are in your car, there are no special requirements in how your firearm must be stored.  You can keep that rifle on the passenger seat if you want, or secured on the roof of your car.  It’s still a good idea in general to make sure that your gun is safely secured while travelling though.

Treasure State Special

And because it’s snowy Montana, there is a special law making it illegal to shoot your gun from, or on, a snowmobile.  No drive-by hunting allowed.  Sorry.

Long gun case strapped to snowmobile
No Shooting and Driving

Using Your Gun

All of this information on how to buy a gun and carry it around is useless if you don’t know when you are actually allowed to use your firearms.  Fortunately, Montana has laws on the books that allow for self-defense both inside and outside of the home.

 

The Castle Doctrine

Under what is commonly known as the “Castle Doctrine”, Montana allows for self-defense inside the home.

You can use deadly force If you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent or stop another person, who is illegally entering or attempting to enter an occupied structure, from committing assault or a forcible felony (murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.) against you or another person.

It is important to keep in mind the law only allows for use of deadly force when this is happening in an occupied structure.  That means if someone is breaking into the barn, you are not justified in shooting them unless you reasonably believe that person is going to harm someone else that is in the barn.

If someone breaks into your house while you’re inside, then deadly force is allowed, just as long as you reasonably believe shooting the guy is necessary to prevent any harm to yourself or others in the house.  On the other hand, if someone is trespassing but does not pose a threat to the safety of anyone on the property, deadly force is not permitted.

Standing Yor Ground

Of course, you may sometimes need to defend yourself while you’re outside of your home.  Montana recognizes this as well and has adopted a “Stand Your Ground” policy of self-defense.

As long as you are somewhere you are legally allowed to be (i.e a restaurant, a market, etc.), if you or someone else is threatened with bodily injury or death, you do not have a duty to retreat or summon law enforcement before using deadly force.  

Of course, just because you do not have a duty to retreat does not mean you must engage the threat.  Sometimes the situation may call for retreating for the safety of yourself and others around you.  Taking a life is a serious decision, and attempting to engage with a threat can endanger those around you.  Always use your best judgement when deciding to use deadly force.    

 

That’s It!

Now celebrate your new knowledge by buying a shiny new firearm.  Of course, while you’re building that gun collection, you’ll want a nice, secure safe to keep your guns from prying eyes and curious kids.

For a smaller collection, a secure gun cabinet or handgun safe (or maybe one of each) could be enough to give all those rifles can have a quiet place to rest after a busy day at the range.