As the demand for firearms continues to increase and the supply at your local gun store dwindles, many people are considering building their own firearm as an alternative to purchasing one. Let’s address a topic that has been developing over the years and is intensifying recently in the media: ghost guns.

Looking Past the Media Hype

A ghost gun is a media-driven term more for certain kinds of home-made firearms. These firearms are made by an individual, rather than a licensed manufacturer. Licensed manufacturers are required by federal law to engrave or cast a serial number on the receiver or frame of all firearms. When a serialized firearm is sold, usually by a Federal Firearms Licensee (“FFL”), the serial number is recorded on ATF Form 4473 – the firearms transaction record form. Ghost guns, on the other hand, are not made by these licensed manufacturers and are not required to have specific identifying characteristics. Without a serial number or a recorded transfer from an FFL, many people consider these guns to be untraceable.

Despite its spooky name, manufacturing a firearm is legal. There is no federal law against building your own firearm. Although some states have laws restricting, or in some cases outright banning these guns, Texas maintains the long tradition of allowing its citizens to manufacture their own weapons, including firearms.

Many ghost guns are built from partially pre-made lower receivers. Commonly referred to as “80% lowers” due to the amount of machining or casting that is already completed, these partially pre-made receivers make it easy to build your own fully functional firearm at home. All you need is a drill, a router, and a commercially available jig.

Answering the Commonly Asked Questions

Although ghost guns are legal to manufacture, as attorneys who practice in the field of firearms law, we regularly receive questions about these weapons. Let’s address some of the most common questions.

Can you use a partially manufactured piece of metal, such as an 80% lower?

Yes.

Can the firearm be made entirely of plastic?

No. Federal law prohibits the manufacture of any weapon that is undetectable by conventional x-ray machines.

Do you have to mill the receiver yourself?

Yes, you are required to mill the receiver yourself. If a gunsmith mills it for you, the gunsmith could be considered an unlicensed manufacturer.

Does your gun need to have a serial number?

No, a serial number is not required.

Do you have to register a manufactured gun?

No. In fact, there is no gun registry in Texas.

Can you build a gun with the intention of selling it?

No. You should not manufacture a firearm if you plan on selling it. Otherwise, you may be considered an unlicensed manufacturer.

For any further questions regarding “ghost guns” in the State of Texas and what builds are legal or illegal, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.