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A Heavy Load: Carrying a Long Gun in Pennsylvania

The following is a video transcript.

Today, we are going to discuss carrying a loaded long gun and how this might get us in trouble.


Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania, open carry of a long gun (meaning a rifle or shotgun with a barrel length of over 16 inches or over 18 inches, respectively, and an overall length of at least 26 inches) is legal outside of otherwise restricted areas in the City of Philadelphia. If you possess a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms, you may also open carry a long gun in the City of Philadelphia.


Keep in mind that this all changes as soon as you get into a vehicle. Generally speaking, it is legal to transport long guns in or upon a vehicle in Pennsylvania so long as they are unloaded. You may not have a loaded long gun in or upon a vehicle in Pennsylvania even if you possess a valid License to Carry Firearms. This often surprises people and is something for Pennsylvanians to be aware of.


So, when is a long gun considered “loaded” in Pennsylvania? In Pennsylvania, a firearm is “loaded” if the firing chamber, the non-detachable magazine or, in the case of a revolver, any of the chambers of the cylinder, contain ammunition capable of being fired.

In the case of a firearm which utilizes a detachable magazine, the term shall mean a “magazine suitable for use in said firearm, which contains such ammunition, and has been inserted in the firearm or is in the same container.” This means with fixed magazines, there cannot be any ammunition inserted into the magazine. But, with detachable magazine weapons, the detachable magazine can be loaded so long as it is not stored in the same compartment as the weapon. In Pennsylvania, this is construed to mean that a long gun is unloaded even when the magazines are fully loaded, so long as the magazines are stored in a separate container from the firearm. This can even mean simply being stored in an entirely separate, zippered compartment of the same rifle case.


It is also worth mentioning that while it may be legal to open carry a long gun in Pennsylvania, in this modern day and age, open carrying in many areas of the state is likely to provoke a reaction—rightly or wrongly—from concerned citizens and law enforcement. If you choose to open carry a long gun, you should expect these interactions and prepare for them accordingly.

If you have any other questions about the carry of long guns in Pennsylvania, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

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