Edit: we have an excellent general counsel who runs our legal team; I'm asking here firstly to get familiar with roughly the shape of this thing, and secondly to learn a little about how things in other states.

We're trying to suss out legal considerations of a situation where we'd need to borrow firearms for the purpose of performing private for-profit scientific research on them. We're not purchasing them outright at this time because frankly, guns are expensive, we don't actually want to use them, we're in Texas, and most of all, because our investors are happy to loan them to us for this purpose.

The guns will be unloaded and not fired for this research, used in the specified manner and then when we're done each owner will fetch back his or her gun. I've found information relating to legally loaning guns for target shooting or hunting, but nothing much for science.

I'm obviously interested primarily in specifically laws governing the lending of firearms in Texas for science. However, because Texas is extra weird about gun laws, I am also interested in guidance or general information from any other state, as well as federal.

What laws apply to borrowing firearms in such a situation?

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    I'm interested in the exact use of the guns, if they are not being fired. Can you shed some more light on the nature of the testing? Depending on what is being tested, it may be possible to use a portion of the gun rather than the whole gun. In some instances, a gun is defined as its "receiver" a portion of the gun that houses the firing mechanism, rather than the bare or magazine, which may or may not clear your legal hurdles.
    – sharur
    Nov 7, 2018 at 1:05
  • My ability to delve into detail about the nature of the research is limited, of course, especially publicly; however, we have already exhausted the work we can do on just magazines (both loaded and not loaded.) Breaking the guns into pieces might be viable after this stage of work, but right now that would only vastly complicate things. Nov 7, 2018 at 1:47
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    "Texas is extra weird about gun laws." That's interesting. Weird in what way? Nov 7, 2018 at 2:44
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    @OpenSorceress You dont have to register guns in most of the United States.
    – Matt
    Nov 7, 2018 at 23:18
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    @Matt I don't see what that has to do with my question regarding the complexity of loaning firearms aside from noting that gaps in the law lead to challenges in enforcement. Nov 12, 2018 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


General federal law: You can lend an unregistered, legal firearm to another person if you know, or reasonably believe, the other person is not "prohibited" from possessing firearms; and you don't believe the other person intends to use the gun to commit a crime.

Some states require that transfers of some firearms between some categories of persons be conducted through an FFL, who runs an "instant" background check to verify that the recipient is not a Prohibited Person. These requirements are subject to frequent changes due to both legislation and reinterpretation by rule-making agencies. If in doubt, consult an FFL in the recipient's state. (I.e., a transfer made through an FFL is always legal, though not always necessary.)

Registered "NFA" firearms are less common, and anyone who has gone to the trouble to acquire one is likely to know the restrictions that govern those. AFAIK, the only way those can be left in the hands of another person is if one or more of the following is satisfied:

  1. The recipient is a member of the entity to which the NFA item is registered.

  2. The recipient is a SOT FFL.

  3. The recipient is authorized by a qualified law enforcement or other government agency to receive and possess NFA items.

  4. The recipient gets some special dispensation from the BATFE to possess the item for a particular purpose.

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