Prohibited Weapons text with flags background

Prohibited Weapons

Texas law prohibits the intentional or knowing possession, manufacture, transportation, repair and sale of explosive weapons, machine guns, short-barrel guns, armor piercing ammo, chemical weapons, zip guns and tire deflation devices.1a1b “Improvised explosive devices” and firearm “silencers” were added to this list in 2017. What those types of weapons are under the law are described in more detail below. There are also numerous exceptions to the law described below that would allow these weapons to be carried.

Update: The 86th Texas Legislature removed “knuckles” from the list of weapons covered by this offense, effective as of September 1, 2019. Learn more about these changes below.

Prohibited Weapons law Effective September 1, 2019

The Prohibited Weapons law was updated again in 2019 with the passage of HB 446. HB 446 removed “knuckles” from the list of weapons covered by this law. See footnote 1a.

The punishment grades remained the same, but the numbering was updated to reference the correct subsections.

Statutory History – 2017

This law was updated in 2017 with the passage of HB 9132 and H.B. 18193. Those amendments took effect September 1, 2017.4, 5 H.B. 913 defined improvised explosive devices, added them to the list of prohibited weapons and included them in the list of weapons that involve third degree felony penalties (see footnote 1b). H.B. 1819 amended the statute to include language clarifying that firearm silencers are not prohibited under this statute if they are in compliance with federal law (see footnote 1b).

Have you been charged with a Prohibited Weapons violation? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

There are two main exceptions under the law. First, silencers, explosives, machine guns and short-barrel guns are not prohibited if they are registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice.6 Note that it is up to you to either register the weapon ahead of purchasing it or look into the weapon’s classification. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you should consult an attorney.

Second, any otherwise prohibited weapons may not actually be prohibited if you were performing an official duty of the armed forces or national guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility.7 Also, you have an affirmative defense if you were acting incident to (1) dealing with a short-barrel firearm or tire deflation device solely as an antique or curio or (2) dealing with armor-piercing ammunition solely for the purpose of making the ammunition available to the armed forces or national guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility or (3) dealing with a tire deflation device solely for the purpose of making the device available to the armed forces or national guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility.8 These “incident to” exceptions are technically affirmative defenses (requiring you to present proof at trial).

What is a silencer under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(4) defines a “firearm silencer” as “any device designed, made, or adapted to muffle the report of a firearm.”

What is an explosive weapon under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(2) defines an “explosive weapon” as:

any explosive or incendiary bomb, grenade, rocket, or mine, that is designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, or for the principal purpose of causing such a loud report as to cause undue public alarm or terror, and includes a device designed, made, or adapted for delivery or shooting an explosive weapon.

What is a machine gun under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(9) defines a “machine gun” as

any firearm that is capable of shooting more than two shots automatically, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

What is a short-barrel gun under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(10) defines a “short-barrel gun” as

a rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches, or any weapon made from a shotgun or rifle if, as altered, it has an overall length of less than 26 inches.

What is a zip gun under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(16) defines a “zip gun” as

a device or combination of devices that was not originally a firearm and is adapted to expel a projectile through a smooth-bore or rifled-bore barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance.

What is a tire deflation device under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(16) defines a “tire deflation device” as

a device, including a caltrop or spike strip, that, when driven over, impedes or stops the movement of a wheeled vehicle by puncturing one or more of the vehicle’s tires. The term does not include a traffic control device that:

(A) is designed to puncture one or more of a vehicle’s tires when driven over in a specific direction; and

(B) has a clearly visible sign posted in close proximity to the traffic control device that prohibits entry or warns motor vehicle operators of the traffic control device.

What is an improvised explosive device under Texas law?

Effective September 1, 2017, the definition of improvised explosive device is “a completed and operational bomb designed to cause serious bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage that is fabricated in an improvised manner using nonmilitary components. The term does not include: (A) unassembled components that can be legally purchased and possessed without a license, permit, or other governmental approval; or (B) an exploding target that is used for firearms practice, sold in kit form, and contains the components of a binary explosive.”9

What is the penalty for a Prohibited Weapons conviction?

Possession (also, manufacture, sale, etc.) of “knuckles” (for offenses that occurred before September 1, 2019) was punished as a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $4000 fine.10 “Tire deflation device”-related convictions are punished as a state jail felony.11 All other Prohibited Weapons convictions are punished as third degree felonies,12 including improvised explosive devices.13 Learn more about penalties for different grades of felonies and misdemeanors

Exception for chemical dispensing devices

If the state’s attorneys allege a chemical dispensing device as the Prohibited Weapon, they must prove that it’s use was not by someone who is a security officer and has received training on the use of the chemical dispensing device by a training program that is: (1) provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement; or (2) approved for the purposes described by this subsection by the Texas Private Security Board of the Department of Public Safety.14


Legal References:

1a Penal Code Section 46.05(a), as amended by HB 446, 86th Texas Legislative Session, effective September 1, 2019 –

A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells:

(1) any of the following items, unless the item is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice:

(A) an explosive weapon;

(B) a machine gun;

(C) a short-barrel firearm; or

(D) a firearm silencer;

(2) armor-piercing ammunition;

(3) a chemical dispensing device;

(4) a zip gun; or

(5) a tire deflation device.

(6) a firearm silencer, unless the firearm silencer is classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice or the actor otherwise possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells the firearm silencer in compliance with federal law; or

(7) an improvised explosive device.

1b Penal Code Section 46.05(a), as amended by HB 913, 85th Texas Legislative Session, effective for offenses occurring after September 1, 2017, but before September 1, 2019

A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells:

(1) any of the following items, unless the item is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice:

(A) an explosive weapon;

(B) a machine gun;

(C) a short-barrel firearm; or

(D) a firearm silencer;

(2) knuckles;

(3) armor-piercing ammunition;

(4) a chemical dispensing device;

(5) a zip gun; or

(6) a tire deflation device.

(7) an improvised explosive device.

However, HB 1819, 85th Texas Legislature, also amended the statute, adding a different Subsection (7):

(7) a firearm silencer, unless the firearm silencer is classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice or the actor otherwise possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells the firearm silencer in compliance with federal law.

This numbering issue was ultimately corrected in 2019 by the 86th Texas Legislature – see footnote 1a.

2House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature

3House Bill 1819, 85th Texas Legislature

4House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 3-4, effective September 1, 2017

5House Bill 1819, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 2-3, effective September 1, 2017

6Penal Code Section 46.05(a)(1)

7Penal Code Section 46.05(b)

8Penal Code Section 46.05(d)

9Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(18), as created by House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 1, effective September 1, 2017

10Penal Code Section 46.05(e), as amended by HB 446, 86th Texas Legislative Session

11Penal Code Section 46.05(e)

12Penal Code Section 46.05(e)

13Penal Code Section 46.05(e), as amended by House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 2, effective September 1, 2017

14Penal Code Section 46.05(f). A “security officer” is defined in Penal Code Section 46.05(g) as “a commissioned security officer as defined by Section 1702.002, Occupations Code, or a noncommissioned security officer registered under Section 1702.221, Occupations Code.”

Published by Criminal Defense Attorney on and last modified